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


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

GM of New Jersey Posthumously Names Capitol Police Officer an "Honorary Mason"

by Christopher Hodapp

MW Robert V. Monacelli, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge F&AM of New Jersey, has just issued an edict posthumously proclaiming the late Brian David Sicknick as an "Honorary Mason."

Click to enlarge.

Brian David Sicknick (42) was the District of Columbia Capitol Police officer who died after sustaining injuries during last week's rampage through the US Capitol building. He was bludgeoned in the head with a fire extinguisher as the mob moved through the building, and a criminal investigation is ongoing to find the person responsible. 

According to the edict, Brian was the son of Charles Sicknick and the brother of Craig Sicknick, who are b oth members of Philo Lodge 243 in South River, New Jersey. Posthumously naming a man as an Honorary Mason is extremely rare in the Masonic world, and jurisdictions have different practices, powers and prerogatives that their grand masters may exercise. 

Officer Sicknick was a veteran.  He joined the New Jersey National Guard in 1997 fresh out of high school. He was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was honorably discharged in 2003. He joined the Capitol Police Department in 2008.

Brian Sicknick was laid to rest on Monday, and his family has asked that his death not be politicized.

DAR Magazine Features Masonic Building Pictorial

by Christopher Hodapp

The January/February 2021 issue of American Spirit Magazine features a pictorial article about noteworthy Masonic buildings around the U.S. The magazine is a publication of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and has 45,000 subscribers.

Visions of America: Masonic Temples is written by Annelise Jolley. 

From the description:

The influence of the Freemasons predates the formation of the United States. Evidence of their presence persists in the form of Masonic lodges and temples, designed in a wide variety of architectural styles.

How familiar are you with the Masons? Typically portrayed as a secret society full of mystery AND history, the Masons are one of the oldest fraternal societies, and can trace its roots to the medieval ages. Scholars believe that as many as 8 out the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were members, as were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, Mozart and even Mark Twain. 
In the Visions of America department in the January/February 2021 issue of American Spirit, we travel through the United States to find historic and notable Mason Temples and Lodges, including King Solomon’s Lodge No. 7 in Woodbury, Conn., The House of the Temple in Washington, D.C., Masons’ Hall in Richmond, Va., and Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis, Indiana...
The DAR's magazine American Spirit is devoted to the organization's love of American history, preservation and genealogy. Each issue celebrates the uniquely American story through a selection of historical subjects from the Colonial period through the early decades of the new republic. American Spirit regularly features articles about Revolutionary patriots, historic homes, heritage travel, the DAR Museum collection and more.

H/T: Mary Pat Mahan McElhiney

Revived Masonic Book Club Reached Pre-Publication Goal In Just Two Days

by Christopher Hodapp

As reported here last September, the venerable but long defunct Masonic Book Club has recently been re-launched under the auspices of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction, helmed by S. Brent Morris and Arturo De Hoyos. On December 21st, the MBC announced the pre-publication sale of their first title, The Perfect Ceremonies 
of Craft Masonry & The Holy Royal Arch.

The Club has no dues and does not offer a subscription. Central to the new business model of the MBC is that books will be announced prior to publication in order to gauge the level of interest among Masonic readers. If an insufficient number of pre-orders are not received within 30 days, the book will be withdrawn and money refunded.

It looks like there's plenty of interested Masons in this endeavor. 

The Perfect Ceremonies of Craft Masonry & The Holy Royal Arch was announced on December 21, and just two days later, they already had enough pre-publication sales to publish. The pre-order window will remain open until 11:59 pm, January 21, 2021. Once the final tally of sales is known, the books will be printed and are expected to ship about March 29, 2021.

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. To learn more about the book and to view/download sample pages, visit the MBC web page HERE.

Pre-orders are NOT available through the Scottish Rite online store.
To make a pre-publication purchase for $25 + S&H, follow this link.

Only after all orders are fulfilled, a limited number of additional copies will become available for $35 + S&H via the Scottish Rite online store, https://www.scottishritestore.org/.

A message from the MBC also provided some insight as to what their next selections may be, along with addressing the troubles and costs regarding international sales:
What’s Next?
The response to the MBC has been exceptional. Before we have even delivered our first volume, some are asking, “What’s next?” The plan is to continue the MBC tradition of reprinting classic Masonic books with a scholarly introduction preceding the facsimile and an index following—the “MBC Sandwich.” In the pipeline is a reprint of the 1977 MBC volume, Samuel Prichard’s 1730 Masonry Dissected with an update to Harry Carr’s introduction and commentary. Also in the works is a collection of “burlesque degrees,” silly initiation ceremonies intended to mock the seriousness of fraternal initiations and to amuse the audience.

