A Visit to the George Washington National Masonic Memorial

The George Washington National Masonic Memorial

The George Washington National Masonic Memorial

Last week, I visited the Washington, D.C. area and had an opportunity to visit the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA. I had long wanted to visit the memorial which is a tribute to George Washington as a Freemason and the fraternity as a whole. Since I had to travel through Alexandria in order to get to the nation’s capital, it was a convenient stop during my trip.

The monument’s property is gorgeous. The grounds surrounding the building are well kept and complement the beautiful stone building. When approaching the memorial from the parking lot, its size is awe inspiring. As you get closer and see the quality of the perfect ashlars which compose this edifice its beauty becomes more apparent. It will make any Freemason contemplate the value of the fraternity to our Masonic predecessors. The construction of this building was no small achievement and those Freemasons that assembled to create it must have placed great worth in our noble art.

The interior of the building boasts a number of grand halls, lodge rooms, and Masonic displays. The building is kept in excellent condition and is appealing to the eyes. The main floor features two beautiful lodge rooms each with its own display of various Masonic memorabilia. I would love to be a spectator of degree work in these lodge rooms as they are quite awe inspiring.

A view of the hall as you enter the memorial.

A view of the hall as you enter the memorial.

The lower floor features the Grand Masonic Hall as well as museums dedicated to Freemasonry and the Shrine. The Freemason’s museum was one of the more informative, accurate, and tasteful displays of Masonic history that I have ever seen. Some artifacts that caught my attention were Lafayette’s Masonic apron, a copy of Webb’s Freemason’s Monitor, and a copy of the Constitutions of 1723.

The tower of the building features more displays and an observation deck. In order to access the tower, you must take a guided tour which occurs several times throughout the day. The tour guides at the memorial will be more than happy to assist you in taking one of these tours which cost only $5 (access to the main and lower levels is free).

The memorial is conveniently located right across the street from the King Street Metro Station, which makes it an easy commute from anywhere in the D.C. metro area. The memorial is open daily and you can find more information on the George Washington National Masonic Memorial at its website.

Freemasonry’s Epic History

Frontispiece from Anderson's Constitutions

Frontispiece from Anderson’s Constitutions

Any Freemason that has taken a moment to delve into the history of Freemasonry, has undoubtedly discovered a legendary history of the order. Typically these histories will include an account of the fraternity as carried down from Adam through the building of King Solomon’s Temple and practiced by Pythagoras. For many Freemasons, these histories are confusing. While they are very grand and interesting, they leave much to be desired by the inquiring mind. Today, we will examine where these legends came from, discuss their purpose, and hopefully shed some light on these epic Masonic histories.

The first known account of Masonic history that included prominent characters from the Bible and the classic periods was included in Anderson’s Constitutions of the Free-Masons. This particular history is very elaborate and includes the great influence of Masonry throughout the existence of man, including its effect on the history of England. Anderson’s Constitutions does not explain whence this account originated nor does it reference any documents which can provide additional information. It is a speculative account of Freemasonry’s origins, which was developed to imply the greater grandeur of the noble order.

The practice of creating these histories was not uncommon during the period that Anderson composed the Constitutions. A quick investigation of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows will show that this organization also provides a speculative history. Some trace that particular order back to the exile of the Israelites in Babylon.2,3 These elaborate histories are intended to provide a sense of pride in the fraternity by appealing to one’s religious and geographical identity. Not surprisingly, the founders of modern Freemasonry in England included characters from the Old Testament and British royalty in their history to appeal to their member’s religious beliefs and patriotism. Perhaps the fact that the Freemasons had one of the most detailed and awe-inspiring historical accounts contributed to their unmatched success as a fraternal order.

Despite the fact that this historical account seems obviously fabricated to create a greater reverence for Masonry, many Masonic scholars have expanded upon these legends. These elaborations are probably the primary reason that some Freemasons are quite convinced that these legends are true. Albert G. Mackey, Albert Pike, and Manly P. Hall are among those that embellish the first Masonic epic from the Constitutions of 1723. These accounts include a detailed history of how Masonry was established and passed among the Hebrews, the union of chivalric orders such as the Knights Templar with Freemasonry, and the effects of the mystic traditions on the fraternity. Whether these scholars intended for their histories to be viewed as legendary or factual is unknown. What is known is that these accounts are completely lacking in any historical basis and like the history provided by Anderson, was probably intended to provide a sense of purpose for the order.

What we do know about the origins of Freemasonry is that the first Grand Lodge was formed in the early 18th Century by a few speculative lodges that had been operating independently for some time. We may never know the true history of our speculative art, but we can take pride in the organization that it has become. Additionally, our speculative history does serve as the basis for many of our beautiful degrees. It is entertaining and rich in symbolism. It is a part of who we are as a fraternity and as long as we recognize the Masonic legend for its ritualistic significance and not as factual evidence of our longevity, it will continue to serve our noble order well.

