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


Sunday, July 31, 2016

American University Lodge U.D. in Washington D.C.

Throughout both Britain and the U.S. today, more and more grand lodges are chartering or otherwise encouraging a growing number of lodges whose membership has an affinity with a nearby university. Some of these include Boston University Lodge and The Harvard Lodge in Massachusetts, The Patriot Lodge No. 1957 at George Mason University in Virginia, and The Colonial Lodge No. 1821 at George Washington University in Washington D.C. 

Meanwhile, the United Grand Lodge of England has grown its own "Universities Scheme" that has encouraged scores of lodges in college and university towns to, in their words, "establish and/or enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to enjoy Freemasonry." These types of lodges appeal to younger candidates, and also provide another way for alumni and staff (many of whom were involved with traditional Greek-letter fraternities during their school years) to continue to connect sharing their university experience as a common interest.

The newest such lodge in the U.S., American University Lodge U.D., was granted dispensation to work by Grand Master Kenneth D. Fuller of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia on January 25th, 2016, and on March 12th officers were installed, with WB Perry Blatstein as Master.  The new lodge is comprised of Masons who have an affiliation with or an affinity for American University in D.C. Members of the new lodge include students, alumni, faculty, staff, community supporters, and their relatives. There are currently 25 members, and the lodge already has two new Entered Apprentices.

L to R - Jesse Ouellette, Treasurer; Adam Tager, Senior Warden; Perry Blatstein, Master; 
Dustin Rawlins, Junior Warden; Peter Brusoe, Secretary

Following their officers' installation, MW Br. Leonard Proden, PGM, in his role as Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Washington, DC for the Scottish Rite (SJ), presented a very generous check to the lodge to support the Matthew C. Shlonsky Memorial Fund established at American University’s School of International service. The Worshipful Master and Senior Warden subsequently presented that check to AU's Dean of the School of International Service on April 15th.

Every member of American University Lodge U.D. pays $10 in addition to their annual dues, which will then be forwarded as a donation to the AU Library each year. 

The DC Scottish Rite also created a new scholarship in honor of Charles and Eleanor Iversen. (MW Iverson is a Past Grand Master of DC and an Emeritus member of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite). The new scholarship program provides students with an interest in international service and demonstrated financial need the opportunity to study at American University.

The partnership between Freemasons and AU is over 100 years old, with multiple Masonic cornerstones having been laid on campus. Most recently, a memorial stone was laid in full Masonic ceremony on March 1, 2011 at the new School of International Service building.

The Masons of American University Lodge are working closely with members of The Colonial Lodge #1821 at George Washington University to build off of their great success since being consecrated in 2009. Anyone interested in joining or supporting the Lodge should contact the DC Grand Lodge Offices at 202-686-1811 or by email at grandlodge@dcgrandlodge.org

Freemasons at GenCon in Indy This Week

If you are a Freemason and attending GenCon this week in Indianapolis, Saltire Games Family and Hobby Game Store, Norse Foundry and the Indianapolis Scottish Rite Game Guild are hosting a meetup at the Scottish Rite Cathedral on Wednesday from 3PM to 6PM.

The Cathedral is located at 650 N Meridian Street, between Meridian and Illinois, and just past North Street.

It's an opportunity for gamers who are also members of the world's oldest fraternity to get together and enjoy some fellowship and see one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Bring your favorite game to play, or just hang out and enjoy each other's company. Light snacks will be provided.

For more information contact Brother Luke Stark.


Here's a diverting non-Masonic post for a Sunday.
We climb the highest mountains, just to get a better view. 
We plumb the deepest oceans, cause we're daring through and through. 
We cross the scorching deserts, martini in our hands.
We ski the polar ice caps, in tuxedo looking grand.
We are reckless, brave, and loyal, and valiant to the end.
If you come in here a stranger, you will exit as a friend.
What if you found the perfect club, with a great clubhouse, a welcoming atmosphere, with a truly inviting and fun bunch of members, with something going on every night, that welcomed visitors from all over the world, that had a creed you could really get behind? 

Well, for a brief moment in time there was such a place, and the folks at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida invented it. It was the Adventurers Club.

The Club sat on Pleasure Island which was Michael Eisner's late 80s brainchild to keep visitors to the Disney resort from leaving their child friendly properties at night and spending their adult drinking dollars elsewhere in Orlando. So they built a live stage, a country western dance hall, a comedy club, bars, restaurants and other venues, and celebrated New Years Eve every single night at midnight with fireworks, confetti cannons, and searchlights.

One of those "other venues" was the Adventurers Club.

