Merchants of Morality

“If not us, Who? If not now, When?”

Men join Freemasonry for a variety of reasons, right or wrong, be it to make new connections, join what they believe to be a philanthropy, to use it as a stepping stone to the Shrine or whatever. As for me, I was looking for a sense of morality. Prior to joining, I had been embroiled in business dealings with some deadbeat customers and employees. Further, I had been president of my homeowner association (talk about a snake pit). Frankly, I was beginning to wonder if there were any moral men left in the world. My father and grandfather had both been Masons, but they never pushed me in the direction of the fraternity. I had to find my own way. So, I joined the fraternity to sit amongst men who were courageously honest and their word was their bond; a sense of truth and justice.

As I joined, I was hoping to learn more about the fraternity’s concept of morality. Instead, I had to memorize and recite catechisms. True, there are words of morality in our obligations, lectures, and charges, but little else. I also discovered Freemasonry was far from being a moral society itself, where petty politics plagued not only the Blue Lodges, but also the Grand Lodges. Instead of finding ways to work together, as I presumed Masons would, I found turf wars erupting within Grand Lodges and between grand jurisdictions. This is certainly not what I signed up for, and is a turn-off to new members who face it for the first time. It’s no small wonder membership is dwindling. There is enough political intrigue in the workplace and elsewhere, and Masons want a refuge away from it. Besides, I thought we were above such squabbling and acted like men. Inevitably, I came to the realization that Masons are mortal and, as human animals, are just as political in nature as anyone else. This was a grave disappointment to me.

As we become Master Masons we are admonished to embrace the tenets of Freemasonry, which are friendship, morality, and Brotherly Love. When I first heard these words, I had a glimmer of hope. I still do. If we truly believe in these principles, we should be practicing them, both in and out of the Lodge room. My interpretation of these tenets was that Masons should be considered the “Merchants of Morality,” that it is our duty to promote morality not only within the fraternity but out in the general public as well.

When I wrote my recent eBook entitled, “Stand Up for MORALITY,” I was pleasantly surprised by how it was received by members of the Craft. I had evidently hit a hot button. I reviewed the lessons of the book in my own Lodge under Masonic Education. The older members liked it, but it seemed to particularly strike a chord with our younger members. One such member said afterwards, “This is precisely what I wanted to learn in a Masonic Lodge.” Such comments are gratifying. I had been able to engage my audience and got them thinking about morality.

When I began my research on morality I found there weren’t too many people or institutions talking about it. I discovered morality is something we all claim to know, but never openly discuss. It’s no small wonder we find ourselves in a reactive mode of teaching morality in this country. Instead, teaching defaults to others, particularly the media who transmits questionable moral values. This is precisely why I wrote my book, to stimulate thought and help create a proactive approach to morality.

It occurred to me though, the “Merchants of Morality” have a vital role to play in this as well. I can think of no other group better suited to promote morality than the Masons. The clergy is hampered by religious barriers, civic groups do excellent work in the community but are not charged with morality, and schools are restricted in terms of defining what is morally right and wrong. So, if not us, Who? If not now, When? We should not be embarrassed of who we are and what we represent, but rather, we should come out of the darkness and offer a new age of enlightenment. Let us resolve to return to the active morality which defined us publicly and privately.

As I mentioned in my book, 73% of the country believes America’s moral values are eroding. How long will we allow this to continue? This also provides us with an opportunity: If we open our Lodge doors to the public in order to offer seminars on morality, this could greatly raise the consciousness of our communities, and it would also give Masons the chance to dispel misconceptions about the fraternity (that we are not the bogeymen people claim we are). Heck, we could even use it as a fundraiser to boot. I already know one group in Southwest Ohio moving in this direction.

If you are interested in promoting morality in and around your Lodge, please drop me a line and I would be happy to discuss it with you.

Again – “If not us, Who? If not now, When?”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Freemason Tim Bryce.

