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


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Grand Lodge of Indiana 2017

The afternoon of Wednesday, May 17th slipped quietly into history with the official changing of the guard that ends the 2017 annual communications of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM. Congratulations to Past Grand Master Carey B. Carter for his successful year just passed. Thank you for all you have done for the Craft in Indiana.

Indiana is often considered to be unapologetically a state of remarkable unremarkability. Our state is the quintessential "average" place in America. The famous Muncie "Middletown" sociological studies were done here in the 1920s-30s. Our capitol city Indianapolis is not large or small, but just large enough to be the 14th biggest in America. While we have provided the U.S. with just one president in our 200 years of statehood, we've provided eight men nominated to be vice-president of the United States, and fully six of them have been elected to that office—more than anywhere else, apart from New York. In fact, former Indiana Governor and Freemason Thomas R. Marshall, who served as V.P. under Woodrow Wilson, once remarked that because of our noteworthy status, Indiana is "home to more second-class men than any other state." 

And no, no one here really and definitively can tell anyone else just what the hell a Hoosier is. We just know that's what we are.

Masonically, we rarely appear at the top of the list in leading national trends or movements. When big ideas start somewhere, Indiana's Freemasons aren't usually at the front of the line, but we are fairly quick to recognize a good one when we see it, and we don't generally kick too hard to remain dead last in very much. We have our victories and our scandals, our visionaries and our scoundrels, but we're usually not the top of the class. We have always been, however, a great place for national conventions and a safe haven for large gatherings of Masons and our related appendant bodies in which good and even great things are hatched. Likewise, in very recent years, Indiana's Masons have led numerous national Masonic organizations: Michael Brumback for president of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial; Larry Gray, longtime General Grand Secretary at General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons; our late Grand Secretary Max Carpenter as the head of the Conference of Grand Secretaries; Duane Vaught, GM of the Grand Encampment of the U.S.; John McNaughton, SGC of the Scottish Rite NMJ; Roger Van Gorden and Jim Dillman, Past Presidents of The Masonic Society, with Nathan Brindle as its Secretary. There are and have been countless others, and loads of individual Indiana Masons have led a lot of Masonic charges up Freemasonry's own San Juan Hills.

So while our annual communications are rarely headline making, this one in 2017 is special. Worldwide, Freemasons are celebrating the fraternity's 300th anniversary of its traditional founding date of 1717. But this year begins our own countdown here to January, when we will kick off our celebration of 200 years of Freemasonry in Indiana. 

Leading us into this celebratory year will be my longtime friend and Brother, Rodney A. Mann, now the 167th Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Indiana. Gary Brinley joins the line as Junior Grand Deacon, and Tom Fallis is our new Steward and Tyler.

Congratulations and nothing but the best of wishes to Rod, and to Malia (who will have a loooong year, I'm afraid).

However, don't read this message and get a sense that nothing of serious import happened this past week. PGM Carey Carter provided a list of recommendations, as all of our GMs do in their year, to be potentially voted on as legislation. One of those was for the establishment in Indiana of a new Grand Almoner's Fund, "to help, aid, and assist all poor and distressed Masons, their widows, and orphans." PGM Carter made his appeal to the assembled brethren to create such a fund modeled after the Grand Almoner's Fund of the Scottish Rite NMJ, and it was appropriate that the Rite's Sovereign Grand Commander John McNaughton was sitting in the visitor's section of the auditorium. Even before a motion was put to the floor or the vote to approve it was taken, Commander McNaughton came to the podium and generously handed Indiana a check for $260,000 as seed money for this new fund. The motion was quickly moved, seconded, and adopted to great applause and approbation.

In fact, as soon as the motion was adopted, we were told that a deceased Brother's body was currently laying in a funeral parlor in northern Indiana, being held hostage by that establishment for payment of a bill his family could not afford. Members of his lodge were called to the stage, and a check for the bill was immediately handed to them so that he might be buried at last with the honor and dignity he deserves.

This is no outside charity. No industrial sized institution, no specially sponsored body part, or appeal to buy public love and admiration for the Masons. It is a fund strictly to aid Indiana's Freemasons and their families when disaster strikes or when they can find no assistance from others. The goal is to make an appeal for aid simplified. The brother or his family simply calls the Grand Secretary's office and explains their circumstances, and the decision will be made quickly. It will largely replace the role of our Masonic Relief Board, whose duties will now become much more limited. Frankly, it is astonishing that Indiana has not technically had such a program before now. But it does today. And we have SGC McNaughten and PGM Carter to thank for it. And our voting delegates.

On a personal note, I had the opportunity to speak briefly on the floor Tuesday, and I will repeat my own appeal here. I am writing the commemorative book for Indiana's 200th anniversary that will be available at Founder's Day 2018. My deadline is looming fast, as I need to be essentially finished writing by the beginning of this September. If you are an Indiana Freemason and your lodge or your members have done something or had a very special event in its history, especially in the last 50 years, and if you believe that other Freemasons in Indiana and around the world would find it interesting, inspiring, or otherwise important, PLEASE forward it to me as soon as possible to hodapp@aol.com and if you could put "Indiana history" in the subject line, that will help me find it. I do not want to miss anything of true importance with this book, so please help me to tell your story. 

We have a custom in Indiana that not every jurisdiction follows, that the outgoing Grand Master's own home lodge assembles on the floor and officially opens a tyled meeting of Master Masons on Tuesday morning so the work of Grand Lodge can begin. Perhaps appropriately punctuating our 199th year on the highest of notes, PGM Carter's home lodge, Waynedale Lodge 739 performed the opening, led by Worshipful Master Dominic Hamblin and his officer line for 2016-2017. 

Waynedale Lodge's WM Dominic Hamblin prepares to open Grand Lodge for 2017.

It was the first Grand Lodge session of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM ever to open with an African-American brother wielding the gavel in the East. And it was in its own way remarkable in its unremarkability. In other times, such an event might have at least caused a murmur or been big talk in the lunch lines. But not this year. Perhaps we have at last arrived at that point in our history when we can finally cease heralding these "firsts" as special anymore and just concentrate on smoothing our own ashlars instead of chipping away at someone else's for a change and get back to being Brothers.

Le Grand Lodge est mort, vive le Grand Lodge!


  1. "Worldwide, Freemasons are celebrating the fraternity's 300th anniversary of its official founding date of 1717." Be prepared for the wrath of the Scots (and Bro. Normand!)

    1. There. Fixed. How's about "traditional?"

      What the hell - I'm going to have the wrath of the PHA guys on me too, when my book comes out.

  2. Enjoyed talking with you Brother Chris. Thank you for the well said comments about Waynedale's Opening. ~Justin


Comments will not appear immediately, so be patient. I am forced to laboriously screen every post because I am constantly bombarded with spam. Anonymous postings on Masonic topics have the same status as cowans and eavesdroppers as far as I am concerned. If you post with an unknown or anonymous account, do not expect to see your comment appear.