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


Friday, December 25, 2020

UPDATED: Christmas Fire Burns Prince Hall GL of Rhode Island Masonic Temple

Photo: WLNE

by Christopher Hodapp

(This story has been updated on January 2, 2021.)

Fire broke out early Christmas morning at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Rhode Island's headquarters in Providence. According to news reports, the fire started in the basement of the building and spread quickly throughout the structure, whipped by strong winds. The three-alarm fire was described by the local public safety commissioner as "stubborn," and some 59 firefighters were eventually called to the scene to battle the blaze.

No one is known to have been in the building, and there are no reported injuries. Preliminary judgement by local fire officials is that the building will likely be a total loss. 


The Masonic hall at 883 Eddy Street in Providence is also the home of Celestial Lodge No. 2 PHA. It had been crowded with people on Thursday for the lodge's annual Christmas toy drive. 

The MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Rhode Island has been located on Eddy Street since its very beginnings in 1858.


WB Richard Lynch, the Curator and Librarian for the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island F&AM passed along additional photographs of the damage to the building after the fire. 

His message read, in part:
"Our Grand Master M:.W:.Gary Kaufman has been in contact with M:.W:.Clarence Snead of Prince Hall and the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island has offered our building and our Scottish Rite Temple to the use of the brothers of Prince Hall. We will also be supporting them financially in their time of need."

On Thursday, December 31st, a story on the WJAR TV-10 website announced that the Prince Hall Masons are accepting donations to rebuild:

"The fires in our community continue to burn, and without Prince Hall Masonry here in the south side of Providence, we may not be able to address some of those issues that we've been addressing over the years," Bennett said.

The lodge was used for charity purposes like toy, clothing and food drives, community events and special meetings.

"It's not just about the 120 Masons we have here today. It's about the thousands of members that we had over the last hundred years," Bennett said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and officials with the Prince Hall Masons say they're hopeful the fire was an accident.

Donations can be sent to the Prince Hall Capital Campaign Fund, P.O. Box 27900, Providence, RI 02907 or made through GoFundMe.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas

Back between 2005 and 2008, I was asked to contribute to my brother-in-law's monthly Texas organic gardening magazine, Living Natural First. As I protested at the time,  I didn't know the first dang thing about organic gardening, which was just fine with Bobby. He wanted some lighter relief from the rest of the magazine's monthly dose of compost, leaf mold remedies, and the gardener's astrology chart. The result was an ongoing column entitled Pilgrim's Progress: Rustic Tales of an Organic Greenhorn. The Pilgrim columns generally followed the fictional story of a couple who move to the country from the city – he was an urban creature who couldn't tell which end of a hammer to use to properly twist a screw into a wall, while she was a child of the 60s, completely enthralled with living her utopian vision of an environmentally healthy lifestyle on pennies a month. Together they fought the battle of garden slugs, home improvement, industrial tool rentals and marauding rodents.

After two years or so, I had tried to back out of the column, which apparently resulted in an insurrection from a group of Baptist church ladies in Wichita Falls who gathered every month specifically to read the monthly Pilgrim story aloud to each other. They telephoned Bob to say that if I didn't come up with a Christmas story that year, my eternal soul was at risk of being negatively testified against at Peter's Gate by these otherwise kind and compassionate ladies. The result of their threats is presented below, in lieu of any actual Masonic items.

A very Merry Christmas to all.

A Pilgrim Christmas Tree

My father is not a cheapskate. Let’s just get that clear right up front, before my significant helpmate shouts, “He is too!” from the next room. My father is a child of the Great Depression, when that hearty stock of gritty survivalists baked their own bread made from dirt they dug from the back yard, walked 28 miles to school every day uphill, both ways, and gave birth to their children in mangers because there was no room in the inn. Er, wait … I think I’m mixing up my stories here.

My father inculcated in the child that sprung from his parsimonious loins a healthy admiration for frugality, placed in a delicate cosmic balance with the sentimental, resulting in what I like to think of as a proper state of mind when it comes to arguments over spending too much money at Christmastime. Over the years, I have neatly ducked the undoubtedly environmentally sound protestations of my bride who has suggested the purchase of a prefabricated Christmas tree every holiday season since we were first tethered together in connubial bliss. The first hints usually begin long about August.

“Hey look,” she’ll hey from a corner of the living room, “I’m still picking up pine needles from last year.” 

I myself regard this as the gift that keeps on giving the whole year through, a gentle reminder of the Christmas spirit, even in the scorching, humid heat of the summer doldrums.

“Uh-huh,” she’ll respond. “I remember now. The vacuum cleaner clogged and tore a belt on all those needles when I was cleaning up after your tree last year.” 