The multi- story Club was permanently stuck in New Years Eve of 1937, and it was unlike any other Disney attraction anywhere before or since. The Club was designed to recall a classic place like New York's famed 1905 Explorer's Club, home for “gentleman adventurers” like Charles Lindbergh, Edmund Hillary,  and Robert Peary (as well as drawing on some elements of Hollywood's legendary Magic Castle). With no fanfare, over the years it attracted tens if not hundreds of thousands of "new members" who wandered in not quite knowing what to expect. 

It was part static display, part animatronics, and part live theatre - that moved from eccentric room to eccentric room, with the audience as willing extras in the show. It featured a roving cast of characters who mingled in the crowd and traded wisecracks with them, while advancing the various story lines of the night. In the course of the evening, there were three "new member inductions" in the Main Salon which required everyone to learn the secret sign of recognition (no, I won't show you), the universal greeting ("Kungaloosh!"), and the club song, led by Colonel Critchlow Suchbench, Club Gleemeister (who could only be awakened by shouting "Free drink, Colonel!").

There was also the official Club motto: Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you, but always dress for the hunt!

Throughout the course of the evening, different scenes would play out in smaller rooms that had a sense of intimacy. If you went back multiple times, you discovered alcoves and bits going on that you hadn't known were there before. And while the roving characters were the same each night, the actors (who were all incredibly talented improv comics) would often switch roles on different evenings. While there was an overall script to follow for the whole six hour evening, it never turned out the same way twice.

The bulk of the show took place in the large library room, with a small stage at the front. According to Club lore, an air transport had been bungled and a massive organ crashed through the ceiling of the library, leaving debris everywhere, and they just left it there. Music for the night's various acts were provided by an invisible organist/pianist named Fingers, and the organ seemed to be playing itself. A highlight of the night was the competition for the Adventurer of the Year and its bilious award, the Balderdash Cup, which was always interestingly won by Emil Bleehall of Sandusky, Ohio, who had trained 500 one pound pigeons to tap dance on the building's steel roof to "Me And My Shadow." "But what could be more impressive than the sound of 500 one pound pigeons tap dancing on a steel roof?" Emil would ask the crowd. "ONE 500 POUND PIGEON TAP DANCING! Hit it Rhodan!" And you then, of course,  heard the crashing thuds of Rhodan on the roof.

Some of it was corny, some of it was bawdy, and a lot of it was downright hilarious. But most important, it carried the "new members" along for the ride in a deeply interactive way that few ever wanted to leave.  And after the New Years Party on the street ended, inside the Club there was the final "Hoopla" of the night (to which the proper rejoinder was also "Hoopla!")

Everything about the design of the place was just what you wanted a private club to be like. There were hundreds of photos, telegrams, messages from far flung places ostensibly sent by traveling members, and every single one had captions that could keep you occupied for hours alone just reading them all: 

"Hugh Speer Davey, 1890-1940 Essayist and Forester snatched form this mortal coil in a freak gardening accident." 
"Wadill Catchings 1890-1940 Climbing accident, Himalayas 'He Never Bounced Once'."

And naturally there was a wall of shame of members whose dues had lapsed.

Pleasure Island was meant to be primarily for adults, so there were three bars in the Club and plenty of drinks to go around (the bar stools in the Main Salon could be made to slowly descend to the floor by the bartender, you know, just because).

It would be remiss to describe this great place without giving kudos to the folks who dreamed this concept up. Roger Cox was a lead Imagineer for the project, and he was a member of another old, famed and storied New York Club, Squadron A. But he had spent time in the Explorer's Club, and he knew exactly what he was shooting for in Florida. By all accounts a very funny man with a wicked humor, he had been high school buddies with National Lampoon editor Doug Kenny (who went on to write Caddyshack and Animal House). Cox designed the concept, the backstory, the characters, many of the scenes, and the overall atmosphere. As recounted by those who worked with him, his own larger than life personality made the Club what it was. 

Meanwhile, Imagineer Joe Rohde was responsible for the visual look, feel and details of the Club. Much inspiration came from his own interests. For years, Rhode regularly held a Sunday afternoon themed soirée in his backyard in Pasadena called “The Last Days of the Raj,” as a celebration of all things in a pith helmet. According to his assistant Susan Cowan, she eventually bought some 1,500 props to pack into the Club's venue, and the detail paid off.

Craig McNair Wilson, and later Chris Oyen, were Orlando writers, directors, actors and comics who crafted the basic script over time that would ultimately "play" for almost 20 years with few changes. They had experience with up close, interactive, improv work and had provided street performers in Epcot for several years before the Adventurers Club was created. As Wilson remarked, "It was the place we always wanted to go, but it didn't exist."