Managing a Nonprofit Organization

Recently I was adding up the number of Board of Directors I have served on over the years for nonprofit organizations. This includes computer societies, fraternal organizations, homeowner associations, even Little League. The number was close to 40 where I have served in some capacity or other, everything from president, to vice president, secretary, division director, finance chairman, publicity and public relations, newsletter editor, webmaster, even historian (not to mention the many Masonic positions I have held). In other words, I think I’ve learned a thing or two about nonprofit organizations over the years. One of the first things I learned early on is that unless you manage the nonprofit group, it will manage you.

Running a nonprofit group is not exactly rocket science and is actually pretty simple, but surprisingly few people grasp the basics and end up bungling the organization thereby creating upheaval for its constituents. If you are truly interested in properly managing a nonprofit group, consider these ten principles that have served me well over the years:

Know the rules

Get a copy of the governing docs, read them, and keep them with you. Do not try to hide them. In fact, make them available to your constituents either in paper form or as a download on the computer (such as a PDF file). Got a briefcase dedicated to your group? Keep a copy of the docs in it and, if an electronic version is available, place an icon on your desktop to quickly access it.

Get to know your constituents

How can you expect to adequately serve them if you do not know what their interests are or the group’s priorities as they perceive them? They won’t always be correct, but understand their perceptions and deal with them accordingly. You might want to circulate a survey to get their view on certain subjects, and to solicit their support.


Not only with the other members of the board, but with your constituency as well. Failure to do so only raises suspicions about what you are doing. Newsletters, e-mail blasts, and web pages are invaluable in this regard, particularly the latter where you can post news, governing docs, contact information, meeting minutes, audit reports, correspondence, etc. Simple communications will clear up a lot of the problems you will face as an officer on the board.


Keep good records, regardless if government regulations require it or not. Whether you are maintaining records with pencil and paper or by computer, it is important that accurate records be maintained, particularly about the group’s membership, logs of activities, attendance, finances, minutes, etc. It is not really that complicated to perform; you just need someone who pays attention to detail. Don’t have the manpower to do it yourself? Then hire someone, such as a management company, who can competently keep track of things.


People like to know where they are headed. If you are in charge of the group, articulate your objectives and prepare a plan to get you there. Also, do not try to micromanage everything. Nonprofit groups are primarily volunteer organizations and the last thing they want is Attila the Hun breathing down their necks. Instead, manage from the bottom-up. Delegate responsibility, empower people, and follow-up. Make sure your people know their responsibilities and are properly trained. Other than that, get out of their way and let them get on with their work.

Add value to your service

People like to think they are getting their money’s worth for paying their dues. In planning your organization’s activities, be creative and imaginative, not stale and repetitive. In other words, beware of falling into a rut. Your biggest obstacle will typically be apathy. If your group’s mission is to do nothing more than meet periodically, make it fun and interesting, make it so people want to come and participate. Try new subjects, new venues, new menus, etc. Even if you are on a tight budget, try to make things professional and first class. Change with the times and never be afraid of failure. You won’t always bat 1.000 but you will certainly hit a few out of the park and score a lot of runs.

Keep an eye on finances

As officers of the Board, you have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain the group’s finances and report on their status. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a well thought-out and itemized budget. Operating without one is simply irresponsible. And when you have a budget, manage according to it; if you don’t have the money allocated, don’t spend it. Obviously, you should also have routine finance reports produced (at least on a monthly basis) showing an opening balance, income, expenses, and a closing balance. Most PC based financial packages can easily do this for you. At the end of the year, perform a review of your finances by an independent party, either a compilation as performed by a CPA or a review by an internal committee. Post the results so the constituency can be assured their money has been properly handled.

Run an effective meeting

Nobody wants to attend an inconsequential meeting. Whether it is a weekly/monthly board meeting or an annual meeting, run it professionally. Print up an agenda in advance and stick to it. Start and end on time and maintain order. Got a gavel? Do not hesitate to use it judiciously. Maintain civility and decorum. Allow people to have their say but know when issues are getting out of hand or sidetracked. And do yourself a favor, get a copy of “Robert’s Rules” and study it.

