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


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Transform Your Plain Masonic Hall Entrance

by Christopher Hodapp

We had a saying around our film production studio for many, many years: "Where do great ideas come from? Somebody else!"

It's a fact of life that not every Masonic temple can be blessed with being architecturally distinctive. In fact, it's the rare Masonic hall built after World War II that isn't either plain, ugly, boring, or downright ghastly.

The featureless glass-wall front entrance to Porter Lodge 137 in Valparaiso, Indiana is typical for late 1950s and 60s generic storefront buildings. At first glance, it could be an accountant's office, a dental clinic, a social security administration branch, or a hundred other types of offices or stores. There was little about it that instantly identified it as a Masonic lodge unless you saw the square and compass signs up at the roofline - which is actually hard to do if you're driving down the street or walking on the sidewalk. 

In fact, the first time I visited the lodge in northern Indiana, I blasted right past it. 


That's not true any more. Thanks to the artistic design abilities of WB John Bridegroom (art director of the Journal of the Masonic Society and proprietor of The Master's Craft, supplier of custom Masonic jewels and more), the lodge's glass foyer was transformed into a truly unique entryway through the miracle of vinyl graphics. 

The actual printing and installation of the vinyl graphics was donated to the lodge by WB Zeno Rossetti.

The result is stunning, and remarkably inexpensive when you consider the enormity of the impact it makes.  Now there's no mistaking what this doorway leads to.

If these particular graphics aren't to your taste or liking, that's okay. Start with a blank sheet of paper or a new Photoshop document, and create one that's more suitable for your lodge. The point is that for just a few hundred dollars, a big graphic like this can completely transform your temple building. And if you hate it next year, the vinyl makes it easy to remove and create a new one!

If your town has lots of foot traffic, the downstairs entry to your temple offers the potential to be both welcoming and informative, even if there's no one inside and the doors are locked. For instance, Orange Grove Lodge 293 in Orange, California sits on a prominent corner on their town square. A Chase bank branch occupies the ground floor, and the lodge is upstairs. 

On weekends, the street is often shut down to cars and turned into a pedestrian mall with outdoor dining. So the lodge uses its glass doors to provide a short FAQ to the public: what's Freemasonry about; what's the point; who can join; the lodge website and Facebook addresses; and who to contact for more information.

On the town square side of the building is the more formal entry to the lodge and Masonic Center upstairs. Instead of more signage, they have a large, circular painted-glass square and compass right at eye level. The symbol is illuminated at night and easy to spot from across the street. 

These graphics act as 24/7 messengers to the public, whether they are providing information or just simply creating a sense of intrigue and wonder to a curious public. 

We still have some members today who cling to the notion that Masons shouldn't ever do anything that even smells like advertising or promotion. This is, of course, balderdash. If you really think our brethren in the 19th century didn't advertise the fraternity, I offer this image of the downtown Masonic temple in Boston in 1895. Bold enough in daylight, it was festooned in so many electric lights that you could have spotted it from low Earth orbit (if you could get there somehow).

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

California Lodge Restarts Its Youth Groups

by Christopher Hodapp

Turlock Masonic Lodge 236 in Turlock, California got some decent coverage in the local paper this morning. The lodge is bringing back their youth groups, which have been dormant for several years now – Job's Daughters for girls, and DeMolay for boys.

From Job’s Daughters and Demolays give young people a space to foster their growth by Pawan Naidu in the Turlock Journal:
Within the lodge they have separate divisions that help young people grow and develop as individuals. Job’s Daughters help young women ages 10-20 while Demolays helps young men ages 9-21.

Former member of Job’s Daughters, Amanda Sargenti Gomez, said she believes one of the most valuable things the organization taught her was the importance of volunteering and giving back to the community.

“A very important thing for me was being active in the community by volunteering. During my term as Honored Queen we collected toys and books to take to Shriner’s Hospital. We also assisted the Masons by serving at their dinner events,” she said.

“I learned many things from my time in Job’s Daughters. First off, respect for myself, my elders and my peers, as well as proper etiquette. Secondly, I learned public speaking and how to run and organize a meeting. These things have been very important as I developed within my career,” said Gomez.

