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Friday, June 24, 2016

Let's Make Knights

Yeah, it's one of THOSE posts from Hodapp.

I wrote the following very long piece about the Knights Templar of the York Rite in the U.S. several years ago, and it became much too long to publish as a magazine piece. So, it vanished into my documents file. But the article I posted yesterday by Sir Knight Carson Smith got me to go and look for it. If you're not a member of the KT, feel free to give it a miss. If you are, go get a cup of coffee and let me give you something to think about.

Let's Make Knights

After years of hand-wringing and crying over plummeting membership numbers in Freemasonry, the combination of the declining death rate, the “Dan Brown Effect,” and in general, the return of Freemasonry into the common consciousness of the community, have all started to turn the tide for us. In most jurisdictions we are bringing in more members than are dying for the first time in decades.

So, like a dog chasing the UPS truck down a country road, the question today is, what do we do with it, now that we’ve caught it? The fraternity has had structural problems that have never been fixed that can be traced to when we had four times as many members in the 1950s. We have too many buildings, too many appendant body chapters, and in many cases, way too much bureaucracy for an organization that is 25% of the size it once was.

The good news is that the new wave of young men joining the Blue Lodges are becoming officers and stubbornly demanding that their lodge experience becomes more like what they had thought it would be when they joined. With some notable holdouts, Grand Lodges are mostly loosening their grip and allowing greater flexibility among lodges to be individuals and escape the cookie-cutter mold of meeting, reading the minutes, and fleeing. There is a greater interest in Masonic education than at any time in recent memory. Almost 50 so-called “Observant” style lodges have formed all over the country, but the greater influence of them has been on visiting brethren who take selected practices home to their Mother Lodges and adapt them to suit their own unique situations.

But what about the appendant bodies? One would think that, as membership initiations rise in the Blue Lodges, the Scottish Rite and York Rite would be growing as well. Yet, it doesn’t seem to be happening that way. Masons who advance through the officers’ chairs in the lodges seem to be perfectly happy retiring to the sidelines, instead of moving on to other groups. They have made the Lodge a place they are happiest in on Thursday nights, with little desire to go elsewhere.

I once chatted with a friend who was in the national leadership of a York Rite body, and I asked him about this. "Why should a Mason become a member of the York Rite?" His answer astonished me. “Well, in the Blue Lodge, you only have one opportunity to be the Master of a lodge. But in the York Rite, you have all kinds of opportunities to become an officer in a Masonic body!”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never once met a man who became a Mason because he wanted to be a lodge officer, and I have known very few Masons who enthusiastically wanted to volunteer to be an officer in anything after he joined.

In most cases in the U.S., Royal Arch Chapter and Cryptic Council meetings are everything the average Mason hates about going to lodge: a ritualistic opening, reading of the minutes and bills, closing, and escaping the building as quickly as possible. Most Chapters and Councils don’t even bother with a meal or any social interaction of any kind, and rarely feature anything remotely resembling education, or even discussion about their  own ritual, symbolism, or history of their degrees.

Part of the problem is the overwhelming sense that the Chapter and Council are merely stepping stones to the more glamorous Knights Templar. In many jurisdictions, the three bodies share meeting spaces, officers, and even feature joint petition forms. The built-in inferiority complex is that the Chapter and Council degrees are something to be quickly dispensed with, and one-day York Rite conferrals only reinforce that belief.

The Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction has, in recent years, stressed its role as the “university of Freemasonry,” and created volumes of educational material, as well as its own teaching program. They have recognized that there is far more to the degrees of Freemasonry than can be gleaned by listening to the degree lectures or witnessing a mass conferral in a darkened auditorium. And they have responded to members who have begged for more information in a self-study format. 

Taking their example, in 2012 the York Rite Sovereign College, in partnership with Brother Robert G. Davis, created the Companion Adept of the Temple, a self-study program that covers the degrees and orders of the Royal Arch, Cryptic Council and Knights Templar. Unfortunately, it has not been strongly promoted, and relatively few York Rite Masons even know it exists. But it is a step in the right direction. (You can read about the program, its online materials, and enrollment HERE.) 

