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


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Statement by Andrew Hammer

The currently ambiguous status of Virginia's Alexandria-Washington Lodge 22 and its now former Secretary, WB Andrew Hammer has gained some new clarification. There has been much speculation and concern in the Masonic world regarding the situation, as all of those involved have been unable to comment publicly. Finally at about 10:30PM Tuesday evening, WB Hammer publicly posted the following message on his Facebook page:
I have demitted from the lodge in Virginia of which I have been a member, in good standing, and possess documentation from the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Virginia, A.F. & A.M. to that effect. I am not under charges, and I am not suspended. I am no longer a Mason under the Grand Lodge of Virginia, A.F. & A.M.
I am proud to be a Mason in good standing under the following grand jurisdictions:
- The Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, F.A.A.M.
- The Grand Lodge of North Carolina, A.F.& A.M.
- The Grand Lodge of Ireland
- The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, F.&A.M. (Honorary)

One chapter ends. A new one begins.

My work in the quarries has been valued by a number of Grand Lodges. My book, Observing the Craft, has even been bought by Grand Lodges to distribute to their lodges, officers, or members in general. I have been honoured by two Grand Lodges who invited me to serve as a Grand Lodge officer.

I am very fortunate to count among my closest friends in the Craft past, present, and future Grand Masters who are intimately familiar with my work and understand my points of view on Freemasonry in general.

The object of the observant Mason is to remain focused on positive action and to put forth positive energy as much as possible in all situations. The good of Freemasonry itself is what we must have in view.

That does not mean that one is never to express criticisms or to speak honestly to errors; we are charged to do exactly that on our Masonic path, and indeed our most esteemed thinkers throughout history have been those brothers who spoke uncomfortable truths in interesting times.

But the far greater object is to create happiness, both spiritual and temporal. We must never lose sight of that. Otherwise the task will not be worth doing.
As reported here on June 28th, members of AW22 lodge received a letter dated June 19th explaining that the lodge's charter had been removed and announcing the replacement of the Worshipful Master, Senior Warden and Secretary by the Grand Master of Virginia, Vernon S. Cook. An upcoming meeting was announced for the members for this coming Thursday, July 13th. It is hoped that the charter will be returned at that time.

I have not chatted with Andrew yet, but he is still scheduled to speak at several Masonic events throughout the year. Thankfully, this resolution to the AW22 situation and any issues that may have existed between him and the Grand Lodge of Virginia means that his status as a regularly affiliated Mason in good standing will not pose any problems anywhere he is scheduled to appear. That is ultimately good news.

As for the lodge, it will be up to the new officers of AW22 and their active members to decide how they proceed in the coming months. Hopefully, this unfortunate episode will not result in them entirely turning their back on the initiatives they have undertaken in the last few years. They have been an outstanding example of 'observant' styled practices and a national leader in demonstrating what can be done within the limitations of existing rules to create a different lodge experience that appeals to a growing number of American Masons. It would be a tragedy for them to discard that in order to return to a cookie cutter style of lodge meeting that so many Masons have found so uninspiring for so long. 

Grand lodges lose more members from non-payment of dues than any other reason. Those are overwhelmingly men who were underwhelmed by what they found in their own lodges. Our jurisdictions have hundreds of lodge laboratories in which to experiment to find better ways to appeal to their own brethren. We squelch those experiments at our own peril.

The very best wishes to everyone going forward. And onward.

(Andrew Hammer is the author of Observing the Craft.)


  1. He deserves great good luck, and it is a loss for Virginia and Alexandria.

  2. I know he is not the first to be slapped down durring the promotion of methods to render deeper lodge experiences. I once got a Masonic cease and disit fron a GM for discussing the use of the CoR. Realizing that evolution is ugly, as stated before, i wonder if the observant will become so fruatrated to forego recognition and begin a new Ancient v. Modern polemic. . . Aside about navigating lodge change and AW22, on a visit there i recall a brother, who i lovingly recall as crusty, standing at the first oppertunity to explain that some certain custom or another was now foresaken that was important to him - the memory is a brother was still coming but unwelcoming of the lodge's evolution. Best wishes to all as they reflect on the lessons we encounter to be of greatest service to one another.

  3. I am sad to see that Bro. Hammer has had to demit from a lodge that he so obviously loves. It is sad when such conflicts reach this point. I do hope that he will be able to continue going forward as a Mason and promoting what he believes.

