This past weekend was huge in the Masonic world. While I was out at the the Rocky Mountain Masonic Conference 2010 in Albuquerque, Brother Ed King passed along news of something just as important in the world of Masonic education at the opposite end of the country. The Maine Masonic College held their first Convocation, and it too was a roaring success.
Ed notes that they also had an all-star lineup of Masonic luminaries. Brother Mark Tabbert from the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, and author of American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities, addressed the topic of how our society is changing through his presentation titled ‘The Tenet of Truth: how it has been interpreted over the last 250 years and how it is interpreted today ‘. Continuing with the theme of change in the world and Freemasonry, Bro. Robert G. Davis spoke on ‘The new American Mason: generations together in private conclaves of manhood’. William D. Moore, the author of Masonic Temples: Freemasonry, Ritual Architecture, and Masculine Archetypes also was there and spoke on ‘Freemasonry and the problem of the Ph.D.’ explaining why those seeking careers in academia are now avoiding anything which might appear to not be laser-focused on their campus involvement.
Dick Fletcher, the Executive Secretary of the Masonic Service Association was there to lead a panel discussion on ‘Issues we sweep under the rug’ which included panelists Richard Curtis, former editor of the Scottish Rite Northern Jurisdiction’s Northern Light magazine, Robert Davis, and Ed. From homosexuality and changing sexual roles to bogus Masonry, it was a thought-provoking discussion.
The Convocation’s theme was “Planning for the Future: Reaching for Humanitas ~ Building for Humanity” and continuing that theme, Wayne T. Adams, a Past Grand Master of Maine who has done presentations in a number of jurisdictions, headed a discussion panel in which he presented his overview of where we as Freemasons can be headed, if we choose to do so. Panelists included two very successful young lodge Masters, W:.B:.s Randy Elliott and Chris Disotto.
Ed presented a romp through the world of Masonic education showing how various communications modalities like the internet and the iPhone are changing Freemasonry. Ed has been and continues to be nearly everywhere online. Many Masons online today know Ed through his long-time endeavor masonicinfo.com. Dr. Eric Kuntz, a child psychiatrist with a long and lasting interest in the psychology of symbols and ritual, talked about ‘Translating our Masonic learning into practice’ and those who’ve been to Eric’s presentations simply can’t get enough.
At the Friday night banquet, Philosophy professor Michael W. Howard from the University of Maine at Orono spoke on ‘The legacy of the Enlightenment: Challenges and Responses’. The program was conceived by Past Grand Master Walter M. Macdougall, now a retired professor of philosophy from UMO. Walter’s just published book, “Freemasonry, The Vital Exploration”, is one which any Mason will enjoy. It blends thoughtful analysis of our Craft with warm memories of times gone by. It’s available now from Macoy Publishing. The Masons of Maine revere Walter, as he does them, and this program reflected both his exceptional mind and tireless efforts.
The location was at the new Hollywood Slots Hotel in Bangor, Maine’s only gambling facility, but I’m told that not a single person left wearing a barrel. In fact, I understand that the food was so sumptuous that several attendees will need new belts for a time, a small price to pay. I am, of course, now immune to the allure of food's tempting tentacles. Not even Ed's sensual descriptions of stuffed French Toast will make me stray.
There are loads of exciting things happening in Masonic education today, and my congratulations to Maine for their leadership in this area. The Maine Masonic College has a completely unique program unmatched, as far as I know, by other jurisdictions. They offer lifelong learning type courses which, while based on the seven liberal arts and sciences, reach for the practical and extend that education to, not only Freemasons, but their families and communities as well. They offer extension and classroom courses, field trips, book recommendations, and more. I applaud them for this obviously successful program and wish them all the best as they move forward in their endeavors. I commented over the weekend that, up until the last few years, these types of gatherings were uncommon. But while many were sitting in bars wagging their fingers and shouting, "Ya know what's wrong with Freemasonry?!" more than a few brethren were stepping up to the plate and doing something more constructive than just idle bitching. These gatherings seem to be building great momentum, and the internet allows them to be publicized farther and faster than ever before. Positive brethren are sharing their knowledge, and new men are coming along with new points of view.
I keep telling everyone we live in an exciting moment of time as Masons. Weekends like this keep proving it.
Many, many thanks to Ed for passing along a very detailed account of the event. No doubt about it. I gotta get to Maine.