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


Thursday, December 30, 2021

R.I.P.: Thomas W. Jackson Passes Away

by Christopher Hodapp

NOTE: This story has been updated with Tom Jackson's funeral information at the end of the post, along with his official obituary.

Illus. Thomas W. Jackson, 33° has passed away. Known throughout the entire Masonic world, Tom served for twenty years as the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, and as the Executive Secretary and Honorary President of the World Conference on Freemasonry. Tom Jackson was one of the most well-traveled Masons of this or any other century, and he was a powerful advocate for the highest standards in every Masonic jurisdiction. 

He had been hospitalized last week at Lancaster General hospital with a severe case of Covid. He died early Thursday morning.

Tom's international travels are legendary, along with his reputation as a fisherman and big game hunter in exotic locales. (That's right - I said big game hunter.) In addition to the Scottish Rite and the York Rite appendant bodies, he belonged to scores of other Masonic-related organizations. In addition to his Pennsylvania lodges, he held memberships in Wyoming, England, Italy, Peru, Morocco and Cyprus, and was granted honorary memberships in 107 different Grand Lodges. He holds grand rank in thirty of these Grand Lodges, and fourteen as honorary Grand Master.

In 2017, Tom estimated that he was out of the country six months a year, acting as an international representative of the fraternity. In his travels, he met the presidents of Portugal, Chile, Romania, Mozambique, Mali, Gabon, Chad and Congo, as well as former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, along with several prime ministers. 

Tom Jackson displaying a small sample of his countless awards.
(Photo: Shippensburg News-Chronicle)

Tom received countless awards and medals for distinguished service from at least nine Grand Lodges in the United States and nineteen international Grand Lodges, including Yugoslavia, Romania, South Africa and Russia. The Thomas W. Jackson Award is presented annually by the Valley of Rochester, NY, to recognize individuals who have transformed the message of Freemasonry into an educational inspiration at a state, regional or national level. The Organization of Masonic Arts annually presents the Thomas W. Jackson Award for leadership to a worthy, outstanding Grand Master. In 2017, the nation of Brazil even issued a postage stamp in recognition of his service in promoting universal Freemasonry.

Tom Jackson was one of the most well-read Masons in the country, and for many years he was the book reviewer for the Scottish Rite NMJ magazine, the Northern LightIn his younger days, Tom taught biology for seventeen years at Penn Hall - he had a degree in the subject (and like P.G. Wodehouse's character Gussie Fink-Nottle, it's a little-known fact he shared a fascination with newts). He briefly served as a manager for a construction company before being named as Grand Secretary of Pennsylvania in 1979, a position he held until 1999. He brought his devotion to education to Freemasonry, and was a staunch advocate for taking a scholarly approach to Masonic research and education. He was an early proponent and leader for the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge. His book, Masonic Perspectives: Thoughts of a Grand Secretary, was published in 2015 and contains forty-four thought-provoking essays about the fraternity. As a Masonic author, in 2004 he was a named as Friar 93 of the Society of Blue Friars. 

Tom was an early advocate for the Masonic Restoration Foundation and its promotion of what has been variously called 'traditional observance', best practices, European-style, or observant styled lodges. He was part of the group that established the first T.O. lodge in Pennsylvania. One of the most common themes in Tom's countless speeches and writings was to decry the lowering of quality in lodges, poor understanding and execution of ritual, and the gradual loss of its prestigious reputation that was once so common throughout North American Masonry. Tom saw firsthand the enormous difference in attitude and perception of Freemasonry in South America, Africa and Europe where lodges continue to attract leaders in academia, business, science, medicine, government, and more. He believed that North American Masonry lost its prestige and longtime reputation for excellence after World War II when grand lodges ballooned in size of membership. Or to paraphrase Dwight L. Smith some sixty years ago, perhaps the age of the common man became a little too common. Tom believed that Masonry here in America lost its way when it stopped attracting the very sort of successful men and community leaders who used to act as mentors and examples to our wider membership. He was always of the firm belief that elitism isn't a bad word, and consistently exhorted lodges and Masons to demand higher standards of themselves, because you can't 'make good men better' if you don't have the best of men to admire, emulate and learn from.