I generally respond to this assault on my coniferous preferences by blurting out a bar of O’ Tannenbaum. I prefer the German lyrics. It gives my retort the proper sense of “I’m not buying a plastic tree, and this is final,” in a way that only the guttural consonants of the German language can really communicate:

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Dein Kleid will mich was lehren:
Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit
Gibt Mut und Kraft zu jeder Zeit!

It’s the sort of heartwarming lyric I can imagine Erwin Rommel barking at his wife when she suggested an artificial tree to him, as he was headed out the door to Libya to go command the Afrika Korps.

Long about September, she’ll take the opportunity to wander past my desk and casually make an offhand remark about how the average acre of uncut pines and firs generates enough oxygen every day to keep 18 people breathing, or that 21 million trees were mercilessly hacked down in the prime of life last year, and that if every American man was as shamelessly pigheaded about Christmas trees as me, 446,996 acres of trees would be whacked down. At 18 people’s daily oxygen, per acre, I’d be personally responsible for suffocating 8,045,928 of my fellow citizens. Of course, if that includes the lady who cut in line in front of me at the grocery with 215 items in the ‘12 or Less’ lane, armed with a suitcase filled with expired coupons, that would be okay by me.

Come November, there’s no avoiding the artificial tree display at the Hardware Hut, where all of these wire and plastic mockeries of the yuletide season stand, like some arboreal firing squad. “A snap to put up in less than five minutes!” they coo. “No mess, no fuss!” they taunt. “Look! I’m even pre-lit!” teases the latest phony fir, as its fake fronds beckon the holiday shopper, appealing to his weakening resolve with a can of evergreen-scented air freshener, included at no extra charge. Like some scantily-clad temptress, whispering in his ear, they display their tainted wares and attempt to seduce him. “Take me to your house, honey. I look like the real thing. No one will ever know. I’ll even make it easy on you when you’re tired of me after New Year’s Eve. You can pack me up when you’ve finished with me, and put me away, and not even think of me till next year. Because I’ll wait for you, baby.”

No dice. I’m not buying. Which brings me back to the recombinant cheapskate gene I allegedly inherited from my father. Because, you see, not only am I not buying an artificial tree made by Chinese prisoners in a “re-indoctrination” camp, I’m not buying a real one either. No $200 tree in a box for me, but also no pre-cut, dried out, sap-oozing, needle-dropping, $99 refugee from a Michigan tree farm for me, either.

My parents divorced early in my life and have been remarried several times between them, which means my extremely complex family relations resemble more of a merger than a standard familial bond. It’s more like the close, personal relationships one develops with fellow passengers during a bus plunge. So the strange mélange of holiday traditions that have been passed, re-passed, co-mingled and co-opted by the various offspring that make up my siblings, half-siblings and step-siblings have allowed all of us to cherrypick the ones we like best and force them upon our own families. And the one that I consider sacrosanct is the annual chopping down of a free-range Christmas tree – the word “free” being the operative term.

My father has never in his 87 years of life paid for a Christmas tree, and he taught me all of the tricks of the trade. Overwhelmingly, his preferred manner of tree shopping involved long afternoon drives in the country searching for just the right combination of isolated location and questionable property ownership, returning as dusk fell to quickly chop down his prize. Over the years, we had a wild variety of trees – the standard pines, firs and spruces, and the not-so-standard hemlocks, cedars, cypresses, and arborvitaes. Some were downright dangerous to the touch, with the same sort of prickly nature as a cactus plant, which made the hanging of lights and ornaments a hazardous occupation. And true, there was the occasional bird or rodent that rode into the living room, buried deep within the tree’s hidden recesses. Some of my fondest memories were of Dad, heady with the scent of the hunt and emboldened by a couple of tankards of spiked nog, chasing a startled starling around the house, frantically batting at it with a broken pool cue stick. The holiday tradition was what really mattered, and it added a sense of wild adventure to our celebrations that other less adventuresome, retail-enslaved families missed. 

“And the price was right,” Dad would always say, cheerfully.

Obviously, as he got older and we moved to more densely populated urban areas, this became a more challenging activity. After all, the local bank branch or office park looked with prejudicial disfavor at the destruction of their expensive landscaping for the sake of one gritty, Depression-era gentleman’s ideas about Christmas celebration. And honestly, I thought it was a little over the top to call me wanting bail money that first year in the city. Especially during the busy holiday shopping season.

Technology has come to the aid of the modern Christmas tree shopper in the form of the Whack & Heckler 18-volt rechargeable, cordless chainsaw – a tiny titan of the tool world that makes quick work of surreptitious Nöel deforestation, especially in the gathering gloaming of December’s early sunsets. This year, I was especially happy with my choice – a six foot evergreen of some sort or other, discovered down a ravine far from civilization – because it sported what appeared in the bitter cold dusk to be tiny, baby-sized pine cones. I quickly channeled my inner Paul Bunyan, felled it, dragged it up the hill like a vanquished prize of war, lashed it to the roof of the car, and drove homeward.

