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


Monday, February 14, 2011

2011 Masonic Week Wrap Up

I am home after 10 days of traveling, first to the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, where I spoke at the Pennsylvania Grand Commandery's meeting on Saturday, followed by six days at Masonic Week in Alexandria, VA. Last year's event was bedeviled by an apocalyptic snowstorm, dumping 4 feet of global warming on the area around Washington DC and much of the East Coast.

Not this year. And there was much rejoicing.

Nathan Brindle and me. Loitering. Lowering property values.
Photo by Roger VanGorden.

The Indiana Masonic Mafia was represented at Masonic Week, with myself, Nathan Brindle, John Bridegroom, Jim Dillman, Roger VanGorden, Duane Vaught, Larry Gray and more. One of the longstanding presences at Masonic Week has been Tennessee's Sid Dorris. Brother Sid passed away in 2010, and he is missed by all who had the distinct pleasure of knowing him. And Pennsylvania's Tom Jackson was there, in spite of a recent bout with a serious infection that had kept him hospitalized in isolation for over a week. It was good to see him up and around.

It's the down time between events that makes Masonic Week so much fun for us true Masonic junkies. The Masonic Society hospitality suite was the place to be all week—at one point on Thursday, I saw authors Pete Normand, Brent Morris, Art DeHoyos, Mike Halleran, Rex Hutchens, Andrew Hammer, John Palmer (editor of the Knight Templar Magazine), along with another 25 brethren crammed into its cozy confines. I don't think we were able to close the doors of the suite before 3AM all week. Thanks to Jim Dillman for again being our unofficial bartender.

The Masonic Society banquet featured WBro. Bryan Toye of Toye, Kenning & Spencer in England as our speaker. His talk was fun, entertaining and informative, and a good time was had by all. Masonic Society Founding President Roger VanGorden was presented with two engraved Glencairn whisky glasses, and appropriate to his home state, a bottle of W. H. Harrison Governor's Reserve Batch No. 1 Indiana Bourbon. Yeah, Indiana bourbon. The first distilled here since Prohibition.

We had just around 70 in attendance at our dinner. For those keeping track over the years, this is similar in size to our previous banquets, and encouraging this year especially, as there were many, many people shy about purchasing a pocket full of expensive meal tickets after 2010's 4-foot snow drifts kept them away. Also, our banquet has always taken place at the same time as the Royal Society of Knights Occidental dinner, which features a belly dancer. Seriously. So if attendees go for that, they miss ours. We think we provide a good counterbalance to that event, and Billy Koon must agree, as he jokingly complains that we're robbing his potential "new members" every year.

John Palmer and Michael Halleran

The Masonic Society booth in the dealer's area was a popular place to hang out during the day, and we had a steady stream of new signups and renewals, even after Nathan's laptop computer was destroyed by an unforeseeable catastrophe involving a Pepsi.

There were 37 brethren initiated into the newly formed Grand Masters’ Prefecture of the Grand Priory of the Reformed and Rectified Rite of the US (CBCS). In spite of the controversy over the formation of the Priory under the auspices of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the US, this has the potential of being a huge and positive development in bringing the degrees of this very old system, which has been long-moribund in the US, to light in this country at last. The Martinism influenced degrees are almost unknown here, and the hope is that will now change. (Please note that, in the interest of full disclosure on my future discussions about this issue, I have joined this body.)

The Philalethes Society held their annual meeting Friday, and TMS Member Terry Tilton will be staying on another year as President. Brother Shawn Eyre's labors at remaking that society's magazine into a well-designed and respected journal are to be commended. Their breakfast (despite the barmy and uncivilized hour of 7AM!) was well attended, and the guest speaker was Brother Michael Halleran from Emporia. Kansas, who spoke about Masonry during the American Civil War. They are planning their 2010 Semi-Annual meeting in San Francisco as a joint meeting with the Phylaxis Society, a first for those two organizations.

As was previously posted, Brother Alton Roundtree was named the 100th Blue Friar.

S. Brent Morris was the speaker at the Scottish Rite Research Society luncheon Saturday, after getting snowed in to his home last year. He spoke about how to create and organize a well-written Masonic research paper.