    I also sincerely hope that the Grand Lodge of Virginia puts out some sort of statement that makes it clear that Bro. Hanner's demit is not the reason that his lodge is getting their charter back. Because if they leave it alone and do not further comment on it, and give the charter back, it will look like the Grand Lodge held a lodge's charter hostage to get rid of one man. That is truly unfair. I do hope that a statement will correct that impression.


    Frank J. Kautz, II
    Past Master, Mt Hermon Lodge (now Golden Rule), AF&AM, Woburn, MA
    Past Master, Samuel Crocker Lawrence Lodge, AF&AM, Medford, MA

  4. On the surface, this sounds similar to what happened to me in Florida. - Tim Bryce


  5. WB Hammer, a True Master Mason who's job it is to adorn the Temple with his creative work on the Trestle-board. The symbolic charges of an EA and an FC and even the MM have become like dingy wall paper in some old lodges where they have forgotten that they are supposed to live by those symbolic efforts of a Workman. I think that each Br should take three years to become a MM and spend one year as an EA, one year as an FC and only after those first two years will a Man be elegible for the Sublime Degree of a MM. He will then have mastered his obligations as an EA and an FC and IF he has the moral charactor to stick it out for two years, then raise him ... but no sooner. I have seen far to many Men dive into the life of a Mason and crash through the degree work so fast that really none of those moral lessons even get a chance to leave much of a mark, only to see them behave in less than, shall we say, with less understanding and less respect that they might have otherwise engaged in the conduct of their own behavior. I will say that when I visted AW22 about ten years ago I stood to give the EA Charge loud and clear with my voice from memory, but somebody shushed me and forced some other brother to read it at a crappy microphone at the podium and you could not understand half of what the brother read over the much too loud and lousy crackling loud-speaker. The newly raised EA was robbed of what he was due: a solid giving of the Charge, eye to eye, face to face and without any hesitate or miss-speaking of the words. No Lodge is perfect but we should all strive for perfection.

  6. I sincerely wish all brothers who are not familiar with the operations and customs of the Grand Lodge of Virginia to stop speculating on this. There are currently no sanctioned "Observant" Lodges under GLOVA and you should not continue to refer to AW as one. Virginia masons are happy to see AW regain its charter and open a new chapter in its history. WB Hammer has decided to part ways with GLOVA for reasons only know to him. This speculation is quite unmasonic and to assume the GL's motives should not be countenanced.

    1. To be fair, no grand lodge anywhere actually 'sanctions' an 'observant' lodge, and I phrased my original posting very specifically. 'Observant' styled lodges have been called different things in different places since they first started showing up in the early 1990s. In Australia, Epicurean Lodge referred to themselves as a 'European Concept.' In 1992, St. Alban's Lodge in Texas called their lodge traditions 'best practices' after a New York Mason published a paper on the topic. By the early 2000's, Dennis Chornenky and the newly formed Masonic Restoration Foundation popularized the phrase 'traditional observance' lodges, while lodges like our Lodge Vitruvian in Indiana adopted aspects that were found in all of these sources and others of our own independently. Andrew Hammer and others have since tried to rebrand the whole experimental process as simply 'observant' lodges, while an even newer term, 'Lighthouse Freemasonry' is starting to appear.

      But ALL of these labels are simply trying to be shorthand for an almost indefinable collection of widely varying lodges all attempting to provide a lodge meeting experience that isn't being fulfilled in the other lodges in their jurisdictions. Such practices that are bandied about are suggestions, and lodges that are successfully operating under these umbrella labels are all following the rules of their GL jurisdictions (or had better be if they want to keep their charters). There's nothing that needs to be sanctioned by anybody. They are an individual lodge's customs that suit their active members. While there may be some specific things that those lodges WANT to do that MIGHT require a GL rule change to properly accomplish (and there are some lodges that attempt to do them in violation of their own GL rules), observant-styled lodges are not doing anything that should be problematic or considered un-Masonic in any way.

      Unfortunately, some grand masters have misinterpreted the entire concept entirely. Many Masons haven't the slightest idea what they are at all in the first place. Some enthusiastic lodges have attempted to skirt legitimate rules. The result has been occasional situations like what happened with AW22. But there are about 50 observant styled lodges in North America currently, and scores of others that have adopted many practices espoused by these lodges without branding themselves as such. This fraternity should have elastic enough walls to welcome and nurture them, because we're all after the same result: more Masons enthusiastic about coming to lodge meetings, and less of them who walk away.