Once I had mounted it in its stand in our living room, my sweetling was less than impressed. “It’s shaped funny,” she noted, “and it isn’t even green.” True, I had to admit that, once in the tungsten glow of our home, it did indeed look more brownish than greenish.

“Yes, but the price was right,” I quoted Dad. Somehow I didn’t think this impressed her.

“One of these days you’re gonna get arrested doing this. Or shot by somebody who catches you and your little George Washington hatchet trespassing on their property.”

“Oh come on,” I offered, “it’s Christmas. Look at the little baby-sized pine cones. I picked it out special. Have some nog.”

She soon warmed to the combination of the season and the pioneer spirit of adventure. Well, she at least warmed up enough that she soon helped me decorate the new tree. We strung the lights and hung our delicate ornaments. Against my own personal artistic judgment, I even let her heave great wads of shiny aluminum tinsel all over it – her own family’s favorite (if somewhat ghastly) decorating tradition. Frankly, I had to admit that the strands of shredded chrome helped to hide the brown looking branches. But we did take extra care to put lights close to the baby-sized pine cones to highlight their natural beauty.

Two nights later I was standing in the garage, on the other side of two closed doors, when I heard a shriek she usually reserves for finding Plymouth-sized spiders in the shower, or raccoons in the refrigerator again. I ran in to find her standing across the living room, pointing in horror at the Christmas tree.

“Your pine cones,” she hissed, with a combination of revulsion and rather pointed blame. “They’re moving!”

Sure enough, upon close examination, the pine cones were convulsing and bulging, with the unquestionable activity of something inside trying to escape. Into our living room. It seems that my baby-sized pine cones were, in fact, a rather active infestation of bagworms. Warmed by our central heating system and the close proximity of Christmas lights, the caterpillars inside of the cone-shaped brown sacks had thawed out and were now seeking to relocate. One had fallen to the floor, and the dachshund had already sailed triumphantly down the hallway with it held aloft like a trophy.

There was only one thing to do. I opened up the sliding glass door to the patio, picked up the tree, and heaved it out into the yard as far as I could in one hurl. A beaten man, I pulled on my coat, went out into the cold, retrieved the stand and the ornaments, and then dragged the fallen symbol of my pioneer spirit to the back of the yard where the caterpillars could refreeze in peace. 

I would later bone up on bagworms, and discover that I would have to pull all of the bags from the tree and burn them, since they were filled with eggs laid by the female worms, and would only go on to infest the evergreens in our yard next year. Since the tree was already chopped down anyway, up the whole thing would eventually go in a blaze to its Tannenbaum Valhalla.

Some traditions fade away, while others die a much quicker death. My holiday tradition took just long enough for a drive to the Hardware Hut to be smothered completely. I now sit puffing my pipe and sipping my nog, looking at a wire and plastic thing masquerading as a tree. It did just take five minutes to set up, with no fuss, and no risk of arrest for criminal trespassing. If I squint a bit and sit across the room with the room's lights turned down low, it looks just like the real thing. The evergreen-scented air freshener completes the illusion. And there will be no pine needles to clog up the vacuum, and certainly no bagworms to evict. I can pack it up the day after New Years, and no one will ever know. 

But it’s just not the same.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Revived Masonic Book Club Announces First New Volume

by Christopher Hodapp

Back in September, it was announced that the Masonic Book Club, which went defunct in 2010, was being resurrected under new management by Brent Morris and the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction. 

Today it was announced that the first volume of the newly reactivated Masonic Book Club is now ready for pre-publication purchase: The Perfect Ceremonies of Craft Masonry and the Holy Royal Arch. The 392-page hardback book will include marbled covers, a satin ribbon, and rubricated title pages. The Perfect Ceremonies of Craft Masonry and the Holy Royal Arch was published in 1871 and the rituals are considered the lineal ancestors of the official Emulation ritual and lectures used in the United Grand Lodge of England today. 

When the two rival grand lodges at work in England (Antients and Moderns) decided to bury the hatchet and merge to become the United Grand Lodge of England in December of 1813, their separate rituals had diverged over the previous century. A Lodge of Reconciliation was named and spent the next two years developing a combined ritual that would be acceptable to both sides. They didn't demand that all lodges knuckle under to some new 'authorized ritual.' Instead, they developed a ritual that contained what they felt were the essential aspects of the Masonic degrees and openings and closings. Lodges were permitted to include their local variations in their ritual work, as long as they contained the essentials laid down by the Lodge of Reconciliation in its final versions approved by the UGLE in 1816.

