Sunday, August 24, 2008

Masonic "Business" Cards

Just a brief entry this time. I mentioned printing Masonic business cards and having them on hand in a previous blog entry. One of my Lodge brothers passed away last week and I represented the Lodge by attending the viewing. It was such a class act to be able to pass out to the family members my Masonic "business" card, I can't begin to tell you. It was so much better than trying to write down my name and phone number on a scrap of paper or on the back of the program(!).

You don't even have to have expensive card made. I downloaded a free Microsoft Word™ resume template, inputted my information, put in a suitable Square and Compasses logo, and printed to card stock. Easy.

This reminds me of what we called in the Army the Six "P"s - Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. Having those Masonic cards on hand before I needed them was the way to go.

University-Level Masonic Education Seminar

I was lucky enough yesterday to attend a university-level Masonic seminar that the Grand Master of Masons of Virginia arranged. It was held at the Alexandria Scottish Rite Temple, with about 50 Masons attending.

We were treated to three world-class living legend Masonic speakers: Worshipful Christopher Hodapp, Worshipful W. Kirk MacNulty, and Worshipful S. Brent Morris.

Worshipful Brother Hodapp spoke to us first. As quoted in the Virginia Masonic Herald, “he is the editor of the Journal of the Masonic Society and the author of Freemasonry for Dummies, Solomon’s Builders, and other works.” Bro. Christopher gave a wonderful, and at times funny, lecture titled, “Freemasonry’s Laudable Pursuit: Current Challenges and Opportunities.” He put into perspective some of the problems the Craft is facing, such as why our numbers will never be as high as in the 1950’s and how to attract good men to our Fraternity.

The second speaker was W. Kirk MacNulty, who “is the author of several books and articles on Freemasonry, most notably Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol and most recently, Freemasonry: Symbols, Secrets, Significance. Brother MacNulty was recently elected to London’s famed Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, widely regarded as the greatest research Lodge in the world.” He gave a fascinating presentation on Freemasonry’s Hermetic and Kabbalistic undercurrents, leading to a look at the mystical side of Freemasonry. He concludes that Freemasonry uses a Kabbala-like approach in its teachings.

The last, but not least, speaker for the day was Worshipful S. Brent Morris. He “is the editor of The Scottish Rite Journal and Heredom, and is the author of many books and articles on Freemasonry which includes The Idiots Guide to Freemasonry.” His presentation was on a subject I previously knew nothing about: “Itinerant American Masonic Lecturers.” We learned about some of the Masonic of the characters who attempted to make a living by being a catechism coach, one-man degree team, and degree imparter.

Having such an opportunity to hear such dynamic speakers talk on esoteric topics is one of the main reasons why I joined Freemasonry and I was not disappointed by these three learned brothers!

If you ever have a chance to hear any of these brothers speak, rush, don’t walk to the seminar!!

An Often Overlooked Part of the Job of Master

An important, but not often discussed, part of being the Master of a Lodge is that of making everyone feel welcome. Call it schmoozing, gladhanding, making chit chat, or mingling – it’s all the same thing, making everyone feel welcome.

As Master, it is your job to circulate among the brothers and guests at all your meetings, regardless if you are an introvert or extrovert. Believe me, I realize the toll of being in charge – everyone wants a piece of you and asking for direction or wanting you to make some command decision or three. These things too are important. You don’t have to attend to everyone’s needs and comforts right then and there, that’s what deacons and stewards are for. But it is incumbent that as the brother in charge, you chat with everyone, if only for a few moments.

Not only do you make everyone feel welcome by circulating the room, but you get a chance to ask how a brother’s wife or children are doing, how his job search is going, etc. This is what truly matters in Freemasonry – brotherly relief and friendship.

Bring a Friend Night

I can’t remember which of my Lodge officers proposed that we host a Bring a Friend night, but we had one several nights ago and it was a HUGE success.

I put Bobby, our chaplain and Outreach Committee chairman, in charge of this event and he came through for us in flying colors.

The keys to our success were as follows:

Put a brother in charge of this event who is really passionate about sharing Masonry. He’s going to go the extra mile (or ten!!) and make sure it’s a success.