    2. One of the things, about which WB Hammer has been most adamant--both in his writing and as he has expounded upon his ideas to Brethren in person-- is that Lodges should implement as much or as little of his (or their own) approaches as they find useful and fitting in their own circumstances. The object is always to make the Masonic experience more meaningful to their own members. "Observing the Craft," while it does take to task many practices that impede the development of deep and lasting commitment to the fraternity, is not some mere rote formula for Lodges to follow.

      The "elastic walls" approach, therefore, rings true, when it comes to Lodges finding a way to "upgrade" the experience that they provide their members. The problem, of course (whatever the specifics of the approach adopted), is that changes have to be implemented for a Lodge as a whole. That leaves Brethren satisfied with "the way we have 'always' done it" with a potentially very troublesome ax to grind. Perhaps the current situation is mostly a manifestation of this reality.

      WB Andrew is very clear on important reasons for applying the term "observant" rather than "traditional" or "traditional observance" to his approach to reform: (1) "tradition" tends to imply that all of the "answers" lie in past practice, and this is most assuredly not the case, & (2) no small part of what Freemasonry has come to accept as "traditional" is absolutely the problem in looking at the future prospects for the Craft.

    3. Your statement betrays your blind allegiance (or not so blind) to a so called Grand Lodge. You are uninformed if you believe the motives of a GL cannot be questioned. You are even more uninformed if you believe everyone reading your comment doesn't know immediately you are likely one of the "replacement" officers.

  7. This great poem by Emily Dickinson keeps coming to mind for several Masonic situations:

    Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
    Success in Circuit lies
    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The Truth's superb surprise
    As Lightning to the Children eased
    With explanation kind
    The Truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind —

  8. I have been so involved with my health issues over the last couple of years that I'm hardly able to comment. However, we must explore ways, within bounds, to make the lodge experience more worthwhile. I'd LOVE to see a bit more of a "mystical" degree experience and more education in every meeting. (Bet I catch it hot for this comment!)

  9. Just more Masonic mediocrity and embarrassment. This statement is nothing but vague sentiment in the name of hiding discontent. The most well known Freemasons were men of action and violent action at that. "Positive energy" indeed. Just more political nonsense from a do-nothing, commit to nothing Fraternity.

  10. Brother Andrew, Another Virginia Mason was treated the same way you have been treated. His name was Alan Roberts.

    Eddie Conner

  11. Chris, is it time for KOTN to regroup?

  12. It is a travesty that WB Hammer was forced into a position where he had to demit. It is true that some aspect of what happened is due to WB Hammer's views, however this was also about a very small contingency of "Past Masters" from AW22 who had the ear of the GLoVA and who wanted to be in charge again and have things go back to the way "they remember them." Basically a boring as hell lodge experience where they conduct introductions for 45 minutes patting themselves on the back for all their accumulated titles and silly appendant body hats. The current WM and SW happen to be two of these people. So now the situation is the lodge has a WM without a valid Warden's Certificate (don't know how that is "legal"), a SW without a valid Warden's Certificate and who can't even remember how to confer the degrees. Sad. Both of whom were not elected by the lodge membership. As distasteful as that may be the GM did it. But to top it all off, it is rumored that the GM has somehow put forward a decision that the lodge membership will not even be able to conduct elections in December. In what Masonic world is it even remotely acceptable that the membership be prevented for electing the officers of their choice. This is a travesty. A black eye on Masonry in general and a black spot on the legacy of the GLoVA for the remainder of its existence. Good work GLoVA. Good work. Pat yourselves and your cronies on your backs for the great masonic examples you are.

  13. Freemasonry may appear to be static but in the lives of individual Masons there is always a flux and change of some kind. Often subtle. A sort of, "wow, I didn't see that coming". Sometimes a Brother remains a member of the Craft and moves on and sometimes he totally resigns from the institution of his own free will. The reasons for doing so are legion and as varied as the individual members who comprise the entire Craft. Leaving or moving on for reasons of Lodge business is only one reason.

    I have seen Brothers leave or move on because of religion, their spouses made them, or because "regular" Freemasonry was not "Spiritual" enough for them. Several years ago, a prominent British Mason who wrote several good books and essays on the spiritual value of British Freemasonry, suddenly decided to leave regular British Freemasonry and became a Co-Mason apparently because it offered him the spirituality he was looking for the whole time he was a regular Mason. And he was regular for several decades! We love our Brothers and would like to walk as far as we can beside them alongside some given path, but often life has other plans.

    Try to be charitable, and not judge yourselves, (and me-smile), your Grand Jurisdictions or your Grand Masters, too harshly.

