Saturday, September 15, 2012

Our District Deputy Grand Master's Official Visit

Dear Brothers,

What an amazing honor it was to have so many Brothers around our Festive Board. After speaking with the Junior Warden, the count was well over 50 Brothers! This was the largest Festive Board Harmonie has ever hosted and easily the best attended offical visit of our DDGM in the last 15 years. I want to thank the DDGM for his visit and sharing with us the bonds of fellowship both before and after the meeting. R:.W:. Thomas Pecoraro has been a friend of Harmonie and myself for years. It is wonderful to see a man of vision and drive in the DDGM role in 1st Erie. The Grand Master could not have found a better man for the role.      

The Program started with the awarding of the Distinguished Service Award to W:. Robert L. Coe. W:. Coe has been a solid man and Mason since he entered Harmonie Lodge. For us youngsters in the Craft , he has been a pillar of strength and reliability. He has supported the Lodge during our periods of change and has never failed to help an outgoing Master with installation of his replacement. I honestly cannot imagine him not acting as the Marshall during Installation. He is one of our honored Past Masters and it was pleasure to be able to assist in awarding him this honor.    

The program continued with the District Team lecturing on the different roles and projects of Grand Lodge in the coming year. It was a distinct pleasure to receive the newly Right Worshipful Paul Berma (Harmonie Lodge was the first Lodge to receive him as the Grand Representative to Tasmania) and his talk on the Masonic ID program was inspiring. We were lucky to have all 12 members of the team (of which I am a member) at Harmonie. I can say with all honesty, this was the best DDGM Team program I have seen in my years in Masonry. The 1st Erie District is very fortunate to have such talented and driven men in our ranks.

The night concluded with the our district staff officers' presentations. The V:.W:. Gerard Colemen spoke on the need for Lodges to raise the bar ever higher when it comes to the execution of our work. Harmonie has become known as a place to witness the spectacular nature and presentation of our ritual but we need to get even better and stronger. That is what our Grand Master has called us to do. As Master of the Lodge, I agree with him in concern with the Craft as a whole and Harmonie. A Brother only gets one set of Degrees. There should be no rumbling, bumbling or fumbling. The Degree is no place to practice but to exemplify the beauty of our work. The R:.W:. Daniel Peters took the stage after, speaking on the Masonic Care Community and the upcoming education events being hoisted by both Erie Districts. The last speaker was our DDGM, the R:. W:. Thomas Pecoraro. In accordance with the Grand Master, his message was given on the level. I am very thankful for such an act of humility. Embracing our equality as men an Masons is a core ideal of Freemasonry. To see it exemplified from our highest ranks is both refreshing and needed in this changing times.

After the meeting, the Brothers went outside to enjoy Harmonie first (I hope of many) cigar nights. It was a clear and wonderful night, perfect for fellowship and Brotherly conversation. I personally, could not have hoped for a better night at Lodge.

Remember at our first meeting after Installation. I challenged each Brother to visit other Lodges. The DDGM official visits are a wonderful time to do so. Check out the DDGM's visitation dates on the Harmonie google calendar found here -

I will see you all around the quarry,

W:. D

1st Degree Tracing Board Lecture

On August 22nd 2012 W:. Daniel J. Di Natale gave our newest class of Masons a taste of the mysteries of Freemasonry. Instructing using a John Harris 1st Degree Tracing Board. The Master gave lecture of the deeper meanings of our Ritual, which can only be found in meditating on the Tracing Boards. This practice of instruction has been staple since the very founding of the Concordia Collegium. It is one of the most important returns in practice in our Masonic Restoration of Harmonie Lodge.   

If you have interest in further light found on the Tracing Boards, there are two amazing books on the topic which you would benefit from reading,

1) Tracing Boards - Their Development and Designers by T.O Haunch
2) Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol  by W. Kirk McNulty 

Also check out the expanded section on Tracing Boards on the Harmonie Lodge website. We have recently updated and have posted the largest collection of images concerning the boards on the web. 

Follow the link to learn more -

Enjoy my Brothers! 
W:. D 

Monday, September 3, 2012

How Freemasonry Can Fulfill the Needs of the 21st Century Man

How Freemasonry Can Fulfill the Needs of the 21st Century Man
By. Worshipful Brother Nathan A. Shoff, Master of Harmonie Lodge in 2010

Despite the seemingly immutable qualities of Freemasonry (those unchangeable Landmarks), our Fraternity has in fact evolved dramatically over the centuries to account for social and political changes, thereby preserving itself as a useful – indeed necessary – social construct.

            One of the most historically curious things that distinguished the English Free Stone Masons guilds of the late 16th and early 17th centuries is that, unlike many of the other artistic and mercantile trade groups (guilds), the operative lodges of medieval stone cutters allowed (perhaps reluctantly at first), non-tradesmen – the “speculative” Freemasons – to affiliate with their lodges.  This first act of evolution of purpose ensured that, while actual work in physical stone faded from architectural fashion, the symbols and traditions of Free Stone Masons would be perpetuated for future generations.