In 1823, the Emulation Lodge of Improvement was formed by a group of skilled ritualists from both the former Antients and Moderns grand lodges, who were also well versed in the newly adopted ritual being promulgated by the UGLE's official Grand Steward's Lodge system. Their members were some of the most respected ritualists in England, and their goal was to was to instruct the letter-perfect ceremonies through lectures and demonstration. 

To this day, the Emulation Lodge of Improvement is the respected authority for approving skilled Preceptors for UGLE's lodges of instruction throughout its jurisdiction.

This new Masonic Book Club edition of The Perfect Ceremonies of Craft Masonry and the Holy Royal Arch picks up numerically from when the original MBC was dissolved several years ago - this book will officially be Volume 42. 

The MBC pre-publication price is $25 if ordered before January 21st, 2021 – the book will retail for $35 after that date, all plus shipping and handling.

Here are the important details from their announcement today:
    • The pre-publication window will be open from December 21, 2020 until January 21, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. The MBC pre-publication price is $25, and the book will retail for $35, all plus shipping and handling.
    • We only will accept pre-orders placed using the MBC pre-order online form. Pre-orders are not available through the Scottish Rite store.
    • If there are enough pre-publication sales, MBC members will be notified, the book will be printed, and volumes will ship about March 29, 2021.
    • Your credit card will be charged immediately; if there are not enough pre-publication sales, refunds will be credited on or about January 28, 2021.
If you have any questions, please visit the "FAQs" section on our MBC web page or email us at mbc@scottishrite.org.

We sincerely apologize, **but due to GDPR complications, we can neither accept credit card charges from nor ship to the EU/EEA, at this time**. If this situation applies to you, we suggest that you have a friend outside of the EU/EEA order and receive the book for you.

One other note from the ordering site. As long as there are sufficient pre-orders for the announced book, it is expected to ship at the end of March 2021. If there are insufficient orders, your money will be refunded.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

R.I.P.: Ishmael D. Ison, Sr., Past Grand Master of Indiana

by Christopher Hodapp

Indiana Past Grand Master Ishmael D. Ison, Sr. passed away in his sleep on December 17, 2020, at the age of 81. 

Most Worshipful Ison served the Freemasons of the State of Indiana between 1999 and 2000 as its 149th Grand Master. MWB 'Ish,' as he was known locally, became Grand Master just a month and a half after I was raised as a Master Mason. During that time, he commissioned an Indiana Masonic Flag which is now proudly displayed in almost all Indiana Lodges and at many homes. The flag was designed during a contest by Brothers H. Keith Wilson, Monroe No. 22 and S.W. Douglas B. Green, Kane No. 183.

In honor of our departed Past Grand Master Ishmael D. Ison, Indiana Grand Master Kenneth Roy, Jr. has directed all Lodges in Indiana to drape the Indiana Masonic Flag with a Black Ribbon for a period of 30 days.

Please keep his wife MaryJo and the family in your prayers.

* * *

From the 1999 Annual Proceedings of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana:

Ishmael D. Ison, Sr., the one hundred forty-ninth Grand Master [of Indiana], was born in Kentucky on September 8, 1939. He is the second son in a family of four children of the late Brother Elzie and Gertrude Ison. The Ison family moved to the Calumet region of Indiana while Brother Ison was quite young. After graduating from Washington High School, Brother Ison continued his education at Purdue University and Indiana University. 

On August 19, 1961, Brother Ison married his high school sweetheart, Mary Jo Hauer. Brother Ison and Mary Jo reside in Crown Point, Indiana. They have been blessed with two children: a son, Ishmael, Jr., and a daughter, Dorothy. Ish, Jr., and his wife, Linda, reside in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. Dorothy and her husband, Jeff Grisham, reside in Schererville, Indiana, with their two daughters, Samantha and Lauren.

Brother Ison started his career with Inland Steel Company while still in high school. On March 4, 1958, he enlisted into the Marine Corps and was honorably discharged in 1961. He then rejoined Inland Steel Company from which he retired as a Project Engineer in 1996. Currently Brother Ison is employed as a consultant for Alcoa Aluminum in Lafayette.

Brother Ison was raised in Indiana Harbor Lodge No. 686 in 1961. Later he transferred to Griffith Lodge No. 735 and served as Master in 1990. He served that Lodge four years as president of the Griffith Low Twelve Club. Brother Ison and Mary Jo are also members of the Griffith Chapter No. 583, Order of Eastern Star.

Brother Ison enjoyed many years of Masonic activity with his father and uncles. In 1962, he served a term as Associate Guardian of Indiana Harbor Bethel No. 69, International Order of Job's Daughters. He again served as Associate Guardian for three years in Griffith Bethel No. 96. Brother Ison served the Indiana Grand Guardian Council, International Order of Job's Daughters, as Grand Chaplain in 1985-1986.