Beware of politics

Like it or not, man is a political animal. Politics in a nonprofit group can get uglier than in the corporate world. Some people go on a power trip even in the most trivial of organizations. Try not to lose sight of the fact that this is a volunteer organization and what the mission of the group is. Keep an eye on rumors and confront backstabbers, there is no room for such shenanigans in a nonprofit group. If you are the president, try to maintain an “open door” policy to communicate with your constituents. It is when you close the door that trouble starts to brew. Also, ask yourself the following, “Who serves who?” Does the board serve its constituents, or do the constituents serve the board? If your answer is the latter, then dissent will naturally follow.

Maintain control over your vendors

Try to keep a good relationship with those companies and people who either work for or come in contact with your group, particularly lawyers. Always remember who works for whom. I have seen instances where attorneys have taken over nonprofit groups (at a substantial cost I might add). The role of the lawyer is to only offer advice; he or she doesn’t make the decision, you do (the client). One last note on vendors, make sure you maintain a file of all contracts and correspondence with them. Believe me, you’re going to need it when it comes time to sever relations with them. Keep a paper trail.

Bottom-line: run your nonprofit group like a business. Come to think of it, it is a business, at least in the eyes of the State who recognizes you as a legal entity (one that can be penalized and sued). There are those who will naively resist this notion, but like it or not, a nonprofit group is a business. Consider this, what happens when the money runs out?

I mentioned earlier that you might want to hire a management company to perform the administrative detail of your group. To me, this is an admission that the Board is either too lazy or incompetent to perform their duties (or they have more money than they know what to do with). Just remember, it’s not rocket science.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

For Tim’s columns, see:

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Trouble brewing in the Philippine house of Masonry

The following comes from a note I picked up on in news link from Facebook. The article posted on the Isagani Lodge No. 96 Facebook page, and is less an inditement and more a question as to a growing cloud of mismanagement and nepotism that, they believe, has infultrated Philippine Freemasonry.

Its called the author to ask the question – Is Philippine Masonry self-destructing?

…It was only during the late seventies that the tentacles of patronage politics, Philippine style, started to creep slowly into the activities during annual communications. Even then, it was only an on-off thing and it was tolerable to say the least. Expenses were limited to lunch and snack invitations, under the guise of fraternal fellowships. These practices, more common to civic and social clubs, have spread among the brethren and were tolerated…

Politics per se is not all evil….What makes it taboo in masonry are the strategic actions employed by aspirants, particularly those bordering on bribery and corruption.

While there are specific prohibitions which if violated by a candidate can result to disqualification, these prohibitions were easily circumvented either directly or indirectly. In many cases the violations were committed by brethren who were identified as close to the candidates. The acts of bribery and corruptions come in various forms, such as free plane fares, hotel accommodations, fellowships and entertainments, registrations for voting delegates, payment of lodge arrears to the GLP, promises of appointments as Grand Lodge officers. Sad to say, many brethren have become vulnerable to these tempting offers, others make demands from these JGW wannabees as if extracting from Hiram Abiff. Most would succumb to these material favors and accept these freebies, and participate only during the roll call of lodges and the election of officers during annual communication. The rest of the time was devoted to enjoyment, courtesy of the candidate. The end result is an elected JGW not because of his Masonic maturity and qualifications but due to his financial capabilities and resources. And, after three years we see him as the GM of the GLP.

We have seen this scenario many times and there seems to be no improvement at sight. Those who bought their way up to the Grand Oriental Chair have come and gone. Some did well but most of them did not. Various scandals were unearthed during previous plenary sessions. The opening of clandestine GLP bank accounts, excessive foreign travel expenses, the bankruptcy of the Acacia Mutual Fund, and the breakaway of the Cavite brethren to form the IGLPI were just some of the unhealthy results of having irresponsible and immature brethren at the helm of power.

Is Philippine Masonry self-destructing?

What seems to be the problem? Is it in the process, the PGMs, the candidates or the voting delegates? The current process of selecting the next JGW depends largely on the suggested names and the final nominations by the PGMs. This part of the electoral process has a timeline of almost five months, during which all powers either to qualify or disqualify rest on the PGMs. Coincidentally, it is also during this five months period that most of the violations are committed. It is during this period when horse trading, acts bordering on bribery and corruption are rampant. It is an open activity and widely known amongst the brethren. Unfortunately, the PGMs are not aware of it or they simply plug their ears and look at the other side.