But I really want to concentrate here on the Knights Templar. I recently had an exchange on membership in a Masonic discussion forum with fellow Sir Knights in the Knights Templar. One brother was lamenting that Freemasonry, and especially the Templars, had missed the public relations boat in the wake of films like The Da Vinci Code, National Treasure, Kingdom of Heaven, and others. Unfortunately, he opened up a real of juicy worms for me, because what is going on in modern Templary is distressing as we approach our bicentennial celebration next month.

After each Triennial Conclave, it is usually obvious that more and more Commandaries continue to lose their drill teams to attrition. My own, Raper Commandary No. 1 in Indianapolis, has a long and legendary history. Our social room has an astonishing array of trophies and photographs from well over a century of excellence and participation in parades and drill team competition, and they remain the Commandery with more first place awards in drilling than any other in the country. But our Grand Commanders in Indiana, along with many others across the country, have lamented that interest in such activities has long been declining along with the number of Masons who choose the York Rite path to further their Masonic experience.

For the first 130 years of its existence, the Shrine required membership in the Blue Lodge, as well as the as completion of either the Scottish Rite or York Rite degrees before allowing a Mason to petition. That changed in the early 2000s, and now any Freemason is free to join the Shrine and participate in their programs, clubs and antics. This left the Scottish and York Rite scrambling. For over a century, they had a guaranteed stream of candidates who passed through on their way to the Shrine. But today, each appendant degree path is now forced to stand alone on its own merits. 

I had the honor of writing and producing a video for the York Rite, and especially for the Knights Templar, in Indiana over a dozen years ago for my dear and departed friend Larry Kaminsky that is STILL being used, and I have a deep and abiding affection for the Templar Orders. I have been given honors in Templary over the years that were certainly not deserved, because I have not labored long and diligently in their service enough to receive such rewards. I have the greatest respect and admiration for the men who have kept Templarism alive for so many years, and for those who dedicate so much time and effort to its degrees and drill teams. 

Nevertheless, I have a deep concern that the Masonic Knights Templar are at a serious crossroads. The numbers are certainly pointing a boney finger in that direction. And so I will ask some of the same questions of the Templars as a state and national organization as I have in the past of Freemasonry. Please, fellow Sir Knights, be patient. I am not performing a hatchet job here. But I will speak frankly, because no one seems to be confronting these issues head on.

My friend Carson Smith is the most active , passionate, and enthusiastic Knight Templar I know. His participation and hard work have made him legendary in our state, and he has top line signed more than 130 petitions for new York Rite Masons. He freely admits that the Knights Templar are the most expensive of any Masonic body to belong to, as well as requiring more work than any other. His belief is simply that being a Knight Templar is not for everybody. Neither of those viewpoints are particularly wrong.

But what makes the Templars as they exist today attractive to young Freemasons, or to young men off the street who would have to become Masons first? And I'm not asking this to be glib or argumentative. I mean it as a serious point of discussion. What does the average Commandery offer to its new members that will keep them coming back and keep them active? Apart from having a tenuous, if at all existent, connection (that the national organization denies, by the way) to an excommunicated and condemned religious order, what is modern Templary doing to connect its members to their crusading namesakes? 

The panic all across the country over the inability to mount drill teams ignores the plain fact that marching in a $1,000 uniform with a Gilbert and Sullivan hat appeals to a smaller and smaller group of men. While drilling was the national fad in the 1870s, simply because 75 per cent of the adult male population had previously been in the military, over 140 years later it holds little fascination. This is in no way is meant to denigrate the dedication of the men in the drill teams. But call and ask every one of your existing Commandery members and see how many care a fig about being in or even going to watch a drill team. You'll be shocked. Or maybe you won't be. 

In a rude and uncivil 21st century, when we pass more and more laws to replace decency, manners and common sense, would it not make more sense for the modern Knights Templars to make our new mission the making of modern gentlemen? 

I mean teach everything — etiquette, fencing, shooting, dancing, and more. Bring in a local fencing instructor, teach interested members how to fight with a foil, and hold fencing competitions instead of drill teams. Teach them how to tie a bow tie and what classic books every gentleman should have a passing knowledge of. Teach them about sending real thank you cards, holding doors for women, how to choose the right wine and a good cigar. Teach them all those things that our grandparents used to teach us, but have been forgotten by society these days.  

