The Old Past Master and Lodge Foreclosure

The Old Past Master left the house for Lodge extra early this night.  The meeting tonight would be a lively discussion that he hoped would not become a three-ring circus. He would like to arrive early before anybody else to see if he could be of assistance to the new Worshipful Master.  He was a good fellow but so young and inexperienced.  But he was working hard and always seemed to arrive very early to a meeting of the Lodge to prepare his program and greet every Brother at the door.

The Master had sent out notice in the Summons that tonight he would be discussing the future of the Lodge and its financial situation.  The topic all seemed to stem from a series of articles the Master called “blogs” which had appeared on the Internet titled “Preventing Lodge Foreclosures.” It seems two Brothers were debating back and forth on the proper action that a Lodge could take in the wake of tough economic times.  Last month the Master had shown him these articles and after reading them they had only time for a very short discussion on what the ramifications might be for our Lodge.

I guess I am just going to have to break down and buy a computer, The Old Past Master thought to himself.  Lord knows how I am going to learn how to use it.  They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Well we have a number of young dogs in the Lodge now.  Surely they will come to my aid.

As he rounded the corner and pulled into the Lodge parking lot he spied the Master’s car in its usual spot. Upon entering the building he proceeded to the office where he found the Master at the computer with papers flying out of the printer in rapid succession.

“Good evening, Worshipful,” he called out.  “Getting ready for tonight’s donnybrook are we?”

“I’m afraid so,” replied the Master.  “It looks to me that this will be a tough meeting.”

How can I be of assistance,” offered The Old Past Master.

“Well I’m not sure how to broach the subject nor how deep into it we should get tonight,” queried the Master.

“Try placing the problems as you see them on the table and then let the Brethren draw their own conclusions and come up with their own solutions.”

“Ah, I see.  Don’t try to ram the whole deal down everybody’s throat.  State the case and sit back and listen.  I think I’m getting the hang of this leadership thing thanks to you.”

“Every Mason should lead his Lodge once in his lifetime.  It teaches him how to command by building a consensus.”

“Well I doubt if we will get a consensus tonight.  I am worried about the whole situation getting out of hand.  Maybe I should just downplay this whole thing.”

“Now is not the time to second guess yourself.  Part of good leadership is not shying away from the tough problems and decisions of the Lodge.”

“I know you are right but I would feel a bit more comfortable if you would be in my corner tonight and soften any harsh words.  It always helps to have backup.”

Don’t worry, Worshipful, I’ll help keep us on an even keel.”

Just then a few Brothers could be heard entering the building.  The Worshipful Master went out to greet them. Soon more and more were pouring in. The Old Past smiled to himself.  Here they come he, thought, all the old fogies who never come to Lodge until the talk of money becomes serious.

Lodge opened and the Master, after breezing through the Minutes, Bills and Correspondence, got right down to brass tacks.

“Brethren it is time to discuss our future and I have allotted most of this meeting having previously informed all the Brethren via The Summons.  Our nation is in deep economic distress and we are barely hanging on here.  Our building has no other tenets and its maintenance, upkeep and repair are an ever-increasing burden that presently consumes 90% of our budget. With Cap & Trade taxes and significant inflation coming our electricity and heating costs could double. We have already received notice that our property taxes are going to be increased by 10% next year. The paint is starting to peel on the outside of the building.  We have gotten estimates on having it repainted and the lowest bid is $8,0000. But the worst news of all is that the Building Inspector recently made an inspection of the Lodge and he has told us that the electrical wiring in the building no longer meets code and it will have to be replaced. And I am not even counting the increased taxes you all will individually soon be paying.  Now Brethren I am open for suggestions.”

“Well I hope you didn’t call us all together to raise our dues,” a voice bellowed from the sidelines.

“Yeah, because we’re going to vote that down, right quick,” came another anonymous voice from the crowd.


“Brethren I am going to ask you to rise and wait until I recognize you before speaking,” commanded the Master.

“The day I have to ask permission to speak in this Lodge is the day I find another Lodge”, roared Brother Clarke

“Well that’s your choice,” replied the Master.  “But for tonight you will rise and wait until I call on you.”

Worshipful Master I just done told you I ain’t going to do no such thing, “repeated Brother Clarke.  “Did you or did you not call us here in order to raise dues?”

“Brother Senior Deacon”

“Worshipful Master”

“You will pick up the Junior Deacon and the Stewards and proceed to escort Brother Clarke out of the Lodge room.”

Are you really going to throw me out of my Lodge, “ screamed Brother Clarke?

“It’s our Lodge,” replied the Master, “and nobody is above the law or in this case the rules.  We will see you another night, Brother Clarke.”

“You will never see me again.  Who wants to belong to a bankrupt Lodge anyway,” screamed the now red faced Brother Clarke

‘If he goes I go,” said a voice.  “That goes for me too.”  “And me” “And Me”….”Me,” “Me,” “Me,”

The Old Past Master rose and the Worshipful Master immediately recognized him.

“Looks like we can get that dues increase passed now, Worshipful” he said with a smile.