Becoming a Dues Paying Mason

dues cardThroughout my entire experience in Freemasonry, I have wondered what can be done to bring those Freemasons that do not attend lodge meetings back into our temples. I found these dues-paying Masons to be a frustrating breed. They must believe that being a Freemason is important enough to continually make a monetary payment to their Masonic organizations and yet it is not important enough for them to actually attend and contribute their time.

I assisted in planning and executing a number of lodge functions in order to bring these silent members back and there seemed to be no response. I began to develop the opinion that these men were simply neglecting their Masonic duties.

And then, I became one of them.

It wasn’t intentional at first. It started by moving to another town, then I became busy with my career, then I lost contact with my closest Brothers, and then before I knew it, Masonry wasn’t even on my mind anymore. Occasionally I would post a story on The Euphrates that I had written while I was active in the lodge, but that was only because it was convenient and could be done in five minutes. I was literally uninterested in Freemasonry.

This sounds like an easy problem to fix. If you aren’t an active Freemason, just attend a lodge meeting and get involved, right?

Wrong. I found out rather quickly that there was nothing motivating me to go back to lodge.

There isn’t anything interesting about a lodge meeting. We pay the bills, plan mundane dinners, and discuss our charitable endeavors. I didn’t join the Freemasons to do any of those things and no one ever told me that that is what we really do when I was petitioning. I stopped caring about Masonry, because Masonry was boring and a complete waste of my time. I realized that the only reason I used to be active was because I enjoyed socializing with the many good friends that I had in my lodge. Without that connection, Masonry was no longer important.

That is the problem with modern Freemasonry. I’ve heard so many Masons say “You’ll meet so many good men in Masonry.” Well, sure you do, but I have also met many good men outside of Freemasonry and the vast majority of my friends do not belong to the fraternity. So that is no reason to join or remain a Freemason.

Many men cannot explain exactly why they want to be a Freemason, but it almost always has the same theme. Men join Freemasonry because they believe that it will lead them to enlightenment both mentally and spiritually, give them some sort of moral compass, and will help them to lead a better life. They expect a top-notch society. One in which all men meet upon the level, but upon a level above the profane world outside of the lodge. They expect an education. They expect class. They expect a life-changing experience.

I know, because that is exactly what I expected.

Sadly, our lodges are stuck in a time warp. We are obsessed with sticking to the 1950’s model of a civic organization. We talk about making our lodges more attractive and yet we continue to operate them in the same outdated way. We want to operate on the cheap. We want to “dumb down” Masonry to make it easier to grasp. We want to copy the model that Rotary and Kiwanis have provided instead of following the model that Freemasonry created over 250 years ago. We have turned our organization into an outrageous bureaucracy where every single event requires the unneeded approval of some Masonic dignitary. The world’s greatest fraternity has become the world’s most mundane organization.

That is the state of Freemasonry today. That is why men become dues-paying Masons. That is why I became a dues-paying Mason. If Freemasons want the society to survive, some radical changes must be made. Over the next few weeks, I am going to discuss this in detail.

The question that must be discussed is: “What must Freemasonry become in order to be relevant in American society again?”

The Unlodged Mason

empty churchBack in November, my good friend and Brother Frederic Milliken wrote an article entitled Message to the Unlodged Mason. In the article, Fred discussed the importance of attending lodge and the advantages of having personal interaction with other Freemasons. I generally agree with Fred’s conclusion on this subject and believe that that attending lodge functions is essential to the Masonic experience, but I also can identify with the plight of what Fred calls the unlodged Mason.

Fred correctly compares the unlodged Mason to the Christian that does not attend church. This is a fair comparison because it is my opinion that the purpose and structure of Masonry is much more similar to that of a religious organization than that of a community organization. So why do some Christians not attend church? Many Christians do not attend church because the goals of the church may not match the goals of the worshiper. Some churches have an all or nothing approach to dogma and require that you agree with the church’s opinion on every matter. Other churches continually ask for more and more out of their volunteers which eventually sucks all of the enthusiasm out of the those in the congregation that offer their time and resources. Then, there are also those worshipers that attend service or Bible study searching for answers to their complex questions about spirituality and that constantly receive replies that are either not straightforward or that sidestep the question all together. This constant cycle of a church not aligning with the individual worshiper’s values, requiring him to over-commit to the organization, and not providing him with the spiritual knowledge he seeks results in the Christian walking away from the congregation.

Not surprisingly, this is exactly what occurs in our Masonic lodges as well. Numerous individual Masons have been turned away from the lodge because he brought new ideas to the assembly and was told that “this isn’t how we’ve done it before.” Lodges often volunteer their young, enthusiastic members for every task which inevitably interferes with that member’s family and vocational responsibilities. Finally, many men come to the Masonic lodge looking for a method of self improvement and enlightenment and find an organization that neglects education almost entirely.

