December TrestleBoard: December-2016a
December TrestleBoard: December-2016a
December TrestleBoard: December-2016a
In my lasts two posts I discussed my work and practice in the Fraternity since joining. In this last short post, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and hopes going forward. You might not know this but there are many opportunities to participate in Masonry beyond your lodge. However, you must be careful with how many commitments you take on and manage your time. As an engineer, I can usually find gems of wisdom in the popular TV and Movie Series Star Trek. For example, here is a conversation between two chief engineers, Scotty and La Forge, that speaks to time commitments:
Lt. Commander La Forge: Yeah, well, I told the Captain I’d have this analysis done in an hour.
Scotty: How long will it really take?
La Forge: An hour!
Scotty: Oh, you didn’t tell him how long it would really take, did ya?
La Forge: Well, of course I did.
Scotty: Oh, laddie. You’ve got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.
In this conversation is a helpful rule of thumb; if you commit yourself to do something you must do it, do your best to be on time for any commitments, and it is always better to be seen as a miracle worker versus a person that is late or fails to perform up to commitments that they take on. Scotty’s message is to give yourself some time for the inevitable life happenings that may impact your plans.
As for myself, in my first very active year, I have taken this to heart. While I try to help and offer myself, my time, and my abilities to my Lodge, I take the commitment very serious and I want to be successful, not just for myself or personal pride, but for the lodge and the fraternity. I have taken several rolls onto myself with my Blue Lodge:
Beyond my Lodge, I have become a member of the Scottish Rite, an Appendant body of the Masons, in the Valley of Concord, NH. I have completed a set of degrees including the 32nd Degree http://www.nh32degreemason.org/ . I have found myself volunteering again with the Scottish Rite, where I have volunteered to be an editor of the Valley of Concord Newsletter, and I agreed to take a part in what is known as the 14th Degree. It is a different responsibility. When you take a part in the line or chairs you are committing that you have the time to take learn and perform the role as once accepted the fraternity is counting on you. Life gets busy as does work and family, but if you make the commitment to learn and do a task for your lodge or the Rite you must follow through and after some conversation with my family I accepted the commitment.
What is perhaps most exciting to me can be expressed by the Scottish Rite Passport. When you become a member, you receive a passport book with Pages describing each degree. When completing a degree, you get a stamp – like a passport stamp! This made me think of my US Passport. I added pages twice and have many pages and many stamps, they are emblematic of my travel and my collected experience, understanding, and new friends on six of the seven continents. I do have friends that go to the seventh (Antarctica), but none of them live there! One may view the Scottish Rite Passport in the same way. As you go through degrees you learn some things, you reinforce the fraternity’s values and you make friends. I look forward to travelling all over the USA to experience all of the degrees. I look forward to meeting new friends and reconnecting with other brothers along the way.
As in any other organization, this fellowship requires work- but do not worry – the oaths and obligations that you will take upon yourself do provide guidance on getting along with other brothers, and truly accepting people who you might not know outside of the lodge. If you can live up to those principals, you will do just fine with any Mason that you meet. At the very least, you are living up to your oath and obligations.
There is a huge benefit as well, in that the discipline that I believe is required for managing your commitments as a Mason can help you in other areas of your life. As an example, I will share a story. As an engineer I have come up with many processes. One process, that I’ve used professionally, for all of my teams, has been specifically around managing tasks and the progress towards completion of them. I’ve used status reports to communicate this kind of regular progress. In my experience, it was a good way to manage teams of Scientists, Sales People, Marketing, or any type of person. One day, one of my sales managers came into my office to talk to me. He said “I wanted to thank you.” I responded, “For what?” He then told me that his son had been having problem managing schoolwork and sports and his grades were falling to the point of concern. He said that he implemented the Status report that we used in the company to manage tasks, and it relieved all the pressures for his family and his son improved in both grades and sports.
I share this story because it illustrates for me, how practicing the values of the fraternity has not only improved me not only in the different roles I have performed in lodge, but also it has improved me in my non-related activities. We all can be better; we all have room to improve but sometimes we forget to set goals. The fraternity can help bring focus to what you value and therefore you can adjust your actions to better achieve your goals. And more importantly, you can have some fun and help your community. I look forward to the Continued Fellowship with fellow Masons and to receive more light.
In this, my second post of three, I wanted to share one of my recent personal experiences with Masonry, because it exemplifies to me the culmination of my first few years as a Mason. It was a unique opportunity for me to stand is as the Chaplain for my Lodge, and this brief but important experience in many ways is indicative of my total experience as a Mason up to that day.