Alas, such a place could not exist forever. The Pleasure Island project waxed and waned as changes happened over the years, and after the stockholder revolt led by Roy Disney against Eisner succeeded in removing him from the company, the place was doomed. A running gag of the nightly Club show was the live production of a radio program to raise money to pay the $2000 lease on the Club (made slightly problematic by the radiothon's phone number being too similar to a local Chinese restaurant). But on the night of September 27, 2008, it was announced that the radiothon had failed, the lease had been terminated, and that night would be its last. The fire marshal plaque restricted the building to just 504 persons, and saddened members had been lining up at 9AM for the 7PM opening for their final chance to raise a glass, offer the Colonel a gin and tonic, sing the club song, and bid each other a final "Kungaloosh." 

Letters were written by the thousands, petitions were created, but despite endless pleas from thousands of "members" all over the world to resurrect the Club in some way or other location, the props were largely sold or cannibalized for occasional bar interiors. A "Kungaloosh" dessert appeared at a Magic Kingdom eatery, but it was merely a sop to the saddened Adventurers. Many members of the long running cast have reunited for several occasions, conventions, and private parties, but unless it is specifically a Disney-sponsored event, they are forbidden to use the character names and costumes that became such a part of themselves for two decades. Such is the way of corporate licensing and intellectual property law.

The Club building survived for almost another 7 years, empty, as plans came and went for the old Pleasure Island property, but it fell to the wrecking ball last year. 

The first time Alice and I discovered this incredible gem back in 1990, we stayed there all night, and then came back for a second evening. We joined as Presidential level members and proudly sported our member pins and canteens. And on the second evening, as the fireworks ended for another nightly New Years Eve and we walked down the sidewalk, we looked up at the clear Florida sky and were just in time to watch a total lunar eclipse unfold. We stood there like a couple of dopey kids watching the whole event, and as often happens, we drew a little crowd of others around us who looked up too, just wondering what the hell we were gawping at. And as the Moon started to reappear out of the earth's shadow, Alice asked the perfect question of the perfect evening.

"Now how the hell did Disney pull that off?"

Thursday, July 28, 2016

UGLE Masonic Festival Jewels

I met friend and Brother Chris Quigley at a Cryptic Council annual session in Indianapolis perhaps ten years ago. He was in town from his home in England, and he was a regular attendee every year at this event. He had become good friends with many Indiana Masons from continuing to attend this gathering almost every year, and they so enjoyed his company and participation and enthusiasm that in 2008 he was made an Honorary Past Most Illustrious Grand Master in the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons in Indiana

Over the years he has posted comments on this blog, and Facebook has allowed us to chat a little easier than just meeting every couple of years or so. A few weeks ago, he asked what year I had been born in, because he was preparing to send me a gift.

Well, it arrived this week. Chris tracked down a set of three commemorative Stewards Jewels from the 1958 English Masonic Festival.

From the enclosed note:
Around the mid 1800s, the United Grand Lodge of England decided to instigate Festival Stewards Jewels for the three main Masonic Charities.
From then until the late 1930s, they made them out of solid silver. These have now become very expensive and rare. The jewels are for the main charities: Royal Masonic Institution for Boys, Royal Masonic Institution for Girls, and the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution.
Worshipful Brother Christopher Hodapp was born in 1958 and these are the three Festival Stewards Jewels for that year. These jewels are now becoming very rare and a special collector's item.
In subsequent years, two charities have been added to the list: the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund. In addition, the two former charities for the Royal Institutions for Boys and Girls have been combined into one. 

The jewel for 2018 is on the right, and is given to any Brother who donates £300 to the Charities over a five year period. Doing so makes him a Steward of the Festival. Hence, the creation of the jewels to commemorate the occasion. (It looks like there is no Festival for 2017, probably because of the 300th anniversary.)  

A total of 44 out of the 47 provinces of the UGLE take part in hosting the Festivals. It appears that in earlier days, three Provinces would combine their efforts for a Festival and each of the three would choose one of the three main charities to support. Today, each Festival is the climax of five years of fundraising by a single Province, which is celebrated with a Festival Banquet, attended by those who have qualified as Stewards, together with their ladies. 