“I guessed I changed my mind,” “Yeah, I might as well stick around,” “Same for me,” “And me,” “And me,” …….”Me,” “Me,” “Me”

After Brother Clarke was removed and order restored, the Brothers stood and were called on one by one by the Master.  Suggestions and ideas abounded. One Brother suggested that the Lodge merge with Fidelity Lodge on the other side of town. But an argument ensued whether Fidelity should join us at our building or we should sell ours and join them at their building.  Many Brethren wondered if Fidelity would be amenable to any of this and so offered that we should sell the building and just rent our own space somewhere else. Still others asserted that nothing drastic really needed to be done.  Things would find a way of working themselves out like they always did.  A number of Brethren suggested that we find paying tenants for our building. Still others suggested a series of fundraisers. Yet another wanted to ask Grand Lodge for a loan. And the last thought for the day came from a Brother who thought maybe we could get some corporate sponsorship in the form of charitable write off relief.

After two hours of what seemed like exhaustive exchange, Past Master Crowley rose and was recognized.  “And what do you think we should do, Worshipful,” he asked?

The Master rose and slowly and deliberately replied, “I don’t think I have enough information yet nor does really anybody.  The way I see it we can elect one of four choices:

1) Do Nothing

2) Give up our Charter and return the Lodge to Grand Lodge

3) Sell the building and property and rent elsewhere

4) Increase our revenue substantially – make it work.

The problem has developed into such a magnitude so quickly that I will automatically rule out dues increases, fund risers and loans as acceptable solutions.  But what I will do is petition Grand Lodge for an outright gift.  The next Grand Session is a little over a month away. For now I will also rule out choices #1 and #2.  That leaves us with two choices and for those I will appoint two committee heads who will choose the rest of their committee and research and investigate their appointment and report back to the Lodge for further discussion. I will ask the Old Past Master to chair the choice #3 committee and Brother Findler, our Treasurer and a CPA, to head the choice #4 committee. Do both of you Brothers accept your appointment?  Seeing two heads nodding I so declare it done.”


“I will charge both committees to be ready to report in detail three months from now at our monthly business meeting and I will so note it in the Summons. I will also be ready to report to you what Grand Lodge will do for us. Now if there is no further business to come before this Lodge I will proceed to close.”.

More on the Old Past Master:

cartoon, antimasonry, comic

Famous or anti-famous?

I want to gush a little.

I got my first piece of Anti-Masonic fan mail today, and what made it all the better, it came in a plain white envelope, wrapped in a plain piece of white notebook paper, with only a three initials, and a P.O. Box from Northern California.

The intiails were J.S.W.

cartoon, antimasonry, comicThanks J.S.W., I appreciate the anonymous envelope addressed to Freemason Information with the notebook paper wrapped gift.  In a weird way, its a gift that I’ve wanted fro some time but never knew how to find, short of ordering it from the manufacturer.  although, I have to admit, I was hoping for another gift by the same author that I wrote about in 2006 on Why Freemasonry is Satanic, but I don’t think it’s in print anymore.

What was the gift you may ask?

It was my very own Jack Chick comic, The Long Trip


You can read “The Long Trip” on line.

Seriously, if your going to send me something like this, make it less creepy and send a note with it.  Say hello, tell me I’m loved, tell me you think I’m wrong, tell me anything, just say something.  Because the only way to find the sites address is to dig into the site registration, and J.S.W., that starts to stink of stalking…

On a separate note, I also found that a few of the bits originally published on the Masonic Traveler blog and on Freemason Information on several anti Masonic sites as bits of their arguments for what ever point it is they are trying to make.  And, in the case of one of the bigger anti masonic sites (it ends with Watch and starts with Freemasonry) whole original articles have been copied.  At least he gave me name credit but the link is, ahem, out of date.

antiart1So, I’d like to  accept my badge of Anti-Masonic honor and step up to the plate of other brothers who have been bestowed this award.

But I have to say, sending the Chick comic has taken it to a whole new level.

Freemason Tim Bryce.

Count your Blessings

count your blessings

It’s difficult to maintain a positive perspective in these troubling economic times.

People are frustrated, despondent, even angry. But I have learned over the years, that no matter what disaster I may be faced with, there is always someone in worse shape than I am, such as a starving, uneducated third-world child who doesn’t have a roof over his head, or his father who earns pennies a day to support his family. So, we should actually count the blessings we have got as opposed to banging our heads against the wall.

If you’ve got a job, thank your lucky stars you do, and renew your effort to make your company as successful as possible. Now is the time for cooperation as opposed to petty competition, teamwork as opposed to individualism. And by all means, take nothing for granted. Otherwise you might be the next one in the unemployment line.

If you are unemployed, be grateful we have unemployment programs to lend you a helping hand. But remember, there is no honor in becoming a ward of the state. Sharpen your skills, change with the times, and hustle for the next job.

If you are married, be thankful you are not going through a costly divorce now (which is horrible timing for doing so). Perhaps it is time to renew your devotion to your spouse and improve your family relationships.

If you have any savings, remind yourself there are many others out there without a safety net. Now is the time to wisely invest your money. It’s hard to say who to trust in this regard, but perhaps a loan to a family member or neighbor who needs a helping hand is in order.

If you have a good credit record, consider the millions who do not. Try to keep your record as clean as possible, you will undoubtedly need it some day.

If you have some free time to participate in nonprofit organizations, consider yourself lucky, but remember, such groups will probably need more support as people’s obligations are shifting and their participation declining.

If your Masonic Lodge building is structurally sound and in good condition, be grateful you are not looking at a major repair bill, such as a new roof or replacing the heating and air conditioning system. Consider there are Lodges out there that are in need of major repairs or, even worse, are closing their doors. It might be wise to start tucking a few dollars away for a rainy day so your Lodge doesn’t end up in the same condition.