Masonic Week 2009 - A Dummy, Tom Jackson, Brent Morris, 
Robert Davis and Glen Cook

It will be difficult to imagine a Masonic world without Tom Jackson in it –  a true giant in the fraternity. I shared speaking engagements with him many times, and he was an early positive reviewer of my first book when it was fist published (although he cringed at the For Dummies title, and suggested Masonic readers should rip the cover off the book to avoid embarrassment). When we were first forming the Masonic Society, Tom was one of the earliest supporters, and he was named as a Founding Fellow. He was a fixture at Masonic Week each year in the Washington, DC area, and despite his diminutive height, you always knew he was in the room because of his rich, deep baritone voice that carried far. That resonant voice has now been stilled, and I will miss his friendship, his thoughtfulness, and his insights.

Tom is survived by his wife, Linda. The couple lived on their farm in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and have been married for fifty-six years. Please keep her in your prayers. 

When I receive info about his funeral arrangements and services, I will post it on the blog. 

His column is broken, and his brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.

H/T to John Bizzack for passing me the news this morning.


JANUARY 2nd 12:15PM - Tom Jackson's funeral information and obituary.

Funeral services for Thomas W. Jackson will be held Thursday, January 6, 2022, at 2:00 PM in the Fogelsanger-Bricker Funeral Home and Crematorium, Inc. Shippensburg. Masonic services will be conducted Wednesday, January 6, 2022, at 6:00 PM with a viewing following from 6:30 till 8:00 PM in the funeral home. 

Official Obituary

Thomas W. “Tom” Jackson, formerly of Shippensburg, 87, died on Thursday, December 30, 2021, at Lancaster General Hospital. Tom was born in McKeesport, PA, on September 14, 1934, a son of Duane T. and Roseazella Maley Jackson, along with a twin sister, Donna. At eleven years of age he moved to Shippensburg.

Tom was a 1952 graduate of Shippensburg High School, a 1958 graduate of Shippensburg State Teachers College (now Shippensburg University) with a B.S. degree in Chemistry and Biology and a 1966 graduate of Penn State University with an M.S. degree in Zoology. He taught chemistry, physics, and biology in a public school for three years and followed with 14 years as a professor of biology at Penn Hall Preparatory School and Junior College.

An active Freemason, Tom was a Past Master of Cumberland Valley Lodge #315 F. & A.M. of Shippensburg. He served as Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of Pennsylvania for 20 years and was elected as the first Executive Secretary of the World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges serving for 16 years. He was a member of over 50 Masonic organizations. He holds honorary memberships in 111 grand lodges around the world and was honored by the country of Brazil with his image on a postage stamp for his contributions to Universal Freemasonry and has a lodge consecrated and named for him in Brazil. He was also honored by being made a chief of the village of Niigua-Saff in the Ivory Coast.

He was active in civic affairs serving amongst others, on the board of advisors for the College of Arts and Sciences at Shippensburg University, volunteer fireman, Pennsylvania State forest fire crew, Deputy Sheriff of Cumberland County, Special Deputy Sheriff of Franklin County, Franklin County Correctional Committee, Board of Directors for the National Collegiate Weightlifting Association, Advisory Council for Freedoms Foundation, President of Shippensburg area Jaycees, the Philadelphia Prevention Partnership Project, served on the Bicentennial Commission, and a member of the Pennsylvania State Grange. He was an Eagle Scout and served as a scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster of four troops.

He was a member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, the National Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Wildlife Disease Association, the American Chemical Society, Pennsylvania Realtors Association, the Pennsylvania Farmers Association, life member of the National Rifle Association, the Institute for Legislative Action and was a charter founder of the Second Amendment Task Force.

He was named outstanding young man of the year in 1963, received the Legion of Honor from Mexico, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Shippensburg University, Defender of Freedom award from Freedoms Foundation, and the Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion from the Chapel of Four Chaplains.

He was listed in Outstanding Young Men in America, Who’s Who in American Education-Leaders in American Science, Community Leaders and Noteworthy Americans, Directory of International Biography, National Register of Scientific and Technical Personnel, Who’s Who in Freemasonry, and was named a Fellow of the American Biographical Institute.

Tom played football and wrestled in high school, competed in wrestling and weightlifting in college. He was an AAU weightlifting champion in 1957, placed second nationally and was named to the All-American weightlifting team in 1958. He was an ardent hunter and fisherman.