The candidates could not care less. Knowing the process, only those who aspire for fame and power would be interested to participate. Only those with overflowing financial resources would be willing to spend. Brethren with noble intentions would rather decline and not participate in the electoral process. They do not wish to be part of a mockery and disgrace to masonry.

The actions and decisions of the voting delegates reflect the shallowness and lack of Masonic education on the lodge level. It shows lack of understanding of what masonry is all about. It clearly reflects the Masonic immaturity of the present membership. This is a great challenge to the lodge leadership and the Grand Lodge as well.

It’s an interesting read for sure. Is it really a self destruction or just a change in the way things are done. What stood out to me most clearly was the statement that “…the voting delegates reflect the shallowness and lack of Masonic education on the lodge level…” but then maybe thats just where the problem is at.

The Coaches Coach – Building Builders

The Coaches Coach by Dr. John S. Nagy from WEOFM

Br. John Nagy has been a friend of FmI for a while. You may remember his from his past appearances on the Masonic Central pod cast.

He is the author of the Building… series of books, and his blog Building Builders.

This video below comes from the World Wide Exemplification of Freemasonry, in which he speaks about the Masonic Paradigm which he says is different that what most might be familiar with that will enlighten the viewers Masonic endeavor – called Building Builder.

its a great intro into Masonic leadership from both sides of the learning curve: those being lead and those leading them. Its a great listen for quite literally Building Builders.

The Coaches Coach from WEOFM on Vimeo.

Many thanks to the Grand Lodge of Indiana for their work in the Worldwide Exemplification of Freemasonry.


One in an ongoing series I’ve planned to look at. The ideas expressed could probably apply to all walks fo life, from your work place, to the Lodge Room. Each one of us are leaders in one way or another, and these are lessons to help us be better.

In this video Four star general Stanley McChrystal shares what he’s learned about leadership over his decades in the military. Listening, learning, and the shared purpose. He also addresses the possibility of failure.

BSA100 – Boy Scouts of America, 100 Years of Being Prepared.

The Boy Scouts of America in three parts:
Part I – Being a Boy Scout | Part II – Origins | Part III – Organization

2010 marked a significant milestone in the lives of young men all across the continent as the Boys Scouts of America celebrated its 100th Anniversary.

Started in 1906 the Boy Scouts, in the course of a few short years and group mergers, took its present shape in 1910 to become the premier young mans organization that it is today. Premier because few organizations produce the quality young men that the Eagle Scout embodies. For its adult leadership, the Wood Badge is the mature persons Eagle Scout equivalent which embodies the spirit of the Scouts into the adult leader who assumes the leadership role to guide the young men up that progressive climb.


Said by some to be a quagmire of paperwork, the BSA is a mostly volunteer organization composed of parents and interested community members to guide its course. At the local level, troops (like lodges) are individually chartered and provide a space in which the member boys meet.

Like Freemasonry, the Scouts are a private membership organization that through and through is values-based. At its core is the teaching of being a responsible citizen, character development, educational programs, and self-reliance through participation in a wide range of outdoor activities.

The Scout Oath sums very squarely what it represents as it states:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Which is in turn supported by the Scout Law which says:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
brave, clean, and reverent.

Both statements are meritorious to any individual that applies them to their life, but the Boy Scouts weave these ideas into the very fiber of the organization such that it becomes as much a part of the members being, as the characteristic brown and green uniform.

It is very much a way of life, with an optimistic way to look at a past ideal of social virtue and civic engagement, something little seen today and even less instilled in young men. This social virtue is so much a component of the Boy Scouts that the highest rank, the Eagle Scout, is predicated on the completion of a service project for one of the communities in which the scout circulates. By its very conduct it is very easy to see that the ideal of a Boy Scout sums into the ideal of Leadership, Achievement, Character, Service, and Environmental Appreciation (did I mention the Scouts camp a lot?).

From a Masonic point of view, we can see the similarity to the aims of the organization in its workings. Both have a progressive line of promotion that elevates the junior member to a higher standing within the body – Tenderfoot to Eagle/Apprentice to Master – predicated on a set of civic principals and virtues of self improvement.