Further explanation is available on the 2018 Festival website
Each Province is asked once in every 11 years to collect funds for one of the main Masonic charities. The Charity Festival System in English Freemasonry has been developed to rotate specific fund raising evenly around the Provinces. There are 44 Provinces in the system. The intention is for each Province to have supported all of the four charities over a period of 44 years. 
A Charity Festival is designed to last for 5 years, although we do know in advance of the launch year when our Festival will end and which charity we will be supporting.
United Grand Lodge of England has four separately designated charities. They are The Grand Charity, The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, The Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and the final charity, which you will become very familiar with is The Masonic Samaritan Fund or the MSF. The Festival charities derive no income from outside funding such as the National Lottery. The majority of money spent comes from Masonic donations and in the case of the MSF is available primarily to Freemasons and their dependants.
It follows that, normally, each Province hosts a Festival once every 11 years with each Province supporting each of the four Charities once over a 44 year period.
The last festival held in this Province (Yorkshire, North and East Ridings)  finished in 2006 and the efforts made by all our Masonic brethren produced £2.2 million  for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Break.com and Freemasonry. Yes, No Kidding

The quirky and slightly off-kilter website Break.com is not generally known for its informative, rational side. The front page frequently lists topics like "2 Girls In A Trunk Wrestle In Their Underwear," viral videos, pranks and fails, and a section dedicated to the just plain weird. In short, it's a classic internet site for the bored, loaded with click-bait and time wasting silliness.

So who woulda thought that Break.com would create an excellent, concise, rational, fact-filled and almost error free page called "20 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Freemasonry"

If you've got a son or a nephew or a neighbor with a short attention span (who's just not going to read a For Dummies book) who you think might have an interest in the fraternity, steer them to this article. Would that the average grand lodge website was written this well.

Props to Urbanski.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Houston Scottish Rite's "Holodeck"

Back when I first joined the fraternity in 1998, a group of younger Indiana Masons excitedly batted around the notion of creating a virtual reality version of Solomon's Temple and other scenarios, especially to make the conferral of degrees more immersive. At the time, VR technology was in its infancy, and pretty much beyond the reach of even the most dedicated computer hobbyists. But that is changing.

Take a look at what the Scottish Rite Valley of Houston  has been up to. They moved to a new location in 2013, and they rethought the traditional methodology of conferring the Scottish Rite degrees on a stage. Instead of building a new auditorium, they created an immersive space using screens wrapping around three quarters of the room and fed by projectors that can show static scenes or moving images. For the moment, it appears to be used to project elaborate backdrops for live actors. But that could easily change in the future as the technology and the programming are developed.

The AASR-NMJ has been showing a few degrees projected on video for several years now - mostly to aid Valleys that can't assemble qualified casts anymore - but most of them have not been very well received by candidates or seasoned veterans (although some have clearly been better than others, and the desire to help struggling Valleys is certainly commendable). The main criticism has centered around a basic "I didn't join to watch TV" theme. But what Houston is doing is quite different. It will be fascinating to see the direction this heads, as well as the reception among members.

Towards the end of the 19th century in the U.S., the Scottish Rite became the fastest growing fraternal organization in the country. It was due in part to its use of what were at that time state of the art theatrical scenery, lighting, music, sound and special effects. That's how so many not so large cities across the country got massive Scottish Rite auditoriums in them. They were presenting frontier theatre that was as well produced as anything you could see in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. In many ways, what both Houston and the NMJ are doing is just an extension of that philosophy. 

Anti-Masons Created First Third Party and the Modern Nominating Convention

William Wirt, first Anti-Masonic Presidential Candidate

Yesterday's online edition of The Daily Beast featured a very decent article by Gil Troy on the first political convention in the United States, which was held by the new Anti-Masonic Party in Baltimore in 1831 to choose a presidential candidate. Interestingly, the party nominated William Wirt, a former Mason who was at odds with the philosophy of his own party and had no desire to become president. He famously remarked, "I have not the nerve to bear the vulgar abuse which is the politician’s standing dish.” In contrast to his own nominating party, he “continually regarded Masonry as nothing more than a social and charitable club.”  

Nevertheless, the other two political parties of the time responded by organizing these new style of conventions of their own. The National Republicans went on to nominate Henry Clay, and the recently formed Democratic Party (which had developed out of Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans) nominated Freemason Andrew Jackson. Interestingly, Jackson would quickly purge the party of his detractors, and Clay would go on to eventually form the Whig party a few years later, made up in large part of anti-Jacksonian Democrats.

Jackson and Clay were both Past Grand Masters (Clay of Kentucky,  Jackson of Tennessee), and Wirt had been a Mason as well. So, the Anti-Masonic crowd had a lot of fodder for their campaign. Nevertheless, the Anti-Masons received just 7% of the national vote in 1832, and Wirt ultimately carried only tiny Vermont in the election. Andrew Jackson would prevail and became the first President who had also served as a Grand Master.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Saudi Clerics Issue Fatwa Against "Masonic" Pokemon GO

Today's online edition of The National, an English language publication from the United Arab Emirates, features a report that a group of top Saudi clerics have issued a fatwa (or rather, extended an existing one from 2001) against Muslims playing the inexplicably popular time wasting game, Pokemon GO

Because, you see,  among other things, it's "Masonic."

