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Monday, March 13, 2017

'McMasons'


I came across that damned word last night again in a conversation: McMason. It's a derogatory term used in the fraternity by some to disparage their own Brother Masons who received the degrees of Masonry at a One Day Class event. Variations include One Day Wonders, Blue Lightnings, Fast Food Masons, Sidewalk To Shriners, and other not especially flattering labels. Curious: I never knew we have two classifications of Master Masons in this fraternity. I thought we were just one sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, who could best work or best agree. 

Silly me.

My longtime friend and Brother Nathan Brindle reminded me this morning that we were both passed to Fellow Crafts and raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason 18 years ago today, just one day short of the portentous Ides of March. It was a Saturday all day event, and we were both raised on the floor of Calvin W. Prather Lodge 717, which was then on the north side of Indianapolis. It was their second of three locations throughout their history, and they have since relocated again to the east side in Lawrence. That prior building is gone now - razed and flattened several years ago - so I have nowhere to go and park and tearfully relive the day's events, wrapped in melancholia. (Interestingly, their first home still stands down on College Avenue, long ago sold and converted to a church, but at one time with the largest lodge room in the state.)

It was a curious day. Indiana had only recently started having One Day events, and our Mother Lodge, Broad Ripple Lodge 643 was in dire straits at the time. I joined Broad Ripple via an Internet contact I made to the Grand Lodge, and Roger VanGorden sent me their direction for reasons known only to him. When I petitioned, I mentioned it to Nathan, and he told me that he too had thought of joining the fraternity for many years himself, but never followed through. So, he petitioned about the same time. I've known Nathan only a few months less than Alice - about 40 years now - so we were both happy to share the experience.

I was initiated in November, but Broad Ripple was in sad shape. They would go on to lose five members from the officer's line in the next 12 months, and came close to deciding to just give up and turn in their charter. At my first meeting, David Bosworth, a Prather lodge Past Master, showed up and announced he had been appointed as a Grand Lodge Representative and was sent to find out just what the hell was going on at Broad Ripple. Things were not good at the new lodge I had just joined unwittingly. Indeed, the lodge was unable to confer the remaining degrees on Nathan and me for three months until they finally gave up and sent us to the One Day Class at Prather, simply out of despair.

But God love the dedication of true Brothers. WB Don Seeley was about the only serious ritualist we had at Ripple, but he was mighty good at it. He was the only member we had who knew the Master's part for all three degrees flawlessly, and delivered them all with passion. He knew Prather didn't have a strong lineup either, and they were holding the Class that Saturday because they were the Mother Lodge of then Grand Master Robert Hancock. He wanted to show the state how these could work. So, Prather had three men who needed all three degrees, and we had Nathan and myself. WB Seeley called them and said he'd cheerfully volunteer do the Master's part for the FC and MM for all five of us candidates. But his condition was that Nathan and I would have our second section of the MM conferred individually, all the way through. Then, he'd do it all over again for the other three men together however GM Hancock stipulated. It would make for a crushingly long, and for many, tedious day. But Nathan and I got to have our individual MM degree experience just as it was meant to be. Which makes us both sort of hybrids - we are sort of One Day Class Masons, but we aren't. There aren't any photographs of that day - I think everybody was just sick and tired of the place when the day's festivities finally ended that they fled out of sheer terror that somebody might decide to fire up the Royal Arch degrees at the last minute.



Nathan and I looked almost identical when we joined, although he was already starting to lose hair up top. He's also gone gray since then, taking on sort of a George R. R. Martin look, while I have retained my boyish floppy mane for almost five decades (apart from that whole radiation and chemo thing). It took a while before local Masons could remember which one of us was Hodapp and which was Brindle. The ladies in the Grand Lodge office eventually gave up in despair and finally just settled on referring to both of us as simply 'Brindap.' That seemed to solve it for most folks.

The lodge elected me in despair as Senior Warden nine months later and Nathan as Junior Warden. And a month past my second anniversary as an EA, they made me the Worshipful Master of Broad Ripple 643. We didn't close or turn in the charter, and Nathan followed me to the East the next year. With dedication and hard work and stubborn bullheadedness, our Mother Lodge is now one of the most vibrant ones in Indiana, and I'll put our little lodge up against any in the country for excellence in every aspect.

Nathan has gone on to serve as Secretary or Recorder of at least six Masonic organizations that I can think of, including the only Secretary that the Masonic Society has ever had, with a couple of thousand members to keep track of. We both served on the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Board for our downtown landmark building, and have served on numerous Grand Lodge committees. We both were part of the Knights of the North who wrote Laudable Pursuit anonymously in 2004, which has been influential to lodges and grand lodges all over the country (and whose members were principally the founders of the Masonic Society). Ideas in that long paper also helped to impact what has become the Traditional Observance/European Concept/Observant lodge model in the U.S. We were both founding members of Lodge Vitruvian 767, itself a European Concept lodge. Nathan went on to serve as a top officer in the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis, and is now a Trustee for that magnificent Cathedral. And he's done countless other things locally, statewide, and nationally to help and influence the fraternity. Meanwhile, most of you know some of what I went on to do. 