In the Masonic Lodge, the degree of Master as the most common level of lodge practice, the Scouts conduct meetings with all grades in attendance and impressively with greater participation, as they see all the participants as contributors to the units prosperity.

This mixed rank participation allows more experienced members to interact with younger scouts to teach, train, and impart their experience to those who will one day hold those elder leadership positions.

Unlike Masonry, the Boy Scouts has an age cap in which the youth in attendance need progress to his ability before he comes of age at 18. There is some latitude for those working on their Eagle Rank, but essentially, the Scouting door closes at the 18th birthday. That does not, however, eradicate the youths ability to continue on with the experiences of Scouting as there is a secondary body called the Venturing which has an older age ceiling with further rank advancement and meritorious awards. But, once a scout always a scout and opportunities abound for mature scouts to volunteer with his troop, mentor up and coming scouts, and evolve into a Scout Master in the future.

Also, for the college bound scout, there is a college fraternity – Alpha Phi Omega or APO which is roughly 17,000 students strong and more than 350,000 alumni. The purpose of APO is a service fraternity with principals derived from the Scout Oath and Law to promote leadership and service to humanity. This collegiate fraternity is a natural next-step for any Scout looking to continue his scouting path at university.

One important aspect of the Boy Scouts is faith, something that is inherent in scouting, but not in a fundamental way.

The official word on faith in Scouting is:

Scouting encourages each young person to begin a spiritual journey through the practice of his or her faith tradition. One of the key tenets of Scouting is “duty to God.” While Scouting does not define religious belief for its members, it has been adopted by and works with youth programs of all major faiths.

This is very similar to the Masonic ideal of faith in a supreme being with out an expressed definition of what that faith is. Unlike the Scouts, Masonry uses the Bible as the principal sacred book where as the scouts have developed a Religious Emblems Program to broaden the individual scouts faith and honor the various faiths of its membership. The groups range from the African Methodist Episcopal Church to Zoroastrianism.

Now that we have an idea of who and what the Scouts are today the next logical step is to look at where the Boy Scouts of America came from, which presents some interesting insight to the zeitgeist of the beginning 20th century and some possible unseen Masonic connections at its origin.

freemasonry, masonic, freemasons, information

The Masonic Restoration Foundation August Symposium

Coming this August, the Masonic Restoration Foundation is holding its first National Symposium on Traditional Observance Lodges, and much much more.

The focus of this two day event will be Masonic Restoration with a primary focus on identifying a set of best practices that can be regionalized and implemented in those lodges seeking to increase the fulfillment of its members.

This is a “must attend” event if you have ever considered starting a Traditional Observance Lodge in your local area.

The 2 full day schedule includes:

  • Working Talk Points Breakfast on leadership and assessing strengths and weaknesses.
  • Lodge Formation – How to in YOUR region.
  • How to best work with your Grand Lodge
  • Regalia Presentation from the leading regalia manufacturers.
  • Live vendor trade show with music, art, books, and software.
  • A Tyled Meeting followed by a Festive Board Agape.

Day Two:

  • Leadership Psychology from a top national speaker
  • Break-outs to discuss best practices, obstacles, and implementation
  • A special presentation on Alchemy by Br. Timothy Hogan
  • And an afternoon discussion on the practical guide to implementing the full TO system.
  • Followed, of course, by an event ending networking and cigar Lounge with a on site whiskey master.

The event has tremendous promise and a terrific energy about it and from the descriptions on the events site, its sure to motivate and educate even the passive participant into a passionate Traditional Observation Lodge champion.

Space is limited to 120 participants. If the TO lodge process has been on your radar, this event is not to be missed.

You can register for the event on their website: MRF Symposium.

Curious about Masonic Restoration?  Listen to the Masonic Central Podcast on the topic.

The Worshipful Master’s New Clothes

the emperors new clothsAn updated version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen

Once upon a time there was a Worshipful Master who was so fond of his Lodge that he spent most of his time rehearsing degrees and attending meetings. There was plenty of fun going on in the Lodge where the Master lived. Bills and minutes were read time and again, and the Brethren thrived on hot pasta dishes.