Make every Commandery meeting something to look forward to. Appoint a Commandery Historian, whose job it is to provide some kind of reading or paper or lesson or video at every meeting. The Knights Templar are uniquely positioned to educate an ignorant membership about the history of the Middle East, who the players were and are, and why the current residents are shooting at each other these days. Bring in a local college professor to talk about medieval religious architecture, or the Crusades, or comparative religion, or religious and political upheavals in the Levant. We send ministers to the Holy Land as part of our national charity. Why not send your active Commandery members for a week instead? Or at least teach our members about the Holy Land.

Let’s start making concepts of chivalry and knighthood something worth emulating again. Isn't that a better mission than marching in a parking lot? 

Honestly, when I joined the KT, I really thought this stuff would be going on. The Order of the Temple, done on one candidate at a time, is the greatest, most moving, and downright coolest degree in all of Freemasonry. But once it was over, it became the same contemptible reading of minutes and bitching about non-participation that took place in the lodges.  The night of the first Commandery meeting I ever attended, the Recorder got up and read the minutes. He was in his 80s, and on a portable oxygen machine. But he read the minutes of several meetings, event descriptions and announcements, messages from the Grand Commandery and Grand Encampment, and more. He read nonstop for 40 minutes. That was cruel and unusual punishment for him and the rest of us. 

After he finished, another new member sitting next to me stood up and said, "Instead of listening to that kind of thing again, I would rather have steel pins thrust through my eyeballs. I move that we print and circulate the minutes." The place erupted with protests. One older member actually said, "But if we don't read the minutes, what would we do?"


I joined what I thought was an order of knighthood. I have tremendous hope for the potential of that organization, but it is up to the new generation of leaders to redefine the goals of the Knights Templar, and fast, before it expires.

Please, do not take offense at this, but the answer is NOT to drag as many warm bodies in from the Blue Lodges as soon as we yank them out of Hiram's grave. More members, brought in faster, who become disillusioned and pissed off that much quicker, will become our biggest detractors when they demit. If all they see is an eternal hand out for more dues money for ever more degrees and appendant bodies, only to find an empty experience at the end of each one, and a promise for better if they join yet another appendant body, I promise all of you, it will be our undoing.

We are poised at an important moment in time, with a brief opportunity to prosper from renewed interest. But that won't happen if we continue to give new members a diluted, unfulfilled, boring, irrelevant and just plain bad experience (and that is true of EVERY Masonic organization). Many have spoken of trying to appeal to new members as a side effect of Templar interest in the popular culture. So, let's say I sit through Kingdom of Heaven or read one of the many books involving Templars that clogged up the New York Times Best Seller List several years ago, or play a hot round of Assassin's Creed, or see a History Channel show about the crusading warrior monks. I go on the net and say, "Hot damn! Templars! Right here in my home town! I want to be a part of that!” What is the end result of that excitement? What do they get, versus what they thought they were getting? What have we, with our public relations or our private talks with them, "sold" them, versus what they find once they are in the Commandery? I'm only asking. And I'm only reacting to my own feelings and many, many remarks I have overheard from former Templars over the last 15 years. That's not a sales problem. That's a retention problem, a problem with the programming, and what a man gets as opposed to what he thought he was getting.

About a decade ago, a group of us in Indiana started a medieval period recreation Templar degree team, called Levant Preceptory. We dress in chainmaille, hauberks, steel helmets, tunics, and wield broadswords. When we make an arch of steel, by God, you hear it. The goal was - and remains - to present the Order of the Temple in the most effective, evocative, and memorable way possible, in authentic looking wardrobe that makes more sense to initiates in the setting of the ritual. We travel all over the Midwest and perform the ritual only once or twice a year. We operate simply as a degree team under an existing Commandery charter, so we weren't required to do all of the bureaucratic and tactical requirements of starting a new Commandery. And we are very welcoming to any Knights who want to participate with us, from all over our state, and even one brother from an adjoining one. There are no dues, it's all strictly voluntary, and every member has to track down his own equipment online and pay for it himself. When we go on the road, every Sir Knight has to pay his own way. A complete outfit can be had for about the same cost as a new chapeau. 

We do it for the love of it. But what makes it an important illustration to examine is that our members are comprised of many Templars from all over the state who have no interest in drilling, do not hold office, do not regularly attend meetings, and would likely have otherwise demitted eventually from their Commanderies. They pay their York Rite dues every year specifically to do this once or twice annually.