In 1973, Brother Ison joined the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Valley of South Bend. The Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, honored him with the 33rd Degree in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1997.

In 1981, Brother Ison joined Orak Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S., of which he has served as the Masonic Relation's Officer, DeMolay Coordinator, and also enjoyed serving on the Special Party committee with his wife. He is a member of the Hobart Shrine Club, Royal Order of Jesters and Past Masters' Unit. Brother Ison is also a member of the Arab Patrol in which he served as Secretary/Treasurer.

Brother Ison is a proud recipient of the DeMolay Legion of Honor.

In 1992, Brother Ison was exalted, greeted and knighted in the York Rite. He is a Past High Priest of East Chicago Chapter No. 141, Royal Arch Masons; Deputy Master of East Chicago Council No. 101, Cryptic Masons; and Past Commander of East Chicago Commandery No. 58, Knights Templar. Brother Ison served the Grand Commandery, K.T., as Grand Photographer in 1993-1994. Brother Ison was honored by the Grand Commandery with the Distinguished Service Award in 1994.

Brother Ison is a Past Sovereign Master of David R. Ford Council No. 338, Allied Masonic Degrees. He is also a member of the Merrillville Preceptory No. 1, Yeoman of York; Northwest Indiana York Rite College No. 73; Royal Order of Scotland; and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. Brother Ison is an officer in Saint Basil Conclave, Red Cross of Constantine in Lafayette, Indiana.

Since 1995, he has served as Grand Representative of Indiana near the Grand Lodge of New Jersey.

Brother Ison has enjoyed such hobbies as boating, fishing, hunting, golfing and gunsmithing that he intends to return to at a later date.

In 1994, Most Worshipful Brother Michael D. Brumback, Grand Master, appointed Brother Ison Grand Steward and Tyler. During that same year, he was advanced to the office of Junior Grand Deacon. He regularly advanced in the officer's line and on Wednesday, May 19, 1999, was invested with the purple of the Fraternity as the one hundred forty-ninth Grand Master of Masons in the State of Indiana.

*  *  *

Funeral arrangements:

Hillside Funeral Home
8941 Kleinman Rd
Highland, IN 46322 

The visitation for Past Grand Master Ison will be from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Monday December 21st . The Masonic Service will take place at 6:00 p.m. that evening.

The Hillside Funeral Home is currently not placing any limits on attendance provided everyone is following all PPE and social distancing guidelines. You will be required to wear a mask while inside the Funeral Home. If you plan to attend and not participate in the Masonic Service, please pay your respects, exit the building so others may do the same in a safe manner.

The funeral service and internment on Tuesday December 22nd will be a family-only private service.

His column is broken, and his brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

R.I.P.: Illus. Deary Vaughn, Sovereign Grand Commander of Prince Hall AASR-SJ

by Christopher Hodapp

The Secretary-General of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United Supreme Council, 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Prince Hall Affiliation, has officially announced the death this morning of their longtime Sovereign Grand Commander, Illus. Deary Vaughn, 33°. 

Click to enlarge
From: The Office of the Secretary-General, H∴E∴, Ill∴ Marvin D. Chambers, 33°
To: Supreme Council Officers, Actives and Emeriti, Grand Inspectors General, Sublime Princes, Loyal Ladies and Staff
It has come to my attention that the Grim Reaper has again invaded our ranks, removing from us our beloved Sovereign Grand Commander.
It is with great sadness that I officially notify you of the passing of Illustrious Dr. Deary Vaughn, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander, on Tuesday, December 15, 2020.
Illustrious Vaughn served the United Supreme Council, 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Prince Hall Affiliation, Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America faithfully as Sovereign Grand Commander from 2003 until his demise.
Information about Home Going Services will be provided at a later time.
Please pray for the Vaughn family during their hour of bereavement. Sovereign Grand Commander Vaughn now resides in that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. He will certainly be missed from our ranks.
May God rest his precious soul.

The four U.S. jurisdictions of the Scottish Rite have enjoyed mutual recognition for many years. In May 2009, the Supreme Council of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite - Southern Jurisdiction held its biennial session in Washington, D.C. For the first time in history, both the Northern and Southern Supreme Councils of the Prince Hall Affiliation jurisdictions of the Scottish Rite were represented at that session. 

Special recognition was given that day to SGC Deary Vaughn, 33°, United Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction, USA, Prince Hall Affiliation, and SGC Solomon Wallace, 33°, United Supreme Council, Northern Jurisdiction, USA, Prince Hall Affiliation. 

Supreme Grand Commander Ron Seale presented Grand Commanders Vaughn and Wallace with their credentials and jewels as Emeriti Members of Honor of the Mother Supreme Council. They were joined in this photo by John Wm. McNaughton, 33°, SGC of the AASR-Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.

Since its foundation in 1881, the United Supreme Council PHA, SJ has had just seven Sovereign Grand Commanders. Illus. Deary Vaughn has served as their SGC of for seventeen years. He also served as Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oklahoma for thirty years, from 1987-2017.

His column is broken, and his Brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.

Note: In 1966, the Scottish Rite PHA was divided into two jurisdictions, roughly using the Mason-Dixon Line as the dividing boundary. The Southern Jurisdiction for the United Supreme Council, PHA, consists of the states: AL, AR, AZ, CA, FL, GA, HI, KT, LA, MD, MS, MO, NC, NM, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV, the District of Columbia, and Virgin Islands. The Northern Jurisdiction PHA consists of: AK, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IL, IN, IO, KA, ME, MA, MI, MI, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NY, ND, OH, OR, PA, RI, SD, UT, VT, WA, and WI.


Monday, December 14, 2020

Robert G. Davis Elected as Grand Master of Oklahoma Last Month

by Christopher Hodapp

Nobody tells me anything anymore. I have to pick things up in the street from the rough kids these days.

My belated congratulations to my friend and Brother, MW Robert G. Davis who was elected in November as the 2021 Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma AF&AM. 

If you have ever heard him speak or read his books and other writings, you know that MWB Davis is one of the most thoughtful and perceptive Masons alive today. In his message on the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma's home page this month, he describes the nature of fraternalism and why Freemasonry remains vital to men today:
"The word Freemasonry itself derived from the word, “freehearted,” which means “acting on the spontaneous impulse of the heart.” Freemasonry is the state or quality of being fraternal. In all that we do, our first charge is to take on the characteristics of being brotherly, and enhancing the ideals in brotherly relationships.

"We are, above everything else, concerned with the welfare of each other. One of the quintessential purposes of fraternalism is that we aid, support and protect each other. We are our own brother’s keeper. This is the foundation that distinguishes us from all other groups. We enjoy a level of fellowship that we simply don’t find in our other outside relationships. Indeed, our fraternal association must stand out as one of the most blessed influences in our life.

"Even if the deepest esoteric meanings of Masonry are not fully understood to us, at least every one of us can grasp the idea that Masonry is a fellowship that brings men together for the purpose of teaching them how to honor and love one another. If we spend any time at all in participating in the functions of our lodge, or reading of the nature of Masonry, we intuitively learn that, above race, rank, and creed, there is only one heart in the world, and brotherly love is the way to it. No one can estimate the worth of such a way of life; but that is the life of our fraternity.

"In conversations as friends, we explore the meaning of social experience, and through the teachings of our fraternity, we are communicating what integrity means. Our role playing in life is done on a very personal basis—man to man, brother to brother, elder to initiate, equal to equal. Our differentiations of rank ultimately fall away because we recognize the bonds forged by our rituals and obligations as concepts of honor and equality.
"Such is Masonry; a vast, global fraternity of free men, built upon a basis of spiritual faith, whose mission it is to make men friends, to refine and exalt their lives, to turn them into a homage for truth, righteousness, and character. Our task, and the beauty of our art, is to form a society of good men who uphold the redeeming ideals of humanity so as to make good things better by our very presence.
"My brothers, we come together as friends. It is friendship that bonds us, and it is friendship that compels us each to do our part to keep alive what we believe in. And what we believe in more than anything else is our self-improvement. After all, we are initiated men.

"So, as we begin another year together as fraternal men, let us always remember that we are living at the side of the road to be a friend of man. And our path happens to be our journey through the progressive instruction our fraternity offers us. It is this journey that compels us to improve ourselves as men; to learn what integrity looks like; to know that honor is earned by how others see us; and to recognize we have duties to go to the aid of those who need our help; to be of service to others.

"In the journey of our degrees and the regular enactments of our ceremonies and rituals, in the processionals and regalia of our titled men, in the private conversations as brothers where knowledge is shared and wisdom passed along, we are creating and re-creating the meaning and purpose of our lives. In this honored and eccentric engagement, we are acting out in the presence of each other the roles we believe necessary to life itself.

"And, above all; and, more especially, we should be eternally grateful that we know how to express our love for each other. After all, 'we have one aim; to please each other and unite in the grand design of being happy and communicating happiness.'