Advertise the event. To be successful, Bring a Friend night must be advertised both within your Lodge and outside, for best effect. This means repeatedly encouraging your Lodge members to invite their family and friends, as well as advertise this event to the media, if at all possible. Many local newspapers will run such notices for fraternal organizations for free or for a small fee. Put up a notice on your website, if your Lodge has one, and if you use a Masonic email listserve, put the word out there, too. Our chaplain emailed reminders to our Lodge members and those on a listserve probably four or five times over the course of a month.

I really liked how Bobby put into words the event:

Anonymous Lodge No. 001 will sponsor a special "Bring-a-Friend Night" program that will explain to members of the community and our families more about the world's oldest and largest fraternal organization. The program will begin at 7:30 P.M. with refreshments and dessert to follow.

The program will feature brief presentations on the origins of Freemasonry, its ritual and traditions and how we contribute to the world today. There will be several exhibits and a chance to ask the questions you have always wanted to ask.

All are invited: friends, wives, family, girlfriends, neighbors, dads, etc.

Please RSVP to me with the number of FRIENDS that you would like to bring.

The basic agenda was to make introductions and welcome friends, brothers, and Lodge officers. Next the organizer showed a video the Grand Lodge of Virginia put together, and then followed by a short talk by our Lodge Education Officer. Jon discussed Masonic History, to include development of the Craft in Europe and the influence on America; Masonic principles of friendship, morality, and brotherly love; Masonic organization today; charity work of all the Masonic organizations; famous Masons, both historical and living; and the basic requirements and how to join the fraternity, with emphasis that we are NOT allowed to recruit but one must ask to join. We then followed up with dessert and conversation in the friendship hall.

A dynamic speaker is critical for the main presentation. You don’t want someone droning on and on, putting everyone to sleep! He needs to be a skilled public speaker, interactive, and well versed in his presentation.

Keep it brief! Our total time in the meeting was approximately one hour, with more time in the friendship hall talking before we got started, and afterward, over dessert.

The result. We had a total of 25 to 30 people attending, including the members of the Lodge who were there with their friends. While our Bring a Friend Night was just four nights ago, already two have requested petitions and have started to fill them out, and two more have stated their intention to join the Fraternity and will get their petitions shortly, out of a total of nine possible candidates!!!

I think our Bring a Friend Night was a huge success because it gave us a chance to tell our friends and family about the Craft, it is an important information tool to the community, and it has allowed the brothers in attendance to feel excited about Masonry, to share something deep and meaningful to them with their friends. And that may be the most important reason of all to host such a program.


I have briefly touched on leadership in a previous blog entry, and now I want to expand upon the concept.

The importance of demonstrating leadership, as Master of a Masonic Lodge, cannot possibly be overstated. If you have been in the fraternity longer than five or so years, you probably know or have heard of a master of a lodge who may have been hapless, rudderless, and completely ineffective. I have heard it said, “It’s only for one year, it can’t be that bad?” But it can be. I truly believe the adage that it takes three or four years of strong leadership to rebuild a Lodge after a man who lacks leadership skills has been in the East. Do not let this rudderless man be you!!!

Here are my thoughts on Masonic Leadership.

I have been fortunate to live close to not only my close friend, mentor, signer of my petition, but also the man I followed to the East. We often carpool to Masonic events and I have found the time spent with him truly invaluable. Sometimes we complain about our wives and kids, sometimes we talk about anything other than Masonry, but most often we discuss the Craft. I acted as a sounding board for him on his way to the East, and I learned my chair from listening to, and watching, him. Now that I’m in the East, I know I can always rely on Jon to hear me out, suggest an alternate course of action, tell me I’m plain crazy, let me vent, or tell me I’m dead on. The latter doesn’t happen as often as I’d like! I’ve decided that this is a very important leadership and training component in my arsenal and it should be in yours, too.

In your climb up the chairs, be sure to watch what the other officers do and act at all Masonic functions. They will often have more “time in service” than you and will (hopefully) act accordingly. Select the good and positive attributes you see displayed and also identify the things and actions you don’t agree with. In situations that could have been handled better, try to identify what led up to the mistake, what was the critical mistake, and what should have been done differently. It is the wisest of all who can learn from the mistakes of others!