According to former Demolay member James Banta, the Demolays aim to foster that same growth among young men and have a place where they can be among their peers.

“I think young men in particular find comfort knowing there are other people out there that feel the same way they do,” he said

What sets the Demolays apart from other youth organizations is that it gives their members autonomy about what they want to do.

“The members decide what activities they’re going to do. We do have older individuals there to help guide them along, but the members do all the organizing,” said Banta.

The Demolays do not adhere to one religion and accept members of all faiths as long as they agree to the values of the organization.

“We put our values front and center and as long as you transcribe to those values, you’ll be welcomed,” said Banta.


Tuesday, September 07, 2021

UPDATED: Knights Templar GM Removes DGM from Officers' Line

by Christopher Hodapp

UPDATED Friday 9/11/2021-
Instead of posting new articles every time a new letter is issued or becomes available, I am adding updates to this original message. This most recent update adds a letter written by David Kussman in response to Templar Grand Master Johnson's demand for his resignation on September 4th. I also include a rebuttal penned by Past Grand Master Nelson this past week.

As Katherine Hepburn famously quipped in The Lion In Winter"What family doesn't have its little ups and downs..."

I was hoping for at least one good news story to post between last week's Grand Encampment vs. Great Priory of America CBCS related drama, but, alas, no. Masonic social media was atwitter over the Labor Day weekend with more drama out of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar in the United States (GEKT). On Friday, September 3rd, Templar Grand Master Michael B. Johnson issued a letter to his Deputy Grand Master, David J. Kussman, calling for his resignation (image below):

On Saturday, DGM Kussman responded to GM Johnson's demand with the following letter:

(Please note that these letters were posted to a public website that was created to call for a special conclave to deal with issues of the last two weeks. I have not obtained them improperly.)

In response, GM Johnson formally removed DGM Kussman from office on Monday in a letter that was circulated to officers, Past KT Grand Masters and others (image below):

Yes, Kussman's removal is at least partially related to the GPA drama and attempts to negotiate some kind of mutually agreeable truce between the two organizations. The word is that the Grand Encampment officer line will be advanced this coming Saturday, September 11th to fill Kussman's vacancy, and a new Captain General will be appointed.

Meanwhile, Sir Knight Ben Williams has devoted today's episode of his Rocky Mountain Mason Podcast, RMM-060, to explaining the ongoing situation within the GEKT. Ben was named by the immediate Past Grand Master Jeff Nelson to chair the Jurisprudence Committee at the Triennial last week when its appointed chairman was unable to attend. HEAR IT HERE.

UPDATED 9/8/2021 4:43PM
My understanding late Wednesday is that Sir Knights Bolstad and Harper shall be advancing to R.E. Deputy Grand Master and R.E. Grand Generalissimo, respectively, and that Past Department Commander James McGee shall be appointed as Grand Captain General.

Two large documents were prepared for the Triennial explaining the origins and opposing positions of the Great Priory of America/CBCS and the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA. You need to read both documents to see the disagreement from both sides. These two pdf documents can be accessed HERE.

UPDATED 9/10/2021 11:50PM:
Past Grand Master Jeffrey N. Nelson has now weighed in with his own statement in defense of David Kussman:

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Petition Calls for Special Conclave Over Grand Encampment/GPA Saga

by Christopher Hodapp

That took almost no time at all.

In the wake of the official decisions regarding the Great Priory of America CBCS issued last week by Grand Master Michael Johnson of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the US, a website has already popped up with a petition to call for a Special Conclave in an attempt to finally put this issue to rest.

UPDATED 9/8/2021 4:43PM

Two large documents were prepared for the Triennial explaining the historical origins and opposing positions of the Great Priory of America/CBCS and the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA. You need to read both documents to see the disagreement from both sides. These two pdf documents can be accessed HERE.