But bear in mind this important codicil: Levant is made up of men who are the very best in the performance of the ritual and the tactics in our area. Groups are popping up all over the country attempting to recreate our success by simply buying period costumes. Anybody can buy clothes and props. That is NOT the key to what we do, and never has been. Costumes are mere stagecraft. The true key is setting a standard of performance that will not be compromised, which is why we attract the very best Templar ritualists. It is also why we are supported by both the Grand Commandery and the Grand Encampment, and asked to participate in large degree day events. 

It's just an idea that happened to work for us. Feel free to steal it and claim it as your own, or find another one. Find a way to experiment, while working within the restrictions that exist within our rules — or work your butt off to change them. But I'm begging all Sir Knights everywhere: try everything, and if that doesn't work, try something else. Don't go down without a fight, because what we have is too meaningful and impressive and important to let it wither and fade.

I am not pretending for a minute that every Mason or Templar wants research papers, education, esotericism, dressing in chainmaille, or fencing lessons. I AM suggesting that Freemasonry has, as its stated mission, the goal of making good men better ones. Freemasonry itself is in an important time of change, and Masonic leaders all across the country are trying to reconcile our past with the demands of the future. I AM suggesting that the KT is in serious need of making those kinds of plans as well, and fails to do so at its peril.

I am by no means proclaiming that there is but one path to Freemasonry or Templary. No one begs for greater variety in this fraternity more than I do. But pay heed to what the membership retention numbers are doing, and that is a reflection of the end product: the Commandery experience when the Orders have finally been conferred. Membership drives have proved that the men can be delivered to the door, sometimes even in droves. But the bulk of them do not return, and do not remain.

We have an opportunity to truly make knights, in every sense of the word. We have a unique marketing niche. We have name recognition. We have our own history as well as our legendary namesakes' to call upon. Perhaps Kingdom of Heaven and The Da Vinci Code were missed opportunities. The History Channel just announced a new dramatic series featuring the Knights Templar called Knightfall will be premiering later this year, so we'll probably get a bump again. But I believe we are missing a far larger opportunity here. If we are conferring knighthood in an age when knights are rare, then we could make it so much more than just one interesting night at lodge, followed by a hard-pressure insistence on, yes, marching in a parking lot.

My apologies to lovers of the drill team, but look at your membership rolls and participation in them. You are in the vast minority. And after every Triennial, even more slip away. I'm not trying to be flippant or insulting, honestly. But I'm asking all active and non-active Knights Templar to think very hard about this. The time has come to make difficult decisions, or this will be a moot discussion in a very short time. Don't like my ideas? That's not going to hurt my feelings. I grew up in advertising, and we yelled at each other all the time. But show me yours.  More important, show your Commandery yours. Because I DO know that doing nothing but the same failed thing over and over will always yield the same failed results.

The question for the future direction of the Knights Templar is, do we stay exactly as we have been for 140 years when the post-war uniform manufacturers almost single-handedly turned us, the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Pythias, the Grand Army of the Republic, and two dozen other groups into cookie-cutter, marching teams in Army surplus equipment? That IS what happened, you know. Or do we seize this moment to make  substantive changes to make 21st century knights? I believe there is a void in both society and in Masonry that could be filled that way. 

By us.


  1. "... when the post-war uniform manufacturers almost single-handedly turned us, the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Pythias, the Grand Army of the Republic, and two dozen other groups into cookie-cutter, marching teams in Army surplus equipment?"

    I've often wondered about this, and I've noticed the similarities between the different organizations in my area. Nobody has been able to tell me what the Cap'n Crunch uniforms have to do with the actual Templars.

    I've often said that the OT was everything I thought *all* Masonic degrees would be; it was absolutely the most impressive ceremony I've ever seen - and what a shame that many of our members never get to see anything so inspiring.

    While my YR chapters (which meet in the same building and share officers) actually are some of the better ones, they still lack members because it's difficult for many of us to get out to weekly meetings. Lodge, Chapter, Council, Commandery, plus building committee, ritual practices, Grand __ meetings, and that doesn't even count SR meetings fill up the calendar pretty quickly.

    Great article. I hope some people read and give it some thought.