He was a former member of the Memorial Lutheran Church in Shippensburg, where he served as a Sunday school teacher for many years and was a member of the Lutheran Church in Rainsburg, PA where he served as a supply pastor when needed.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Linda and many nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents he was preceded in death by two sisters and brothers-in law; Donna and Harry Schenk and Sandra and Harold Weaver.

Funeral services will be held Thursday January 6, 2022 at 2:00 PM in the Fogelsanger-Bricker Funeral Home and Crematorium, Inc., Shippensburg. The Rev. Preston Van Deursen and the Rev. William Hartman will officiate. Burial will be in Spring Hill Cemetery. A Masonic Service will be conducted Wednesday, January 5, 2022 at 6:00 PM with a viewing following from 6:30 until 8:00 PM in the funeral home.

Memorial contribution may be made to Cumberland Vally Lodge #315 F. & A.M., 41 Stewart Place, Shippensburg, PA 17257 or The Masonic Homes at Elizabethtown, 1 Masonic Drive, Elizabethtown, PA 17022.

The Family requests that masks be worn and all Covid guidelines be followed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

South Carolina PGMs Disher and Pearson Stripped of Scottish Rite Honors

by Christopher Hodapp

Brethren from South Carolina are reporting that Past Grand Masters Cal Disher and Jay Adam Pearson have been stripped of both the 33rd degree and Knight Commander of the Court of Honor (KCCH) by the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite (SJ).

Both PGMs remain as 32nd degree members in good standing.

The two past grand masters were at the center of controversy earlier this year when Disher expelled PGM Michael D. Smith from the fraternity. At the time, PGM Smith was serving as the Lieutenant Grand Commander for the Scottish Rite, and SGIG for South Carolina. Smith was reinstated to the fraternity after a tumultuous annual communication following the surprise election in April of PGM Ronald C. Mitchum (2005-07) to serve again as Grand Master for 2021-22.

Illus. Michael D. Smith subsequently died on November 17, 2021. After his death, there can  be no sense of closure to this story, no satisfaction in telling it, no wry sense of just desserts dished out, or justice satisfied. Only sadness for the careers of Masons who become victims of leaders who forget the very lessons our Craft tries to teach us all.

Monday, December 20, 2021

More Lights in Masonry - Masons Decorate for Holidays

by Christopher Hodapp

Our annual road trip caravan to Southern California to visit family is in full holiday mode this week, as you might guess from our aluminum yuletide decor. In perusing Reddit today, I came across a couple of Masonic halls festooned with festive holiday decor. It’s a relatively inexpensive (and annually reusable) way to call attention to your temple.

Mount Ararat Lodge in Bel Air, Maryland (above) claims to have 50,000 twinkling Christmas lights decorating their building, more than Rockefeller Center’s tree in New York, and more than twice as many as Clark W. Griswald’s house.

Trinity Lodge 163 in Newport, Kentucky, posted by u/ratebigrob 

Back in 2017, historic St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in Mountain Lakes, NJ participated in the local Christmas Home Tour. If your Masonic hall is even remotely historic, architecturally significant, or just plain situated in a neighborhood with these types of tour events, tie in an open house so that the community has the opportunity to come in and find out just what it is we do and what we stand for. Perhaps offer coffee, hot cider, and hot chocolate to the public and give them a rest from wandering your town in the cold.

Masonic Park and Youth Camp in Tampa, Florida (photo above) sets up an annual drive-through holiday light display. And many state Masonic retirement homes decorate their campuses with nighttime lighting displays.

Meanwhile, my sister and brother-in-law live near Newport Beach in Orange County, California, which is home to one of the oldest and largest Christmas ‘boat parades’ in America. Waterfront houses around the harbor are decorated with lights, along with scores of boats large and small. Everything from two-person launches up to huge yachts and even a massive ferry are covered in lights and process in a line up and down the twisting shore. Some are owned by individuals or  sailing clubs, while others are commercial/corporate vessels. A few local community groups were sponsors or participants in the illuminated flotilla. This would be a golden opportunity for a Masonic district  or group of lodges to band together and create their own floating entry.

Is your lodge or Masonic hall doing anything special for the Christmas holiday season? Pass it along and I’ll update this post. Send to hodapp@aol.com

Updated 12/21/21 4:31AM

RW David Catten, Past Master of Dewitt Clinton Lodge in Sandwich, Massachusetts, reports that their lodge, a former Methodist church built in 1847, shines for the season. It has been the lodge’s home since 1913.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

MSA Issues Disaster Relief Appeal for GL of Kentucky

by Christopher Hodapp

The devastating tornadoes that tore across Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee, and especially Kentucky over the weekend caused untold damage and destruction, and the death toll has risen to 88 as of this morning (according to the Associated Press). The state of Kentucky alone is reporting 74 deaths, and 100 people are still missing.