Friday, September 03, 2021

It Goes On: Knights Templar GM Johnson Issues Decisions Against Great Priory CBCS

by Christopher Hodapp

It seems that the troublesome Grand Encampment/CBCS/Great Priory of America issue continues to rise up like the ghostly mists and miasmas that drift over once-bloody ancient battlefields, awakening the souls of the long-dead from their brief slumber 'neath the silent clods of the valley to forever walk the Earth in search of peace.

Or something like that.

At the Triennial of the Knights Templar Grand Encampment of the US last week, the assembled members of the Grand Encampment overwhelmingly voted to nullify former edicts and decisions from the last decade that had forbidden Templar members from belonging to the Great Priory of America (GPA) of the Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte (CBCS), and expelled existing members of the GPA from its ranks. The resolution to bury the hatchet passed last week with more than 75% in favor. They also voted against a totally separate resolution (again with more than 75%) that attempted to declare the GPA clandestine.

(Forgive the imprecise wording here – I'm trying to summarize for the sake of brevity. You can see the actual resolutions HERE at this post from August 24th.)

With a super-majority voting in favor of putting this issue to rest, it would appear that the rank and file Knights are in favor of moving on. But it seems that GEKT/GPA feud hasn't ended after all. 

Or as said Stephen Boyd said to Charleton Heston after getting scuffed up in the chariot race in Ben Hur"It goes on!"

After little over a week in office, Grand Master Michael B. Johnson of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the US issued four official decisions (see image below) regarding the actions of the GEKT's Jurisprudence Committee, actions of the immediate Past Grand Master, and the CBCS Great Priory of America during the Triennial. Further, the final notice in his letter declares that, regardless of the vote taken at the Triennial, the GEKT still officially finds the GPA to be an "unrecognized Templar Order operating within the United States of America, in direct conflict with Section 3 of the Constitution of the Grand Encampment" and that membership in the GPA remains incompatible with membership in the GEKT (to enlarge, click images below):

Templars, interested bystanders, and train wreck enthusiasts who have been around for ten or fifteen years want to make this struggle about clashing egos and personalities, and there's no denying that has played a part. But there's a lot more to it besides "Let me in to your snooty club or I'll burn down your tree fort." 

The GEKT says the GPA is a competing Templar Order, based on the Latin wording identifying themselves that's found on their originating charter, and GPA says it isn't anything of the kind. Legal arguments center around the minutiae of each organizations' constitutional laws and regulations, and whether the GEKT has any right to claim what they've claimed and do what they've done over the last decade. 

Esotericists decry the GPA for holding the CBCS Rectified Rite degree system hostage in the U.S., suitable only for a little clot of Extra Special Masons. Indeed, the GPA declares on its website that the CBCS is "the summit of Christian Knighthood and is the only comparable Order in this country approaching civil knighthood in Europe. It is guarded carefully and only conferred infrequently upon those who are deemed worthy." 
The GPA is constitutionally restricted to no more than 100 members nationwide, and for much of their 78 year history, it's been less than 48. In fact, the GPA has protested when American Masons have traveled to foreign countries to receive the Rectified Right degrees in another priory, claiming this infringes on their territorial rights over the whole of the United States and, presumably, all of its Masonic citizens, even though the GPA  likely would never have invited those traveling Masons to join them. And they have long fought against the formation of additional U.S. priories.

Meanwhile, rank and file Masons want to know "This affects me...how?" Truth is, it doesn't. 

While the conflict appears close up to resemble a pair of bellowing mastodons having a go at each other over who owns the watering hole, in reality it is a distraction that continues to turn off potential Templar members who want nothing to do with what appears to them to be a pissing match between big-shots. Or as one former Sir Knight said to me years ago shortly before demitting, "The only reason the Templars wear swords as part of their uniforms is so their officers can stab each other in the back."

Not everybody has been following this epic saga for the last eleven years. Right Worshipful Brother Oscar Alleyne gave an online presentation ("What's the Beef?") earlier this week on a Refracted Light podcast about the origin of the CBCS and Great Priory of America, and the ongoing discord with the Grant Encampment. 