Visitors occasionally visited the Lodge. One day there came two representatives from Grand Lodge. They said they wanted to help the Lodge, but first the Master would have to hold fundraisers for the Grand Master’s charity and support his agenda. The Master found the GL representatives hypnotic, especially when they promised to increase membership, offset the Lodge’s growing financial burdens, and simplify the operation of the Lodge. Not only were their promises unusually attractive, but their programs had the peculiarity of being invisible to anyone who was not fit for his post or who was hopelessly stupid.

“I say! These must be wonderful ideas,” the Master thought. “If they are true, I would have the best Lodge in the jurisdiction. Yes, I must implement these programs all at once.” And he set the Craft to work under the guidance of the GL representatives.

And so it came to pass that the programs were implemented immediately. Spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, and fish fries became the norm. The Lodge dug into their pockets and produced handsome sums of money for the Grand Master’s charity. Lodge delegates attended Grand Lodge functions and followed the party line unquestioningly.

“Well, now, I wonder how everything is going?” the Worshipful Master said to himself. But there was one point that made him feel rather anxious, namely, that a man who was stupid or quite unfit for his post would never be able to see the benefits that had been produced. Not that he, the Master, need have any fears for himself – he was quite confident about that – but all the same, it might be better to send someone else first, to find out how things were going.

“I’ll send my honest old Secretary to check on the results as promised by the Grand Lodge representatives,” the Master thought. “He’s the best one to see what is going on, for he has plenty of sense and experience, and nobody fills his post better than he does.” So off went the honest old Secretary to a meeting with the Grand Lodge representatives who assured him that everything was going well. “Lord, bless my soul!” thought the Secretary, with eyes staring out of his head.

“Why, I can’t see any improvements in the Lodge.” But he was careful not to say so.

The two Grand Lodge representatives begged him to take a closer look – wasn’t the Lodge running just fine? Although the poor old Secretary opened his eyes wider and wider, he couldn’t see a thing, for there wasn’t a thing to see. “Good Lord!” he thought, “Is it possible that I’m stupid? I never suspected that, and not a soul must hear of it.” “Well, what do you think of it?” one of the representatives asked.

“Oh, it’s excellent! Things couldn’t be better!” the old Secretary said, looking through his spectacles. “I shall certainly tell the Worshipful Master how pleased I am with it.”

By and by, the Worshipful Master sent another honest Brother to see how the Lodge was running. The representatives accompanied him on his journey. As they traveled throughout the Lodge, the representatives made sure that the Brother saw only what they wanted him to see. He saw the Craft working on obscure projects, money being collected for the Grand Master’s Charity, and attendance at Grand Lodge workshops. “But our membership is still in decline, apathy among the Brethren is getting worse, and our financial situation is becoming dangerous,” the Brother thought to himself. And then he praised the programs, which he knew were compounding problems for the Lodge. “Yes, it’s quite sophisticated,” he said to the Worshipful Master when he got back.

The splendid programs became the talk of the district. And now the Worshipful Master himself said that he would check into the new programs himself. Quite a throng of select people, including the two honest old Brothers, went with him to where the Grand Lodge representatives were overseeing the programs.

“Look, isn’t it magnificent!” the two honest Brothers said. “What’s this?” the Worshipful Master thought. “I don’t understand a thing – this is appalling! Am I stupid? Am I not fit to be Master? This is the most terrible thing that could happen to me…”

“Oh, it’s quite wonderful,” he said to them. “It has our most gracious approval.” And he gave a satisfied nod. All the courtiers who had come with him looked and looked, but they made no more of it than the rest. Still, they all said just what the Worshipful Master said, and they advised him to discuss the programs for the first time at the next Lodge communications that was to take place shortly.

On the eve of the meeting, the Grand Lodge representatives sat up all night preparing a report for the Worshipful Master to read on the results of the programs.

Then the Worshipful Master went to the communications with the representatives and explained the programs to the Craft. Not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or to seem stupid, they all praised the Worshipful Master for the programs. “Marvelous! Sensational!” they all said. Never had the Worshipful Master’s programs been such a success.