Just a couple of us poor ol' dumb McMasons.

My whole point in relating this long soggy tale of which every one of you has your own variation is that Freemasonry is not about being a memorization club. It's not about the minutiae of how degrees are conferred - it's different all over the world, and just because it's one way where you come from, it's not that way everywhere. Yet, all those men are your Brethren, too. Just as us McMasons in lodge with you. Every single Mason has the power to make a difference in his lodge, his district, his state, his country, and the world, whether he received his degrees a month apart, a year apart, or an hour apart. It's what he does when he walks out of that Temple building that makes the difference. But it's also how you treat him when he sits in lodge with you. An ashlar doesn't polish itself. And the most certain way to make absolutely sure you never see that Brother a second time is to tell him he's some sort of second class Mason simply because his lodge chose to send him to a One Day Class for some reason you may not be privy to.

It's been studied countless times over the last 40 years by grand lodges. The participation rate of traditionally raised Masons over One Day ones is identical. How they got there makes absolutely zero difference. How they are treated by their lodges and their brethren, along with their own personal desire and dedication, is what matters.

Michael Shirley over on the Midnight Mason blogsite recently talked about this concerning those who regard One Day Class participants as somehow deficient, and observed, "They are setting themselves up as arbiters of what a Mason is, as if they themselves are on some Masonic pedestal to which these 'inadequate' Brethren must aspire." If you seriously believe a ODC Mason is somehow deficient of...something...then get off your own ass and teach him, instead of sneering at him for something that was almost assuredly not even his decision in the first place.

Otherwise, the next time you feel some adolescent urge to blurt out 'McMason!' to a man who's your Brother, put a sock in it and maybe think about what you've accomplished for the good of the Order lately, instead. And if he's shoveling harder and faster than you, get to work alongside him. Or at least thank him. At least he's building something. What are you doing?

20 comments:

  1. As Captain Picard would say "Well Done".

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  2. I wish we could stop talking about the ODC in terms of McMasons, and start talking about it in terms of McLeadership. Whether one comes from the neo-modern or the neo-antient school, McLeadership is the obstacle.

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  3. As you may recall, Roger VanGorden once apologized to us for influencing our thoughts and attitudes about Masonry.

    Ha!

    I wish every lodge in the country had a Roger VanGorden.

    -- Nathan

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  4. It has been a honor and privilege to have sat in lodge with both of you. It shouldn't be about how fast you are raised but what you do to honor the fraternity

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  5. Gerald Martin SD Old Erie lodge #3 Warren Ohio

    As a one day classer from Ohio,I totally agree that it is not how we get there but what you do when your here.

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  6. My own brother is a one-day class graduate, and yet he supports his Mother Lodge (and my joining Lodge) nearly every meeting. My own Grand Lodge (UGLE) doesn't do one-day classes, so the question of "McMasons" doesn't come up here.

    What has bubbled up from the depths in England is the fact that, for a long time, some Lodges here were so desperate for candidates that only a cursory investigation/get-to-know-you-session was completed before the candidate became an initiate. This resulted in many men going through the three degrees and yet leaving after a few years. A serious retention problem has been identified and there are programs designed to talk to Masons and discover what their reasons for leaving might be.

    My own Lodge no longer simply relies on the word of the proposing Brother and the verdict of the Lodge Committee after one interview--we take the petitioner out to dinner several times and three or four of us get to know him. All those who have been initiated since we began this program have (so far, knock on wood) remained as Masons.

    We're all Brothers.

    W.Bro Chris Hansen, Secretary, Goliath Lodge #5595 UGLE, but writing in a personal capacity.

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  7. My Brother Chris, this is a commendable and honorable topic to speak upon and there are many worthy brethren who have proven the worth of the one day conferral. Those who condemn it does so, not only at their hazard, but at their own lack of understanding the true nature of this, our Gentle Craft.
    Masonic knowledge is conferred by three means; coaching (mouth to ear), instructing (in groups) and mentoring (sharing of experience). While the one day conferral is not as direct in making the experience as personal, the pertinent information is conferred and these good brothers must henceforth pursue the knowledge, and those who have the knowledge must help elevate them.

    I have many students who I have coached and I have some students who were one day conferrals, the degrees were conferred in one day, and yet I continue their training afterwords because that is my obligation to them. To this day, every one of my students, coached or ODC, have the inherent right to engage me in what ever questions they may have regarding Freemasonry.