Oscar is a talented researcher and a careful presenter – his talk does not take sides, and he doesn't assign blame or virtue to anyone in this conflict personally. If you are interested in the history of the Rectified Rite, the CBCS, the GPA and the Grand Encampment's ongoing battle, give it a listen.

Meanwhile, "It goes on..."

UPDATED 9/8/2021 4:43PM

Two large documents were prepared for the Triennial explaining the historical origins and opposing positions of the Great Priory of America/CBCS and the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA. You need to read both documents to see the disagreement from both sides. These two pdf documents can be accessed HERE.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

So. California Research Lodge Poll: 'Top 10 Books of the New Millennium'

by Christopher Hodapp

Most Masons who read the literature of the fraternity are well acquainted with the classic, must-have works that were primarily published in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries by Preston, Mackey, Pike, Claudy, Newton, Wilmshurst, Hayward, Carr, Cerza and many, many others. 
But the brain boxes of Masonic knowledge aren't confined to the dusty past. Masonic scholarship didn't just come to a screeching halt the night that the Millennium Bug failed to destroy civilization when the world's computers flipped over to 1/1/01. Two decades into the 2000s, it's clear that we are blessed by many contemporary Masonic authors who continue to provide new discoveries, new insights, and new ways of looking at our lodges, rituals, symbols, philosophy, and even ourselves as Masons. 

With that in mind, the latest issue of Fraternal Review, the Southern California Research Lodge magazine, arrived today, and features the results of their latest reader’s poll, The Top 10 Masonic Books of the New Millennium (so far):
  1. Observing the Craft (2010) - Andrew Hammer
  2. Approaching the Middle Chamber (2020) - Jaime Paul Lamb
  3. Contemplative Masonry (2016) - C. R. Dunning
  4. The Mason's Words (2013) - Robert G. Davis
  5. Freemasons For Dummies (2005) - Christopher Hodapp
  6. Exploring Early Grand Lodge Freemasonry (2017) - Chris Murphy & Shawn Eyer
  7. Myth, Magic & Masonry (2018) - Jaime Paul Lamb
  8. Operative Freemasonry (2012) - Kirk C. White
  9. The Way of the Craftsman (2017) - W. Kirk MacNulty
  10. The Three Stages of Initiatic Spirituality (2020) - Angel Millar
I am proud and humbled (along with being continually astonished) that Freemasons For Dummies is on their latest list. I’m very appreciative to the editors of the magazine and especially to the Masons who responded to the poll and placed me in the midst of this august group. My thanks especially to managing editor WB Dago Rodriguez and to guest editor Jeriel Smith for their hard work and for conducting this poll.

Given the nature of the rest of the titles, it is even more surprising to me. The bulk of the books are mostly philosophical or esoteric in nature. Chris Murphy and Shawn Eyer's collection Exploring Early Grand Lodge Freemasonry is historic, but also explores the philosophy, thoughts and goals of Masons during the earliest years of the speculative fraternity. The number one book on the list, Observing the Craft by Andrew Hammer, is a practical guide to forming an observant style lodge. Mine is really the only general knowledge, general introductory book on the whole list. 

The editors of the magazine wrote:
"Judging by the voters' choices, it is apparent that today's Masonic readers are interested in the deeper connections Freemasonry enables a man to make with the self. A search for purpose, belonging and service are the themes most of these books touch upon and explore, that we believe has made them notable choices from the voting majority."
I will add that ALMOST making the list were (non-Mason) John Dickey's The Craft: How the Freemasons Made the Modern World (2020) and John Bizzack's Island Masonry (2017). Both of these excellent works just needed a handful of votes to make it on the list.

To celebrate the list, the Southern California Research Lodge is offering the complete collection of all 10 books in an EXTREMELY limited edition boxed set for $333 (shipping included). Most of the volumes in the New Millennium Book Collection are signed by their respective authors. 

Just 21 of these rare boxed sets are available and the sale doesn't kick off until Monday, September 6th. So, no early orders, please, and remember their office is on Pacific Time.

For more details, to join the research lodge, or to subscribe to Fraternal Review, go to: www.theresearchlodge.com