International Sales
One of the frustrations in relaunching the MBC is handling non-US customers. The US Postal Service has a very favorable “media mail” rate for shipping books within the US. Postage to mail a 2-lb. book to Buffalo, NY, is about $3.20; to mail the book another 150 miles to Toronto is $20+. We have tried to price international postage fairly, neither overcharging our international customers nor subsidizing them.

Sales and shipping to the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) requires personal data to be protected according to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The service we use to process credit card sales does not comply with GDPR, and our number of EU/EEA sales is not enough to warrant changing services. We are trying to find an EU/EEA agent to facilitate sales. Until then, our best suggestion is that EU/EEA customers have their books shipped to an American friend who can reship.
The mission statement of the resurrected Masonic Book Club is to publish classic Masonic works with the goals to increase Masonic knowledge and to become a profit center for the House of the Temple Foundation. If you have any questions or suggestions, please address them to mbc@scottishrite.org.

Monday, January 11, 2021

GM of Wisconsin Statement on Civil Disobedience

MW Kenneth C. Gorgen,
Grand Master of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Wisconsin

by Christopher Hodapp

In the wake of last week's protests in Washington, DC and the deadly rampage through the U.S. Capitol building, the Grand Master of North Carolina issued a statement denouncing the violence and exhorting his members to reject ignorance and intolerance.

Yesterday, MW Kenneth C. Gorgen, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Wisconsin issued his own statement on the events (see the message below). Like the North Carolina message, this one has also caused its share of heated online remarks and arguments.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

My Brothers,
January 6, 2021 was a time for the wheels of our government to begin turning for the four-year ritual acknowledging the will of the people and validating the selection of a leader for our beloved country. This ritual has been a legacy and part of our heritage for over 200 years. Unfortunately, on this day, a group of thugs decided to force themselves into this sacred process and stop these wheels from turning. They attacked the sanctuary which houses a place for our elected leaders to carry on the business of the Country. Regardless of our political persuasion or beliefs, as Citizens of the United States and as just and upright Masons, we should be sickened by the ruthless actions of these criminals.

Our Country is founded on a humble principle that “we the people” are entitled to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. As Masons, we are charged to promote these principles to all people and as the ritual teaches, “…give every man his just due without distinction.” There is much work to do to make sure all people of this Country have an equal share of that dream, but the work of equality under the law and in this case, the peaceful transfer of power must never stop or be interrupted by force.

These criminals have in the past and on January 6th exposed everyone to the rhetoric and actions which promote mistrust, suspicion, discrimination, separation and hatred, which in the end resulted on an assault on the cradle of our government.

Masons who believe in the principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth cannot in clear conscience belong to any organization that teaches hate and supremacy of one person over another because of color, nationality, and religious beliefs. These organizations are in direct conflict with what we as Masons hold dear. It cannot be possible to hold membership in one of these subversive organizations and still be a Mason.

You were first prepared to be a Mason in your heart. I cannot condone one of our Masonic Brothers maintaining a membership in one of these organizations. If you hold a membership in one of these organizations, I encourage you to hold fast to your Masonic teachings and resign from that group. Otherwise, I will gladly accept your resignation from the Masonic Fraternity.

Sincerely and Fraternally,

Kenneth Gorgen
Grand Master of Masons in Wisconsin


Has He The Pass?

by Christopher Hodapp

I'm not sure if this is a cool doorknob for a lodge room, or just disturbing. Whichever, it's $34.95 from the Friendyness.com website.

Description claims it's handmade, which goes without saying.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

North Carolina GM Issues Statement Over Capitol Riot

Getty images
by Christopher Hodapp

The miserable year of 2020 has now officially slipped into history, but it wasn't going to just go quietly without putting up a desperate struggle. On January 6th, tens (and perhaps hundreds) of thousands of supporters of Present Donald Trump assembled on the Ellipse in Washington DC in protest over the results of the November 2020 election. At the other end of the Mall inside the U.S.Capitol, the House of Representatives and the Senate were in the process of debating and formally certifying the Electoral College results of the presidential race.

Before the president's speech to his supporters ended, a large mob of people broke off, made their way to the Capitol, and stormed into the building. The unprecedented rampage that ensued (and covered in real time on television and the Internet) left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher, and one of the protesters, a 35-year old female Air Force veteran who was shot by an officer. Three others died from apparent medical emergencies. Members of Congress were hustled to an undisclosed 'secure location' as tear gas was used against the mob.

As with most riots and mass rampages, an adolescent glee for breaking things and invading symbolic seats of authority figures for the sake of selfies and high-fives from fellow mob members fanned the flames of frenzy. Knocking down symbols of power for the sheer fun of it is a common hallmark of massive mob protests, and this one was no exception. As more details became available, some of the participants posing for the cameras and egging on the crowd turned out to be known anarchic provocateurs seen at other riots and violent protests from earlier in the year. But the majority of the crowd that slowly moved into the rotunda and then on to the House and Senate chambers seemed more like several hundred dogs who had suddenly caught the UPS truck they had been chasing without a clue of what to do with it now.

It was not America's finest hour, and it's almost impossible to know how history will regard this event and the last year after all the dust clears and time softens the heated passions of the moment.

In the wake of this shocking (but probably inevitable) event, social media erupted as millions took sides over what was unfolding. The toxic political atmosphere of the last four years had finally taken its toll, as 50% of the country declared that the other 50% were their mortal enemy, and vice versa. And since the Internet, Twitter and Facebook have become the 21st century battlefields, there were Masons to be found on both sides of the political divide acting less than Masonically to each other. 

R. David Walker, Jr., Grand Master
Grand Lodge AF&AM of North Carolina

On Friday, January 8th, MW R. David Walker, Jr., Grand Master of the Grand Lodge AF&AM of North Carolina, issued a statement to the Brethren in his jurisdiction concerning Wednesday's events. The statement was circulated on the North Carolina grand lodge website and Facebook pages (click image to enlarge).

(To answer a question posed by many over the last few days, North Carolina also weighed in last summer with a joint statement with the MW Prince Hall GL of NC concerning the riots following the death of George Floyd. See it HERE.)

The condemnation of a mob attack on the very center of American democracy should scarcely be a controversial message. But almost as soon as the statement was publicly posted, an avalanche of positive and negative online reactions ensued. The message was greeted in several Masonic Facebook groups with appalling accusations, insults and reactions between Brethren, so much so that moderators shut down many of the discussions completely or removed entire conversations. The political vitriol that has become so commonplace in the profane world was on full display throughout the virtual Masonic community as well. 

The result is that I have now seen scores of Masons announce their intention to leave the fraternity, or at least reconsider their membership over it. Worse, the public can easily find these toxic exchanges, which only serves to smear Freemasonry as an institution that doesn't practice what it preaches.

It has been a cornerstone of Freemasonry since its official beginnings to prohibit the discussion of religion and politics within the confines of our tiled meetings because of the potential for heated divisions among our members. The online battles that have raged over the North Carolina statement are a clear demonstration of why that rule is necessary. Since the various riots and demonstrations around the country that began in summer of 2020, there have been no instances of Freemasons actually engaging in or organizing them AS MASONS. It's arguable that grand lodges issuing messages of support, solidarity or condemnation of political demonstrations and social uprisings have as much effect as Starbucks Coffee, Macy's, or the My Pillow company weighing in on political positions: regardless of the stance taken, the practical result is to needlessly conflict with a substantial proportion of existing customers (or members, in our case).

Grand lodges all over the country have been wrestling with adopting online social media rules of conduct over the last few years. Some have been minimal, common sense recommendations, but others have been needlessly detailed, draconian and picayune. The breakdown of social norms and the loss of what used to be called the 'civic virtues' that the Founders recognized as being the only way a democratic republic could endure have helped bring us to this gloomy moment in time. Historically, Freemasonry was deliberately encouraged to expand across America after our Revolution specifically to teach a rough, disparate and illiterate public how to get along with each other - to disagree without being disagreeable, and to unite men for the common good "among whom no contention should ever exist but that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work, and best agree." Religion, politics, social and economic status, level of education - none of these were supposed to matter in the sanctuary of the lodge room or between Brethren in daily life, and those frontier Masons learned to sit side by side with men diametrically opposed to their own opinions.
It's probably irrational to believe that Freemasonry as a philosophy can successfully calm and subdue the passions of all of her members during this time of upheaval and 24-hour rage-making stoked by opportunistic activists, basement revolutionaries, keyboard warriors, politicians and media figures. Enforced isolation from the COVID shutdowns has prevented us from meeting face to face, Brother to Brother, for nine months now. But it certainly has no possible hope of succeeding with Masons who would rather quit than learn to coexist with their Brethren over politics. The COVID aftermath will certainly exact a dramatic toll on the fraternity from Masons who decide to drop their membership out of ennui caused by the shutdowns. Let's all hope that political strife and disagreements between Masons over transitory elections don't do even worse.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Greetings From the Road: the Sequel

Stopped in Arizona

by Christopher Hodapp

Deepest apologies for the dearth of Masonic postings since Christmas. After the mishaps that forced us to return home before the holiday, we set out again for California and actually made it this time. 

We're currently parked in Orange County in a campground planted thick with orange trees that are burgeoning with swollen fruit. The poodle is mesmerized by them - she stares up and thinks they are actually filled with ripened tennis balls desperately in need of being chased.