    1. Tom,


      Yes, the uniforms were created by former Union uniform manufacturers who had traveling salesmen who basically pitched variations of the same design to any fraternal group with "Knights" or "Army" or 'Soldiers" in their names. They also did the same thing to the separate black fraternal groups, as well. By the mid 1870s, parades became sort of the modern battle ground between these competing fraternal groups to show off and show their drill team was larger or more impressive than the others.

      Most of them have either died off or dropped the drill team aspects these days, apart from the Knights of Columbus' Fourth Degree Team. The KofC has changed their uniform in some states, but in others, they retain one very similar to the templars, apart from the plume color on the chapeau.

  2. Good comprehensive article. It reminded me that I am currently on lesson #4 of the "Companion Adept of the Temple" program and need to finish it. Thanks for that. Robert G. Davis and Sovereign College created a wonderful introductory program which provides a solid foundation for further research. I recommend all interested Sir Knights with the time and means to check it out.

    Over the years, I have met several inactive Masons who told me they quit Freemasonry (the organization, though not necessarily the complete practice) because in their words; "Christ was not there or there was no mention of Jesus." After reminding these prodigal Brothers that Freemasonry is not a religion,I then asked if they were members of the Order of the Temple. They of course replied, NO. After a little further details on the beauties of the Templar system and how it could help to reinforce/revitalize their current Christian faith, these Brothers decided to have another look.

    Education and a desire to serve is key. Many brother Masons are still in the dark about certain things (myself included) and need help in finding their own answers. For example, there was a time when certain jurisdictions of Masonic Templars wore lovely Aprons with the "Skull and Crossbones" proudly displayed on them. Several years ago Masonic author, WBro. Andrew Hammer, wrote a good article in the Journal of the Masonic Society where he explained the symbolism of the Skull and Crossbones with relation to Freemasonry. He wrote the article in response to educate our fellow brother Masons who misinterpreteted the Symbolism of the Skull and Crossbones or felt ashamed of it when in the presence of the uninitiated.

    Education and a desire to serve is key. Personally, I would like the Order of the Temple to bring back the Aprons. Man, they look sharp.

    Tom, PEC, Ivanhoe Commandery#4, WA.

    1. I actually wrote two paragraphs about the continuing popularity among enthusiastic members of these triangular momento mori aprons, who frequently buy both new and antique ones from ebay and elsewhere. However, this damn post was way too long as it was, so I cut it out.

      Sadly, the Grand Encampment has long forbidden their use in Commanderies (if I remember from long ago research, that was in the 1920s). That makes absolutely no sense.

  3. And what then for those who can't join the KT?

    Is anybody to go out of their way to Chapter and Council more attractive?

    1. I honestly wish I had a silver bullet solution for them, but sadly I don't. The best I can come up with is to encourage papers and presentations and debates and discussions about the ritual, and perhaps Old Testament Biblical references - along with demanding that they have a dinner (because Masonry is about food). Maybe peer into Pike's Morals and Dogma, where you'll find great similarities with his SR-SJ rituals and discussions.

      I suspect if you take the Companion Adept of the Temple course, you'll get loads of ideas for topics.

      But on the other hand, not every Companion wants papers and lectures and philosophical discussions.

      The real challenge the Chapter and Council face is that it can't just be just one more "fraternal" gathering experience that is more of the same guys get in lodge, just with a few different faces from around town. But if somebody out there has a brilliant programming idea, we'd all love to hear it.

  4. One major obstacle to becoming a Knight Templar for many Brethren is that it *is* an explicitly Christian Order in an age where Freemasonry makes no distinction of faith. This is not my interpretation but comes right from the Grand Encampment website. To be a Templar, one must believe in the Christian faith, as specified here:

    I was in Royal Arch, Council, and AMD. I dimitted because none offered anything more than Lodge beyond the lessons of the actual Degrees. Indeed, they were just more of the same boring business: Grand Officer visits, charity fundraising, etc. And more ritual to learn. I found them to be a distraction from and drain on Masonic resources.

    I believe the York Rite bodies would much better serve the Craft if they focused less on meetings and served in a more educational role by acting as an information clearing house for its members, who would in turn become better leaders in Lodge. After all, one of the primary duties of a Royal Arch Companion is to use his knowledge to shape and guide his Brothers.