Freemasonry often plays a big role in the lives of unlodged Masons. I have personally met many Masons who don’t attend lodge that have noticed my ring. They are always excited to interact with another Mason and often mention how important the fraternity is to them. Other unlodged Masons are avid Masonic researchers. Still others would gladly come back to the lodge if they felt that they would not be compelled to volunteer for every single lodge function and constantly put the lodge first in their lives.

It is also important to note that the lodge is not always at fault for each individual Mason that does not attend lodge. Some Masons have unrealistic expectations of the fraternity, others probably should have never joined, and there are those that just don’t feel like going. For some reason, these men continue to pay their dues, but they are just not interested in interacting with their assemblies. However, our lodges can and should work to make functions more attractive to those that do not attend lodge for the reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph. Our lodges should not do this for the sake of the organization, but for the sake of those individual Brothers because they do need real, personal Masonic interaction.

If our lodges accept and tolerate individual opinions and values, if we expect a reasonable amount of involvement from our members, and if we offer the spiritual and moral enlightenment that our Brothers seek, our unlodged Masons are much more likely to start attending lodge. With a wider variety of Brothers, the beautiful Masonic tapestry will be enhanced and become even more colorful. Like Brother Fred wrote in his article: there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.

Freemason Tim Bryce.

The Necessity of Lodge Audits

The audit is an essential part of the checks and balances in the Lodge.
– Bryce’s Law

checking the lodge books, finances

Like any organization, be it a public corporation or a nonprofit institution, it is necessary to periodically review the financial status of the entity which is typically performed on an annual basis (such as at the end of the financial year). Such analysis is essential in order to verify that accounting is being properly performed and that the powers that be are competently and correctly discharging their fiduciary responsibilities. It is also invaluable to assure no improprieties are being performed on the institution’s finances. I cannot image any institution, large or small, profit or nonprofit, not performing such a function.

In accounting there are fundamentally three levels of review: a “compilation” to check if the numbers add up correctly; a “financial review” which checks the numbers and comments accordingly, and; an “audit” which is an extensive review of numbers and procedures (and a costly undertaking I might add). In Freemasonry, we tend to avoid examinations of any kind from outside parties, preferring instead to analyze the Lodge’s finances internally. In my neck of the woods, the Lodge Audit is the responsibility of the Lodge’s Finance Committee to perform which is chaired by the Senior Warden and two other committeemen appointed by the Worshipful Master.

These two other committeemen specifically do not include the Secretary, the Treasurer, or the Worshipful Master, since they are part of the process under review. Hopefully, the two other committeemen have some experience in accounting but quite often they do not and usually consist of Brothers who are experienced businessmen or Past Masters.

Remarkably, I have seen Lodges who haven’t a clue as to how to perform a Lodge Audit and, as a result, shy away from performing it or do a superficial job. Either way, this does a disservice to the Lodge which depends on accurate financial records. Actually, the process is not that difficult and can be performed in a reasonably short period of time assuming you know what to look for.

There are basically two things to examine in performing a Lodge Audit: procedures and data. Procedurally, all income and expenses typically begin with the Secretary who records both in a ledger of some kind, either a cash book or using computer software (although cash books are fine, electronic spreadsheets and financial software offers the ability to automatically total accounts, thus simplifying the audit as well as for budgeting purposes). For every expense, large or small, the Secretary is to write a voucher which is to be countersigned by the Worshipful Master and passed on to the Treasurer for payment. Some Lodges have their bills paid automatically each month electronically, such as for utilities and telephones for example. Regardless how the bill is to be paid, either electronically or manually, all expenses require an authorized voucher.

Money is collected by the Secretary (and recorded as mentioned), before being transferred to the Treasurer for deposit in a financial institution. The Treasurer should then record all transactions (both debits and credits) either using a register (check book) or using an electronic banking system (such as Quicken, MS Money, or Quick Books). The benefit of these electronic banking systems is that they are very reliable in calculating balances and provides a convenient means to audit transactions (as well as monitoring budgets).

The Treasurer should also have on hand an organized set of bank statements which the Finance Committee should examine carefully and compare to the transactions as recorded by both the Treasurer and Secretary.

To summarize the items to be reviewed by the Finance Committee:

  • Secretary’s ledger.
  • Voucher’s as issue by the Secretary.
  • Lodge minutes (optional) – should contain some insight about financial transactions.
  • Treasurer’s register (check book or electronic banking system).
  • Statements with all financial institutions the Lodge does business with, should be filed chronologically.
  • Canceled checks – this may be optional as many banks no longer return canceled checks.
  • Paid bills.
  • A Chart of Accounts (if the Lodge has one) denoting how finances are to categorized and recorded.
  • A copy of the current Budget (if the Lodge has one).

The Finance Committee should now be in a position to write the Lodge Audit. This should be done fairly and impartially with no malice or favoritism. The audit should address the following considerations:

  1. Are all expenses being properly recorded by the Secretary? (Are they being posted to a standard Chart of Accounts?)
  2. For each individual expense, was an authorized voucher properly issued (and signed by both the Secretary and the Worshipful Master)?
  3. Are all moneys received being properly recorded by the Secretary? (Are they being posted to a standard Chart of Accounts?)
  4. Are there any incompatibilities between the transactions recorded by the Secretary and the Lodge minutes?
  5. Are all financial transactions being properly recorded by the Treasurer? (Are they being posted to a standard Chart of Accounts?)
  6. Does the income and expenses recorded by both the Secretary and the Treasurer match? Are there any inconsistencies?
  7. Does the Treasurer maintain organized copies of all bank statements?
  8. Does the income and expenses recorded by both the Treasurer and the bank statements match? Are there any inconsistencies?
  9. Does the Treasurer maintain organized copies of all paid bills?
  10. How well do the financial transactions match the operating Budget of the Lodge?

The final report should mention what was examined and itemize any problems that require correction. Bottom-line, the Finance Committee should determine if the Lodge’s finances are being properly recorded and managed. Keep the report short and to the point. Do not be vindictive or complimentary, keep it all “matter of fact” and professional. If necessary, recommendations for improving the management of finances should also be noted. All members of the Finance Committee should sign the Lodge Audit. There may be other elements and formal reports required by your Grand Jurisdiction to complete, what I have mentioned here represents the basics.

The Lodge Audit represents an essential part of the “checks and balances” in managing the financial resources of the Lodge. It is a serious responsibility to perform, one that should not be taken lightly. We may not like what the audit has to say, but it is an invaluable safety valve which all Lodge officers should take to heart.

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”

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

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

Also be sure to check out Tim’s Pet Peeve of the Week (non-Masonic related).

Copyright © 2008 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Walking the Walk


walk the walkEvery once in a while, I’ll meet someone that asks me “So what is a Freemason?”

Like most Brothers, I want to tell them how great of an organization is, how it is so important in society, and how much it has enlightened me personally, and usually I do. However, sometimes I feel a bit apprehensive about giving give these inquisitors the old Masonic sales pitch: “It’s the world’s largest and oldest fraternity. It is a group of men with good morals that gather to improve themselves through a philosophical education, fellowship with like-minded people, and improve the world through charitable acts.”

Now most of you are probably asking “What’s wrong with that?”

Well…nothing if you are encouraging men to join the fraternity, but there might be something wrong with it if you feel that it is very important to tell the truth. It is easy to use some flowery language and an impressive description to sell the fraternity, but to be truthful about what really goes on within a Masonic lodge can be difficult.

Would you really want to explain to a prospective Mason what really goes on at a typical lodge meeting? Let’s imagine how that conversation would play out.

Inquirer: So what do Masons do?

Mason: Well, we have a couple of lodge meetings a month.

Inquirer: What do you do there?

Mason: We read the minutes of the previous meeting and make any necessary corrections to them. Then we pay the bills, read any correspondence, and vote on any new petitioners. Then we proceed to discuss business for about an hour. Like, last week we were discussing how we were going to put on a spaghetti dinner. Our Junior Warden had it all planned out and then one of the older Past Masters told him how he ought to do it. We also discussed how we might go about making the necessary repairs to the building. Then we closed the lodge and went downstairs to eat some generic-brand cookies and drink some coffee before going home.

Inquirer: I thought you had philosophical education.

Mason: We do when we perform the degrees.

Inquirer: How often does that happen?

Mason: Sometimes once a month. Sometimes we will go several months without doing any degrees.

Inquirer: What about the fellowship you were talking about?

Mason: That’s what the coffee and cookies are.

Inquirer: What about the charity?

Mason: Well, that’s why we’re doing the spaghetti dinner, so that we can raise money in order to write a check to the Grand Lodge’s charity.

Inquirer: That sounds kind of boring.

Mason: Want a petition?

Freemasons view the organization in the proper light, but they don’t always run the organization with that same philosophy. Freemasons need to take all of the great things that they have to say about the fraternity and actually accomplish them in lodge.

We need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

At your next lodge meeting, take a chance and walk the walk. If someone talks about the greatness of Masonic charity, stand up and make a motion to go visit a sick Brother or provide some service for a Masonic widow. Read a paper on Masonic teachings and discuss it with your lodge. Go out to dinner with your Brothers and have some real fellowship.

That way, the next time someone asks you “What is Freemasonry?” you can answer them with a clear conscience.

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Dan Brown’s New Book is Coming Out-So What?


lostsymbolOn Tuesday, September 15th, Dan Brown’s new book entitled The Lost Symbol will hit shelves at bookstores throughout the U.S. and probably most of the world. Because his previous book The DaVinci Code is one of the most widely read books in history, many people believe that The Lost Symbol has the potential to be a cultural phenomenon as well.

Freemasons have been among the most devout followers of the development of The Lost Symbol because Brown made it clear that the book would deal with the institution of Freemasonry.  Now that the release of the book is imminent, the excitement and angst among Freemasons about the book has reached a fever pitch and after reading several blog and website entries over the past few weeks, it appears that many Freemasons fear that they will have to defend the organization against any attack that Dan Brown may make on the world’s oldest fraternity.

However, I remain indifferent about this event. So The Lost Symbol deals with Freemasonry, so what?

For those worried about what dispersions the book may cast on Freemasonry, I must ask a simple question: Doesn’t Dan Brown write fiction? It is true that I have personally spoken to more than one person that read The DaVinci Code and remained firmly convinced that Jesus had a child and the Catholic church knows it.  However, these cases are rare and aren’t really worth worrying about.

Dan Brown’s book will more than likely spike Google searches on “Who are the Freemasons?” or “What is Freemasonry?” Some of those people will wind up on Freemasonry Watch and some of those will wind up on Freemason Information.  Some of those people will believe that Masonry is part of some conspiracy and some may just petition our lodges. I believe that we waste way too much time worrying about the former and not enough time worrying about the latter. Those that petition our lodges because they have read The Lost Symbol and performed subsequent research will require us to take a closer look at the fraternity and answer some questions. So let’s examine some of the inquiries to which we may have to give a response.

Petitioner’s Question: “So is any of the stuff about Freemasonry in The Lost Symbol true?”

This question is simple to answer because anything hinting at a conspiracy in the book is obviously false, unless you one of those Freemasons that is still trying to prove to yourself that you are not part of some heinous, New World Order planning organization.

Freemason’s Answer: “You must realize that Dan Brown’s book is a work of fiction, it’s solely meant for entertainment. Have you conducted any other research about the fraternity? If you haven’t, I’ll give you some real information and you can look through it and decide for yourself if Freemasonry is something that you want to pursue further.”

Petitioner’s Question: “So what do Freemasons really do?”

Now this is an interesting question. Will you be honest or will you paint a pretty picture of your lodge meetings. Many lodges would have to answer this question by saying, “Well, we pay the bills, sometimes we have cold baloney sandwiches afterward, and once in a while we’ll raise a little money for charity.” So if we want to answer this question honestly and give an attractive view of our fraternity to those that may want to join we are going to have to start changing the way we operate our lodges so that we can give the following answer.

Freemason’s Answer: “Freemasonry is a fraternity that believes in actively improving its members through a virtuous education, fellowship, and charity. In order to become a Freemason, you will have to take three degrees which provide a wonderful course of allegorical instruction designed to help you become a better man. After becoming a Mason you will help to confer these degrees and learn more about their symbolism through philosophical instruction and discussion. Freemasons also enjoy fellowship with each other through several activities which include fine dinners and other various lodge functions. Freemasonry is also a charitable organization that provides relief to its members and contributes to external charities such as the Child Identification Program.”

Petitioner’s Question: “So who can join Freemasonry?”

You should know this answer by now.

Freemason’s Answer: “If you are a man of legal age, of good moral character, who believes in a Supreme Being, and already has the Masonic principles firmly imprinted in his heart and mind, then you can become a Freemason.”

Ultimately, Dan Brown’s book can only be good for Freemasonry, because it will spike interest. Any publicity is good publicity after all. But if we want to make the most out of this opportunity, we will have to take the following actions: guard the West Gate and make sure that we give these new men what they expect from the order. We will have to use their skills, their ideas, and their fresh point of view to strengthen and enhance our beloved institution.

Or we can just keep doing what we’ve always done and see yet another crop of perfectly good Masons disappear because they were disappointed in what they found once they entered the Sanctum Sanctorum.

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100 Master Masons Night

100 Mason night

Dunedin Lodge No. 192 F.& A.M. is a Masonic craft lodge located in Dunedin, Florida, a town in the Tampa Bay area with a strong Scottish heritage.  Currently we have about 200 members of which approximately thirty attend a stated or called communications; forty on a good night.  Having been Secretary of the Lodge, I noticed that attendance is high in the spring but low in autumn (we are dark for the summer).  It isn’t until November, when the “snow birds” return to Florida and attendance starts to bounce back.  Knowing this, I wanted to try something different during my year in the East.  Basically, I was looking for something to stimulate the Craft and give us some momentum going into the Fall.

Believe it or not, the idea came from The Philalethes Society’s Internet discussion group where a member from the north reported his Lodge held a “100 Master Mason Night” to encourage attendance.  To me, this was the idea I was looking for and seized on it.  In June, just before our summer recess, I called a meeting of our officers and suggested the idea which was warmly received.  Consequently, I scheduled August 17th, our first meeting back from recess, for our version of “100 Master Mason Night” and began to promote it in our newsletter and printed up flyers which I distributed to Lodges in our area.  I also brought it to the attention of our Masters & Wardens Association who embraced the idea.

I personally invited local Masonic VIPs, including area Worshipful Masters, the President of the Masters & Wardens Association, representatives of the local
High 12 Club, and members of the Grand Lodge.  All were introduced accordingly.