    Those who do not like the One Day Conferral, are likely obsessed by the traditional method and the idea that they are better educated and while some of this may be true initially, if given the proper resources, a student of the ODC can grow Masonically and may advance themselves to any office that is available to them as a Master Mason.

    You are correct, if you feel these Master Masons are experiencing a deficiency in their training, then get off your butt, reach out and sustain a brother with the knowledge and Masonic lessons that you carry; if you cannot coach, then teach. If you cannot teach, then mentor because if you have experience in our fraternity, then you can share your own experiences and lessons with your brethren.

    Brother George Washington learned no catechism, he was instructed. During the end of the Civil War, Union Major William McKinley was initiated in a lodge filled with Union and Confederate brethren. Then he was taken outside and instructed. Next day, he was passed and again taken outside and instructed. Then the following day, he was raised and again instructed in one day.

    The one day conferral and the assistance of devoted brethren, will make good Masons. I will likewise advocate that the mouth to ear catechism will make good officers, but not all Masons choose to become officers. I will say that of those students that I had who were instructed and trained instead of coached in the catechism, many went back and learned the catechism and many became officers and WM.

    Remember, the One Day Conferral is not just what the student puts into it, but likewise what the brethren of their Lodge is willing to invest into their own brethren and Lodge members.

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  8. Yet these so called intellectuals who bloviate with their McMason don't even realize historically it was not uncommon to be raised in a day. I guessed they missed that which is why Grand Masters can "raise at sight". I guess the missed the historical going back, and forth in France due to the powers conferred through a Scots Master Mason. Hey, but muh raising like me.

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  9. What I've noticed is that almost universally, those who slam one day classes are stubborn old cranks who will complain about any change of any kind and attempt to block it.

    I think we all know the kinds of Masons I'm talking about. When a lodge tries to change its bylaws to raise dues to keep up with inflation, they come to meeting just to vote against it even though they're life members who won't even be affected by it. When a lodge tries to change its bylaws to raise degree fees, they'll insist "its too much to ask someone to pay up front it'll turn people away" even though they themselves haven't brought in a new member in 30 years. Try and develop some new programming and events to breathe new life into the lodge and they'll throw a tantrum "we've been holding [X Event] for 30 years and you're disrespecting the Past Masters by discontinuing or changing it!"

    They'd rather watch their own lodge die than change anything.

    You tell them "thank you for expressing your opinion, my brother," AND THEN YOU SHOULD IGNORE THEM.

    Dave Brown
    Garden City Lodge, Newtonville, MA

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    1. Curious, your observation that they'd rather their lodge die than change.

      Several Brothers and I watched that very thing happen one night when a local lodge that was 125 years old that had $250k in the bank and 200+ members on their rolls did just as you describe. We heard they had zero candidates in 6 years, that they had the same 8 aging men come to every meeting and swapped officers chairs for 8 or 9 years and no one else, and were getting ready to vote to close out of despair. They even tried to bribe their other PMs to come to meetings by offering them a gold watch, but those other 192 members stayed away.

      Our group made a presentation, told them our desire to prevent the loss of their rich heritage, told them that we would be happy to turn in our charter of just 5 years and be absorbed into theirs, but that we wanted to make some serious changes and spend some of that money.

      The enraged WM almost threw the gavel at me. "HOW DARE you imply that we've done anything WRONG in this lodge!" he railed. "If you're done, GET OUT. We're voting!" We left, and they took their money, voted all of their members life memberships, and gave up their charter to merge away, and vanished.

      A lodge that truly took a vote to die rather than change.

      Oh, I forgot to mention. Two in our group were McMasons. So I guess that made us unworthy to take on the mantle of their proud history. I don't know. But I do know that I've helped build one new lodge and drag another up from almost closing. But I never presided over one that closed.

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    2. Thanks for sharing that anecdote! What a perfect example of choosing death over change. I can't imagine why anybody would ever want to do that.

      Here in Massachusetts, a lodge like that would probably be placed in receivership by the GM with the DDGM appointing an experienced and accomplished PM (probably a former DDGM) to run the lodge and save the members from themselves, for a year or two until the line is strong enough to run the lodge again. It's a form of "tough love," but I've seen the difference it's made with lodges that were thisclose to going dark and are now thriving.

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  10. I guess I McMason also 1 was raised in 2014. I am a member of 2 Lodges and I have sit in all seats and currently SW. I am member of the AASR Vally of Minot SJ, York Rite OES and Shriner. I been very active in all them. I been Bro Chris at one of ND Communication Event he also sign my Freemason for Dummies. To to bad for am 1 day Mason. Well I am enjoying my journey and travels brings in contact withan lot Brothers so I have been with nothing but Brotherly Love. Well thats my little bit. Take Care and God bless./G\.