I have made this plug before, but you really have to get the book, The Leadership Challenge, by Kouzes and Posner. In their research, they identified five critical components to leadership which they put into the acronym: MICE-E:

Model the Way
Inspire a Shared Vision
Challenge the Process
Enable Others to Act
Encourage the Heart

I was introduced to this book in a leadership training course offered by my agency and I can honestly say it has changed for the better my perspective on life and my interactions with my wife, family, Lodge brothers, and work colleagues. Caveat: I know don’t always live by what I learned from this book, but I’m trying!

One last thing to keep in mind during your year in the East: this is a volunteer organization and you should act accordingly! Even though the Methodical Digest says that the Master rules and governs his Lodge, the reality is that if a majority of the brethren and/or your officers are telling you something is a bad idea, you really should rethink it through and heed their counsel. You may be right in making a unilateral command decision, but if the brothers and officers don't feel like you at least heard their concerns, they will vote with their feet.

What is Freemasonry? Video

This is a great video on Freemasonry starring the Grand Master of Masons in Virginia and produced by a good friend of mine. Enjoy!

Lodge Officer Training

One of the most important things a master of a lodge is to do in his year is to ensure his officers receive not only ritual training but also officer training. Here are some ideas on officer training:

Re-inventing the Wheel

One of my pet peeves is people trying to re-invent the wheel. In my lodge, (Anonymous Lodge No. 001), we traditionally have a terrible time with officer line continuity, especially with past masters dropping out of sight. Fortunately this has turned around in the past year or three, but we still suffer from a lack of officer institutional memory and have to re-invent the wheel vis a vis “how do we plan this event,” or, “how did we do event XYZ last year?” This really drives me nuts and is a grotesque waste of everyone’s time and resources. As master, insist that all events be planned out beforehand and shared with the other officers. Most importantly, these plans have to be available to all this year’s officers as well as next year’s officers, so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel the next time around. See my blog entry titled, Web 2.0, It’s Just not for Geeks! and look at the Airset section for a great tool on how to do this.

Weekly Lodge Ritual Class

To me, one of the most important Masonic training we can do is to have a weekly lodge ritual class. There are many benefits to this, to include:

· Officers get ritual practice in their chair and for the next chair

· A common bond of brotherly affection and trust is formed among the officers

· Can be a place where grievances and differences of opinion can be aired face-to-face

Sometimes my lodge officers and I have even skipped the ritual practice and held an informal officers meeting to discuss the goings on of the lodge and have a question answer session with the more experienced Masons present.

Masonic Educational Officers

One of your first resources for officer training is your lodge and district DEOs. They should already be providing officer training for your lodge and district, but if not, contact him and set up an officers training meeting. Be sure to tell them your specific areas of concern.

Grand Lodge

The Grand Lodge of Virginia holds Lodge leadership training sessions every year around the Commonwealth, and I’m sure the other Grand Lodges do the same for their states. Be sure to go to these and strongly encourage your officers to do the same. Offer to carpool to the event – the officers will feel more compelled to attend! Carpooling is also a great time to discuss the training with the officers on the way home.

Army Method of Instruction

While in the US Army and Army Reserves, one of my units was the 91st Training Division. All members of the division were either drill sergeants, instructors, or support. I was an instructor, and as such, took a short course on how to do my job. The Army method seems to work well in addressing all modalities of learning – listening to instruction, watching the task performed, and then doing the task. Anyone who has been through US Armed Forces basic training in the past 30 or more years will remember, “Maggots, in this block of instruction you will receive an explanation, demonstration, and a practical application of...” This method works well and I have tried to adopt it into training in the Lodge, except for calling everyone “maggot” of course!

People do best if they hear what they are supposed to do, then see it done, and then under supervision, do it themselves. This makes for a more active and interesting class. My lodge has recently had to use the alternate method of instruction for new candidates, due to a dearth of catechism instructors. The primary mentor is himself an Army veteran and uses this method to good success. In addition, he also assigns readings to the candidates to do on their own time.


On the Job training, or Supervised On the Job Training, is another method of training. As master, you really can’t be too hands-on and have to delegate tasks to officers. Give clear written instructions and deadlines to an officer tasked with something. Also give him points of contact so he has place to turn to for help. Learning by doing is an effective method!


Before going off into internet land, check with your grand lodge to see if they have online officer training resources.

The internet is full of Masonic officer training websites:

· Grand Lodge of Maine’s Hiram’s Handbook is a great tool

· Lodge

· So You’re Going to be Worshipful Master! is somewhat dated, but still has some good information

· Lodge Improvement Suggestions

· The Masonic Trowel

The above links should get you started.