On December 13th, the Masonic Service Association of North America issued an official disaster appeal on behalf of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, at the request of Grand Master James H. Gibson.

Click the image below to enlarge.

As you are aware, multiple tornadoes ripped through the State of Kentucky destroying everything in their path. These tornadoes may go down as the worst in history. It has been suggested that one tornado was on the ground for 220 miles. Several Lodges have suffered catastrophic damage and have varying degrees of damage. They are several Brethren in these areas that have lost everything due to these storms.

Grand Master James H. Gibson has requested the Masonic Service Association of North America (MSA) to issue this Disaster Relief Appeal.

Please forward any donations you feel appropriate to help our devastated Brothers and their families in this stricken jurisdiction to MSA.

To donate online with a Visa or Mastercard, visit https://msana.com/current-appeals/.

To donate via check or money order, please make payable to MSA Disaster Relief Appeal and send to:

Masonic Service Association
813 1st Avenue SE, Suite 357
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

When remitting by check, please clearly mark that you wish the funds to go to the Kentucky Disaster Relief Appeal.

Remember that donations made through the MSA's official disaster relief appeals are fully tax deductible, and are considered preferable over independent fundraising programs like GoFundMe. Donations through the MSA are sent directly to the grand lodges that request an appeal, and the MSA does not charge any administrative fees - this has been part of the MSA's mission since its beginnings. 

UPDATE: According to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's website, C.D. Ward Lodge 961's Masonic hall at 201 School Street, East Bernstadt in Laurel County is open as an official KYEM/FEMA disaster recovery center. "[The centers will be open] from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m daily to help survivors with property damage and other setbacks from the recent tornadoes."

Monday, December 13, 2021

'When Were You Born?' - Manly P. Hall's Metaphysical Murder Mystery

by Christopher Hodapp

Late one Saturday night a few weeks ago, Alice and I were buttoned up in the Airstream as wind, rain and snow swirled around us outside. Winter isn't really the ideal time of year to be driving and camping across the country. So instead of sitting around a glowing campfire in the Great Outdoors, we gathered around the glowing neon lavender of our TV screen, fired up the streaming service, and went sculling for buried treasure on the Turner Classic Movies app. We've been on a kick for about three years of hunting down rarely seen mystery movies from the 1930s and 40s, and on this particular evening we stumbled onto a peculiar artifact of which we had been blissfully unaware. It was an odd Warner Brothers B-picture from 1938 called When Were You Born? And as the opening credits flickered across the screen, we both suddenly let out the sort of collective yelp often made in unison on TV shows about ghost hunters and haunted house investigators when a moth flits by their infrared camera.


The original script for the movie was written by none other than 20th century esotericist, mystic and founder of the Philosophical Research Society, Manly P. Hall. (Yes, the title card misspelled his name.) In fact, the movie begins with a 7 or 8 minute introduction featuring Hall himself, sitting behind his desk, explaining what each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac mean, and how they purportedly affect people's behavior. At the conclusion of his monologue, Hall stares into the camera with earnest intensity, and intones: 

“A crime has been committed. Astrology CAN solve crime. It has solved many crimes in the past," he assures the audience. "Astrology is the strangest of the sciences, but it IS a science.”

Well, okay, I guess.

The picture features Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong as astrologer Mei Lei Ling aboard an ocean liner bound for San Francisco from the Orient. One by one, she casts the horoscopes of twelve people (one for each Zodiacal sign) and warns one of them that he will be murdered within 48 hours. Sure enough, the arrogant chiseler is found toes up at room temperature and stiff as a carp two days later. In the course of the film, Ling – accompanied by her pet rhesus monkey – uses the astrological signs and horoscopes of the passengers and crew instead of physical evidence to assist the police and determine the murderer. 

Eventually, more killings up the body count before the solution is finally determined. Along the way are skeptical cops, drug smugglers, a shifty butler, spooky chases through hidden passageways, and even a Chinese dragon-shaped 'silent' gun that fires chunks of jade instead of bullets at its targets!