"Let us, with every breath of our being, be about the business of being good men in our great and unique brotherhood of men."
Books by Robert G. Davis include Understanding Manhood in America and The Mason's Words.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Prince Hall Inspires New Portrait and Cigars

Portrait of Prince Hall by Ryan Flynn
(In progress - Please do not reproduce)
by Christopher Hodapp

New Hampshire Mason Ryan Flynn is one of the most talented and well-known American Masonic artists working today. On his Facebook page this past week, Brother Flynn announced his latest project — a large portrait depicting Boston's Prince Hall, who is regarded as the 'founding father' of African-American Freemasonry in America. 

The portrait depicts MWB Hall in the 1780s holding the English charter of Boston's African Lodge 459 in one hand, and the lodge's gavel in the other. Outside of the window behind him stands Boston's Faneuil Hall:
“The secret is out.
Many of you have inquired about this “mysterious” project that I have been working on since early September. 

With the unbelievable support of my dear friend and brother RW Oscar Alleyne and L Ken Upchurchcollins I am proud to announce that I am painting a portrait of Prince Hall. 

Earlier this year I had the idea to do this due to the fact that a historically accurate portrait of Wor. Hall has not been attempted in a very, very long time.
It’s a large painting, 4ft x 3ft. I have a long way to go but it was time to finally share this project.

Everything down to the engraving on his gavel will have a symbolic meaning to it. I hope I do him justice.”
The Internet is filled with artistic representations of WB Prince Hall, but most of them have little to do with reality. There are no known contemporaneous drawings or portraits of him. 

RWB Oscar Alleyne, who is the Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge F&AM of New York, explains:
"RWBrother Ryan Flynn reached out to discuss his special portrait project with RWB L Ken Upchurchcollins Grand Historian of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama and myself.
"You see, there is no actual image of Prince Hall. All of the images out there are but artist renditions. Some feature details that aren’t exactly historically accurate given what we know of the African American community in 1700’s Boston (eg. wig wearing, assumptions of his skin color etc)
"Ryan wanted to be a close as possible to the scant descriptions and the time and place of this American Masonic Legend while revealing the watchful eye of leadership, fire, admiration and resilience that Prince Hall championed in life and legacy.
"The portrait captures elements of 1700’s Boston, Prince Hall’s historic abolitionist writings to the Massachusetts Legislature previous to his Masonic initiation, a detailed description of his presiding in the East during a festive board/table lodge setting for African Lodge as well as that infamous charter cementing Lodge 459’s connection to the Premier Grand Lodge of England in 1784 and regular Freemasonry worldwide.
Ken and I simply offered advice as our Brother Artist did his thing with love in his heart and fraternalism on his mind."

(NOTE - Kindly do not reproduce the image of the painting at this time. It is still a work in progress, and all rights are reserved by artist Ryan Flynn.)

Friday, December 11, 2020

This Week's Inharmonic, Histrionic, and Cacophonic Escapades

by Christopher Hodapp

Oh, Fie! accursed, cruel and foul 2020, most abominable and scurvy of all years!

Folks probably assumed we'd be rolling into California long about now after leaving over a week ago and spending 10 days on the road. You would, of course, be correct in a normal year. But no.

When we left Indianapolis last week and headed West on the Gomorrah Highway, we had barely made it beyond our own county line when we were trapped on an exit ramp in a construction zone traffic jam. Surrounded by semis on one side and concrete barriers on the other with no room to spare, I foolishly attempted to inch my way past a truck. In doing so, I managed to slice open about 6 feet of aluminum on the Airstream, wrenching off the awning support, the bottom door hinge and twisting one of the vertical struts enough to shove the interior cabinets off the walls. 

As bad as it was, it didn't hurt half as much as being forced to endure a fusillade of "I told you sos" ever since.

We immediately turned around that night and headed eastward instead to the Airstream factory in Ohio, figuring their service center was better equipped than anyone to do an insurance estimate and patch us together enough to continue our trip. Turns out the damage comes to more money than the cost of the first five cars I ever owned, combined. 

Between my own hillbilly engineering, Airstream's expertise and a roll of Flex-Seal tape, we managed to come up with enough jury-rigs to last until February when they can get us into the body shop. By Saturday we were back on the road west again, but had to stop in Illinois long enough to submit new book chapters to our publisher to meet a firm deadline. 

(We're actually writing about RVs, and as I explained to our editor, I decided to wreck our own trailer as research for the 'How To Drive Your RV' and 'Insurance' chapters of our new book. THAT'S how dedicated I am to this project...)

By Tuesday night, we were confident that our delays were all finally over with nothing but smooth sailing ahead of us. I'm sure Captain Smith thought the same thing when he casually inquired if anybody had noticed any icebergs lurking about.  We got as far as west St. Louis, unhitched the rig, set up camp, fired up the furnace, and all was right with the world. Until Alice took a wrong step climbing into the trailer. 'SNAP' went something in her non-replacement 'good' knee, which apparently felt like somebody shot her in the leg with a .44 magnum and left her unable to sit, stand, walk, lie down, or manage any other inventive position without shrieking in agony.