Model the Way

An often overlooked facet of training is that of the master modeling the way. Modeling the way is one of the five leadership practices in Kouzes and Posner’s fantastic leadership book, The Leadership Challenge. What is meant by modeling the way is for you to demonstrate to your officers how you expect a master of a lodge to act.

Please click on the comments section of this blog entry and let me know your ideas for Masonic officer training.


It's The Extra Touches That Separate The Good From The Great

Here is a list of the extra touches a master of a lodge can do that might make all the difference. Note: as I don't have an original bone in my body, I cannot claim any of these ideas for my own, but have seen other masters do these things.

Thank you cards. Buy 30 or 40 Masonic thank you cards before your year starts, and plan on using them all up before your year is through. See Macoy Publishing for a catalog. I use them for the following:

  • Guest speakers
  • Brothers from outside the lodge who help with a degree
  • Lodge brothers who do something exceptional
  • Brothers (and the spouse!) who host Lodge events at their home
  • Visiting DDGM and current Masters

The most important thing with thank you cards is that they have to be from the heart and timely. Do not wait a week, month, or more to go by when sending a card - do it ASAP!

Masonic Birthdays. My lodge sends out a card with a picture of the lodge officers on it and wishing them a happy Masonic birthday. The brother in charge of this prints them up for the month and mails them out. Very easy to do and inexpensive.

Birthdays. I spent an hour or so on the computer one day and put into Airset (see my second blog entry) every brother's birthday and telephone number. I then synched up my smartphone's calendar with Airset's calendar, and I had every brother's birthday with me at all times. Not only that, but every other officer had the information, also. When a birthday comes up, I click on the telephone number and wish the brother a happy birthday. The phone call lasts only a few minutes, and I'm not sure who feels better about the phone call, the brother or me. Now all the other officers, when they're master, has access to the same information and can continue this.

Lodge Shirts and Hats. I wanted to build some unity with the lodge brothers, and also a sense of pride in our lodge. The officers and I discussed this and thought a lodge polo shirt and hat would be a good idea. We figured out a logo and had a local embroiderer make the shirts. We sell them to the brothers at almost cost.

Trestleboard. Have a great Trestleboard and get it out on time! I found early on that the Trestleboard takes about four times longer than I thought it would. I also found out that my first one or two had a lot of errors in it - mostly stuff like brother's titles, etc. For your first Trestleboard, get it done really early, then run it past the secretary and a couple of past masters, for a head check.

Ritual Practice. Have one night a week for ritual practice and stick to it without fail.

Don't forget the widows. Don't forget the "Ladies of the Lodge," the widows. It is your job to call them after a big storm, to make sure they don't have any damage to their home, or to see if they are all right, if snowbound. Make sure to invite them to Ladies Night (free of charge, natch) and keep them informed of lodge events. While we have one officer who looks after the widows, I make sure to call them after a storm or other major event.

Attendance. As master, you must be at every possible event you can, without fail.

Informed. Keep your officers informed as to what is going on and who is doing what. This is where Airset really comes into it's own and will help you out. Don't pretend to have all the answers, share thoughts, ideas, and plans with your officersearly on, and they will all put in their ideas to make yours that much better.

Remember, as master, you set the tone for the lodge. Everyone is looking to you and how you act and react. If you step up and do the things you are supposed to do, and on time, that will set the tone for all to follow. In other, nonmasonic, organizations, I used to purposely set a tone of casualness, all the while still doing the job. I was hoping to show that while I looked like I didn't care, my actions and plans would show that I really did. I wanted to have a casual work environment but where everyone still got their work done. It was a dismal failure. All everyone ever saw was me not caring, so they didn't. In lodge, I have taken to heart the adage, model the way, and it works much better than what I was trying before!

Web 2.0 - It's Just Not for Geeks!!!

I am really, really passionate about Web 2.0... and it shows!!! I really have to hold back when discussing (Preaching? Exhorting? Ranting?) it with others. I can sometimes feel my eyes take on a wild look and can hear myself start to raise my voice. Unfortunately, it's usually only after my target, er, person I'm talking with gets that scared look and starts to lean back that I realize I'm getting wound up again.

Web 2.0 - what is it????