No wonder the Chinese are beating us at hypersonic weapon development these days. 

Ling uses horoscope sessions to solve the murders instead of interrogation, investigation, or even physical clues, and the picture carries the whole astrology-as-science theme throughout, right from the start. In the opening credits, each member of the cast is pictured along with their Zodiacal signs. (Their names don't even appear in the movie's theatrical trailer - only their signs!) 

In truth, it does get annoying every time Mei Ling meets someone new, she raises an eyebrow and immediately demands, "When were you born?"

If you only know of Manly Hall from his Masonic books — The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, The Secret Destiny of America, Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptians, and Masonic Orders of Fraternity — you might wonder how he managed to get this odd little picture made and distributed by Warner Brothers. We don't have many celebrities these days whom everyone just seems to uniformly recognize because pop culture is too fractured anymore. But Manly P. Hall was hot stuff in the 1930s. Just four years before When Were You Born? was released, Hall had established the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles, dedicated to the study of religion, mythology, metaphysics, and other occult subjects. He was wildly popular as a public speaker, and filled auditoriums to capacity. His masterwork, Secret Teachings of All Ages, had been published in 1928, and the public was fascinated with all things metaphysical and occult-ish at the time. 

"See it! It's different!"

Detective pictures and murder mystery stories were a mania throughout the 1930s, especially yarns about private dicks with a character quirk or two. And mysterious mystics (usually wearing turbans on their noggins and taking advantage of rich addlepated widows by peddling metaphysical mumbo jumbo) were common staples in 1930s movies. But When Were You Born? took a different approach, elevating astrology to the status of serious science. 

Warner Brothers reportedly wanted to make an entire series of Mei Lei Ling mysteries featuring Anna May Wong's astrologer character solving more crimes – a sort of metaphysical variation on the wildly popular Charlie Chan/Mr. Moto/Mr. Wong oriental detective characters of the period. (My favorite quote by a villain in Mister Moto's Gamble: "I'm not afraid of a little Japanese dick!"). But disappointing box office receipts for this movie scuttled that plan. And once America entered the war in the Pacific three years later in the wake of Pearl Harbor, audiences almost immediately gave up their enjoyment of brainy Asian detectives.

Lots of new Masons stumble across Manly Hall's early books about Masonry written when he was in his 20s and are fascinated by his theories and explanations. But modern Masonic scholars regard most of what he wrote about the fraternity to be flights of fancy. Although Manly Hall wrote about Freemasonry in the early part of his career, he didn't actually join the fraternity until 1954 when he was initiated into San Francisco's Jewel Lodge 374. The following year, he joined the Scottish Rite in the Valley of San Francisco. In 1973, he was crowned as a 33° Scottish Rite Mason. It should be noted that he never wrote about Freemasonry again after joining the fraternity.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Double Eagle Con 2021 in Chicago This Saturday 12/18

by Christopher Hodapp

My apologies for the dearth of postings recently. We are currently embarked on our annual extended Airstream sojourn to Southern California for the Christmas holidays and I only just saw this announcement:

This coming Saturday, December 18th, the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago will be hosting Double Eagle Con 2021, a one day Masonic education symposium. Nine outstanding guest speakers will be presenting during this one-day event at the Valley's beautiful cathedral in Bloomingdale, Illinois.

From the symposium's signup page HERE:

Over the course of one day, we will have nine of the most prolific men in Freemasonry. Never before has a group of speakers been assembled who’ve molded our awareness of Freemasonry in such significant ways. These men have made their indelible mark on not only our fraternity as a whole but also the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. This education day will be packed with presentations, fellowship, and more.


Michael R. Poll, 32˚, KYCH is Secretary of the Louisiana Lodge of Research and Full Member of the Texas Lodge of Research. A New York Times Bestselling writer and publisher, he is a prolific writer, editor, and publisher of Masonic and esoteric books.

Josef Wäges, 32° is a member of the Blue Friars, member of Plano Lodge #768, Fate Lodge #802, the Dallas Valley of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (Southern Jurisdiction), Fellow of the Grand College of Rites, Fellow of the Philalethés, full member of the Texas Lodge of Research, Michigan Lodge of Research and life member of the Missouri Lodge of Research.