  14. TJ you clearly have no personal knowledge of what has gone down here. It disturbs me that brothers blindly stick up for GLs or GMs just because. Don't be one of the sheep. This action on the part of the GL of VA was not motivated out of concern for the craft but borne of malice and hubris. These "brothers" have truly forgotten the part about "although a scepter may adorn the hand." Maybe you have as well.

    1. You accuse others of "having no personal knowledge," but have done nothing to establish credentials that would give anyone confidence in the sort of accusations you're making against the GLoV or any Brother. Are you doing anything but spreading rumors, as in a previous post. At least there you had the decency to admit "it is rumored."

      If you have such respect for WB Andrew, as you claim, why do you not respect his admonition to move on and move forward? If you're under the jurisdiction of the GLoV, get to work and do something about your claims! If you're not, what is the purpose of just stirring the pot?

      "Marih Ffiba"...interesting! The opposite of our GMHA?

    2. Very observant sir! The name is reflective of the situation. What went down between AW22 and the GL (and i am not just referring to WB Hammer's leaving) is the exact opposite of what should have transpired between the two entities. What the GM did is beyond the pale. He behaved in the fashion of a third world dictator with no thought towards Masonic law or its principals. It disgusts me to the point that i have thought of demiting simply to speak out in public with no potential for reprisal from this farce of a GM and GL. But i am not quite there yet. Until then, no Sir, i will not be revealing my given name but will reveal myself in the character of the true GM that we all represent as Master Masons. I have great respect for WB Hammer but this situation goes well beyond his personal situation. It is my understanding the the GL of VA plans on preventing AW22 from holding elections this year and will be installing the second puppet Master, Mark Underwood, who orchestrated this entire affair, as Master for next year. All done under the guise of correcting an errant lodge but really executed so the GM can wield overhanded authority as he did when he was sheriff and to allow so has been PMs to gain control of a lodge they never would have been able to otherwise. The majority of the membership is not with these "brethren" so that is why this action was perpetrated. Oh, by the way, my allegation regarding others "having no personal knowledge" was merely meant to convey the anyone that has personal knowledge of what went down (what really went down) would not be standing up for the GLoVA. They have been taking a lot of heat from other Grand Jurisdictions over their handling of this.

    3. And still you have not established your credentials, in any way, to make such allegations.

      I am not criticizing you for making false statements about the GLoV: the wrongdoing that you allege may well be true. All I am saying is, until you establish yourself as someone "in the know," that you are only adding to the speculation and rumor-mongering which WB Chris is trying to discourage in this conversation.

      Your allegations against the GLoV instantly morph into matters of substance, IF you are either a member of AW22 or an official of the GLoV. If I read the circumstances of this whole mess accurately, only one or the other of these would have direct knowledge to support the claims you are making. If this is the case, then I would say that exposing the truth may be an admirable thing. However, what you are "exposing" are unsubstantiated generalities unless and until you establish your own credibility.

      You, and not anyone else reading or responding to your comments, chose this approach to making some pretty damning claims against the GLoV. Don't you owe it to your Brethren to give a reason to be taken seriously?

      I don't care if you ever "reveal your given name," but I'd suggest that you can at least answer a question: Are you either a member of AW22 or an official of the GLoV? The fact is, if you are, that you have probably already violated the edict of the GM in writing what you've written: a brave move, if what you claim is true! I hardly think that a simple "Yes" or "No" will alter that!

    4. Given the Trestleboard, it certainly looks like "business as usual", at least as of 20 years ago.

      (And before you ask, yes, I was; no, I'm not, and haven't been for a while).

  15. I am one of over 300 members of AW22 in good standing. Although I may stop paying my dues given the current situation.

    1. No Mason should have to suffer the abuses of misguided central authority or face, perhaps, years of waiting for "the other shoe to drop,' merely in an effort to enjoy the fellowship and hospitality of his own Lodge! You and your Brethren are members of what most U.S. Masons would consider the premier Lodge in the nation: at least in terms of its historical significance and status in the hearts of the American Craft.

      I do not feel that anyone, outside your circle, can presume to advise you and your Brethren on a proper course for the future. Any obligation you may feel to the Lodge is, on the face of it, balanced by your right to fully experience what it means to be a Mason: an experience that, sadly, has apparently been truncated by recent events. The work goes on, and I pray that you and your Brethren there will find a way to continue your labors.

      Perhaps, in the final analysis, one could ask for no better advice than that voiced by Brother George Washington, when he opined that “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.”


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