Realizing this was not going to be an ordinary stated communications, I started to prepare checklists with assignments for my officers who pitched in without question.

I also formed a telephone committee to contact the Craft about the meeting.  Between this, along with an e-mail campaign, people started to register for the meeting, slowly
at first, but then faster as we moved closer to August 17th.  By the morning of the day of the meeting, we had 132 reservations.  Although we expected some “no shows” we came
close to the mark with 126 people in attendance.

Because we were expecting a large crowd, I wanted to keep the program concise, upbeat, and to the point.  One variable I had not anticipated was that our new District Deputy Grand Master, who happens to be a member from our Lodge, wanted to use this date to make his first official visit with his entourage.  At first, I thought this would drag things out, then I realized it would be a golden opportunity to help our DDGM kick start his year.  Consequently, I kept him advised of our plans as they unfolded.

In fact, we went so far as to schedule a rehearsal with his people so that everyone knew their parts.

Knowing that it was important to put on a first class dinner prior to the meeting, our Junior Warden stepped up to the plate without batting an eye and did a great
job.  Not only did he secure the services of his stewards and other volunteers, but he contacted a Lodge member who was a restaurateur who greatly assisted in the
laying out of the menu, ordering the supplies, and orchestrating the kitchen.

Because of the Lodge’s Scottish background, our Senior Deacon, who is a superb bagpiper, piped into the Lodge the Masonic VIPs along with the District Deputy and
his entourage.  This stirred the attendees noticeably.

As this was a stated communications, the Lodge naturally had some business to attend to which we expedited as quickly as possible.  Other than normal Lodge business, the
program included:

  • As Worshipful Master, I began with some introductory remarks discussing the need for more Freemasonry, not less (see speech below).
  • First time visitors were presented west of the alter where I met each one individually on the level (a local Lodge custom).
  • A Master Mason catechism examination was conducted by the Lodge Instructor for two Brothers.  Following this, they were presented their white leather aprons.
  • Interestingly, one of the Brothers returning his catechism was the son of the District Deputy, who was proud to present him with his apron, a very moving moment in the Lodge.
  • Another high point was the presentation of a 70 year Masonic service award to a Brother who hadn’t been back to Lodge in the last few years as his health had been slowly declining.  Nonetheless, there was a twinkle in his eye as we presented his 70 year pin and rendered grand honors to him.

I received an e-mail from his wife the next day saying how excited he was to sit in Lodge again and receive the award.

For Masonic Education and to improve awareness about our lodge, we showed a new MS PowerPoint presentation featuring a brief history of Dunedin Lodge (about 9 minutes in length).

  • Knowing our Secretary was celebrating his 55th birthday on this day, I surprised him by having him escorted west of the altar and led the Craft in singing him “Happy Birthday.”
  • The Master’s gavel was then turned over to the District Deputy Grand Master who conducted his program.  Following the meeting, many of the attendees adjourned to nearby Dunedin Brewery which was specially opened for the Masons.

This was an interesting experiment.  Hopefully, this will not only invigorate Freemasonry in Dunedin, but it will also stimulate all of the Lodges in our area (a few are considering a similar meeting in their own Lodge).  My officers did an outstanding job and I cannot thank them enough for their efforts which, as an aside, kept them organized and motivated during the summer months.  The spirit of cooperation was truly infectious.  For example, our chaplain was called away on an emergency at the last minute and a chaplain from a neighboring Lodge quickly volunteered his services.  Likewise, our organist was out of town and another readily filled in for him.  It seemed everyone wanted to take an active part in this historic evening.

Through this program of “100 Master Masons” the message I tried to communicate was twofold in nature:  that our Lodge had its act together, and; that a Masonic Lodge
meeting need not be boring.  Hopefully, the evening’s spirit of Masonic goodwill will rub off and encourage others to redouble their efforts for the fraternity.

I don’t know who exactly it was from The Philalethes Society that came up with the idea, but thanks!  It works.


My Brothers, these are indeed strange times we live in.  The economy has been shaken to its foundation, people are out of work, companies are closing their doors, morality is
crumbling, we have considerable political wrangling and backbiting underfoot, we have grave concerns about health care and the national debt, the country is still on guard
against terrorism, and the nuclear threat has never dissipated.  Obviously, we can ill-afford to conduct business as usual.  If we are to survive, we must find new and
imaginative ways to grow and evolve.  Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option.

As we have learned, stagnation means death.

The critics of our fraternity claim that Freemasonry has outlived its usefulness; that it is no longer in step with the times; that it is actually an evil society that must be stamped out.  I vehemently disagree.  Although we are an imperfect society with our own unique set of problems, I hardly believe we are an obsolete institution.

Now, more than ever, the world needs more Freemasonry, not less. We need more patriotism and civic pride, not less.

We need more cooperation, loyalty, and teamwork, not less.

We need more religious tolerance, not less.

We need more Faith, Hope, and Charity, not less.

