Friday, December 30, 2011

Being the Bad Guy Right Before 2012 – Traditional Observance Lodges

Last post of 2011; not that I had a great plenty of them for reasons that don’t need to be repeated. I have to state again that I am starting to enjoy Freemasonry again; I am enjoying reading article after article. I enjoy learning/researching about things long gone and current events. I enjoy serving my lodge.

Now to the subject at hand, in 2008 I was a true believer of the Traditional Observance (T.O.) Lodge or European Concept Lodge, in which the men would dress appropriately, emphasis on education, research, and ritual and of course no more fish fries. Now in Texas this would fly in a couple of places (College Station for one), but they aren't allowed to be called Traditional Observance as the Grand Lodge does not recognize the practice, also some of the TO “ritual enhancement” are not part of our blue lodge degrees which are strictly controlled.

That local hurdle aside, there are lodges in the major metropolitan areas that are European Concept like, formal dress, emphasis on education and good meals. They generally meet once a quarter or once a month at most may have 20-25 members most of whom are active, sounds great doesn’t it?

Sorry, they are nothing more than Past Masters clubs, Past Masters that have taken over a charter of a dying lodge, invited their other Past Master buddies to join. They rarely rotate any of the chairs, never put on degrees and seem to be at times a glorified supper club. If a poor fool stumbles in off the street they are directed to a regular blue lodge, and if someone like myself comes around, I am directed to come back after I sit in the east.

Now as you are reading this and you are a Mason, you might be thinking “Still, that really isn’t a real T.O. lodge”. But, I disagree.

Most TO Lodges that are under dispensation are generally nothing but District Deputy Grand Masters, Past Grand Masters and Past Masters. If you go to any of them that maintain a website it’s pretty clear to see that out of the thirty members 90-95% are Past Somethings save a couple of members that are most likely Masonic legacy’s in some form or fashion. Now to a certain extent you really need these DDGMs, PMs, etc. because they have the experience and to some extent the political clout to start a brand new lodge or transform an existing one, but for them to be the majority of their membership doesn’t seem to be doing much for younger Masons.
A conversation I had with a member of a TO lodge in a jurisdiction that allows TO lodges that I was passing through had a conversation that pretty much went the following way:

Me: “So why have you started a TO Lodge?”

Good Brother: “Because we want to provide a more enriched Masonic experience and a full ritualistic experience”

Me: “How many men have been initiated, passed and raised here?”

Good Brother: “We passed one on the request of his brother (meaning relative), who is a member but none here.”

Me: “Do you plan on initiating your own? Has anyone petitioned?”

Good Brother: “No”

At this point I realized that TO Lodges may come across like the old sayings of the south in the 50s and 60s “You are welcome to visit, just don’t plan on staying”.

So how is this promoting to keep younger Masons involved in Freemasonry? Is it to motivate them to get in the line-up at their regular lodge, get in the East, sit for a year as a Past Master In-Training, so they can join a Traditional Observance Lodge? Are TO and European Concept Lodges nothing more than degree teams and supper clubs?

I am not asking these questions to be a jerk, after all my travels I just don’t know what these lodges are doing to keep younger Masons involved, younger Past Masters involved, absolutely, but a regular brother?

Before anyone claims sour grapes, realize that I am asking these questions and challenging this for the good of our beloved fraternity, not to be a dissident, spoiled sport, or jerk. Anyone who knows me personally knows that, I am asking because I think that are some huge holes in the execution this concept, and they need to be addressed, challenging it will in the end will only *hopefully* make it stronger.

I look forward to your slings and arrows. ;)

-Bro Vick

Friday, December 9, 2011

Developments in the GLoT & MWGLTPHA

Was contacted by a few folks, developments from this past Grand Lodge session for the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F.& A.M. and the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Texas Prince Hall:

"The Committee on Fraternal Relations recommended a delegation meet with their counterparts in the MWGLTPHA and hammer out the wording of the "compact" for both bodies to adopt. Apparently the PH GL wants it to be pretty restrictive, as in having to go through the Grand Secretary to get permission to intervisit. And they seem to be pretty adamant about not wanting to allow dual memberships."

The above is about as to the point as anything else I got, so I thought I would quote it.

As this develops I will be sure to update this blog.

-Bro Vick

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quick House Cleaning Note

On the right I put a widget that will track what I am currently interested in researching in Freemasonry, if you would like to exchange information with me, please feel free to contact me offline.

-Bro Vick

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just One Black Ball...