  5. Excellent article. Our group is pretty much in the same rut as stated. Admittedly I have had some issues with this site over time since it isn't tiled. Usually you can tell who's just here to start trouble. But this article is definitely full of truths and ideas and gives me reason to come back. Thanks for heartfelt thoughts.

  6. I've tried to be the change I want to see, but have had no luck in my local Chapter, Council and Commandery....we always open informally, most times without a quorum.......it is disheartening, and the resistance from the older members, is daunting, if not impossible, and they expect you to be a one man team if you suggest something.....it is dainting and overwhelming to try and save an organization that can stand on its own merits.....I personally am at a loss as to what to do....

  7. Great article! I joined Freemasonry for the express purpose of becoming a KT. I saw them at our church when I was a kid and was very impressed. One of my goals for the organization was to see it becone more visible in the community. I had also want to arrange a visit with the local KofC, but it never came to pass.

    One of my personal frustrations with Masonry in general is their need to be politically correct. Their refusal to even mention Jesus' name is frustrating. In one degree they mention Mohammad, Zoroaster and Buddah, but when they come to Christianity they said "the founder of the Christian religion" Why could we NOT say Christ. When I asked I never got a clear answer. Again, WHY?

    When we did discuss Masonic history I felt it had been sanitized to reflect current political correctness, and when I made comments about what I believed Masonic history was really about I was told "that's my interpretation" and that everyone can interpret it the way they want, but I disagree with that concept. For example: in the Mark Master Degree they talk about "the stone that the builders rejected." I mentoined to a fellow traveler that that phrase was a term for Jesus Christ. He said he did NOT know that. In another instance at a Masonic funeral they were talking about how man born of women is but a few days and is then cut down like the grass. I asked a brother where that was from in the Bible and he said it was not from the Bible, but rather the Masonic Monitor! These are NOT stupid men, but rather men being politically correct and refusing to state the obvious for fear of upsetting someone in the Lodge with the truth.

    Until Freemasonry becomes more honest with the message behind these degrees, I'm afraid the organization is doomed to failure or at least a lost version of what it's supposed to be. If it's NOT a religious organization then take the religion out of it!!!

    1. "These are NOT stupid men, but rather men being politically correct and refusing to state the obvious for fear of upsetting someone in the Lodge with the truth."

      Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity.

      Ignorance, in this case, causes men to not know the source of that quote, because few Lodge monitors, trestleboards, cyphers, what have you, cite the chapter and verse.

      As for a degree that mentions by name, except for your specific deity, I'd take that up with those who wrote the degrees.

      Too many seem to act like if it doesn't cater to their specific religion, exactly the way they want it to, it's hostile to it.

      Oddly enough, that's what a lot of non masons who oppose us say, too.

      If you want a Christian masonry, stay away from blue lodge, stock with KT, or move to the GL of Sweden.

      I like that no one brother's faith is prohibited or exalted, myself.

  8. Hello Sir Knight,

    This was a fantastic read and you are not alone in your thoughts and ideas. I am a younger Knight myself of 33 years of age. I have been called "The Pit Bull" of my commandery due to my aggressive recruitment tactics. Before I became a Knight you could not find so much as a petition, but now that is not the case, I have even hung up recruitment posters.

    You have a lot of solid ideas here. One of my main problems in commandery is lack of participation. We meet once a month, go over the opening and then forget it because our next practice is a month away. I have tried to call for weekly or even bi-weekly practice and am met with guys going silent on me. I would love to suggest other programs but I feel that can't be done until we have our officers in proper shape. Another problem is we meet the bare minimum of only Four times a year. I recently put a vote in to increase that to six which won't start for a while due to the ropes it must go through concerning Grand Commandery.

    When I joined I was one of those excited young men. Templarism had been why I joined the Freemasons at first. Imagine my surprise when I found out that it's nearly a dead thing. My first Stated Conclave I sat in as Generalissimo, there was one member on the sideline and the rest filled the chairs. It's funny how this did not discourage me, but rather lite a fire to do something about it. I am now Captain General and eagerly await my time as Commander, fully prepared to try out some "radical" ideas to make the Templar's relevant once again.