“But you still haven’t solved your problems!” a young Entered Apprentice said. “Our membership is in decline, Brothers are staying away from the Lodge, and our finances are diminishing rapidly. At this rate, we’ll have to close our doors soon.”

“Goodness gracious, do you hear what he is saying?” the Craft whispered from one to the other. Then they all shouted, “But you still haven’t solved our problems!” And the Worshipful Master felt most uncomfortable, for it seemed to him that the Craft was right. But somehow he thought to himself, “I must go through with it now. I have too much invested in it already.” And so he drew himself up still more proudly, while the Grand Lodge representatives chased after him with him with more new ideas, even in spite of the obvious.

Keep the Faith.

Freemasonry From the Edge

Freemasonry From the Edge

by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
“A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry”
Originally published in 2008.

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

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

To receive notices of Tim’s writings, subscribe to his Discussion Group.

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce

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Always Been Good Enough – The Emblematical Instant Coffee of Refreshment

vintage sanka adA budget debate in Excelsior Lodge focused on memorial contributions for deceased brethren.  In the jurisdiction, it is customary for Lodges to remit a nominal amount as a memorial contribution to the state-wide Masonic charity, and I may reliably report that since time immemorial, that amount has been ten dollars.  I know this because several brethren of Excelsior Lodge have been Masons since time immemorial ;  one of them – Roy Mantooth —  was even Past-Master of Antediluvian Lodge No. 1, before he transferred, and his membership number, barely visible on his faded dues card, is four.

You read that right: Four.

Mine is 127598.  His is 4.

So the story goes, when they decided they ought to assign membership numbers, Solomon took number one, then Hiram King of Tyre, then the other Hiram, and then Mantooth because he was the one who always filled the coffee pot. With Sanka.   Anyway – so since forever Excelsior Lodge has sent ten dollars as a memorial, until this year’s  sitting master – a dangerous and revolutionary firebrand, not to mention a financial daredevil  – decided to make the contribution twenty-five dollars and chaos ensued.

As discontent is concerned, it was pretty mild, like most things Masonic. No shouting or anything (that’s for The Elks, or worse: The Eagles). No, it was more like watching dandelions taking over your garden, slow, inexorable, and not really noticeable, but you wake up one morning and think,  wow – where’d all those weeds come from?  But like discontent everywhere, it was deeply rooted.

“We need to lower that memorial contribution back down to ten dollars,” Mantooth was saying in his forceful manner, “it’s been ten dollars since I’ve been here and that’s always been good enough in the past.”

Always been good enough in the past.  You run into this sentiment a lot in Masonry.  In fact, I think it’s a Masonic motto: Is est satis pro habenae opus. A few nods from some of the older fellows and Mantooth started gathering more steam, “ I mean, if we were going to send flowers to the funeral – instead of sending a memorial to the Charity – we wouldn’t spend more than ten dollars, anyway…”

To be fair, Mantooth is not a florist, but one of the younger fellows piped up at that, saying  “that would be a pretty lame bunch of flowers for ten bucks,” but  it didn’t register.

And the problem is, it usually doesn’t register, because the divide between the older and younger members is very deep.  We’ve all noticed them in a hundred small ways – the emblematical instant coffee, for example, which, with a plate of day-old snickerdoodles from Albertson’s, is the Alpha and Omega of a typical Masonic fête.  Our meetings are slack, our regalia tattered, and our dress codes are either from 1974, or would shock the staff at the City Rescue Mission, take your pick. But more alarmingly, our lodge halls are crumbling.  In some halls this occurs because the members have fled the instant coffee for the latte house, but in others it comes not from penury but from pure parsimony, and heaven help the master who suggests raising dues.

These are all symptoms of  doing Masonry on the cheap, and its effects are insidious.  It means not paying proper attention to good form because it’s easier not to, and it means that the way things were in the past is not only good enough now, but for the foreseeable future.  This is why members think that flowers still cost ten dollars, that instant coffee is an elixir, and that red Bee Gees jackets present the image of the fraternity that will attract members in the critical 25 – 40 age group.  Because it’s always been good enough; no further analysis required.  If the goal of the fraternity was to rival the AARP in members over 65, we’d be in fine shape.