This week is when the Grand Lodge of Texas meets for our Annual Communication. Since the majority of people that read this blog aren't Freemasons, here is a quick summary. The Grand Lodge meets once a year to vote on proposed resolutions, to elect a brother to south to eventual become Grand Master and get a state of the union of Freemasonry in Texas. To vote on the resolutions one has to be a Worshipful Master, Warden or a Past Master. Texas holds our annual meeting the first week of December. My plan was to attend this year but was overcome by family obligations, unfortunately. Every once in a while a Grand Master introduces legislation to be considered by the voting members for consideration. This year the MW T.E. "Gene" Carnes puts forth the following recommendation:

"Rescind the Three Blackball Rule by amending Art. 1. 352, 389, 418, 420, 421425, 428, and 429. Purpose to enhance the selection of qualified candidates. The recommendation will effect reinstatements in a Lodge or the petition to affiliate with a Lodge. One blackball or protest will stop actions on joining the Lodge."

Currently if a man petitions a Texas lodge it takes three black balls for that man not be elected to receive the degrees of Freemasonry. The above amendment would make it so one ball would exclude a man from joining a lodge, a brother who wishes to be reinstated to be denied, or a brother wanting to affiliate with another blue lodge. The argument for this is that this will help ensure that the highest quality of men will be allowed through the West Gate.

Now, I think it's been pretty well documented on this blog and by those that know me that I am a Past Nothing (PN), and don't have a vote on this issue, but it does bring up some concerns. Anyone that has any long term and heavy involvement in our fraternity knows that pettiness seems to be a far to often occurrence. While the teachings of Freemasonry teach tolerance and forgiveness, sometimes men push that aside in attempt to secure their own power or personal grievances (shocking, I kn0w). My fear is that the "one black ball" could encourage this type of petty behavior.

MW Carnes is right that we must be diligent in the men that we bring into this fraternity, and that we must ensure that they will reflect well upon Freemasonry in their respected community. But a man that isn't right for Freemasonry or vice versa should be vetted in the investigation phase and a brother that feels strongly about that a man receiving the degrees would bring this up during discussions of voting, not sitting in the shadows knowing that he can deny a man the right, lights and benefits of Freemasonry, because of an inconsequential matter.

I have no idea how well received this recommendation is with the brothers, it seems from various conversations it's about 50/50 and will most likely be a close vote, I just hope it's not a short sighted attempt to fix a problem that seems sporadic at best.


-Bro Vick

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Having Plenty to be Thankful For

Given that a year ago I was recovering from dysentery in Afghanistan and was actually discharged on Thanksgiving back to my camp, I am very thankful this year for a lot of things.

I had surgery on the 17th on my right hand to correct a fracture that never healed correctly during my deployment last year. It has been painful, but at least I am going through it here in San Antonio with family and friends, and not in a combat zone, so I am thankful for that.

This has been a year of transition both as a warfighter and as mason. My seemingly marathon of deployments has finally ended and I have started living a normal life again. I came back in June to my motherlodge that told me that my services as a Mason were not needed, that my profession and status as a reservist was too volatile. Ironically at the same time I was contacted by my other lodge that I have plural membership with and was asked to be a member of the lineup, to which I said yes, and everything started again.

I was installed on the 24th of July as Senior Steward three weeks later I was awarded the Bronze Star for my service in Afghanistan and I had started my civilian job again, life was telling me to move on, and I have. For all of the Past Masters that were thrown into the Senior Warden’s chair and then sitting in the east I am thankful to go through the chairs in a natural progression and not accelerate to the east in an unnatural manner. There is comfort that a man can take away from preparing and feeding his brother Mason. It’s far more work than one thinks, until they have served in that slot, but it has its rewards and brings me a sense of accomplishment Masionically that I haven’t had in a long time.

I am thankful in 2011 for the following:

I am thankful for my family and friends

I am thankful for my second chance in Freemasonry, and the comfort it has brought me

I am thankful for my civilian job and being employed

I am thankful to be alive and to be able to continue my journey here on earth

When I returned in June I had a lot of guilt coming home alive, like I didn’t do enough. I survived 70+ combat missions and have seen my share of lost soldiers. I think of them on any four day weekend, or holiday. But we all must keep on living, sorrow is no way to live life.

Happy Thanksgiving my brothers, Happy Thannksgiving.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Re-establishing My Life

I wanted to update everyone after my last draconian post. I first want to thank the men who came back and encouraged me and gave me support electronically. Both in my blog and personally, it means the world to me that men who have never met me would show such support.

I got over myself. J

I am becoming more optimistic about things, I was elected to positions within the Chapter and Council, and while my mother lodge decided that I was not to be in the lineup this year. I was never given a concise reason what I was told behind closed doors was that my profession and my reserve status was entirely too volatile for a position in the lodge. There are men who I helped raise who will most likely sit in the east before I ever get a chance, I am at peace with this happening.

My other lodge has asked me to sit in the Senior Stewart’s position, to which I gladly accepted, and will perform. There are even members of this lodge that have some skepticism about this, but I want to do what I can, education series, serving dinner, it doesn’t matter.