In preparing for my role at home, I arranged a bench in the center of the parlor, this was to represent where I would say the prayer. I then sat in the adjoining room to represent where I would be sitting before I would be conducted to the center of the lodge by our Marshall. In practice, I went through the process where my Marshall would accompany me to the center of the lodge. I knelt, and I said the prayer. I repeated this many, many times until I got it right and I felt that I was giving the ceremony justice. Several days earlier, I had asked our lodge’s Chaplain, what he thought I should focus on when saying the prayer. He said do not worry, the most important thing was to be genuine in speaking the words, and then he added “talk slower than usual” – this was a great tip. There were three prayers to learn; the Opening and Closing prayers and a prayer to say before the lodge meal. Along with this there was proper floor work to learn. So I practiced.
When the day came where I would be fulfilling the roll of Chaplain for our lodge I was a bit worried. I believed it was a big responsibility and I wanted to do well. As it happened, I missed the first prayer, the prayer before the meal, because I was out by the grill talking to a friend who was cooking the last few burgers and when we came in people were already eating. So there was no prayer before the meal and for some reason this made me nervous for the opening prayer. But the time came where I had to be conducted to the center of the lodge by the Marshal. I went and said the prayer, and I came back, thanked the Marshall and took my seat again.
For the Lodge’s closing prayer, I was again conducted to the center of the lodge by the Marshall, and this time something different happened; the Marshall took my hand and placed it properly to be conducted, and said discreetly, so that I was the only one who could hear him, that “this is the way to do it just in case you trip or fall”. I then said the closing prayer and my task as a “Stand in Chaplain” was over. This one day said much about my time to date as a Mason and emblematic of my experience so far. The Marshall’s consideration in correcting my error, and quietly showing me the proper way of doing something without calling it out to all the members of the lodge, exemplifies the spirit of Masonry.
In Masonry at times there are lessons, and as I am a firm believer of lifelong learning, I view this as a good thing. A good example is that just to become a Mason there are some lessons to both learn and then demonstrate to your peers to show that you have learned your lesson satisfactorily. And after all of this there are more and more lessons to learn so that you can participate more deeply in the working of the lodge and/or performance of what is known as degrees. This may seem like a daunting task, to have to learn after a long day at work, school, or just taking care of your family – and in some cases it is extra work that you take on without any requirement. However, there is great satisfaction in doing so. One thing I am sure of in my journey as a Mason is that the work has been well worth it. As part of this process, when you demonstrate your knowledge, you don’t want to just demonstrate the lesson but you want to do it well. While not everyone can achieve the same level of learning and or performance there is one thing that is always true, people are not competing against others but rather they are working to improve themselves and everyone else is there to help them achieve that goal. This was true of all the lessons I learned and it was true of me learning the Basic duties of the Chaplain as required for one day – Not only did everyone help me prepare, but they were supportive of me being successful on that day.
At the end of the meeting there is a time where the people that did something for the Lodge are recognized for the bit of extra work, as it is said; “Pay the Craft their Wages, if any be due.” This could be filling in for a position or something similar or extra not normally required. I remember being called out and thanked for sitting in as Chaplain. I gave a proper response and then kind of got lost in a thought. I was being thanked for doing something that required no thanks. By taking part in this Lodge meeting today as Chaplain I did something that was a privilege – not a duty and one where I should give thanks and as I recall I did so. In reality much of the experience you will have as a Mason will be similar. Be it; working on fundraising, helping out on a scholarship committee or repairing a door, it is clear that the work does its part to reinforce the lessons and improve you as an individual if you are open to change. Participation itself can and will give you new insights into yourself and your community.
In closing, I am new to the fraternity and my journey has just begun. In the last three years I have been Initiated, Passed, Raised and am now happy to have received more degrees including, but not limited to the 32nd Degree as a member of the Scottish Rite in the Valley of Concord. While I may be new to the Fraternity it does welcome my ideas and input on all matters. Granted, it is not so important that any or all of my ideas are accepted but they all are heard and welcome. My first few years as a Mason have been enlightening beyond my expectations and the lessons that I learned go beyond the lessons of the degrees but fall more into the practice of; Tolerance, Brotherhood, Acceptance and Charity. Don’t get me wrong there can be and are areas of conflict between members, and there can be passionate discussions on what is next for the Fraternity or Lodge but in these times we tend to seek Harmony in the fraternity versus positions that divide. While I may not be perfect in the execution of these lofty goals, I am improving and it impacts every part of my life in a positive manner – none of these improvements would have been possible to me without the fraternity and my many guides over the last few years.
And now it is time to Pay the Craft their Wages, if any be due: To these people across many lodges in my many stages of development, I would like to extend a simple thanks.