First issued in 2001 when Pokemon was played with cards, the decree says the game violates Islamic prohibitions against gambling, uses devious Masonic-like symbols and promotes “forbidden images". The fatwa has reappeared in a ticker on the home page of the kingdom’s portal for official religious decrees.
Sheikh Saleh Al Fozan, a member of the kingdom’s ultraconservative council of senior clerics, said the current version of the game is the same as the old one.
The edict notes that a six-pointed star in the game, for example, is associated with the state of Israel and that certain triangular symbols hold important meanings for the Freemasonry. Crosses in the game are a symbol of Christianity, while other symbols are associated with polytheism, says the edict.
The game is popular in the Middle East and many gamers have downloaded the app though it’s not been officially released regionally.
A senior official at Egypt’s Al Azhar, the pre-eminent seat of Sunni scholarship in the Muslim world, has also spoken out against the game. Al Azhar undersecretary Abbas Shumman said users can lose their sense of reality and endanger themselves while playing, adding that a “manic attachment to technology" can also make people forgetful toward worship and prayer.
Other articles from Middle Eastern countries have condemned the game's "Pokestops" that appear in mosques. There's been no shortage of inappropriate locations that maniacal players have been led to, including the interior of the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. 

Freemasons all over the world have been reportedly discovering "Pokestops" in their lodge buildings, and many have expressed unbridled excitement that swarms of complete strangers have suddenly shown up on their doorsteps without knowing (or caring) exactly where they were. I suspect some grand lodge committee somewhere is now industriously working up an official protocol for answering questions about the fraternity and seeing to it that petitions are thrust into oblivious players' hands before they can rush out the door in search of their next Pokestop (or get promptly plowed into by an unobservant Uber driver).

"Why don't we ever see your wife?"

Posted by a Brother on another forum. He and his wife are longtime veterans of local, state, and national Masonic meetings:

"I was recently asked by a Brother Mason, "We know you are married, why don't we ever see your wife?"

Monday, July 18, 2016

Illus. David Bedwell 33° Passes Away

Word has come that Illus. Brother David Bedwell, 33°, Scottish Rite Deputy for Michigan and Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Michigan 2002-2003, passed to Celestial Lodge Above on Sunday.

Please keep his wife Pauline and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

His column is broken and his brethren mourn.


I have received the following funeral service information.

Visitation Thursday 2-8 p.m. at Querfeld Funeral Home, 1200 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, MI 48124. Masonic Memorial Service Thursday 7 p.m. under the Auspices of Dearborn Lodge #172 F&AM.

Funeral service Friday 10 a.m. Querfeld Funeral Home. www.querfeldfuneralhome.com

Titles And Their Seekers

Many years ago, my wife and I were in Paris, and we stopped in one afternoon at the grand lodge building of the Grande Loge Nationale Française. We had the pleasure of being shown around the building by a lodge secretary, and my wife was asking him questions about the French phraseology of Masonic titles. At one point, he made an observation that some men who join the fraternity feel unimportant in their daily lives. 
"He might be a shoemaker, or a janitor, or a taxi driver, or a clerk in a large corporation whose name his boss doesn't know. And he might feel like an absolute failure in his personal life. But when he becomes a Mason, everything changes. In here, he can be a grand this, a venerable that, a most exalted or most sovereign or most worshipful something or other. To some of these men, there will never be anything more important for as long as they live to have such a title, and to collect as many of them as they can. And that is our greatest shame in Freemasonry, that so many Masons have so long ago forgotten that we are all supposed to be equal within the walls of our lodges."
I'm not usually in the habit of sending readers to The Past Bastard Masonic satire site, but there's no two ways about it: Today's entry is not satirical. It's not even an exaggeration. It's dead on.

Read: Grand Master Finds New Masons Are Disillusioned With Titles

Freemasons Provide Home For Catholic Church

Most Freemasons are aware that the Roman Catholic Church does not approve of their parishioners becoming members of the fraternity. It has long been the position of Masons, on the other hand, that we do not restrict Catholics.

In a curious story today, a little group of independent Catholics outside of Boston were illegally occupying a closed Roman Catholic church building for over a decade, much to the annoyance of the Archdiocese of Boston. Their movement began simply as an attempt by the former parishioners to save their church, but because of the conflict, they were forced to conduct their own Sunday services themselves. Both out of devotion and their tenuous position as squatters, their members kept up a 24 hour vigil for almost twelve long years, with some members sleeping in the building.

After more than a decade of legal wrangling, the Friends of St. Francis X. Cabrini were finally given the boot by the courts, and needed to find a new home for their services. 

In a curious chapter of the Freemason/Catholic debate of almost three centuries, enter the Brethren of Satuit Lodge in Scituate, Massachusetts.

From an article today on Boston.com by Allison Pohle:
Now, Tutunjian and a few dozen other parishioners meet at the Satuit Lodge of Freemasons, a large yellow building with green shutters and white pillars that’s less than two miles from the church they occupied for more than 11 years. Although 3,000 people are registered parishioners, Jon Rogers, a spokesman for the Friends, said anywhere from 40 to 100 people attend mass each week.
Robert Smith, the lodge’s master, said they’ve never had a church group request to meet inside the temple. Then again, he’d never heard of anyone quite like the parishioners of St. Frances.
“I’d followed their story and they had such dedication,” Smith said. “I only knew that an organization of good people within our community needed help, and that was enough for us. We wanted to make it work for them.”
“We told them we wouldn’t go into vigil here,” Maryellen Rogers, another spokeswoman for the Friends and Jon’s wife, said.
“To make them feel at home, we said we would tell them they needed to leave,” Smith said. Rogers laughed.
The first mass was held June 5, exactly one week after the final service at St. Frances. The Friends made sure they wouldn’t miss a Sunday.
“When we say something, we mean it,” Jon said. “We said we’d pursue every legal avenue. We did. We said we’d stay together. We have. And we’re only growing.”
The parishioners have advertised their new congregation as a church, which they call ‘The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church,’ for those with no home. They want to give a space to those who have been injured in some previous church relationship, but also to those who want to experience Catholicism.  Jon said they’ve already had a handful of new parishioners.While the old congregation was led exclusively by parishioners, the new service is led by the Rev. Terry McDonough, who is married and has long been at odds with the Catholic church.
Photo by Jean Nagy/Boston.com 
"I slept over the church every Tuesday night for nearly 12 years, but I never took on the role of a priest so I didn’t ruin the sanctity of the vigil,” he said. “But now I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
To preserve the memory of the vigil, the congregation will hold one parishioner-led service each month. But on a recent Sunday morning in early July, they were following a more traditional service — in their own style.
Longtime St. Frances parishioner Susan Lynch strummed an acoustic guitar and sang a song called “All are welcome in this place.” About 40 people filed into the lodge’s large meeting room and took seats on large plush benches. There were no kneelers. An altar had been set up on a folding table in the middle of the room with a Bible and a chalice. Instead of facing forward, the parishioners faced one another.
McDonough led them through the mass then joined them downstairs for coffee and muffins. Now that the vigil has ended, the coffee hour has become the main time for socializing. Among those chatting was newcomer Jane Trettis.“I’ve never been to a Catholic Mass in a Masonic Temple before,” Trettis said. “These people worked so hard and it’s good they have a space.”
To read the whole article, CLICK HERE.

Cathedral Grafitti, Masons' Marks Illuminate Lives During Middle Ages

New studies of graffiti, mason's marks, and other inscriptions carved into the stones of medieval churches and cathedrals are shining new light on the lives and beliefs - as well as the talents - of the thousands of nameless workmen who constructed these magnificent edifices across Europe.