I owe so much to Freemasonry, when I was in Bermuda an older lady by the name of Margret who I had multiple conversations with about my service in Afghanistan said “You must have a strong foundation of faith to be able to do what you did.” I was taken back by this then realized that while I have always had a faith in GAOTU and Jesus Christ as our Savior (I know that makes some of you uncomfortable, sorry). Freemasonry fortified that and prepared me for death in the third degree, my effectiveness in service to this country is in part to my involvement with Freemasonry.

I wrote earlier that Freemasonry stalked me while in Afghanistan, and I will write about that later, but I wanted everyone to know, that I am moving on, and that is the first step to anything.


-Bro Vick

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Life Right Now

I don’t know if anyone still reads this blog, but I wanted those very few that do, that I came home two weeks ago. When I got back to San Antonio, I knew the world had changed, and not for the better. My house was sold, I came back to the airport and was greeted by no one, but as the saying goes “You made your bed, you can lay in it.”

I got a room in the Visiting Officers Quarters and slept from Friday 10 June to 13 June, the next two weeks were spent what the Air Force calls “re-constitution” . It’s been rough to be honest with you all, while I was in theater I ate, slept and shit the enemy and suddenly being back in the states it’s hard to let go of that. The GAOTU blessed me as I conducted ~70 combat missions in Afghanistan, but everyone of them have taken a toll on my soul. Masonry was always on my mind, it was stalking me every turn while I was there. The greatest impact that was before any serious or dangerous mission I would clean my M4 and my M9 as a good Airman would do. I would clean my weapon while watching some testosterone filled TV show, after I was finished and I put the rifle and pistol back together I would do a prayer that we are taught during the third degree, in Texas the prayer goes as follows:

"Thou, O God, knowest our down-sitting and our up-rising, understandest our thoughts afar off. Shield and defend us from the evil intentions of our enemies, and support us under the trial and afflictions we are destined to endure while traveling through this vail of tears. Man that is born of a woman is a few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth as a flower and is cut down; he fleth also as a shadow and conintueth not. Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee; Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; turn from him that he may rest, till he accomplish his last day.

For there is hope of a tree that if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. But man dieth and wasteth away; yea man giveth up the ghost and where is he. As the waters fall from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up, so man lieth down, and riseth not up till the heavens shall be no more. Yet Lord, have compassion on the children of Thy creation; administer them comfort in time of trouble, and save them with an everlasting salvation. Amen"

Before I would go out I would write my birthday down through the current day and would say that today is the day I am going to die. It cleared my head, instead of caring pictures of loved ones or half-in/half-out I just said “Well, today I will die”.

Like I wrote before Freemasonry followed me everywhere I went while I was in Afghanistan, the Canadian’s set up not only an impressive military lodge in Kandahar but a York Rite, when I was traveling through KAF I would see the flyers and smile, it was good. I also met many men who were deployed and were brothers, one of them Chief Munro who is a Navy Chief and a Navy Seal, one of the few in the entire Department of Defense.

Freemasonry was always more to me than a position in the line-up or memorization of lines; it has been a standing institute in the betterment of man.

I crave of Freemasonry in my life; I just don’t know where I can find it. On a positive note, I received a note from a member that a The Masonic Society where a member paid for my membership in 2011 because of my service, and for that I thank him, deeply. Notes like that mean the world to me. Keeping up with dues while deployed is a pain in the ass, and this was one less thing to worry about.

Things are okay now for me personally; I have waves of guilt and sadness, like I am grieving. I sometimes have crying fits, this past Friday I was hit with such sadness that it made me sick, and I threw up. Same thing happen yesterday morning as well, but so goes the uncomfortable readjustment of returning from the forgotten war.

I ask and plead with anyone that is reading this, if you have lodge members that are deployed, please try and take care of them. Contact while deployed is priceless, and reaching out to a member could turn their shitty day into a great one, please remember that.

My journey in Freemasonry continues, and so will this blog, but it might be a bit rocky from here on out.


-Bro Vick

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Less Than 60 Days

Ahhh my poor neglected Masonic blog, I apology for the near year long absence. The operations tempo is horrible, lack of interaction from my brothers at home, 2010/2011 hasn't been a great Masonic experience.

With that being said I have less than 60 days left in Afghanistan before I make the long trip back to the great state of Texas. As many of you know I was by-name-requested by then GEN McChrystal to return to theater and later retained by GEN Petraeus (who I just briefed last week).

Stan McChrystal recently was at a leadership seminar in which he discusses themes of leading men who are far younger than himself, and how he had to listen to them first, then lead them. I think that the majority of the Masonic leadership reading this blog and leading men in lodge many generations far removed would agree. If you have 15 minutes take a watch, a great video: