"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."

BE A FREEMASON

Popular

Popular Recent Stories

Popular Posts This Month

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Masonic Book Club Is Reborn By AASR-SJ


by Christopher Hodapp

Lovers of Masonic books can again rejoice - that which was lost has been reborn! After years of hopeful rumors, the Masonic Book Club (MBC), which has been defunct since 2010, has been resurrected by the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction's Supreme Council!



If you've been reading and collecting Masonic books for very long, or if you hang out in Masonic libraries, you doubtless know about a very special series of blue hardback volumes from the Masonic Book Club. Formed in 1970 by Brothers Alphonse Cerza and Louis Williams, the MBC operated out of the Illinois Lodge of Research for forty years, primarily reprinting long out-of-print works of importance, or occasionally obscure gems. Unlike the spate of badly scanned, print on demand reprints like Kessinger editions and their imitators who quickly followed, the numbered MBC volumes were beautiful facsimile editions, printed on quality paper, bound in leather, generally with a new introduction by noted Masonic scholars that brought fresh understanding to the background of the work itself.

Over the years, they published works as varied as both editions of Anderson’s Constitutions, Samuel Pritchard's Masonry Dissected, The Old Gothic Constitutions, Thomas Smith Webb's Freemasons Monitor, The Folger Manuscript, the Trestleboard of the pivotal 1843 Baltimore Convention, John Robison's Proofs Of A Conspiracy, and many more. Introductions were written by brethren like Wallace McCloud, Harry Carr, Dwight L. Smith, Melvin M. Johnson, and others. (See the whole list HERE.)



The MBC was limited to just 999, and eventually 1,500 members, and it was one of the more peculiar and quirky clubs that you just sort of had to know about. You sent in your twenty dollars every year, but there was no announcement, no periodic news or communication, not even an acknowledgement you had joined. Then, sooner or later, a package would arrive in the mail at some point in the year with a new book enclosed. 


Sadly, the final book went out in 2010 after its last president Robin Carr retired. Like so much else with the MBC, there was no announcement. It just ended. But ever since 2016, Illus. S. Brent Morris at the Scottish Rite SJ has told me of the strong desire he and Art De Hoyos have had to resurrect the MBC from the ashes. This has taken many years of work behind the scenes to accomplish, and the announcement is finally official today. 

The Scottish Rite has had a devotion to high quality publications and books for more than twenty years though the Scottish Rite Research Society, but freighted almost exclusively to the works of the Rite itself, not the wider Masonic world. Their support of the MBC as a standalone club and publication arm is a major commitment to Masonic education and enlightenment to the whole fraternity. If you have seen or owned books published by the SRRS over the recent years, you know they are committed to creating high-quality hardback editions.

The MBC's website answers many questions. The new MBC does not have any of the old membership records of the original club. The Directors of that group voted to dissolve several years ago and donated their remaining assets to the AASR-SJ for charitable purposes. The new MBC, alas, does not have any of the old Club's previous volumes for sale. But you will find them all over used book sources like AbeBooks.com.

There will be no dues for the new Club -payments will only be collected as books are ready to be manufactured, and all transactions will be handled exclusively online. Without a rigid calendar driving publications, new books can come out in nine months or eighteen months as resources permit. Book prices are expected to range in the $25 vicinity for pre-publication orders, or $35 retail if you miss the ordering window. Volumes will no longer be numbered, but the good news is that, if the hardback edition sells out, the MBC will make a paperback print-on-demand edition available of the book.

And to the relief of the MBC's older original members, they say they actually intend to communicate with members twice a year with an electronic newsletter to keep everyone in the loop about upcoming volumes in the works and their production status.

More information can be found at the MBC's website HERE. If you are interested, you need to sign up on the website now.

Below is the press release announcement issued today:
The Masonic Book Club (MBC), formed in 1970 by Brothers Alphonse Cerza and Louis Williams, has been restarted fifty years later by the Supreme Council, 33°, SJ USA, to continue the MBC mission of printing fine Masonic books. After forty years of service to the Craft, the directors in 2010 decided to dissolve the original MBC. In 2017 MW Barry Weer, 33°, the last president of the MBC, transferred the MBC name and assets to the Supreme Council, 33°, SJ USA. The revived Masonic Book Club has the goals of publishing classic Masonic books and of supporting Scottish Rite SJ USA philanthropies. Membership is open to anyone 18 years or older interested in the history of Freemasonry and allows them to purchase MBC editions at a pre-publication discount.
The club originally was limited to 333 members, but the number eventually expanded to nearly 2,000, with 1,083 members when it dissolved in 2010. The new MBC will have a different business model from the old. Most significantly, there will be no dues; being a member entitles you to purchase books at a prepublication discount. An editorial committee (Arturo de Hoyos, S. Brent Morris, and others) will select the books using survey feedback from MBC members. The first publication should be announced in early 2021 with anticipated shipment 3–4 months later.
For more details, check out the Masonic Book Club page at https://scottishrite.org/media-publications/masonic-book-club/. For specific questions, write to mbc@scottishrite.org.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

New UGLE Universities Scheme Outreach Video



by Christopher Hodapp

The United Grand Lodge of England has for many years had a program to promote Freemasonry on college and university campuses around the U.K., including establishing new lodges, as well as linking existing nearby ones, specifically for those institutions. Called The Universities' Scheme, its aim is to help to forge links between well-placed, enthusiastic Lodges and the many students and other local young people who are seeking to become involved in Freemasonry, but who may not know where to begin. There are now about 50 such university-related lodges throughout the UGLE jurisdiction.

