Masonic Journeys (No, the other kind)

Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts and illness did not allow me to attend Nebraksa’s Annual Communication (aka Grand Lodge). Luckily for me, however, the installation of Grand Lodge officers did not occur at Grand Lodge, and will not be until next weekend. The incoming Grand Master is a dear friend, and someone who helps promote The Mason’s Lady, and I hope to be there to show my support for him. That being said, I am going ahead with the planned programming for this week, traveling as a Mason’s lady.

UGLE guys do Grand Lodge with style

How is it different from any other trip?

In short, it’s not, except for a few differences. If you attend Grand Lodge, or another closed/invite only Masonic event, you may not have a great deal of time to spend with your significant other if they are not also a Mason. Often, the larger events will have programs for the ladies, this can be anything from luncheons and free time, to group shopping and other outings. These programs usually occur during the times that Lodge is held at the event, for any reason (although usually it is for voting or similar purposes). Often, the ladies will have a great deal more free time then the Masons do, so prepare accordingly.

There may also be required panels or meetings that you need to attend, or the freedom to pick from a few, or even have free time. It all depends on how the event is set up.

Is there anything special that I need to bring?

There are a number of items that you may not think to bring with you on a Masonic trip, that can be extremely helpful.

  • Business or Contact Cards- You will be meeting a lot of people. Chances are, you won’t remember all of them, even if you agree to do the middle chamber lecture for them next month. Having business or contact cards on you at all times is not only very convenient, but it gives others the impression that you are prepared and think ahead. Even if you do not work for a business that offers you cards, there are a number of companies online, such as vistaprint, where you can create your own. Add any information that you feel is necessary, just be wary of adding your Lodge or any Masonic emblems if you will be using them for any other purpose.
  • Membership/Dues Cards- At large events where you don’t know everyone, during closed sessions (such as Lodge that is held during Grand Lodge), dues cards will be required at the door for entry. Be sure that you have yours, and they they are up to date, and in good condition. If you need new ones, contact your Lodge or Chapter secretary. You may want to consider getting a special billfold or business card holder (such as these) to keep your cards safe and sound.
  • Garment Bags- This is something you will want before you head out for your trip. Being a Mason or a Mason’s Lady requires an investment in nice clothes, and you want to protect that investment. Packing your clothes in the proper luggage will help keep them looking their best. There are a number of types of garment bags out there, including ones that match your exisiting luggage. You can find Masonic luggage here.
  • Your own iron- Again, with keeping your nice clothes nice. Yes, your hotel probably has an iron and ironing board in your room. However, it will probably be different than the one that you have at home, and you will probably be more comfortable with yours from home. In addition to this, the settings on irons can often vary widely, and if you know that your iron works, it is probably better than taking a chance on a burned shirt.
  • That scotch you’ve been saving for a special occasion- It’s no secret that Masons and booze go together like peanut butter and jelly. Most often, after the day’s work is done, the drinking and fun begins. Many Grand Lodges have a hospitality suite that has snacks, and may or may not have a bar. At other events, private parties in rooms are encouraged. Long Masonic events are a great time to meet new people, and new scotches. Be sure to make sure that alcohol is allowed at your event, however, and as always, be responsible.
  • A good book- There can be a lot of downtime during Masonic events. You might not be interested in any of the panels and decide to catch up on some rest, or there may be a two hour lunch break so that everyone can set up for the closed Lodge meeting. Bringing a book, games, or a laptop is strongly encouraged at longer Masonic events.

Although I was not able to attend Grand Lodge this year, it does mark the official one year anniversary of the Mason’s Lady. I feel that I have grown greatly as a person, and as a member of Masonic organizations, simply through the time and research that The Mason’s Lady requires. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, but I would not trade it for anything. Have a great week!

