I came across that damned word last night again in a conversation: McMason. It's a derogatory term used in the fraternity by some to disparage their own Brother Masons who received the degrees of Masonry at a One Day Class event. Variations include One Day Wonders, Blue Lightnings, Fast Food Masons, Sidewalk To Shriners, and other not especially flattering labels. Curious: I never knew we have two classifications of Master Masons in this fraternity. I thought we were just one sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, who could best work or best agree.
My longtime friend and Brother Nathan Brindle reminded me this morning that we were both passed to Fellow Crafts and raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason 18 years ago today, just one day short of the portentous Ides of March. It was a Saturday all day event, and we were both raised on the floor of Calvin W. Prather Lodge 717, which was then on the north side of Indianapolis. It was their second of three locations throughout their history, and they have since relocated again to the east side in Lawrence. That prior building is gone now - razed and flattened several years ago - so I have nowhere to go and park and tearfully relive the day's events, wrapped in melancholia. (Interestingly, their first home still stands down on College Avenue, long ago sold and converted to a church, but at one time with the largest lodge room in the state.)
It was a curious day. Indiana had only recently started having One Day events, and our Mother Lodge, Broad Ripple Lodge 643 was in dire straits at the time. I joined Broad Ripple via an Internet contact I made to the Grand Lodge, and Roger VanGorden sent me their direction for reasons known only to him. When I petitioned, I mentioned it to Nathan, and he told me that he too had thought of joining the fraternity for many years himself, but never followed through. So, he petitioned about the same time. I've known Nathan only a few months less than Alice - about 40 years now - so we were both happy to share the experience.
I was initiated in November, but Broad Ripple was in sad shape. They would go on to lose five members from the officer's line in the next 12 months, and came close to deciding to just give up and turn in their charter. At my first meeting, David Bosworth, a Prather lodge Past Master, showed up and announced he had been appointed as a Grand Lodge Representative and was sent to find out just what the hell was going on at Broad Ripple. Things were not good at the new lodge I had just joined unwittingly. Indeed, the lodge was unable to confer the remaining degrees on Nathan and me for three months until they finally gave up and sent us to the One Day Class at Prather, simply out of despair.
But God love the dedication of true Brothers. WB Don Seeley was about the only serious ritualist we had at Ripple, but he was mighty good at it. He was the only member we had who knew the Master's part for all three degrees flawlessly, and delivered them all with passion. He knew Prather didn't have a strong lineup either, and they were holding the Class that Saturday because they were the Mother Lodge of then Grand Master Robert Hancock. He wanted to show the state how these could work. So, Prather had three men who needed all three degrees, and we had Nathan and myself. WB Seeley called them and said he'd cheerfully volunteer do the Master's part for the FC and MM for all five of us candidates. But his condition was that Nathan and I would have our second section of the MM conferred individually, all the way through. Then, he'd do it all over again for the other three men together however GM Hancock stipulated. It would make for a crushingly long, and for many, tedious day. But Nathan and I got to have our individual MM degree experience just as it was meant to be. Which makes us both sort of hybrids - we are sort of One Day Class Masons, but we aren't. There aren't any photographs of that day - I think everybody was just sick and tired of the place when the day's festivities finally ended that they fled out of sheer terror that somebody might decide to fire up the Royal Arch degrees at the last minute.
Nathan and I looked almost identical when we joined, although he was already starting to lose hair up top. He's also gone gray since then, taking on sort of a George R. R. Martin look, while I have retained my boyish floppy mane for almost five decades (apart from that whole radiation and chemo thing). It took a while before local Masons could remember which one of us was Hodapp and which was Brindle. The ladies in the Grand Lodge office eventually gave up in despair and finally just settled on referring to both of us as simply 'Brindap.' That seemed to solve it for most folks.
The lodge elected me in desperation as Senior Warden nine months later and Nathan as Junior Warden. And a month past my second anniversary as an EA, they made me the Worshipful Master of Broad Ripple 643. We didn't close or turn in the charter, and Nathan followed me to the East the next year. With dedication and hard work and stubborn bullheadedness, our Mother Lodge is now one of the most vibrant ones in Indiana, and I'll put our little lodge up against any in the country for excellence in every aspect.
Nathan has gone on to serve as Secretary or Recorder of at least six Masonic organizations that I can think of, including the only Secretary that the Masonic Society has ever had, with a couple of thousand members to keep track of. We both served on the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Board for our downtown landmark building, and have served on numerous Grand Lodge committees. We both were part of the Knights of the North who wrote Laudable Pursuit anonymously in 2004, which has been influential to lodges and grand lodges all over the country (and whose members were principally the founders of the Masonic Society). Ideas in that long paper also helped to impact what has become the Traditional Observance/European Concept/Observant lodge model in the U.S. We were both founding members of Lodge Vitruvian 767, itself a European Concept lodge. Nathan went on to serve as a top officer in the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis, and is now a Trustee for that magnificent Cathedral. And he's done countless other things locally, statewide, and nationally to help and influence the fraternity. Meanwhile, most of you know some of what I went on to do.
Just a couple of us poor ol' dumb McMasons.
My whole point in relating this long soggy tale of which every one of you has your own variation is that Freemasonry is not about being a memorization club. It's not about the minutiae of how degrees are conferred - it's different all over the world, and just because it's one way where you come from, it's not that way everywhere. Yet, all those men are your Brethren, too. Just as us McMasons in lodge with you. Every single Mason has the power to make a difference in his lodge, his district, his state, his country, and the world, whether he received his degrees a month apart, a year apart, or an hour apart. It's what he does when he walks out of that Temple building that makes the difference. But it's also how you treat him when he sits in lodge with you. An ashlar doesn't polish itself. And the most certain way to make absolutely sure you never see that Brother a second time is to tell him he's some sort of second class Mason simply because his lodge chose to send him to a One Day Class for some reason you may not be privy to.
It's been studied countless times over the last 40 years by grand lodges. The participation rate of traditionally raised Masons over One Day ones is identical. How they got there makes absolutely zero difference. How they are treated by their lodges and their brethren, along with their own personal desire and dedication, is what matters.
Michael Shirley over on the Midnight Mason blogsite recently talked about this concerning those who regard One Day Class participants as somehow deficient, and observed, "They are setting themselves up as arbiters of what a Mason is, as if they themselves are on some Masonic pedestal to which these 'inadequate' Brethren must aspire." If you seriously believe a ODC Mason is somehow deficient of...something...then get off your own ass and teach him, instead of sneering at him for something that was almost assuredly not even his decision in the first place.
Otherwise, the next time you feel some adolescent urge to blurt out 'McMason!' to a man who's your Brother, put a sock in it and maybe think about what you've accomplished for the good of the Order lately, instead. And if he's shoveling harder and faster than you, get to work alongside him. Or at least thank him. At least he's building something. What are you doing?