If you have people wanting to join your Lodge, make sure they are welcomed warmly and made to feel an important part of the Craft. There are some Lodges desperate for new members and are dying on the vine. Encourage the young Masons and challenge them to participate; the effect of a young man’s enthusiasm can be contagious and a powerful agent for future growth.

If the administrative processes of your Lodge are performed like clockwork, thank your officers for making this a natural part of the Lodge’s culture. There are some Lodges operating in organizational disarray, where paperwork and finances can be easily misplaced. This creates distrust and suspicion between the officers and the Craft.

If you have harmony in the Lodge, be grateful you are among men where their word is their bond, who believe in teamwork and cooperation as opposed to personal glory and political maneuvering. We have all seen enough of this in the outside world. Let us be men and let us rejoice in the spirit of Brotherhood.

If there is a silver lining in our current economic recession, I believe it is we will emerge from this mess stronger, more resilient, and hopefully smarter. Now is the time to stop whining and start believing in ourselves. The government is not going to solve all of our problems, nor is it their job to do so. To paraphrase Bro. Winston Churchill,

Nothing can save us if we will not save ourselves. If we lose faith in ourselves, in our capacity to guide and govern, if we lose our will to live, then indeed our story is told.

I admonish you not to despair; but to stay positive instead, to stay connected, to stay tuned in to what is going on, and become more proactive as opposed to reactive in our future. Just remember, the glass is half full, not half empty. Positive thinking is just as contagious as negative thinking, maybe more so. As we said back in the 1970’s, “Keep on truckin’.”

Keep the Faith!

Freemasonry From the Edge
Freemasonry From the Edge

by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS, MMBBFMN
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body.

As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:

Article reprinted with permission of the author and Freemason Information

Please forward me a copy of the publication when it is produced.

Copyright 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Dover Masonic Lodge and the Kybalion

This came in as a post in the series I published on the Kybalion in the previous Masonic Traveler Blog.

What was posted was an announcement to visit the website and upcoming pod cast for Dover lodge #489 under the Grand Lodge of Ohio.  The pod cast is in its 8th episode, and on its 5th installment of lodge education on the reading of the Kyablion.

First, I think that it is fantastic that the Kyablion is being studied in a lodge education.  And I won’t go into details here on the Kybalion, but I thought that the work coming out of Dover is OUTSTANDING and the reading (with audio overlay) is an excellent way to work through this sacred text.

If you have the time, or the space on the Ipod or Mp3 player, I STRONGLY recommend downloading the pod casts and listening to the book being read.

Fantastic work.

Further Adventures of the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team

So here I am sitting in the East in a two-year line of a Lodge with significant resources and a great budget.  I had just taken the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team to hometown Lexington.  What to do next?  Think big Fred, I thought, think big!  After all that was one of the decisions that led you to affiliate with Paul Revere Lodge in the first place, its ability to provide the means to facilitate those who wanted to do great things.

So the first time around I thought of my heritage and how that fit with the Colonial Degree Team going to Lexington. Now once again I turned to what I knew and where I had been before and how that fit in with the Colonial Degree team and with my family and its origins.

I had just gotten my first computer a year before being installed as Master of Paul Revere Lodge. And one of the first things I did with that new toy was to explore cyberspace for signs of the Craft.  The most active areas at that time seemed to be New York and Indiana. I joined the GFN and made some interesting friends such as Ian Donald and Ellis Mills.  I also latched onto an enterprise launched by Jeff Naylor out of Indiana, a Masonic forum and discussion Board, Masoniclight that was very active and interested in the betterment of the Craft. Such later notable Freemasons as Chris Hodapp, Nathan Brindle, Roger Van Gorden, Bill Hosler, Tom Fellows and Eric Schmitz who I was later to meet in person hung their hat there.  Plus others I am sure these old brain cells just can’t conjure up.  This group became very reform minded and later formed The Knights of The North, which I also associated with, and wrote Laudable Pursuit.

My wife’s hometown was not Lexington, MA but Bloomington, Indiana and I had been there a few times and also north of Indianapolis to visit the other side of her family.  So why not take the Paul Revere Colonial Degree team to Bloomington, Indiana? It wasn’t England but then I didn’t know anybody in England and maybe that would be carrying thinking big just a bit too far.  But heck Indiana was only a thousand miles away. When I looked up the Lodge in Bloomington I found out that it was Monroe Lodge #22.  And I was William Munroe on the Colonial Degree Team.  Those who know me well know that I don’t believe in coincidences.

I broached the subject in a sort of trial balloon to the members of the Degree Team and to a certain few well-placed members of the Lodge. Many said that nobody had ever tried something that ambitious and they doubted it would fly. But I am not one to be easily discouraged.  I took the founding head of the Colonial Degree Team, now its Historian, and a revered Past Master of the Lodge out to lunch.  I told him what I wanted to do and I said to him that if he did not there and then approve and be willing to openly say so, that I would drop the idea.  Quite frankly without his approval the idea was going nowhere.  When he gave his full blessing to the project and actually brought it up in open Lodge we got the go ahead on our end of the line.

I had meanwhile already gotten in touch with Monroe Lodge and struck up a conversation with its Master.  Soon I was pushing for him to have the Colonial Degree Team out to his Lodge.  The conversation lasted over many months as he liked the idea but working out all the incidentals of actually doing it was no small project. First and foremost were the financial arrangements.  We would pay for our airfare out there and back for approximately 18 Degree members.  They would have to pick up the bill for our meals and board.  That looked like no easy task.  Before we could even think of making this trip we had to have prior approval from The Grand Master of Indiana and our own Grand Master.  Some states had locked us out, refusing to allow Massachusetts’s ritual to be exemplified in their state. That really seemed so petty to me and was later to influence me into becoming an advocate of more cooperation among the various American jurisdictions and the crafting of some sort of American Masonic identity.