A Brit by the name of Stephen Fry said of Web 2.0:

...It’s actually an idea that the reciprocity between the user and the provider is what's emphasized. In other words, genuine interactivity, if you like, simply because people can upload as well as download.

A great example of a Web 2.0 application is Wikipedia. For those who have been in a cave for the past few years, Wikipedia is a completely open online encyclopedia, one where ANYONE can edit ANY information on ANY page at ANY time. That is the power of it - if everyone in the world looks at a problem, then it will be quickly solved.

How it affects you

The trick is to use Web 2.0 applications (think tools or websites) in ways that will work for you and for your officers.

I use a website that allows me to put all my Stated Communications' agendas, officer's meeting agendas, Lodge calendar for the year, documents I have uploaded for all my officers to see and use, a blog (like this one) where I can create posts for all to see and all can discuss, online. Any of my officers can make a change to a calendar item, post something to the blog, or use it to blast an email out to everyone. FOR FREE. And it also sends me reminders to my mobile phone and email.

I feel that this saves a lot of time because rather than having face to face meetings at a particular place and time, I can have all my information online for everyone to see, use, and manipulate, at a time and place when they choose - at home at 2:00 AM, or wherever.

The application is called AirSet. Check it out.

With Airset, I have all my meeting agendas already created, using a basic template. Any officer can go in to the agenda and update it with information and even email it out to everyone when he's made his changes. When it's time for the meeting, I can print it off and take it with me. I like to create an agenda a few days before, say, an officers meeting and then email it out to everyone. Everyone then has a chance to see what we're going to talk about, who has been tasked with what, and has the chance to make changes, modifications, and suggestions.

I don't have time

This will save you time, because you can do a lot of the things you were already going to do anyway - create agendas, organize lodge events, task an officer with an event, etc. Only this time you're doing it in an environment where you can easily send it out to your officers and they can make changes and updates that the rest can see.

See the following short videos on Web 2.0 - I promise you they are all really interesting!

The Machine is Us/ing Us

RSS in Plain English

Wikis in Plain English

Blogs in Plain English

AirSet Part One

AirSet Part Two

I suggest seeing these in the order I listed them.

My first blog entry

This is my very first blog entry.

What I hope to accomplish

I want this blog to be a place where I can put down my thoughts, ideas, and plans while I am in charge of my lodge for the year. I want this to be a journal so my officers can use this as a reference - hopefully it will be a good reference.

I would like you, good reader, to post comments to my entries, telling me I'm wrong, right, give me hints on what I should be doing, and worked for you in your year.

About me

I first learned about Masonry from a dear friend. Richard was a civil engineer by profession and a gentleman from birth. He was thoughtful, calm, rational - most of the things I was not. He was a friend of my father and I knew him from when I was a small child. When I got to be in my mid-twenties, he and I would go surveying and we often had to drive an hour or more to job sites. There was never a dull conversation with him, despite the 40+ year difference in our ages. I quickly learned he was a Master Mason, which intrigued me. At the time I didn't know much about the Masons, but was very interested. I ultimately did not join Masonry at that time - I was still starting out in life, trying to finish grad school, start my career, etc.

By 2002, I was in my chosen career (working for the government), happily married, and felt my life was pretty stable when I reread a favorite book, Born in Blood, by John J. Robinson. The author traces Masonry back to the Knights Templar and really was a great read. I remember thinking, "I think I'll do it, I'll really join a lodge." Problem was, Richard had died by this time - though I didn't know it - I didn't know any Masons, nor did I know where a lodge even was. By serendipity, one day I was getting my car washed. As I climbed in my shiny car, I looked across the street and there was a Masonic Lodge. I felt my fate as I looked at the building.

Screwing up my courage, I called the number listed in the phone book and talked with a very nice man. He invited me to some of the open lodge events, where I quickly made new friends. After about seven or more months, two brothers signed my petition and I was voted in. I was raised a Master Mason in June of 2003 and have never regretted it.

The Present

I am the current master of my lodge. What's scary is that I only have five years in the fraternity, a drop in the bucket compared to the average Mason in my lodge. I have great friends in the fraternity who give me quiet advice, fantastic officers on whom I rely all too much, lodge brothers who help out when and where they can, and a terrific wife who supports me in my year.

I think this will end my first post. I will be making more posts as I get time and I think of something to write about.