In the manner of whispering good counsel in the ears of would-be writers everywhere: Strunk & White. And Chicago Manual of Style. 'Nuff said.

The Grand College of Rites named Martin P. Starr as Most Illustrious Grand Chancellor for 2011-12. The current issue of Collectanea that was handed out this year to members presents the ritual of the Craft degrees for the Rite of Strict Observance. The Rite of Strict Observance is the forerunner of today's CBCS, as well as the Swedish Rite. In addition to the RSO degrees, there are also two 18th century French high degrees in the book, with Rosicrucian similarities. They were translated from the original French into German, and then into English. According to Art DeHoyos, these particular rituals were saved from being confiscated by the Nazis in their campaign to destroy German and occupied Masonic lodges. If you are a member of the GCofR, and weren't in Alexandria, it will be mailed to you.

Janet Wintermute and friends assembled Friday for an annual unofficial luncheon of Masons from jurisdictions whose obligations keep us Masonically at arm's length. Janet is an Indianapolis girl transplanted to the East Coast, and a female Mason. It was good to spend some time with Joi Grieg and Jenna Line, as well. Joi is organizing several sessions for the Maryland Masonic Research Society this year. As one fellow said to me, "If you're troubled by irregularity with these folks, go see a doctor."

In the Allied Masonic Degrees, I did not attend those meetings, but I understand the convention contract with the hotel ends next year, and the sense of the membership was that the Washington DC area remains the popular location for Masonic Week, just not at the Hilton Mark Center. Too far from restaurants and services, and/or sightseeing attractions in the District have long been the complaints ever since the program moved out of the Hotel Washington, when that venerable hotel was sold and remodeled. I also heard a rumor that there is talk of the Scarlet Cord degrees being folded into the AMD umbrella of degrees. Again, I wasn't there and I may be incorrect, so perhaps someone else knows more.

Paul Newhall was honored with the Marvin E. Fowler Award from the Grand Council of AMD of the USA. Congratulations, Paul! If you don't know him, Brother Newhall does the tedious, mind-numbing heavy lifting of actually organizing Masonic week, dealing with the hotel, Masons, vendors, big egos, hurt feelings, and answering angry 4AM security phone calls about happy, lost revelers running through the halls. BTW, thanks to the wisenheimer who stuck the card on my door in the predawn hours Thursday, ordering a 6AM breakfast for three people, and marking everything on the menu. Great gag. Wish I'd thought of it. Luckily I don't go to bed before 5AM, you little miscreant.

John Bridegroom. Photo by Roger VanGorden.

Masonic Society Member John Bridegroom designed the new official logo for Masonic Week, that sold very well as a pin design during the week, as well as our 3rd annual Masonic Society commemorative pin given to attendees of our banquet Friday night. John continues to produce excellent artwork professionally, and the Masonic world is discovering his talents. Please remember, brethren, he does this for a living.

Congratulations are in order to other members of the Masonic Society: Founding Fellow Aaron Shoemaker for his appointment to the officer line of the Grand College of Rites, and to Mohamad Yatim upon his appointment as Grand Superintendent for New Jersey in the Allied Masonic Degrees. Founding Member Reed Fanning and Fellow Glen Cook are the Deacons of Grand Master's Council, AMD.

Saturday evening, several of us fled the hotel and enjoyed dinner in Alexandria, followed by a private tour at the George Washington Masonic Memorial, thanks to Bro. Mark Tabbert. In previous years, a group of us have had an unofficial "Friends of the Knights of the North" dinner at Old Town's Gatsby's Tavern, organized by WBro. Andrew Hammer, but between the expanding range of official meetings, degrees and activities, with the challenges of weekend crowds, it didn't happen this time. There's always next year.

It is my understanding that Masonic Week this year had the highest attendance ever in its history. Thanks to everyone who came. Come join the fun next year!

H/T to Jay Hochberg for some of the events I missed. And check out my friend Jim Dillman's blog for his own tales of the weekend.

Of course, the great thing about going to the Washington area is the other stuff you can do. Like staging this photo where I am most definitely not attempting to be Brad Meltzer.

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