From an article by Matthew Champion on the Aeon website. He is the author of Medieval Graffiti: The Lost Voices of England’s Churches:
All of us can imagine the medieval world. Our imagination was created by our upbringing, the books we read, and the films we saw. Imagining the Middle Ages is an act that usually starts in childhood, and changes slowly as we grow older. From the brightly coloured pages of a child’s history book to the visceral panoramas of the latest season of Game of Thrones, how we see the Middle Ages changes. In most cases, however, the fundamental perspective remains the same: it’s an elite view of the medieval past, a Middle Ages composed of princes and kings, of knights and fair damsels in distress. It is a vision of the past that includes the splendour of great cathedrals and the brooding darkness of mighty castles. A past of banquets and battles. But it has little bearing upon reality.
The problem with our view of the Middle Ages is that it excludes the vast majority of people who lived in it, so it’s a highly partial and misleading picture of that world. Just like today, most medieval people did not belong to top 5 per cent of society, they weren’t kings, princes, knights, or damsels. Most men, women and children were commoners. It is no coincidence that this other, everyday, 95 per cent of the population was the one who did most of the work.
Putting aside farming, food processing and survival, it was these workers who were responsible for actually building most of what we think of when the Middle Ages come to mind. These are the people who built the magnificent medieval cathedrals, the craftsmen who constructed the dour and monumental castles. The workers whose blood and sweat bonds together the stones of every medieval church. They are the men whose deft fingers filled window spaces with blindingly bright stained glass. These are the people who built the Middle Ages. Yet we really know very little about them.
The past five or six years have seen a massive rise in one particular area of medieval studies – an area that has the potential to give back a voice to the silent majority of the medieval population. Specialists have been studying medieval church graffiti for many decades. But new digital imaging technologies, and the recent establishment of numerous volunteer recording programmes, have transformed its scope and implications. The study of early graffiti has become commonplace. The first large-scale survey began in the English county of Norfolk a little over six years ago. Norfolk is home to more than 650 surviving medieval churches – more than in any other area in England. The results of that survey have been astonishing.
To date, the Norfolk survey has recorded more than 26,000 previously unknown medieval inscriptions. More recent surveys begun in other English counties are revealing similar levels of medieval graffiti. A survey of Norwich Cathedral recently found that the building contained more than 5,000 individual inscriptions. Some of them dated as far back as the 12th century. It has also become clear that the graffiti inscriptions are unlike just about any other kind of source in medieval studies. They are informal. Many of the inscriptions are images rather than text. This means that they could have been made by just about anyone in the Middle Ages, not just princes and priests. In fact, the evidence on the walls suggests that they were made by everyone: from the lord of the manor and parish priest, all the way down to the lowliest of commoners. These newly discovered inscriptions are giving back individual voices to generations of long-dead medieval churchgoers. The inscriptions number in the hundreds of thousands, and they are opening an entire new world of research.
Medieval masons, the people who actually built these monuments, left the earliest markings to be found on any medieval church or cathedral. The traditional story is that each individual mason would have his own personal mark, which he’d inscribe wherever he’d worked. These angular marks, known today as ‘mason’s marks’, acted as a form of quality control. They also allowed the ‘master mason’, who doubled as architect and paymaster, to calculate how much each of his workmen was due to be paid. Masons today continue this old practice of marking their work, but their marks are more discreet, hidden away between stones and in darkened corners. Occasionally, the medieval masons left something more.
Their pragmatic approach to the construction of these stone monuments meant that the walls themselves sometimes served as drawing boards. In a few cases, such as at Binham Priory in Norfolk or Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, intricate working drawings can be found etched into the stones. The designs at Binham all appear to relate to the building of the priory’s great west front in the 1240s. It is one of the earliest marvels of gothic window design to be built in England. The nameless master-mason who undertook the work was apparently unfamiliar and uncomfortable with this innovative style. Step by step, he worked out the specifics of the design on the walls of the half-finished priory church. Sadly, the great west window, which acted as a centrepiece to the design, structurally failed in the late 18th century. It then had to be bricked up – and remains so today. From the mason’s inscriptions, however, we have a clear indication of how this groundbreaking design would have looked.
To read the rest of the article, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Virginia State Plaque Commemorating PHA Formation Unveiled

A new state historical marker was unveiled on Saturday in Petersburg, Virginia commemorating the founding of Prince Hall Masonry in that state in 1845.

From the Progress-Index.com website by Scott P. Yates:
The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia F&AM, Inc., unveiled an historical marker memorializing the formation of the organization over 140 years ago during a ceremony at First Baptist Church in Petersburg on Saturday.
Under the guidance of master of ceremonies Julius D. Spain, the Right Worshipful Grand Director of Arlington Lodge No. 58, representatives of lodges from around Virginia gathered in the very church in which the lodge was founded in December 1875.
Jim Hare, the director of Division of Survey & Register at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, also spoke about the importance of recognizing the contributions Prince Hall Masons have made to the state of Virginia. 
“It’s always good when an organization can show where it began,” said Robert E. Harris Sr., senior past grand master. “And this organization has a long, rich history.” 
In March 1775, a Masonic Lodge attached to the British army initiated Prince Hall and 14 other free black men as Freemasons in Massachusetts. Meeting provisionally as African Lodge No. 1, the black Freemasons gained full privileges in 1787, when they organized African Lodge No. 459 under a charter from the Grand Lodge of England. 
The first affiliated lodge in Virginia was established in Alexandria in February 1845. After the Civil War, two rival Grand Lodges operated in Virginia. On December 15, 1875, these two Grand Lodges met at First Baptist Church on Harrison Street in Petersburg. They formed the present-day Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia, Free and Accepted Masons, Inc.
City representatives David R. Coleman and Councilman Darrin Hill made remarks on the significance of the Prince Hall Masons’ role in fostering the wellbeing of the citizens of Petersburg. 
(Photos by Scott Yates and Brother Charles M. Mosely) 

South Carolina Lodge Damaged After Shootout

Hillcrest Masonic Lodge No. 397 in Dalzell, South Carolina has been damaged in the aftermath of a police shootout and car chase early this morning. 