If not, it’s time to unplug the percolator. Go digital instead of analog.

I don’t pretend knowing how to pry the dead hand of the past off the steering wheel, but a good place to start is your officer line, you incoming masters.  Pack that sucker as full of young brethren as possible, giving yourself a coterie of men who share your priorities and who can withstand the insistence that the old way is the only way. With a young line, you still might have an antediluvian secretary (or treasurer), but with no voting bloc of his own, that’s a majority of one. Too often, the young men are sidelined because they don’t know the work, or because the master wants “seasoned” brethren in line to help him out.  This can be helpful in the short term, but it will defer our younger members assuming the mantle of leadership for as long as it continues.

And if you hate Sanka as much as I do – the sooner you start, the better.

This was originally published under audevidetace

Freemason Tim Bryce.

Town Hall Meetings

“If its a choice between attending a Grand Master’s official visit and attending a Masonic Town Hall meeting, I’ll take the Town Hall meeting any day of the week.”
Tim Bryce

town hall
Are Town Hall Meetings Necessary?

Next week I celebrate my 10th year of service in Freemasonry. Although it doesn’t seem that long, I have had the opportunity to observe several inefficiencies in the fraternity and have commented on them accordingly and made suggestions for improving them. One that rubs me the wrong way is the Grand Master’s official visits to the various Masonic districts in his jurisdiction. When I first heard about the visits I was anxious to attend and find out not only what was going on at the Grand Lodge level, but at the District and Lodge levels as well. In other words, I was looking for a “heart-to-heart” dialog between the GM and his constituents. Frankly, I was disappointed as most visits consisted of nothing more than a long litany of introductions of appointed officers, a glossy report of what is going on in the jurisdiction, and then the GM sits back and lets the Craft pay homage to him by making donations to his charity and accepting honorary Lodge memberships. In other words, nothing of substance is actually accomplished at these visits and the discussion is normally unidirectional. I realize the Grand Master is a busy man, but I was expecting something more in-depth, such as a dialog regarding the problems facing the Lodges in the District. Apparently, this is of little concern as it is never discussed. This bewilders me as this is a golden opportunity to talk one-on-one with the leader of our fraternity, but such is not the case.

Instead, it would probably be more productive to hold a “Town Hall Meeting” whereby the Masonic leaders poll the lodges as to trends, ask what is going on at the grassroots level, and seek cooperative solutions. In a way, it would be reminiscent of the British Prime Minister’s regular visits to Parliament to discuss the issues of the day. Town Hall Meetings have been popular in recent U.S. elections, including races for Congress and the Presidency. Such meetings are critical to nominees as it allows them to get a pulse of what the voters are thinking and gives them some important feedback. If nothing else, Town Hall Meetings comfort the constituents that their voices are being heard; kind of a “feel good” session, although I would hope we could get something more substantial out of them, such as energizing the Craft. Interestingly, after a candidate has been elected, such meetings evaporate until the next election. Nonetheless, Town Hall Meetings give the constituents a rare opportunity to discuss the issues with their leaders. Frankly, I would rather see more Town Hall meetings regarding Freemasonry and less GM official visits as they are currently implemented. Whereas the former represents a bi-directional dialog, the latter represents a unidirectional form of communications and doesn’t encourage participation.

If Freemasonry is truly running like a fine tuned machine within a jurisdiction, Town Hall Meetings might not be necessary. They are only of service to allow the constituents to voice their concerns over the issues of the day. So, it comes down to this, “Do we believe everything is running properly in our Grand jurisdictions?” If we do, Town Hall Meetings are probably not necessary; if we do not, than it would be in the fraternity’s best interests to hold such meetings on a regularly scheduled basis.

Keep the Faith.

Freemasonry From the Edge
Freemasonry From the Edge

by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
“A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry”
Originally printed on FmI in 2007.

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, and please forward me a copy of the publication when it is produced.

Copyright © 2007 by Tim Bryce