The Morgan Affair

We are back from Grand Lodge, and hiding from the snow storm in our footie pj’s watching the Olympics. We had a blast, I am so glad that I went, and I can’t wait to attend again next year! Yesterday morning, I was lucky enough to attend the Masonic Education Breakfast. Once I heard about the topic, I knew that I had to attend, and shot an email to the Grand Lodge office to make sure that it was alright for me to attend. Luckily, there was no issue; I was, however, the only female in the room, not that bothers me any.

Time for some masonic education!

In the early 1820′s, there were two political parties, the federalists and the democratic-republicans. Neither parties really had any sort of political platform like we know today, it was mostly, “vote for this guy because we like this guy”.  At this time, masons were kind of big deal. In larger cities, like Rochester, New York, all (or at least most), of the cops, judges, and other government officials were masons. This made it very easy to get whomever they wanted elected, with great party slogans encouraging them to effectively, keep it between brethren. Things like this can get out of control very easily. Human beings are greedy, and even a small amount of power can show a man’s true colors.

During this time, a man showed up in Rochester, by the name of William Morgan. He came to a lodge, stating that he had been initiated at a lodge in Canada, but could not produce a dues card. As I think many men would still now, someone agreed to vouch for him. He began attending lodge on a regular basis, and being fairly proficient at ritual work, he traveled from lodge to lodge performing rituals where requested. He was paid for his work, although he mostly relied on brethren to house him during his travels. At this point he has still not produced a dues card, or an alternate confirmation that he was, in fact, a mason. He received a Royal Arch degree (considered one of the most sacred secret works at the time), the only degree that can be confirmed that he did receive.

After receiving the Royal Arch degree, he wanted to charter a petition for a Royal Arch Chapter in Batavia, he was denied. He did sign the petition. At this time, other masons were starting to question his regularity (whether or not he was actually a mason), and they took his name off of the petition. Understandably, he was pretty upset about this, and threatened to write a book exposing all of the masonic secrets. This was a much bigger deal back then, since one could not just google a large portion of the masons secret works. He went as far as obtaining a copyright for the book, and did begin writing a manuscript.He entered a contract with three men, David Miller, John Davids, and Russel Dyer to publish the book.

Morgan was kind of drunk. As you know from experience, drunk people don’t keep their mouth shut very well. He began boasting around town about how awesome his book was going to be, and how he was going to show all of the masons that shut him out. The local masons quickly heard word about his “expose”, and the more that he bragged about it, the more worried they became. In September of 1826, William Morgan was arrested for stealing a shirt and tie. He was acquitted, but re-arrested for failing to pay his $3 debt, and thrown in jail. Someone paid his debt, but he did not leave jail alone.

He was, in fact, kidnapped by three masons, Chesebro, Lawson and Sawyer. What happened after they left gets a little fuzzy. One story states that they took him to Niagara Falls, gave him $500, told him to return to Canada and never come back to the United States. Another, that a body was found, and identified as Morgan by his widow, in Niagara River about a month later. Interestingly, this man was clean-shaven, while Morgan kept a beard, and had a full head of hair, while Morgan was bald. A Canadian woman, claimed this body to be her husband, Timothy Monroe. Years later, more “confessions” of his murder surfaced, none of which were consistent with the facts. It is possible that he escaped, although perhaps more likely, he was killed by overzealous masons who felt that they were just in protecting their secrets.

After all of this, Miller published Morgan’s manuscript, and it was an instant best seller. The public were made very uneasy by the masons after this expose. Morgan was made a symbol of free press and free speech. Protests and riots occurred in New York. Masonic officials denied that masons had any connection to Morgan’s disappearance, but the damage was done. A man by the name of Thurlow Weed created the Anti-Masonic party, the United States’ first third-party.

Could something like this happen again? Perhaps. I think that if masonry once again has a golden age, where everyone you know is a mason, that level of zealotry and arrogance could arise again. The internet changes things, yes, but not as much as we might like to believe. I think that it is a reminder to keep ourselves in check, and the importance of stepping back from a situation and taking a second look at it before making a major decision. It is also a reminder of how we are all only human, and emotions can get the better of us, especially when someone threatens people or ideas that we hold close.  Another interesting, similar situation happened in the 1970′s, called P2, but that is for another day.