If you cannot make it to Lexington Massachusetts to visit the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library you can view many of the collections online! http://www.srmml.org/
The November Trestleboard is available tb11-nov-2016a
This Saturday, I was at St. Johns Lodge in Portsmouth New Hampshire. I was there to receive some Degrees as a member of the Scottish Rite, a Masonic appendant body, including the 18th Degree Knight Rose Croix. The term “appendant body” basically means that to become a member of the Scottish Rite you must first be a Mason. This day made me recall how I first came to be interested in Freemasonry. I thought I would share my personal journey in becoming a Mason on the Website of my Lodge, Harris Lodge No. 91. I think it is best to do this in three blog posts; Becoming a Mason, My First Years as a Mason, and Continuing Fellowship. This is the first post of the three.
Becoming a Mason
It was at one score and sixteen years ago that I had met a Mason for the first time. I don’t remember his name but I do remember when I met him. The year was 1980, I was reading a Physics book at an “Au bon Pain Café” in Harvard Square in Cambridge , Massachusetts. I was a student at the time, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as part of a Science, Technology Education and Math (“STEM”) program for qualified High school students that were invited to attend classes at MIT.
I enjoyed going to Harvard Square before going to class, as it was a “cool” place for a kid from Quincy. In this Café I noticed a man, a Harvard student (obvious by his sweatshirt), he was reading an old and tattered book with a prominent Square and Compasses emblem on the dust jacket. I was a bit curious about the book and in need of a break from my own Physics book – so I asked him, “Excuse me, what is your book about?” He stared at me for a bit and said, “How old are you?” I responded back a little indignant, “16 and soon to be 17,” (The young always want to be older.) He responded that it was a book about Freemasonry. I asked, “Freemasonry?” He responded “Yes.” I then asked “What is Freemasonry?” He responded that it was about a fraternity of men and that I was too young to be a member. He went back to reading and I walked away with many questions unanswered.
That afternoon after class I went directly to the public library when I was back in Quincy and started to read more. I found books on Freemasons, and one Freemason in particular caught my attention, that was Ben Franklin. I was very interested in this because Ben Franklin was a founding father of the United States and a Freemason. More importantly he was a Scientist and I considered myself, even at that time, to be a scientist – or at least I aspired to become one. I read about the many great thinkers that were Freemasons and I got more excited. Then I read somewhere that you had to be 21 to be in the fraternity. I also remembered the Harvard student saying that I was too young so I returned the books to their shelves and went about my life. Over the years I read more about the Masons and of course saw mention of Famous Masons in books. I also saw many Masonic Temples but my interest waned.
Many years later, my interest was renewed by the 2004 movie “National Treasure”, from Disney. This movie was about a treasure hunter seeking a lost treasure that was brought to America around the time of the founding of the country, by the Freemasons that were our Founding Fathers. I started reading again and several years later I found out that I had friends that were Masons. I asked a mutual friend about how to become a Mason, and he was out of state and wrote a message to a lodge in Portsmouth Ma, introducing me, and mentioning that I wanted to join the Masons.
I do not remember the exact year, but I remember the response was something like, “we like to select our own members” or something like that and I let the idea go for a while. It was around 2013, that I noticed a square and compass present on a friend’s; sweatshirt or truck, I do not recall exactly what I saw. I remember saying, “Freemasons, I have always been interested.” I asked many questions and I was then offered by my friend to join by petitioning for membership into the Fraternity and to what would become my Lodge. It was a short process which included meeting other members of the Lodge before officially being accepted to the Fraternity. After that, I began my degree work. There was studying! I have learned that there is always studying and commitment, otherwise known as work, to acquire anything that is worthwhile. Being a Mason is definitely worthwhile.
In my next post I will discuss my first few years as a Mason, the parts of it that are not held as secret, something that I wish the Harvard student had explained to me. I hope to share what I have learned and have gotten from being a Mason and what I perceive the benefits of the Fraternity. I will leave the reader with a few last thoughts; If you want to be a Mason or are curious about Masonry, just ask one and yes there are programs for a 16-year-old, it is DeMolay: https://demolay.org/what-is-demolay/
Yesterday was the Master Masons Seminar, put on by The Grand Lodge of NH, for newly raised Masons or Masons that just wanted to attend the seminar. The seminar was quite interesting and many topics were covered. Topics ranged from the First Mason noted in history to current day Masons and their practices.
The first lecture dealt with the start of the Fraternity in 1717 when Anthony Sayer (1672-1741) was made the first Grand Master on John the Baptist Day, June 24th, of the same year. The talk was given by Bro. Malcolm A. Wooff, District Education Officer for District No. 2. Of mention we were in the Masonic Building in Nashua, NH, which is home to the Rising Sun Lodge which is part of District No. 2.
This talk was quite interesting but, as any newly raised Mason knows, as well of those that have been in the Fraternity for a while, nothing is straight forward in masonry. A good example of this is that not long after reviewing the detail mentioned above Bro. Wooff then discussed Elias Ashmole (1617-1692) who is the first recorded English Mason, raised in the year 1646, In Warrington by nine Brothers – none of whom were Operative Masons.
A moment for a bit of clarification – “Operative” is referring to the stone masons that built the Temple of King Solomon and the Great Cathedrals of Europe and “Speculative” is referring to the masons that embraced the principles of these masons but were not “Operative” stone masons. This distinction is very important in looking closely at what Bro. Wooff said. Remember it is stated that Elias Ashmole was raised (made a Mason) in 1646 by people whom none were Operative Masons rather they were practicing Speculative Freemasonry. But wait, didn’t Masonry start in 1717? There you have a large part of the seminar, understanding that not all answers regarding Freemasonry are to be seen as black and white.
A bit of housecleaning: For more information on Operative versus Speculative Freemasonry please see page 7 in the Public Domain book, Introduction to Freemasonry, which is recommended reading by the New Hampshire Grand Lodge. Please note that all writing on Freemasonry may not be complete or entirely accurate, that is why when you have a question regarding Freemasonry it is best to Ask a Mason, or if none are available you can always refer to the Grand Lodge Website and look for a list of recommended reading.
After Bro. Wooff’s lectures we had discussions from other Grand Lodge Officers including Deputy Grand Master, Bro. John E. Lobdell. Brother Lobdell gave several lectures on expectations and on lodge practices and before lunch we moved down to the Lodge Room where District Deputy Grand Lecturer, Bro. Paul S. Gross (District No. 4) gave an excellent lecture on protocol in the lodge, including the proper way, both where and how, to give the Due-Guard and sign when entering and leaving the lodge as well as tips on how to enter a meeting after it has been started. There was also discussion on the use of smart phones in the Lodge during a meeting as to whether it was appropriate. This topic was brought up by a Brother who had come from a lodge in Texas and was commenting throughout the day related to the differences, NH vs TX, in the lodge practices.
Another topic of conversation that was covered was how one Mason should address another outside of the lodge. This topic was addressed by the Senior Grand Warden Bro. Kenneth A. Clay Jr. Bro. Clay said that outside of the Lodge he was “OK” with having a brother just call him Ken, there was no need to bring the title of the lodge outside of the lodge and address him as R.W. Brother Clay or Just R.W. For me, this is something that was good to hear and there was lots of good discussion around this topic. After this we broke for lunch.
Lunch, which consisted of cold cuts, chips and a nice warm chicken soup prepared and served by our Junior Grand Warden Bro. David S. Collins. One thing I like in Masonry is that everyone is willing to pitch in and help, from setting up a room to serving soup, during lunch I had the opportunity to meet many new brothers as well as Chat with brothers that I already knew. An example is a brother from Horace Chase Lodge (Bro Tom – I did not get his last name) was present, I first met Tom when I had attended his Fellowcraft Degree at Horace Chase the day after I received my own Fellow Craft degree at Harris Lodge. I also had the chance to speak again with the District Deputy Grand Master (District No. 2) Bro. Joe Beaumont, who I had last seen on a Deep Sea fishing trip with the Rising Sun Lodge Members and Family this summer, I was quite sea sick during most the fishing trip but recalled our conversation at the end of the trip. To the best of my Knowledge Bro. Beaumont was the first 33rd Degree Mason that I had met. I learned that Bro. Beaumont was also a private pilot and we discussed the different types of planes that we flew in the past (I am a pilot as well).
After Lunch we went back to the Lodge room where the District Education Officer (District No. 8) Bro. John A. Loven discussed more lodge protocols including how to verify a visiting mason is a Mason. Bro, Loven’s talk was quite good and it convinced me that I need to keep fresh with all my degrees for seeing other lodges in other areas of the world! When the talk was over we went back up to the room set up adjacent to the dining area where more talks took place. Our Junior Grand Warden Bro. David S. Collins gave great discussions on the Grand Lodge constitution and more. At this point, many of the conversations included all the NH Grand Lodge officers that had come to present at the Seminar.
There was one part where the question asked the Seminar attendees related to what did the degrees mean to individuals. I had spoken up that I felt that the third degree was a big responsibility that I taken onto myself and that it made me stop and think, because the commitment was clear and I took it seriously.
In closing, there is no way that I covered every conversation that I had or every lecture that was given at the seminar. However, I do hope that if you have not been to a Master Mason Seminar that is put on by Grand Lodge that you will go next year. I know that I will go back.
Additionally, for those on the Harris Lodge mailing list I will be sending a link in email later that will allow you to download the material that was handed out on the thumb drive yesterday. Including:
You can download the petition to Become a Mason with Harris Lodge No. 91 as your Lodge or to affiliate with us online: http://harrislodge.com/petitionus.html