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    1. Sounds like you're exactly the kind of man we need more of in Masonry!

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  11. As a reminder to treat all brothers with respect, this article is a good one.

    I whole heartedly believe "by their fruits shall ye know them". All that separates "true Masons" from those who "didn't get it" is about how they proceeded in their Masonic studies and application, not the manner in which they were initiated, and "name calling through nick-names", while common among both men and Masons, is not conducive to meaningful debate.

    That said...

    As a self-serving and defensive diatribe against those that have serious philosophical and organizational disagreements with the practice of "One Day Classes" this article comes across as a bit "shrill" in my opinion.

    That Hodapp's experience was arguably a great experience for him, as it has been for others who have been raised that way, this does NOT imply that one experience is not inherently superior to the other. That question is, due to its nature, not resolvable. One can only experience Masonic initiation once, so a comparison of "which is more effective", being a subjective evaluation of a deeply personal experience is simply not possible. It makes perfect sense for someone to say "my experience was great, so my experience was quite appropriate". But however strong these feelings may be, the "logic" that "my feelings are all the justification we need" simply does not hold.

    There is, at the heart of the matter, simply a fundamental difference between being a participant and being an observer. I have experienced both - I was raised at a "full exemplar", but received my Royal Arch degrees in "festival style". Both were great, both had meaning. But to say the experiences were equivalent is naive at best and wishful self-deception at worst.

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    1. "One can only experience Masonic initiation once..."

      Ah, but you are incorrect. "Once" is not the only number of someone can experience Masonic initiation. There's another number that's also possible.

      And that number is zero.

      If even one potential candidate who has what it takes to make a positive contribution to Masonry never becomes a Mason because this option isn't available to him, it's a tragedy. And a far worse tragedy than becoming a Mason through a slightly inferior process.

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    2. "One can only experience Masonic initiation once..."

      I also disagree with that statement, I went through the degrees over the course of a month. I had no real clue what was going on, what the symbolism was, I really couldn't even tell you what the obligation really said after taking it.

      I got more out of the initiation of the brother that came after me, sitting on the sidelines with a Past Master by my side explaining what was going on and what the symbolism meant. Being raised isn't the destination, its the first stop in the journey.

      The issue I have with the one day degrees, and I've hear from a lot of our older members; is when they are held not to make a Master Mason, but to make a Shriner. The GL of Michigan has very clear limitations now regarding one day degrees, but from what I have been told in the past they would be hosted by the Shrine so they could get them on their rolls quicker.

      WB Rich Pratt
      Worshipful Master
      Golden Ark 595
      Taylor, MI

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  12. I NEVER at ANY TIME have said that my own degree conferral was 'arguably a great experience.' Never once. Not defending it in any way, shape or form. My 'self-serving and defensive diatribe' you find so shrill was merely to point out that how a Mason had his degrees conferred upon him (almost always without his input or ability to choose in the matter) makes zero difference as to whether he is a 'good' or 'bad' Freemason in the long run. I have never once met a ODC Brother who approves, likes, or even remotely defends the practice or finds it appropriate. And every one I have encountered has been first to decry it and plea for his lodge to never do it again to a candidate in future.

    Every single pro and con issue with this was discussed and laid to rest at least 30 years ago, if not even earlier, and nobody ever since then has added a single intelligent thing to the discussion, apart from the statistics that continue to show year after year NO DIFFERENCE between traditional vs ODC Masons ongoing participation and retention. Everything else is just barstool philosophizing. "I think..." is just one more opinion in an already limitless pile of commentary, and it's a dead horse that has been so repeatedly flogged to death that it should have been hauled off to the rendering plant decades ago.

    My sole purpose for dragging it out once more is to a call to fight the defamation of ODC Masons, nothing more or less. The loss is to the man himself on a personal basis, not the lodge or the fraternity. If a Brother Mason has what you see as some deficiency as a Brother (which is a pretty subjective judgement to be making about somebody anyway), then whisper good counsel or take him under your wing as a Mentor. Be a Freemason to him, and not a carping, bitchy old hag at a knitting bee taking personal potshots at the new kid simply because you don't like a decision someone else most likely made for him in the first place.

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  13. Outstanding piece as always. I look forward to hearing you speak at N.C. Harmony in Cincinnati in April/May (I understand date is still being nailed down.)

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    1. Thanks very much.

      I will be in Ohio on the following:

      May 5, 2017
      Ohio 15th Masonic District
      Bellefontaine, OH

      June 3, 2017
      Nova Caesarea Harmony Lodge No.2
      Miamitown, OH

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