A new video has been produced by the Grand Lodge specifically geared to appeal to 'Freshers' - university freshman - about looking into joining the Masonic fraternity. In just 90 seconds, it lays out the basic principles of Masonry, its contributions to communities, and its national and international scope. (See it above.)

One surprise for U.S. Masons is that the video also includes two young lady Masons from the two large, principal feminine grand lodges at work in England today. "So, you think only men can be Freemasons," asks one. There's  no getting round the fact that the question of women will almost immediately arise when Freemasonry gets discussed, most especially on a college campus these days.

Obviously the cultural attitude on college campi these days is more pockmarked with potential social outrage landmines than ever before. All-male fraternal groups are under assault all over the U.S. and Britain as being neanderthal bastions of male superiority or the patriarchy or. . . something. Setting up a booth at a college promoting a male-only group like the Masons is like waving a red cape at an enraged, four-footed pot roast in a bullfighting arena. So England's Masons use a different approach.


Pearl-clutching U.S. Masons take note: England's (and Europe's) rules involving voluntary associations and anti-discrimination laws and requirements differ from the U.S., and the UGLE has openly stated that female Masons are perfectly respectable. They cooperate whenever possible. The UGLE doesn't exactly recognize the female grand lodges, and their members can't sit in open lodge together, but they decided more than 20 years ago to stop acting like they didn't exist and cooperate instead. Bear in mind that England does not have the Order of the Eastern Star, either. So, the UGLE's statement on the matter of lady Masons is quite pragmatic, stating that the two female grand lodges are in all ways regular, apart from the fact that traditional Masons do not permit women to join our lodges. And when a lady approaches them to ask about membership, English Masons are free to say 'here's who to contact, here's their websites, and can I call you a taxi?' 

England's two female grand lodges are Freemasonry For Women (Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons) and the The Order of Women Freemasons. Both are also actively chartering new female lodges around college and university campuses in England, and all three grand lodges are cooperating with each other on this Universities Scheme to introduce Freemasonry to college students by establishing lodges connected to college and university campuses.



UGLE invited the female grand masters of both the HFAF and OWF to their 300th anniversary gala in London in 2017. Interestingly, UGLE and the HFAF conferred with each other when they crafted their recent transgender policies in 2017, which were forced upon them by changes in English laws.

It's a refreshing approach that I wish Americans would adopt, because this question will continue to dog us in varying degrees for the foreseeable future. Contrast England's statement with the way the Grand Lodge of California addresses it on their website:
"Q: Can women join Masonry?""A: There are three strands of Freemasonry in the world: masculine Masonry (exclusively men), feminine Masonry (exclusively women), and mixed Masonry (men and women). The Masons of California is a fraternity of men. We sponsor Masonic organizations for men, women, and youth."
Of course, the biggest issue in the U.S. is that female Freemasonry is just not that popular here, in comparison to so-called 'malecraft' Freemasonry. It is almost useless to tell a young lady about female lodges if the closest one is a 500 mile drive away.

Monday, September 14, 2020

UGLE Issues COVID "Rule Of Six" Meeting Restriction



by Christopher Hodapp

Most states have relaxed their COVID restrictions enough that many American grand lodges are again permitting in-person lodge meetings to one extent or another. The patchwork of state and local orders are too numerous to cite, but even restricted versions of degree work are taking place in some states, almost all requiring masks, distancing among sideliners, etc. I've seen a couple of announcements of outdoor degrees, which is another novel way to deal with the issue of social distancing.

England, however, has been another matter. English health laws have banned all gatherings up until now, forcing lodges to give up in-person meetings. However, this week the country is moving to a 'Rule of Six' about indoor assemblies.

Therefore United Grand Lodge of England's Grand Secretary, David Staples has just announced that all lodge and chapter in-person meetings are restricted to no more than six people. This is to comply with current health laws and restrictions in England at this time. He stresses that this only applies to Masonic lodges and chapters meeting within England itself. (Wales continues to outlaw all in-person gatherings, period.)