After eight months of negotiations the talks broke down and the trip seemed to be just a dream never to be actualized. The Master in Indiana was enthusiastic about having us out but he just couldn’t seem to work out the logistics of accomplishing it on his end.  Now it was time for him to step down and turn over the East to a new Master. It was also time for me to step down and do likewise at Paul Revere Lodge. As a famous Mason once said, “The best laid plans of mice and me, oft go awry.”

Many, many other wonderful things were going on in the Lodge during all this time and I stepped down knowing that it had been a wonderful two years in the East.  Still I was despondent and sulking over what could have been.

Months went by when all of a sudden the new Master of Monroe Lodge #22 E-Mailed me.  He had solved the problems on his end and wanted to know if we were still interested.  WERE WE INTERESTED!!!

We flew out of Boston on a Friday afternoon in October of 2001 just four weeks after 9/11, eighteen members of the Degree Team making the trip.  My biggest laugh was seeing our Marshall a Past Master and a retired Boston cop get patted down and practically stripped search before our eyes. They had him down almost to his birthday suit right there in the open in the terminal.

Upon arrival in Indianapolis Past Grand Master MW Richard Hickham and the Master of Monroe Lodge #22 , Wor. Gary Denson met us with  a mini bus with a bunch of bedding in the back.  We drove about 75 miles south and stopped at a Shrine Club just outside of Bloomington where we were treated to a great steak dinner and some beers and  MW Hickham announced our arrival to all gathered.  Afterward we were driven to the place where we were going to stay.  They had us billeted at the state DeMolay chateau about 20 miles east of Bloomington in a rural area.  The bedding in the back of the bus was for us to make up own bunks (we brought our own towels and toiletries). The Chateau was a beautiful two story natural wood building, somewhat like a giant log cabin.  The top floor had a large wrap around deck.  The bottom floor consisted of eight bedrooms each with two bunk beds (upper and lower) and a bathroom.   Upstairs was a bathroom and huge living/dining area with a small kitchenette. In the kitchenette refrigerator was two cases of beer.

Saturday morning  MW Hickham and Wor. Denson were back with the bus and we went down to the Lodge where they had breakfast prepared for us, eggs and bacon and sausage and grits and fruit and biscuits and honey. Then we took a tour of Bloomington and Indiana University, I being able to stop at my wife’s grandmother’s old house.  We had lunch out and then it was back to the Chateau to shower and change clothes for the Degree. We arrived back at the Lodge around 5:00 PM for a tour, set up and pre- dinner fellowship.  The Lodge prepared a wonderful meal after which we retired to the Lodge room for the ceremony we had come 1000 miles to perform.

We marched into Lodge to the beat of our drummer, all in costume with tri- cornered hats.  The degree went flawlessly and we raised three Indiana Masons to the sublime degree of a Master Mason.  William Munroe gave the “Canadian Charge” and the Historian his usual patriotic message.  Afterward we presented the Lodge with an engraved Paul Revere bowl and they gave us all presents. Many visitors were there including one Massachusetts Mason from the Plymouth district who was visiting IU. After many introductions and good cheer all around we retired to downtown Bloomington for some real cheer.

We all gathered at an Irish pub for celebration and a continuation of Masonic fellowship.  As it was a warm night we all sat out on the outdoor sidewalk café of the pub.  There is nothing like sitting on the sidewalk of a big college town on a warm night.  The sights were something that sent the blood of old men bubbling.  I have a picture of Wor. Denson, Master of Munroe Lodge #22 and me at the pub included here and also Past Master Eric Schmitz with MW Richard Hickham – the last two pictures at the bottom.

Sometime after midnight, I can’t quite remember when, we all piled into the Chateau.  Sunday morning the bus was there to take us to the Lodge for another great breakfast.  We all told many Masonic stories over breakfast including how much we enjoyed their company and all they had done for us. We said our goodbyes and the bus brought us back to the Indianapolis airport for a Sunday afternoon flight home. Monday morning we were all back to work with memories of a time we shall never forget.

And that’s what can happen when you think big!  1000 miles and back – all in one weekend!

Everything Comes Back To Lexington

I have always thought that my interest in Freemasonry came from my interest in DeMolay that was triggered by my love of history.  And my love of history was triggered by the rich Revolutionary War history of the town in which I was born and grew up in, Lexington, Massachusetts. It was here that Paul Revere galloped into town with the message “The British are coming, the British are coming.” And it was here that the first battle of our war for independence was fought on April 19, 1775.

Battle Reenactment

April 19th is a holiday in Middlesex County, Massachusetts.  It’s Patriots Day and every year on that date Lexington does a recreation of Paul Revere’s ride and the battle on the Lexington Green in the morning followed by a huge two-hour parade in the afternoon.

When I was five years old my father died. My mother took on three jobs to support my two sisters and me.  It was the 50s and you didn’t take welfare then even though it was available.  By day she was secretary for the First Parish Church, our church, which sat on the Southwest corner of the Green.  By night she was Secretary and Recorder for the town Planning Board Sessions. And on the weekends she was tourist guide at the Buckman Tavern.  The Buckman Tavern was there on the Northeast corner of the Green in 1775.  Here The Minutemen gathered in response to the call because British soldiers were marching into the countryside. I can remember as a boy of about 8 sitting on the steps to the Buckman Tavern and listening through the screen door to my mother recounting the tale of Paul Revere’s ride and the ensuing battle to groups of tourists.