We need more positive examples of ethics and pride in workmanship, not less.

We need more Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love, not less.

To do all this, we need more honest and respectful debate, not less.

Yes, we need more Freemasonry, not less.

Maybe I’m old fashioned; maybe I’m wrong, but this is how I see True Masonry; a universal and beautiful concept embraced by men around the world.  We must remain the example for others to emulate. We must practice what we preach.

And Brothers, consider this: If not us, who?

Our Politicians?  The media?  Religious zealots?  Who?

Freemasonry is uniquely qualified to lead the charge.  We are not a religious or political organization, we represent a cross-section of people from all social strata, located around the world, with honorable intentions.  We are well established and have a strong historical background.  As long as we do not deviate from the basic tenets of Freemasonry, we’ll be fine.

I therefore admonish all of you to redouble your efforts as Masons and help perpetuate this great fraternity and make the world a better place.

Thank you.

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.

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

Also be sure to check out Tim’s “Pet Peeve of the Week” (non-Masonic related).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce.  All rights reserved.

The Restaurant at the End of the Masonic Universe

By Stephen Dafoe

Note: The following article originally ran in the pages of Masonic Magazine as an editorial. I am posting it for those not familiar with it, as it is referred to in the previous article, There’s a hole in our bucket.

drive in sign

So there is this restaurant chain with locations throughout North America. Its slogan is a pretty catchy one and the chain’s management uses it on a daily basis to motivate staff and to recruit new patrons to the chain’s thousands of locations.

The slogan is “we take good food and make it better” – eight simple words, which have struck an emotional chord with millions of people who like to eat.

There is no marketing genius behind the slogan or the success of the same in attracting people to the restaurant chain. Everyone likes good food, so it is unlikely that there is a person alive who would not like good food made better. Who could resist such a slogan?

Sadly, the restaurant chain seldom lives up to its own slogan. The restaurants are often poorly decorated – their tables and chairs wobbly and in need of repair. Staff often quarrel with one another and the management, too often, seem only to be concerned with climbing the corporate ladder to the head office. The food, so much talked about is bland at best and dreadful at worst.

Yet as each new patron comes in for the first time to sample this “good food made better” he sees a group of smiling faces, all lapping up the meal as if it was the greatest food on the planet – just like the advertising people said it was.

The new patron does his best to eat his meal even though the food offered does not appeal to the palate as sweetly as the words used to describe it. Not wishing to show his displeasure to his two friends who sponsored him – for it is, after all, an exclusive restaurant – he sits in silence eating his meal with each mouth full being as forced as the smile on his face.

Sometimes the patron simply pays his tab, leaves the restaurant and vows never to return to the establishment. However, sometimes the patron decides that maybe he just went on a bad night – perhaps the staff was having a bad day because the regular cook was away. Perhaps those people enjoying the meal were just being kind and did not want to offend the new cook.

He decides to give the “good food made better” joint one more try.

Returning on another night he sees the same dozen patrons who were there the month previous – they are still arguing with one another about which fork you should use for the salad and the proper way to hold a wine glass. The manager is still ignoring the new customers in favor of the company higher-ups seated at a back table who he is trying to convince of his suitability for a more prominent position in the firm.

What’s worse – the food is still bland, boring and not what the sign on the door proclaims – yet the regulars are still lapping it up like it’s their last meal.

This time the patron decides that the marketing slogan is nothing more than eight simple words cleverly arranged to deprive him of his hard earned money.

The thought occurs to him that maybe he could pull the manager away from the corporate wheels long enough to suggest a few small things that could truly make the good food better. However, he has a sinking feeling that he would be told, “but we’ve always cooked it this way before” or “we tried that once and the patrons didn’t like it.” He feels he might even be told that “the head office would never allow it.”

So instead of voicing his concerns, exercising the old business axiom that the customer is always right, he says nothing. Instead he leaves the restaurant and vows never to return – either canceling his pre-booked reservations on the way out the door or never returning and having his membership cancelled by the chain via a nasty letter.

He wonders how it is that the restaurant survives and why the same dozen diners seem to enjoy the food so much.

His conclusion is a simple one – they like things the way they are and the establishment will never change so long as the chain is run by people who like to make bland food and patronized by people who like to eat the same.

And so we come to a problem that is rife within Freemasonry today.

We advertise ourselves as an organization that makes good men better, and while that is precisely what we have done for millions of men over the centuries, it cannot be argued that we are letting down the many young men who enter our doors who feel cheated and deceived.

“I really feel that I have been sold a pack of lies,” wrote one such young mason recently on an Internet discussion forum.

How sad it is that a young man, who has been a Mason for one year would feel that he has been lied to by an organization that has Truth as one of its three greatest attributes.

“This is not the Masonry I signed up for,” he continued in his posting and in so stating arrives at the crux of our problem.

Freemasonry in large parts of the United States and Canada is not offering what it is advertising, but if it advertised what it offered – would it receive many new candidates.