The so-called 'Rule Of Six' message in its entirety:

Brethren and Companions,
Following a meeting of the Craft Rulers and the Standing Committee of the Board of General Purposes, and in consultation with the Royal Arch Rulers and the President of the Committee of General Purposes, it has been decided to restrict English Lodge and Chapter meetings to no more than six attendees. This is in response to the new laws which come into force today, Monday 14 September.
Larger meetings in Covid-19 Secure venues are permitted by the new laws, and this decision was not taken lightly, but it was felt that it would send entirely the wrong message to our members, and to the public, if Lodge and Chapter meetings of over six people took place at this time. This position will be kept under review and further measures will be announced shortly. UGLE and SGC remain committed to following appropriate official guidance, and to be seen to do so, whilst allowing individuals, Lodges and Chapters to decide what is right for their own particular circumstances.
UGLE also now advises that face coverings are worn at all meetings, even though the law does not currently require this. For the avoidance of doubt those who are exempt under the law from wearing face coverings in shops are not expected to wear them at meetings.
The, admittedly small, good news is that if they wish, the six or fewer who attend a meeting may now dine together.
This message applies only to Provinces in England. In Wales, legislation still prevents any Masonic Meetings from taking place at this time.

Yours sincerely and fraternally,
VW Bro/E Comp David Staples
Grand Secretary/Grand Scribe E

Friday, September 04, 2020

George Washington Memorial's Masonic Digital Archive Is a Research Treasure


by Christopher Hodapp

For many years, Mark Tabbert at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia has been actively seeking support for and promoting a digital collection made up of the proceedings of all U.S. grand lodges and appendant grand bodies. 

This ongoing project is being done through the Memorial's Louis A. Watres Library, named after the Association’s second president who oversaw the Memorial’s construction. Opened in 1952, the Library contains a substantial collection of approximately 7,000 volumes, including Masonic literature and U.S. Grand Lodges’ and other major Masonic organizations’ annual Proceedings.


The scope of the Masonic Digital Archives project is enormous - consider that a grand lodge like my own has been publishing these reports annually for over two hundred years, generally at the rate of a couple of hundred pages each year. Then multiply that by 51 Grand Lodges, plus Grand Royal Arch Chapters, Grand Cryptic Councils, and Grand Knights Templar Commanderies.

The Memorial Association is digitizing each governing body’s complete annual proceedings collections for a flat rate of $1000 as a service to the Craft. That price is non-adjustable, regardless of the number of books or pages digitized. After that, a $200 annual subscription fee maintains and updates the online collection on the Memorial's LUNA database platform. LUNA presents each book in pdf form and is fully searchable, making the hunting of names, places, topics, dates and more fast and simple. 

The Memorial's digitization project has primarily used the much faster and less expensive 'destructive' method of scanning, meaning that bound books must be sacrificed in order to speed the scanning process. For that reason, the Watres Library has requested two full sets of proceedings from each grand body so that the Memorial still has one complete and undamaged, bound set of volumes on its shelves to augment the online digital scanned versions. They have gotten underway with scanning the duplicate volumes they already have.

To see the proceedings currently online from 21 states and grand bodies, visit the Masonic Digital Archives HERE. 


Mark just sent me an update this week advising that, as of August 2020, the Memorial staff has digitized all of their duplicate proceedings collections, alphabetically from Alabama to New Hampshire so far. They expect to complete the full project through Wyoming before 2022. 

So here's the catch.

If you are a grand officer of a Masonic Grand Lodge or Grand York Rite Body of a state alphabetically between Alabama and New Hampshire, Mark can tell you what proceedings years have been digitized and which are still needed. If you confirm your jurisdiction's $1000 commitment to the project and the annual $200 subscription fee, the available digitized proceedings of your grand body will appear in the LUNA catalog within five working days.

If you are grand officer of a Masonic Grand Lodge or Grand York Rite Body of a state alphabetically between New Jersey and Wyoming, the Library has not yet organized your proceedings and is unable to give you a detailed inventory just yet. However, with your confirmed commitment to the project, Mark will pull your state’s proceedings and provide an inventory of what they have. Once a complete proceedings set is in hand from you and the $1000 is received, digitizing and posting on-line into LUNA will take approximately 30 working days or less.

This massive undertaking is an incredible research resource for historians and researchers, be they Masonic, academic, or genealogical. If your Grand Lodge hasn't stepped up and contributed to this project, the scanning and annual hosting fees are more than fair. Indiana scanned our proceedings many years ago, and to have them in digitized form has been a godsend - I couldn't have written my book Heritage Endures without it. And each year our jurisprudence committee and others regularly dive into our online proceedings hunting minute and otherwise hard-to-find information. Plus, organizing these collections onto an easy to use and access database is not a simple project for your grand lodge to take on - the Memorial is doing all the hard work.

If you have any questions about participating the Masonic Digital Archives Project or about LUNA, contact Mark Tabbert, Director of Museum and Library Collections.

The Louis A. Watres Library is available to the public and researchers by appointment only. Appointments must be made a least 24 hours prior.