Grand Lodge Crash Course

I am writing this post in my hotel room for the 157th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Nebraska, otherwise fondly known as, Grand Lodge. This is my first year attending, and although we are only about halfway through the weekend, I have learned a lot. Many of these are things I wish I had known, most of which I attempted to weasel out of T before
hand with limited success. Presented in easy to read chunks!

Dress according to agenda
This was probably the one I had the hardest time getting information about. The Grand Master’s Banquet is listed as formal, but how formal do they mean? The guys have it easy, formal means tux. For the ladies though- short dress? Long dress? Party dress? Cocktail dress? Evening gown? Business suit? I decided to follow the instructions given as closely as possible, and went with a simple, but elegant, floor length dress. When we got to social hour, the other women were wearing every style of formal I could think of: nice shorter dresses, gowns, long skirts and a jacket, and as tends to be loved with the older crowd- lots of sequins. Which brings me to my next point.

Always choose the more conservative outfit
Let’s be realistic here, Masonry is not exactly a young organization. Most of the people I know through it are old enough to at least be my parents (and a few even hit the great-grandparent level!) So, while that cocktail dress that hugs every curve might look awesome on you ( and it does!), something like Grand Lodge is not the place for it.

“With Jewels” doesn’t mean what you think

Dinner on Friday night was listed as “formal, with jewels”. I thought to myself, ‘Well, I don’t have any major jewelry, I will just wear something nice and it will have to be okay.’ It took me the weekend to realize that this is making reference to jewels of the office; the big golden and velvet collars the state officers wear are referred to as “jewels”.

Sleep when you can
It’s no secret that Masons love to do two things- talk and drink. This can lead to some late nights. Expect to be up late if you are into socializing, with most meetings being early (8am or so). If you can sneak in a nap, no one will fault you for it.

You will have down time
Right now, T, and our roommate Z are at meetings. They have been since about 1pm. This morning, we went to the public opening, afterwards they opened lodge while I had about an hour before the ladies luncheon. After lunch (about 1pm), I checked in with T, before heading back to the room. There is nothing scheduled for the ladies until cocktail hour at 6pm. So, be sure and bring a book, things you need to catch up on, that hobby you’ve been neglecting, check out what the town has to offer, or just relax.

Stay at the hotel
This is easy if your Grand Lodge is not in your hometown, but if it is, and this is your first year at Grand Lodge, I would recommend staying at the hotel if you can afford it. It’s kind of like college, you only get half the experience if you don’t stay in the dorms.

Do/don’t carry cash
This one is up to you. If your Grand Lodge is anything like Nebraska, there will be vendors at the convention center, a silent auction, and charities looking for donations.

Ask for help
Forget a pair of heels? An important pin? Tux studs? Dress tape? Don’t be afraid to ask your new friend. Chances are they are more than willing to help, and may have brought extra. Have questions about what’s going on? If your guy isn’t sure, chat with a Grand Officer (past or current). These are the guys with the fancy collars. They will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Put yourself out there 
In the words of T, “I love Masonry, ’cause I love schmoozing.” A big part of masonry is friendship. Not just between masons, but also between masons’ ladies, as well as between the two. This is the mostimportant thing I can tell you. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! I was intimidated when I walked into the cocktail hour last night. However, once I relaxed (and had a drink) I realized I knew more people than I thought that I did. If you are a member of OES, you will know people at Grand Lodge. If you go drinking with the guys, you will know people at Grand Lodge. If you have dinner at your MM’s lodge once in a while, you will know people at Grand Lodge. If you’ve ever done anything with masonry before, you will know people at Grand Lodge! If not, you will by the end of the weekend! Don’t rely on your guy to introduce you to people either. Go off on your own, say hi to people you recognize, they will introduce you to more people. See the lady about your age looking as lost and confused as you feel? Say hi!

Have fun!
Overall, Grand Lodge is all about seeing people you only see once a year, meeting new people, and having a great time!