“Freemasonry – we take good men and let them sit in a room and listen to the reading of minutes and 45-minute debates on spending $50 on why we should or should not buy a plaque to show what great guys we are.”

It just does not have the same marketing strength as “Freemasonry – we take good men and make them better”.

Read: The Death of Freemasonry

Unfortunately our young brethren, past and present have tried to improve what Freemasonry offers within the tiled recesses of our lodges, but are met with resistance at each step of the way.

We say we are about making good men better through self improvement – yet few are the lodges who apply the working tools within the body of a lodge to educate our young members as to how to do this.

The Masonic Information Center (MIC) recently released a publication entitled, It’s About Time. The publication identifies the problems currently confronting Masonic identity and offers sound solutions for the same.

One of the most powerful statements in the 17 page document follows:

“The Square and Compasses, the best known symbol of a Mason, cannot replace the identity of living the life of a Mason, which is itself perpetually in a state of improving ourselves in body, mind, and spirit. Masonic imagery is a valuable resource when it inspires us to take new action consistent with our personal growth and enlightened thought. We must discover our own Masonic calling, our own place in the history of Masonry, by making authentic Masonic performance our top priority.”

However, we have allowed, as the MIC points out in the publication, Masonry to be shaped by the 20th century’s emphasis on the Masonic ritual being the completion of the Mason’s education about his fraternity.

Like the analogy of the restaurant chain, little changes in how lodges deliver Masonic lessons because the same dozen patrons sit in her seats and run the show.

Those men, like the restaurant patrons in our analogy, come back month after month and year after year because they enjoy the bland food – a meal that is largely comprised of recitation of minutes, tedious debates over how funds are dispersed and arguments over when and how to salute the Worshipful Master.

And when a young man, initiated, passed and raised leaves because he finds the meal unappetizing, he is viewed as a disgruntled customer, which the restaurant is better off without.

The recipe of Freemasonry is as sound today as it was three hundred years ago – it is the present kitchen of stubborn cooks who need to be tossed out.

Closing Note: Before anyone starts yammering about joining a good lodge, let me assure you I have done precisely that. This article is meant to convey the message of why things seldom change. It is not a commentary on my own present situation in lodge.

masonic author, 20th century, Carl Claudy

What is the Lodge?

Masons often work to improve lodges by performing a number of tasks. Many actions have been taken or proposed in order to create better lodges and much debate has taken place about the proper way to improve Masonic lodges. However, in order to improve a lodge it is important that Masons take a step back and consider just what the term lodge means.

Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

Albert Mackey

Mackey gives three definitions of the term lodge in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. The first definition is “a place in which Freemasons meet.” The second refers to the congregation of members which constitute the lodge. This definition compares the term ‘lodge’ to the term ‘church’ which refers to both the members of the organization and the building. The final definition that Mackey creates says that “the lodge, technically speaking, is a piece of furniture made in imitation of the Ark of the Covenant.” Mackey states that as the Ark contained the law of the Hebrews, the lodge contains the Book of Constitutions and the lodge’s warrant.1

Mackey’s definitions are somewhat different than the definition given in Masonic ritual:

The lodge is composed of a constitutional number of Masons, duly assembled, with the Holy Bible, square and compasses, and a charter or warrant empowering them to work.

So perhaps the literal definition of the word ‘lodge’ may be: an assembly of Masons with a warrant to work by a recognized grand jurisdiction or a word which refers to the meeting place of a group of Masons.

However, the lodge also has a symbolic meaning. Carl H. Claudy says:

The lodge is a symbol of the world. Its shape, the “oblong square” is the ancient conception of the shape of the world. The Entered Apprentice is taught its dimensions, its covering, its furniture, its lights, its jewels, and will learn more of it as a symbol as he proceeds through the degrees. Although a symbol of the world, the lodge is a world unto itself; a world within a world, different in its customs, its laws, and its structure from the world without. In the world without are class distinctions, wealth, power, poverty, and misery. In the lodge all are on a level and peace and harmony prevail.

masonic author

Carl Claudy

Considering Claudy’s explanation of the lodge as a symbol, it is clear that the lodge has little to do with the brick and mortar of which the building is composed. The lodge is a peculiar society, a Brotherhood which is able to live by the Utopian ideals that the profane world can never realize

Therefore, to improve the lodge is to improve the Brotherhood. It matters not where the lodge meets or the condition of its building. Filling the coffers of Masonic bodies or accumulating numbers will not necessarily improve the Brotherhood.

Instead, the focus must be on improving the Brotherhood through the self-improvement of its members and the relief of its distressed.

A lodge is at least seven Masons with a warrant empowering them to meet and to practice Masonry. It is no more, it is no less. In order to improve the lodge, we must improve the Brothers which constitute that body. That is the only path to improving Masonic lodges.

1. Mackey, Albert G. Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences. p. 449-451.

2. Claudy, Carl H. Introductory to Freemasonry—Entered Apprentice