    One thing I will bring up and I have had a world of push back on this, is the mighty Skull and Crossbones apron. I can not tell you how many Blue Lodge Masons are curious bout this apron and are turned off when they find we don't or can't actually wear them. We are the only Masonic body that does not. Now I am not saying we should march with them on but consider this, you are a freshly made KT and you attend your fist conclave in suit, you look on as the sharp dressed officers open the conclave, but what do you get at the meeting to make it special? Nothing. However, this peculiar triangular apron would be a rather neat thing to wear during the meeting, and yet so many of the older generation say it will never happen.
    I don't think "never" is true, I have brought this apron thing up at refreshments many times and 95% of the men who discuss it would like nothing more than to have the apron back once again, seems to me it's the few blocking the many.

    Anyway I could babble all day about it. Great article and certainly gave me more than a few ideas.

    Thank you.

  9. I am a past presiding officer of Chapter, Council, and Commandery and have struggled lately with what our purpose is in masonry. When I originally joined I really enjoyed all of the bodies because they were populated with members that were interested in ritual and showed a dedication that many blue lodge members did not share.

    Over time I have found myself questioning my membership in groups that serve the same purpose as my blue lodge. We have the same rhetoric coming from the grand bodies about getting out and getting new members and building membership back up, but I see no point to this. I am at the point where if I can get a guy to dedicate to blue lodge alone I am happy.

    I don't know what the answer is for the bodies but I have little faith based upon this excerpt taken from the Grand Encampment web site; "The Knights Templar is a Christian-oriented fraternal organization that was founded in the 11th century. Originally, the Knights Templar were laymen who protected and defended Christians travelling to Jerusalem. These men took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and were renowned for their fierceness and courage in battle.

    Today, the Knights Templar display their courage and goodwill in other ways. They organize fund-raising activities such as breakfasts, dinners, dances, and flea markets. They support Masonic-related youth groups and they raise millions of dollars for medical research and educational assistance."

  10. SK Christopher,

    Thank you so much for this piece. I have shared it with the officers of our York Rite Bodies here in Green Bay, WI.

    I'm the Most Illustrious Grand Master of the Grand Council and everything you stated is 100% spot on. I will be discussing your article at our Grand Officers meeting in July and again at our Annual Grand Assembly in September. With your permission, I would like to reference some of your points in my allocation.
    Thank you!
    John M. Pratt

    1. Feel free to share any way you see fit, and PLEASE add to it any ideas YOU have. The Chapter and Council are in even more dire straits, and I just don't have a brilliant idea for what to do to make their meetings more compelling - other than reducing them in frequency maybe and insisting on a dinner every time. But even that's no real answer. And I've thought a long time about them.

  11. Sir Knights,

    I am not a Knight myself. I am a member of Council and Royal Arch. My time has been pulled working with the temple board to get some things addressed. However, Commandry is very alluring. At least it is in theory.

    While I am not apprised of what takes place in Commandry, from a person who will someday look towards joining the ranks, there are things that I would hope happens. If not perhaps it is something to consider or think about and I believe it really reinforces this article.

    Chivalry, the first true romance in my opinion, was created as a means of keeping warriors out of trouble. We had started to pass from some horrific times in which warriors were needed in abundance. From the crusades to land expansion, everyone needed someone who could fight and hold ground. Yet, this left many without an outlet or release when they were not needed any more. We had told them we needed them to be able to be savage at the drop of a hat or to turn off their emotions. We created individuals who did little more than to Hail and Kill.

    Chivalry, was a code of conduct that allowed the warriors to pit their skills in just as much of a competitive arena. The courtly arts. It allowed them to be seen as gallant and noble and yet duel to protect honor or to mediate to save land and lives. They were still encouraged to maintain their skills, but with new manners and courtesies. They were accepted into the courts and allowed to hold and maintain their own lands. With these lands they could employ other nights and become nobles of their own. They cycle was perpetuating and with great deeds (or a lot of politicking) one could make a baron. These titles could pass from generation to generation as long as one did not disgrace themselves or family.

    As was said in the article, Commandry needs to be so much more than just a ostrich plume hat and heavy clothes that you overheat in on a hot summers day parade. It needs to be much more.

    If masonry makes good men better men, Commandry needs to teach better men of the things told in legends. If you shed the fancy clothing and the blade. Do you still have the knight? If so can you tell upon first meeting.

    For if not…it needs to forged.


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