Roberto M. Sanchez, 32˚, KCCH is a member of several Grand Jurisdictions, including the Grand Lodge of the State of Mexico where he holds the title and distinction as Past Grand Master, as well as serving as the Grand Ambassador of International Relations. Roberto has given lectures on Masonry all over the United States, Latin America, Canada, and Europe. He is also the original Curator, Historian, and Librarian for the Houston Masonic Library Museum as well as serving on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee. He is the author of The True Masonic Experience, A Guide to the Ceremonial, and several other books.

Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLOR is a Past Master and Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research. He has contributed to several Masonic publications including his work as a regular contributor to the respected Midnight Freemasons blog. Steve has authored three books on Freemasonry.

Chuck Dunning, 32˚, KCCH is an advocate, facilitator, trainer, and consultant in contemplative practice, with more than thirty years in the professional fields of higher education and mental health, as well as in Masonry and other currents in the Western esoteric traditions.

S. Brent Morris, 33˚, Ph.D. spent seventeen years as managing editor of the Scottish Rite Journal of the Supreme Council, SJ after twenty-five years as a mathematician with the National Security Agency. He has taught at Duke, Johns Hopkins, and George Washington Universities. He was editor of The Freestate Freemason and is a recipient of the Warren S. Seipp Award from the Grand Lodge of Maryland and the Philip C. Tucker Medal from the Grand Lodge of Vermont.

Robert G. Davis, 33˚, GC is the author of four books, including The Mason’s Words, outlining the history and evolution of the American Masonic ritual; Understanding Manhood in America, focusing on the fraternal quest for the ideals of masculinity; The Journey of the Elu to Enlightenment, providing a contemporary interpretation of the degrees of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite; and In Search of Light, a course of hieroglyphic and symbolic moral instruction for the Symbolic Lodge.

Darin A. Lahners, 32˚ is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also currently serving the Grand Lodge of the State of Illinois as District Education Officer for the 7th Eastern District.

Jeffrey Croteau is the Director of Library & Archives for the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts.

The Scottish Rite Cathedral is located at 383 E. Lake Street in Bloomingdale, Illinois 60108. 
Includes continental breakfast, lunch & dinner.

Breakfast/check-in start at 7am.

Speakers start at 8 am.

Members Only. Business attire is recommended.

No refunds will be issued for cancellations within 48 hours prior of event.

If you have any questions, please contact a Scottish Rite team member at (800) 774-3467 or email Reservations@ScottishRiteChicago.org.

For the safety of all attending, COVID restrictions and guidelines will be in place

Monday, December 06, 2021

New Jersey: Former Senior Grand Warden Protests Removal

by Christopher Hodapp

Tumult continues apace in the Grand Lodge of New Jersey this week. Friday's announcement that Gary J. Olsen was removed from his position as Senior Grand Warden by New Jersey Grand Master Robert V. Monacelli brought a rapid response. A tranche of documents was sent out over the weekend by several New Jersey Masons in support of Olsen, which included his response to the edict. In the interest of fairness to all parties involved, I post them below.

GM Monacelli's edict suspended Olsen from his elected position for failure to participate in official Grand Lodge events, committees, appearances and other responsibilities that are part of a grand officer's duties. He was not suspended from the fraternity.

In his letter, Olsen alleges that his removal was done in retaliation for acting as a whistle blower concerning a member of the current Grand Staff accused of un-Masonic conduct:

"The accused brother has admitted to you, the accuser, and to your investigation committee that he committed this act and subsequently tried to resign his position and turn in his collar. Yet you, Grand Master, refused his resignation and still allow him to serve on your staff and instead you choose to remove me from office and forbid my nomination for Deputy Grand Master, for far less."

 (Click images below to enlarge.) 

Olsen's response to the edict suspending him as SGD:

Just as a random comment, I will say from experience that telling a Grand Master he's exceeded his authority and then demanding him to put you back in as a grand officer again is about as likely as my poodle being crowned queen of the Gas City Pork Festival. 

In fact, even LESS likely.

Prior to suspending Olsen from the Grand Line, GM Monacelli sent the following letter to him in which he specifies numerous occasions, events and meetings that Olsen either failed or refused to participate in, or engaged in what he described as "disruptive behavior." From the text, it would appear that the GM and other members of the Grand Line have had these discussions with him several times. 

In Olsen's correspondence that's been circulated, there is also a letter sent to him last April by the GM in which he was admonished for commenting publicly on social media about an investigation of a Mason that was underway. 