During the growth of Speculative Freemasonry in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Masonic Order focused on the intellectual development of individual brethren, and the democratization of society at large.  While these are still laudable goals for men of any time period, they seem less pressing today.  To an 18th century English Freemason, the zenith of the educated man was knowledge and understanding of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences; an education scarcely available to any but the most affluent families.  Although these arts and sciences still represent a well-rounded education, any man or woman in America and Europe today has the capability – through free public education – to learn the rudiments of grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, and, in fact, many more disciplines not even conceived of during the early centuries of the Fraternity (scientific chemistry, physics, social science, economics).  Similarly, although the strength of our democratic system of government can (and is) much debated today, liberal and conservative amongst us can agree that we no longer suffer under the cruel and arbitrary rule of an hereditary sovereign like our English, American and French brethren of the 17th and 18th centuries.  And none of us in the West need fear death or other reprisal at the hand of Government for the promotion of our personal religious beliefs (or the rejection of others’ religious beliefs).

When, at least in America, the goals of universal education and representative government were realized in the early days of our Republic, the focus of Freemasonry appears to have again changed in emphasis.  That is, in the 19th and 20th centuries, Masonry came to be known as a fraternity that preserved and improved its members’ material well being in addition to their intellectual growth.  For example, the Fraternity excelled in building hospitals, orphanages, convalescent homes, and provision of other non-institutional care for the neediest of society (especially the widows and orphans of fellow-Masons).  Also, in the post-World War II boom in fraternal membership, many Freemasons sought out the brotherhood to make good business contacts and to further their professional careers.  Whether or not the latter is a noble goal is beyond the scope of this essay.  Nevertheless, just as the political/governmental upheavals of the 18th century forced Freemasonry to redefine itself to a certain extent, the dire need for Masonic philanthropy has been somewhat mooted in the 20th century through the advent of New Deal safety net programs (Social Security, Social Security Disability) and later President Johnson’s Great Society programs (Medicare / Medicaid), which all help to alleviate the suffering of the poor, widows and orphans.  Additionally, the global corporatization and bureaucratization of modern business allows much less room for the informal aid of one Brother helping another Brother advance his career.  Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, the Fraternity sells itself short when defining its purpose as merely (or predominantly) philanthropic.  As has been described extensively elsewhere, the confusion surrounding what Masons do, and why we do it, has lead to a decline of membership numbers in many lodges.

But what does a 21st Century man need?  How can Freemasonry still be relevant to young men of the Millennial generation?  To understand how, I believe, Freemasonry should develop to meet the needs of modern brethren, allow me to identify some of the challenges facing men today.

First, across the globe, we have an extremely mobile society.  Many young men move hundreds of miles around the country (and even abroad) in search of post-secondary education and meaningful work.  This has largely severed the traditional means of establishing trust.  That is, our trusted friends we may have grown up with over decades and have known in high school or college are often a great distance from us and can’t help with building our life in a new community.  Similarly, people rarely work for the same employer for very long today, and someone with whom one may build a rapport could be in another company (and a different city) tomorrow.  Thus, it is very difficult for a young man to have, or find, lasting friendships with individuals he knows he can trust.  Freemasonry, however, can fill that void.  As a universal brotherhood, not only are there lodges in most cities and towns to which a person might eventually move for work or school, but the shared morality and ritual helps to provide a base of common understanding (and trust) that a man might not otherwise have with someone who grew up in a completely different state, or with a very different personal or professional background.

Closely related to the mobility of our society is the concomitant issue of technological fragmentation.   While it is usually pleasant to connect with old friends and co-workers on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or other social media environments, these virtual interactions do not bring the immediate tangible benefits of real personal communication.  In their more social aspect, active Masonic lodges provide a sure remedy to the isolation inherent in our modern technological society.  Regular meetings, the Agape, special events, and other occasions provide brethren time to have face-to-face interaction with each other and revel in conviviality.  This is something which modern man not only craves, but also truly psychologically needs.

Finally, as many anthropologists and psychologists have aptly pointed out, most organized religion is today devoid of true initiatory ritual, and, couched as it might be in symbols and stories pegged to an alien culture (the very ancient pastoral Middle East), curious modern men are left with an unfulfilled spiritual yearning.  Again, in this regard, Freemasonry can be of service.  Not only are Masonic lodges founded with the very purpose of perpetuating initiation rituals for new brethren, but the universal symbols used by the Craft helps to maintain that initiative mythos and re-awaken spiritual thirst within our men.

While Freemasonry has always been about making “good men better,” the needs of those men have changed dramatically over the years.  As such, the Fraternity must continually keep up.  Just as in past generations Freemasonry sought to improve men’s education, political rights, and material care, today, good men need the Craft’s help to improve their social and spiritual lives.  As long as Freemasonry adapts to these newer needs of modern men, I have no doubt it will be around to address the needs of the men of the 22nd Century.

Welcome to the Craft

Welcome our Newest Masons

I apologize for the very slow update on our Blog. The duties of the Master have got me very strapped for time. On July 22nd Harmonie Lodge entered into the Craft seven Brothers. The degree was very well executed, with particular attention on the music played by our Musical Director Bro. Michael Hacker. The work was done near flawless and deeply impressed upon the minds of our newest the seriousness of our Order.