Buckman Tavern

“Listen my children and you shall hear,

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere”

Much later at my public installation as Master of Paul Revere Lodge AF & AM, having been so installed by The Colonial Degree Team in full regalia, I would introduce my mother and remind her and all assembled of her days at the Buckman Tavern. But that is getting ahead of this story.

On the Northwest corner of the Lexington Green sat the Masonic Temple and in that Temple met Battle Green Chapter, Order of DeMolay. My best friend Ron invited me to become a DeMolay in the late 50s.  He was later to tell me that he sat in homeroom behind a very nice girl he thought I should ask out. This year that girl and I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary.

DeMolay Diploma

Battle Green DeMolay was a very active Chapter. Most meetings one could count forty or more members present.  We had a basketball team and a bowling team.  I was a bowler.  We sold ice cream at the Patriots Day parade but our main fund raiser was the production and sale of a town wide community events calendar, listing all the important dates for all the groups in town – social, religious, governmental, fraternal, educational and specialty organizations like The Women’s club and garden clubs. Armed with a hefty bank account we did much, such as special dinners, BBQs and trips.  The highlight of our social season was the annual DeMolay/Rainbow Sweetheart’s dance.  It was to that dance that I escorted my future wife on our second date.

When I was senior Councilor in the West we once again entered the state ritual competition at the State Conclave.  Previously we had been able to garner some honorable mentions and a third place finish.  Some years we didn’t enter at all.  This particular year was the largest participation ever recorded and after a semi final and a final competition we came home with first place.  That gave Battle Green Chapter a tremendous amount of statewide prestige especially among the Rainbow girls who flocked from all over to our many social events.

The work that went into that state wide ritual competition, the camaraderie that it produced and the pride and enthusiasm that it generated among us were things I never forgot. It influenced me years later when I became Worshipful Master at Plymouth Lodge and then Paul Revere Lodge, for the themes of my tenures in the East was always “Let’s Celebrate Our Masonry.” I was always thinking of ways to put on some big bash by bringing together large numbers of Masons in some special exemplification of our heritage and our philosophy.  But that was much later.

The next term I became Master Councilor and it became my turn to lead the Chapter from the East. Once again that experience was to have a profound effect on my future choices in Freemasonry.

Soon I was off to school earning a BA in government & history and blazing new trails, leaving my fraternal childhood as nothing more than a memory.  What followed was marriage, a child, and many years of overwork and bad choices.  When I finally got my head screwed back on right, the first thing I did was petition a Masonic Lodge.

I was raised in historic Plymouth Lodge also steeped in American History where I cut my teeth working my way up the chairs. I was installed as Master in a public installation by 5 Past Master Councilors of Battle Green DeMolay who were also all Past Masters of Simon W. Robinson Lodge of Lexington, MA. Needless to say they were old friends also.

When I became Senior Warden I affiliated with Paul Revere Lodge in Brockton where I actually lived. Almost immediately I joined the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team which performed the second and third sections of the Third Degree in colonial costume while adding a patriotic message at the conclusion. And then upon assuming the East in Plymouth I also took the chair of Senior Deacon at Paul Revere.  I can remember doing First Degree ritual as Master in Plymouth on a Monday night and then on the very next night, Tuesday, doing the middle chamber lecture at Paul Revere on the second degree.  That spring in the East at Plymouth Lodge I invited the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team to perform.  I also invited everybody else in the world I could think of including a large contingent from Rhode Island.  We had 5 District Deputies present that night and such a packed house I had to hire a policeman to direct traffic out front.  We did celebrate our Masonry that night including a well-attended dinner.

The Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team was formed in 1975/76 to celebrate our country’s bicentennial.  It was such a huge success that the team continued to perform anywhere a Lodge would invite them and is still working to this day. We marched into Lodge to the beat of our drummer in the dress of the 1700s with tri-cornered hats and conducted ourselves in the Lodge room like a precision military drill team.  After raising the candidates, giving the Third Degree lecture of the Emblems and a Charge our Historian would take the floor.  He first would give a message about our flag.  The team used the Betsey Ross American flag.  Then he would describe the hardships that colonial Masons endured.  After that he would have each member of the team rise and identify who they were as each one of us took the name of a famous Revolutionary War Mason.

When I joined the team it had already been functioning for 17 years and all the “good” or most recognizable names had already been taken, like George Washington, Ben Franklin, Israel Putnam, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Benedict Arnold etc.  I ask the director if I could choose my own team name and he gave his assent.  I thought back to my days in Lexington to the battle of April 19, 1775.  I wondered if any of the 70 odd Minute Men who stood against the British that day were Masons.  There was no Masonic Lodge in Lexington at that time.  So I wrote to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, the Grand Lodge library and asked them that question. Back came a letter that listed 26 Masons who fought the British in that battle on April 19, 1775. From those 26 names I chose one whom I would represent.

William Munroe

I chose William Munroe who was stationed on an all night watch on the Lexington Green the night of April 18, 1775.  He was a sergeant in the Lexington Minute Men and proprietor of the only other tavern in town, the Munroe Tavern. It was William Munroe who received Paul Revere into the town of Lexington on the wee hours of the morning of April 19, 1775 with his message, “The British are coming.” It was William Munroe who helped Paul Revere rouse Hancock and Adams who were sleeping overnight in Lexington and tell them they best get out of town. And it was William Munroe who sent out the alarm to the rest of the Lexington Minutemen and to units from all the surrounding towns. Most units outside Lexington did not arrive until the British had already marched onto Concord and “fired the shot heard around the world.” But they were ready for them on the return trip where the British took heavy losses.

Later William Munroe would form Lexington’s first Masonic Lodge and I went into the Grand Lodge Library and read the minutes of 1791 when one William Munroe was escorted to the East with his petition for a Charter.  And he was received by the Grand Master who was pleased to shake his hand — Most Worshipful Paul Revere.  Hiram Lodge met for 40 years in especially constructed back rooms of Munroe Tavern until it moved to the neighboring town of Arlington.

Munroe Tavern

Munroe Tavern still stands today a stones throw away from The Scottish Rite National Heritage Museum where you can visit a lighted display and a historical recounting of the Battle of April 19, 1775 called “Lexington Alarmed.”

I performed the Charge for The Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team and utilized many different charges but the one I liked the best and used the most we called “The Canadian Charge.”  It went by many other names, so much so that my correspondence with Ian Donald about it caused him to research the charge and write a paper on it called “A Charge By Any Other Name Is Still A Charge” and which can be read on

I was installed as Master of Paul Revere Lodge in a public installation by the members of the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team in full costume. The soloist sang “God Bless The USA” and I recited 4 stanzas of Longfellow’s poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”  As I have said I introduced my family and honored my mother by telling the story of her third job at The Buckman Tavern. And the Historian did also take the floor and give his usual talk followed by team members introducing the Colonial Mason they represented.

One day I got a call from the oldest member of my church. She was in her 90s and was selling her home to go into assisted living.  The house had been in her family for generations but neither she nor her sister who was now in a nursing home had ever married.  So the old homestead was on the market and a group of church members had just helped her pack up what she could take with her and sell or discard what she couldn’t. Down in her basement was found a Masonic diploma dating from 1840 and she did not recognize the name of the person and she asked if I would like it.

Colonial Degree Team before the altar is at Simon W. Robinson Lodge in Lexington, Massachusetts

When I picked it up I noticed it was issued from a Lodge in Connecticut so I felt it should be returned to them.  Later that week I phoned the Grand Lodge of Connecticut and got the contact information for the Secretary of that Lodge. And before you know it I had a bus full of Lodge members and the District Deputy rolling down the highway to make a visit to Putnam Lodge in CT and officially return this man’s Masonic diploma to the Lodge. We had a dinner and a nice presentation and before we all left I informed Putnam Lodge about our Colonial Degree Team. Six months later we were back with the whole team performing before the Junior Past Grand Master, three District Deputies and a packed house.

Right from the start as Master of Paul Revere Lodge I set out to take the Colonial Degree Team to Lexington. So I called the Secretary of Simon W. Robinson Lodge who was the Master Councilor when I was Senior Councilor and we won the state DeMolay ritual competition.  He got with the Master and after much discussion and preparation we scheduled a gala event for the nearest Communication to

Presenting Paul Revere bowl to the Master of Simon W. Robinson Lodge Lexington, MA

April 19th.  The Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team was to perform followed by a tri Table Lodge, the Frank W. Thompson Lodge , the District Deputy’s Lodge, of neighboring Bedford, MA being invited in on the festivities. No one I knew had ever heard of a tri Table Lodge but all three Lodges shared in the ritual of that occasion. We marched into the Lodge to the beat of our drummer before a packed house. We performed the degree after which William Munroe gave “The Canadian Charge” and the Historian delivered his patriotic message. Then one by one we introduced ourselves with the name of the Revolutionary War Mason that we each represented. I was very proud to announce that I represented Lexington’s William Munroe. Afterward we presented the Master of Simon W. Robinson Lodge an engraved Paul Revere Bowl commemorating the occasion. We started on a Saturday afternoon at 4:00 PM with the Colonial Degree Team and we finished the Table Lodge at 11:00 PM. We had the usual 7 course meal with 7 toasts and much merriment and brotherly love and affection. Over 100 Masons gathered that day for what was truly a memorial Celebration of the Craft.

Special Lodge Notice Cover

I had published a special Lodge notice for that month with a colored front to back page of the American Patriot Rebels picking off the British as they marched back to Boston from Concord.  In it were extra stories of Paul Revere and April 19th.

And so I can truly say that for me everything comes back to Lexington.

The Chronicles of Philosophus


Gebel-pyramidsAt that time in the land of Gebal, the builders would gather at high twelve on the day before the Sabbath. They would meet in the temple to discuss the work of the craftsmen and to study the ancient arts. The master builders filled the higher offices, with the craftsmen joining them on the floor. The quarrymen were to witness the deliberations from the audience gallery.

In the year of the reign of the Venerable Master Enoch, a man was accepted among their number by the name of Philosophus. He was a man from the eastern lands who claimed to be among the ranks of the builders. His work was inspected and he was found to be proficient in his craft and was accepted amongst the Brethren of Gebal. He had distinguished himself as a man of the utmost skill in the operative profession of construction as well as particularly knowledgeable in the ancient speculative arts.

At the rap of the gavel, the Brethren would come to order and at that time it was the custom to take up the pass from the several divisions of builders in order to ascertain their rank. The masters would elect from their number nine to take up the pass. Five were to collect the pass from the quarrymen, three to collect it from the craftsmen, and one to collect it from the masters. The elected officials would pass through the ranks of men and request of them the pass, which was whispered into the official’s ear.

While one of the officials was collecting the pass from the masters, he came upon a particularly well known Brother. He was an elderly man who had long served to build the magnificent edifices of the kingdom. However, on that day he was unable to properly communicate the password and the official announced to the assembly that there was a Brother without the pass. The Brethren were shocked and began to cast insults at the elderly master. The masters of the higher offices gathered to determine the fate of the Brother. To have a well known master without the pass was unprecedented and the outrage of the assembly pressured them to pass judgment on the man. The Master agreed that he must be removed from the Chapter. The Venerable Master Enoch spoke saying “Due to the lack of proper knowledge by this Brother, we must remove him from our Chapter in order to maintain our established regulations.” At that time, there were no regulations to deal with such an event. In order to make the judgment more fair, Enoch asked of the assembly “Does any Brother present at this assembly have anything to say in defense of this fellow?”

The Brethren were silent and refused to talk, even amongst themselves. The foreigner, Philosophus, stood to address the craft.

“Do not disparage this man for succumbing to the difficulties of old age. He has served his Lord, his masters, and his kingdom well for many years. There has never been a time when a fellow builder in need did not receive a contribution from his boundless charity. Yet, while he has been known unto you and you have benefited from his brotherly love, you are willing to remove him from this Chapter because of the unwillingness of his tongue. I say unto you, the pass of a master is found not upon the tongue, but upon the heart.”

The Brethren waited for the response of the Venerable Master. He spoke after a period of silence, “Our Brother from the east is correct, for the arts of a builder are revealed by his hands. We have no reason to expel a Brother who has used his hands in a manner so befitting of his title.”

And the Brethren were amazed at this chain of events and said amongst themselves, “Who is this man that calls himself Philosophus?”

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Dr. Margaret Jacob on Masonic Central

Origins of Freemasonry by Margaret Jacob

Origins of Freemasonry by Margaret Jacob

Some say that history is written by the victors.  Triumphs are in fact triumphant, and losses are only momentary set backs in a progressive path to the eventual story that you read in the history books.

But at times some histories run concurrently with others, and that there isn’t really a victor or vanquished, but instead parallel paths that points merge and blend together.  Freemasonry, it would seem, is just one of these histories where its various paths of existence seem to weave in and out of society and with other branches of itself.

For many years the fraternity has sprouted its own cadre of story tellers, its own historians.  From Anderson’s early mythologies of Freemasonry’s existence, to Yarker and Pike to name but a few, none have ever really stepped out of the box to understand the intricate workings as it relates to society.  Robinson has done some justice, as has Ridley in his work, but neither brought the study of the Freemasons out of the realm of the speculative and in to academia, at least not in any meaningful way.

It wasn’t until about a decade or so ago that the study of Freemasonry took on a more meaningful study, where today the craft stands at a turning point in the broader study of civil society.  And, at the helm of that ship is the scholarship of Dr. Margaret Jacob.

Masonry still has its arm chair and library historians, but Dr. Jacob has elevated the speculative history of our gentle craft to the hallowed halls of the university, and its from this study that our understanding of the fraternity today has far exceeding beyond what our understanding was of it before.

On Sunday, March 15, 2009, Dr. Margaret Jacob, the distinguished professor of History at UCLA, sat down with Masonic Central to  discuss her academic study of Freemasonry, as recorded in her books: The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions, Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe, and The Radical Enlightenment – Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans.

Additional topics to include: the Paradox of Masonic Secrecy in the 18th Century, Freemasonry in academia, and the role that Freemasonry occupies in the broader study of Civil Society.


It was a very interesting evening of discussion with the pre-eminent scholar of American and European Freemasonry.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Professor Jacob, or have heard said that you should, this is the program for you.  Dr. Jacob has a unique unbiased insight to our Masonic institution as her academic endeavors come from outside of the fraternity, rather than the inside.

Further Light, a Review

Jim Tresner book

This work is a little informational book subtitled Helpful Information for New Master Masons, by Jim Tresner, and is intended for those Masons just beginning their journey in the fraternity. It is published by the Masonic Service Association and contains a general summary of the basic fraternal knowledge.

One of the book’s triumphs is that it gives a small discussion for most of the symbols found in each degree. However, unlike most pamphlets created for similar purposes as this, it does actually mention some very esoteric Masonic concepts. These include a brief mention of some Jewish mystical concepts such as the Tree of Life. The book also includes a section pertaining to the Landmarks of Freemasonry which are so often ignored in these types of publications. While this discussion only lists Mackey’s list of Landmarks, it is still better than no mention of the Landmarks. It also contains a few points about lodge protocol such as not walking between the Master and the altar, how to address the lodge, and the attitude of prayer. These customs are rarely mentioned in text.

The book has some shortcomings as well. The information on the symbolism of the degrees found in this booklet is already printed in some sort of introductory Grand Lodge publication in most states. This leads to yet another iteration of the processed and formed definitions of Masonic symbolism to which young members have already been exposed. The brief Masonic history given is also a rather romantic account of the fraternity’s development. It includes the possibility that the Knights Templar somehow influenced Freemasonry and covers Masonic history at at period of time which offers only speculative history at best. Also, 19 and a half pages of the book’s 49 pages deal with nearly ever single Masonic affiliated body, including some of the most obscure of Masonic organizations. It would seem that a little more time on the symbolism of the Blue Lodge and a little less on the subject of other bodies would be more useful to the new initiate.

Overall, the book is a decent resource for those Masons who have not been provided with any information about the degrees. However, there are a number of better resources available through the Grand Lodges as well as the Internet for those looking for a cursory knowledge of the fraternity.

Brother James Tracey Tresner II laid up his working tools on July 12, 2018.

Upon Attaining Middle Age: Wilmhurst, Masonry and the Man-Boat

lincoln town car

Originally published under AudVideTace

The actuarial tables and my aching joints proclaim insistently that I have reached middle age, a notification that few receive gratefully and I am no exception.

Apart from the aches and pains of life which suddenly and mysteriously appear like a thief in the night, middle age is that betwixt and between part of life where one is thought to begin accruing the benefits of life while still being young enough to enjoy them for a few years before the AARP, senility and Prostatitis hurry one along into old age proper, and the accompanying bills not covered by Medicare. Still, it’s better than the alternative, I suppose.

Two recent events put paid to any notion I had about being a young man.

The first was the unshakable conviction of my optometrist that I could no longer dodge a pair of bifocals without going blind, and the second was my refusal to drive another mile in my old but faithful pickup truck. I’ve never been a sports car guy , I didn’t even lust for one in high school, although I did own a fairly muscular 1968 Chevy Malibu, stock, with 307 cubic-inches of V8 that would run like a scalded dog and lay a scratch shifting into third. After nearly killing myself by knocking a chunk out of the federal interstate system infrastructure, however, I decided that a slower and less tempting pickup truck would provide more sensible transportation and I’ve driven one ever since.Trouble was, none of them were very comfortable – at least none of the ones I owned.So, like a typical maladjusted mid-life American male, I decided that my troubles could be easily solved by getting a hot car, and that’s just what I did, not a new Charger, no Corvette, not even a Mustang.No. I bought a Lincoln, a 2002 Continental (the last year for that model), with heated leather everything – even the dual speed fuel pump is made out of leather, and yes, it’s heated too.This baby is, as my wife would say, a Man Boat without apology. The Man Boat does not solve all of middle-age’s problems, but while you’re fiddling with all the buttons and switches inside, and rubbing Meguiar’s Gold Class Leather Cleaner on the interior, you tend to forget about them for a while, which again, is better than the alternative.

I didn’t think that owning a Man Boat would have anything to do with Masonry, but, boy, was I was wrong.

It turns out, it has everything to do with Masonry. In fact, if Masonry was the official sponsor of a car, it would be the Lincoln Town Car, the big brother and successor in interest of my Continental. The Cadillac De Ville is maybe a close second, but still way back there. Masons drive Lincolns. If you doubt me on this, cruise the parking lot at Grand Lodge next time and count the Lincolns – more Town Cars than you can shake a stick at. In fact Masons love Lincolns – and none of this Navigator crap, either – I’m talking Lincoln Town Cars, and they love them for a number of very definite reasons. First of all, they’re comfy, which is good because old guys hate squeezing into an Astin Martin DB5 which has zero head room, less leg room and you can’t fit your apron case and Shrine hat box in and still have room for the Trouble in Strife. They’re powerful too, but not like a hot rod: classier. But perhaps more importantly, Lincolns are motor-ologically speaking both elemental and changeless, just like Masonry.

Henry Ford (Palestine Lodge No. 357, Detroit, Michigan) owned the first Continental (a one-off model), and they have been in continuous production since 1939. Not fuel efficient you say? Yes, you’re right. Neither is Masonry. At least not yet. So, let’s recap: big, roomy, comfy, racy in an old guy sort of way, horsepower aplenty, and with the exception of some exterior trim and the odd opera window and rag top, they haven’t changed one jot since 1939. That sounds like Masonry to me. And if it was good enough for Henry Ford, it’s good enough for us, right? Change, you understand, is not only overrated, but damned dangerous.

Which brings me to Wilmshurst.

Eighty-seven years ago, which oddly enough seems like when I graduated from high school, the great Masonic commentator Walter Leslie Wilmshurst wrote that the “Meaning of Masonry… is a subject usually left entirely unexpounded and that accordingly remains largely unrealized by its members save such few as make it their private study; the authorities of what in all other respects is an elaborately organized and admirably controlled community have hitherto made no provision for explaining and teaching the ” noble science ” which Masonry proclaims itself to be and was certainly designed to impart.” [1]

In The Meaning of Masonry, Wilmshurst goes on to say that Masonry, which eclipses every other fraternal organization, does so only to the degree that its spirituality demands serious commitment from its members. Stripped of that esotericism, Wilmshurst argues, Masonry is no more than the Salvation Army with aprons. And, I hasten to add, Lincoln Town Cars.

And while I’m no alchemist, I acknowledge that Masonry encompasses more, so very much more than that. If I understood Albert Pike, or if I gave credence to Manly P. Hall, or any of our other soothsayers, perhaps I could readily agree with many of my fellows who seem to know just what exactly Masonry does encompass in the less-than-tangible realm, but despite my uncertainty, I am sure that there is something, and I am still searching. Judging from the comments I hear each year at Grand Lodge, I am one of the few Lincoln drivers who have reached that point, but now that I have infiltrated their camp, I intend on finding out how many other fellow travelers there are. I’m not optimistic, though.

Soon, perhaps by next week the way things are going, I will be forced to give up my Lincoln and ordered to buy a Ford Focus which is a crappy car for me but better for everyone else (which is all that matters, apparently), but in the meantime, if you spot a waterfall grille in your rear-view, it might just be me.

The bifocals, by the way, should be in by next week, damn them.

[1] The Meaning of Masonry, Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 1993, p. 5.