While Olsen is not up on charges and was not suspended or expelled from Freemasonry in New Jersey, it seems that things may get a bit dicier. He was sent an official summons over the weekend to appear at the Grand Lodge this Thursday for publicly asserting a cover-up of some kind in the Grand Lodge.

I'm convinced now more than ever that social media — or rather, anti-social media — will eventually kill us all.

Friday, December 03, 2021

GM of New Jersey Removes Senior Grand Warden From Office

by Christopher Hodapp

MW Robert V. Monacelli, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey (photo above), has removed Senior Grand Warden Gary J. Olsen from office. According to the edict (Edict 14) circulated to the Masons in New Jersey, now-former Senior Grand Warden Olsen has been suspended from his elected position for failure to participate in official Grand Lodge events, committees, appearances and other responsibilities that are part of a grand officer's duties.

He is not suspended or expelled from the fraternity, but the edict forbids Olsen from being nominated to run for Deputy Grand Master in the November 2022 election. 

Gary J. Olsen

Click the images below to enlarge.

Like so many other grand lodges, the Grand Lodge of New Jersey was compelled to move its annual communication in 2020 and 2021 to comply with their state's COVID restrictions. Traditionally, they have met in April. In April of 2020, the COVID lockdowns were at their height and the then Grand Master, Greg Scott, pushed back the annual communication until November of 2020. The current line of officers were elected or named at that time.

In January of this year, GM Monacelli issued an edict stating that he and all current grand line Officers would remain in office for an additional twelve months, so November 2022 would be the end of their term. The reasoning for this was explained:

"the majority of the members of the current Grand Staff, who may, for the most part, not be likely to have another opportunity to participate on a Grand Staff, have been deprived of their opportunity to travel together, to coalesce as a staff, and to obtain the enhancement of Masonic light and knowledge customarily received through the experience of full participation in all of the planned programs and events throughout the State, beyond the boundaries of the Districts from which they respectively hail. . ."

Grand Lodges all over the world have been wrestling with the unprecedented lockdowns and restrictions that COVID wrought. There have been complaints among New Jersey Masons that this edict violated their constitution, by-laws and other rules by extending the grand line for an additional year (something that the GM freely admitted he was suspending). But COVID and its accompanying restrictions have upended untold numbers of organizations that operate like our Masonic groups do, requiring the dedication of volunteer members. 

Let's face it – we count on saints and masochists to govern our fraternity. The justification advanced by GM Monacelli's January 2021 edict may ring hollow to many, but advancing through the grand officers' line in the majority of jurisdictions can take seven or more years, with constant demands on a man's time to be away from home and family, and generally with no financial compensation of any kind. It's all well and good to say "the honor is its own compensation," but any Mason entering a grand officers' line can say goodbye to nearly every weekend of his life, and probably 7-10 nights a month for additional visits for six or seven years. The ultimate reward is the Grand Master's position, and it's even worse. The grand line can strain marriages, family life, jobs, wallets, emotions, retirement plans, and much more. No one should ever accept such a position casually, and there should never be any shame if a grand officer concludes that he cannot fulfill these obligations and resigns.

This is why the majority of grand lodges extended their grand officer terms in 2020 and 2021, even if they didn't come right out and say it the way GM Monacelli did. No one wants to spend the better part of a decade planning much of their life around their upcoming advancement to grand master, only to be ordered by the government to cancel all activity for the immediate future because of "the national emergency."

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Leicestershire's Freemason Hall Open House Video

by Christopher Hodapp

The stunning Freemasons Hall in Leicestershire, England (pronounced "Lester") opened its doors to the public on November 13th for an annual open house. Built as two houses in the 19th century, the Masons purchased the properties in 1909 and combined them into the large Masonic hall that is home to many lodges. The plain white facade hides a stunning interior. The vaulted-ceilinged Holmes Lodge Room is truly breathtaking.

Holmes Lodge Room

Holmes Lodge Room

The story appeared on the LeicestershireLive website HERE.

In addition to the main lodge room, there are several others throughout the building used by the many blue lodges in the Leicestershire and Rutland area.

Corah Lodge Room

Morley Lodge Room

Oliver Lodge Room

If you have a Facebook account, you can see a video tour at this link. The 30 minute video includes the lodge room and the hall's outstanding Masonic museum.

For more information, see the website for the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons HERE.

(Images from LeicestershireMercury.co.uk)