From an article today on TheState.com website by reporter Noah Feit:
A man has been hospitalized after traded gunfire with security at a Sumter County night club and crashing his car early Sunday morning, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.
A 41-year-old man, who won’t be identified until he’s released from an area hospital and charges are filed, is listed in stable condition after undergoing surgery, according to public information officer Ken Bell, who said the man was discovered in his vehicle – 2012 Chevrolet Impala – after crashing into the Hillcrest Masonic Lodge, located at the intersection of Stamey Livestock and Frierson roads.
Sumter County Sheriff’s deputies originally responded to a call of a reported shooting at Three Dollar Lounge, a club on the 3800 block of Broad Street, said Bell, adding the incident began when the man was arguing with a woman in the parking and she drove away.
The man tried to re-enter the club and was turned away by two security guards, when he allegedly went to his vehicle and retrieved a weapon, according to Bell, also saying the man put the weapon to the chest of one of the security guards and pulled the trigger.
The security guard’s body armor stopped the bullet and he was uninjured, said Bell, but this prompted the security guards to return fire as the man fled to his vehicle, said Bell, adding the man continued to fire at the security guards. The man was shot at least three times but managed to drive away, said Bell, adding several other vehicles in the parking lot were hit by gunfire.
This is when the man allegedly passed another car at a high rate of speed before those witnesses discovered the man’s Impala crashed into the Hillcrest Masonic Lodge, where Bell said he was extracted from his vehicle and taken to an area hospital.
Hillcrest lodge No. 397 is located next to Shaw Air Force Base in Dalzell, SC, which is home to the 363 Fighter Wing and 9th Air Force Headquarters.  It was chartered in 1961 by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina. No estimate has been made yet as to the damages to the building.

Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/news/local/crime/article90186237.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Congress To Consider Bill To Protect Authors' Works

The Authors Guild is a membership organization dedicated to supporting its largely U.S. members on the business side of the publishing industry. Their mission is to "advocate for the rights of writers by supporting free speech, fair contracts, and copyright," and their members are novelists, historians, journalists, poets, literary agents, and more. They provide legal advice on publishing contracts and copyright lawsuits, liability insurance for authors, help to get books that have gone out of print back into the marketplace, and even host websites for authors who don't have much computer expertise.

One of their longstanding goals has been to pass federal legislation that will aid authors in the fight against copyright infringement, which has taken on nightmarish proportions in the digital age. After a decade of work, that possibility has finally been nudged a little closer this week. 

From the Author's Guild website today:

Today Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill, entitled the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016, H.R. 5757, that would establish an accessible and efficient forum to resolve “small” copyright claims. The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), would allow individual authors to protect their intellectual property rights without having to file expensive and complicated federal lawsuits.
The Authors Guild has been actively advocating for a small copyright claims court since 2006, when we testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the need for such a venue, citing an Authors Guild survey that revealed most authors do not have effective access to the courts for many of their copyright infringement claims. As the threats to authors’ copyright incentives have increased since that time—due to the growth of digital book piracy and courts’ reluctance to enforce digital rights—so have our efforts to establish a small claims court. The Guild has been working with Congressman Jeffries’ office on this proposal for several months. It deals with many of the difficult issues involved with creating an effective small copyright claims tribunal.
If you're an author or publisher of original works, I urge you to contact your Congress critter and ask their support of H.R. 5757. It's taken three years just to craft it and get it introduced in the House. The Author's Guild has spent a lot of time and resources to get things to this point, and if enacted, it will provide a much less expensive alternative for authors who seek compensation from piracy of their work. 
In essence, the law would create a small claims court for authors and publishers.

The internet, self-publishing, cheap print on demand technology, and just plain the ability to easily cut and paste material from other sources have all made this kind of revision to U.S. copyright provisions essential. Not every author has the resources of Random House or Hachette behind them, and the Big 6 publishing companies can often afford to just absorb losses when their product is stolen, and to pursue only the most egregious cases. But struggling authors can't. 

Masonic authors are particularly vulnerable to theft, because ours is a very tiny publishing niche. Massive publishing houses have little or no interest in our works at all (unless they can tie it in to a Dan Brown title or some worldwide event), and self-publishing is often the only opportunity Masonic authors have to get their years', and sometimes decades, of work into print. Publishers that specialize in Masonic titles will tell you that, while a major media giant won't even consider a title if it can't be expected to sell at least 20,000 copies or more, folks like Cornerstone, Lewis, Macoy and others often count 1,500 copies as a runaway Masonic blockbuster.

While the proposed law can't stop our books from being illegally digitized and posted on bit torrent sites hosted in Russia, it can at least offer you and me a way to more affordably go after the domestic thieves. That's a good start.
To find your U.S. Representative and their contact information, CLICK HERE.
(As a side note, brother Freemason Theodore Roosevelt signed the Copyright Act of 1909 into law on his last day as President. He went on to become the first vice-president of the Authors Guild.)