Which is why after spending ten days on the road, we're right back home in our own driveway where we started. A truly worthless orthopedist this morning looked over an x-ray and charged us beaucoup sheckels to say he couldn't really tell what had snapped, didn't bother to order an MRI, and opined that 'some patients' DO get over this without surgery, whatever the hell THIS is. Clearly the class anchor who majored in Ace bandage wrapping. Thankfully our primary care savior and longtime friend Suzi was able to see Alice late this evening and got her lined up with an MRI Saturday. Her guess is that it may be a torn ACL.

We ought to travel with our own Greek chorus just so we don't get blindsided when in need of a good dithyramb or two.

So, I'm offloading all of our lares and penates since it looks like we'll be celebrating Christmas in true COVID-year isolation style after all. What the hell - there's only three weeks left in 2020. I predict the house will get hit by an asteroid at 11:59PM on New Years' Eve just so it can squeak in under the wire as a last-second farewell to this annus horribilis.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Lechworth's Masonic Shop Remodeled in London's Freemasons' Hall

by Christopher Hodapp

The United Grand Lodge of England's Facebook page announced this week the remodeling of their Masonic shop inside of Freemasons' Hall on London's Great Queen Street.

For those of us whose only interaction with a Masonic merchant is over a folding table in a darkened convention lobby, these photos may engender a case of acute retailer envy. I think most of us can agree that this is exactly the way a shop dedicated to the world's oldest and most storied gentlemen's organization SHOULD look. 

Of course, the architectural surroundings do help.

The shop will officially reopen Thursday, December 3rd.

For those unable to hop a plane or train for London anytime soon, you can shop Letchworth's wide range of books, clothing, regalia, jewelry and other wares online at www.letchworthshop.co.uk

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Pandemic Shutdowns Convince Men of the Need for Deeper Friendships

by Christopher Hodapp

An article in the Washington Post Monday (and circulated on MSN news) puts a spotlight on the emotional effects the COVID pandemic shutdowns have had on men. And apparently one of the most damaging is that isolation from in-person, male human contact is plunging them into deeper depression.

See 'No game days. No bars. The pandemic is forcing some men to realize they need deeper friendships.' by Samantha Smith.

Men were already spiraling into greater depths of depression over the last decade, ever since the Great Recession. In 2018, the suicide rate among men was 3.7 times higher than among women, according to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health. Even though the US government officially tabulates suicide numbers two years in arrears, countless anecdotal reports all over the country from healthcare professionals this year already confirm that the pandemic has dramatically increased these tragic deaths. 

But a Brigham Young University study found that social connections — with friends, family, neighbors or colleagues — improve a person’s odds of survival by 50 percent. Similar figures were noted by Robert Putnam in his breakthrough study Bowling Alone more than 20 years ago when he found that taking part in in-person, associative groups, clubs or regular gatherings dramatically increases life expectancy.

The article talks about online friendship discussion groups becoming more open and revealing as isolated men bare their souls to online buddies. It talks about klatches of neighbors pulling their lawn chairs out on the cul-de-sac and having heart-to-hearts with the guys next door and down the street. It talks about clots of friends exchanging text messages. But it dodges around something far more obvious with a very long track record of building emotional strength by providing a space and haven for cultivating true friendships among men who would otherwise be strangers: fraternalism like the kind you find in most Masonic lodges.

If we're doing it right, the lodge is supposed to be a sanctuary from the strife, pressures, provocations and challenges of the outside world. We do our best to attempt to eliminate from our meetings political and religious arguments - the two historically most contentious topics all throughout history that are most guaranteed to cause arguments. We stress and teach cooperation, agreement and mutual assistance. We do that to hopefully create an incubator for deep, personal friendships and lasting relationships. And we are united worldwide through the common bonds of our rituals and their teachings — it acts as a shorthand ice-breaker wherever you may be on Earth when you encounter a Masonic brother.

A constant question is repeated time after time whenever the non-Masonic, mainstream press writes about Freemasonry today: why don't you Masons admit women into your lodges? Surely your backwards, porcine, chauvinistic, misongynistic, lumpen, middle-class attitude is why Freemasonry is a throwback to Paleolithic pre-history. Freemasonry would be totally fixed if you aged Boomer dinosaurs just opened up to women. (Oh, and atheists.)

All of the dynamic of a sanctuary changes immediately when women are introduced into it — it just does, for a thousand different reasons. All of society seems to acknowledge that women need 'safe spaces,' support groups, girls' nights, hen parties, and other private settings where men may not trespass. Yet, few are willing to admit that men need them just as much, if not more. Articles like the Post's only serve to illustrate the point.