The Rollercoaster Ride Continues

Time for a life update. It’s been a good while since I last posted something regularly, hasn’t it?

Life has been pretty good – if somewhat challenging – since I last made a normal post (instead of a podcast outline). In terms of my career, personal life, and Masonic involvement, everything is pretty different. Let’s talk about that. One big update, all at once, to get things out of the way.

Career Stuff

I’m unemployed at the present moment. I got laid off at the end of this August and have been job hunting since then. Well, actually, I started job hunting well before then, but you get the idea. I got a nice severance package, and I have savings, so I’m okay.

The main challenge that I have been experiencing is just getting to the job interview. A lot of times, it doesn’t go any further than the application – and then the inevitable rejection comes. The second challenge lies in the fact that I majored in a few narrow field of study – petroleum engineering. Granted, my career experience is primarily computer simulation engineering, which is a pretty transferable skill, but I think a lot of non-Oil & Gas companies see “reservoir engineering” and “petroleum engineering” and figure that they’re better off with not having to train a guy from scratch. It’s a misconception that I can’t really fault them for.

I’m staying positive and I’m continuing to work hard. The simple reality is that in the 2010s, it is taking people longer to find work after a layoff than ever. The key is persistence and patience. I’ve had a few good job interviews recently – let’s see where this goes.

The most important thing about the whole experience is how much love and support that I’ve received, which has made a huge difference. This leads me to…

Personal Stuff

I’m dating a wonderful gal right now. Sarah and I started dating in February, and have been going steady ever since. She’s just as much of a nerd as I am and I’m crazy about her. She has been incredibly supportive during this period of unemployment, and I honestly think I wouldn’t be doing nearly as well (mentally) if I didn’t have her to lean on for support. I owe her a ton of thanks. The guys at Lodge keep teasing me about how we’re gonna be the lodge’s “2018 Marriage.” I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a betting pool of some kind going on. All I’ve got to say on the subject is that it’s a little too early to talk about it, but that I’m totally fine with keeping her around for a long time (and I hope she feels the same way).

My father hasn’t been in the best of health. He’s doing much, much better now, but he’s been fighting cancer. He developed a bizarre form of appendiceal cancer which herniated and grew all the way to his knee – the doctors had never seen anything like it. They hacked most of it out from his leg and abdomen, but they had to leave a bunch of it in his hip. Right now, they can’t take what’s in his hip without an at-the-hip amputation, which Dad understandably wants no part of. Fortunately (thanks be to God) the cancer isn’t growing or metastasizing. It’s just kinda…​ there. For now the game plan / best reasonably possible outcome is that Dad goes in for a scan every few months, the cancer never grows, and Dad simply just has cancer until he dies in a freak Christmas tree accident at the ripe old age of 103. I pray for him and my mom often. She’s a saint, for a host of reasons.

I’m surrounded by new friends. Hopefully they last a lifetime. I knew that I’d be meeting people through Masonry and make a few friends – but I didn’t’ expect to make so many. It goes without saying (as anyone in the Fraternity knows) that there’s too many of them to list on here. All I can say within a reasonable amount of time is: my brothers, it’s been a pleasure to get to know y’all and I love y’all. I am excited about all of my adventures to come.

I’m also surrounded by old friends. One of the things that I will never not be thankful for is the Internet. Without it, my friends from college and I wouldn’t be able to stay in touch as well as we do right now. It’s so comforting to be able to reach out to them and talk – it’s like they’re just on the other side of town and we’re texting to hang out later. I have a few pilgrimages I need to make to the Houston area – it’s been a while since most of us were physically present together. Time to fix that!

I’m also grateful for my closest canine companion, Lyra. She’s my little old lady (11 years old). She’s a black lab with a heart of gold. During the summers, she’s been an excellent companion for long, leisurely walks, and now that it’s the winter, she’s a great companion for brisk, determined walks. Right now she’s hunkered down on my bed, enjoying the warm comforter. In a bit, I’m going to go grab a cigar and we’ll go for a nice walk, after which we’ll both retire to the couch and cuddle up for warmth. I love this dog.

Masonic Stuff

Hoo boy. There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s break it down into categories.

Symbolic Lodge

I am not an officer in my Symbolic Lodge, but I’ve been having a blast. I do a lot of our degree lectures, and I often pro-tem the Senior Deacon position for degrees and Stated Meetings. I didn’t accomplish my goal of learning the A-certificate material by the end of the year, because although I know all of the C-certificate material (trial lectures, opening/closing) and I know the lectures, I still haven’t learned how to confer. My goal is to learn to confer the degrees, and start helping our degree team even more by increasing my versatility.

Chapter & Council

Wow, where do I start here? “Hold my beer” is super applicable in this case. I started this Capitular/Cryptic year by being installed as an appointed junior officer – Master of the 2nd Veil in Chapter, and Steward in Council. Then, our 2nd-in-command (Excellent King in Chapter and Right Illustrious Deputy Master in Council) had to move to West Virginia. This left us with a gap…​ and I got promoted to fill it. By dispensation from the respective Grand bodies, we held an election and then installed several officers out-of-time. I am now serving as the Excellent King in Chapter and the Right Illustrious Deputy Master in Council, and am preparing for the year that I serve in the East. It’s been a blast, and I’m nervous, but I have a lot of great guys to rely on. One of the things that I am trying to implement is a five-year plan agreed on by the Chapter/Council as a group, so that all the guys that come after me can continue working on something they were a part of designing. The year that I serve will mostly consist of setting up the dominoes for other Companions – and I’m okay with that. Seeing the continued success of our Chapter/Council is an exciting prospect.


Yesterday, I was installed as the Junior Warden (5th in command) of Worth Commandery #19, Knights Templar. I’m honored to have been elected and installed, and I hope to serve my fellow Sir Knights as best as I can. The Junior Warden part is really a crazy mountain to climb as brand-new SK, but the mountain is there, so I must climb it. I am very excited about bringing the Christian Orders of Knighthood to my Brothers and Companions. Commandery is a very meaningful organization to me. The ritual is so striking, and resonates so strongly with my faith, that I can’t help but love it. I am very excited to continue exploring the Christian side of Masonry.

Scottish Rite

I’m a Scottish Rite Mason now! I went through the Fall 2017 Reunion and am now a proud Master of the Royal Secret and member of the Fort Worth A&ASR-SJ Valley. It was a grueling 3-weekend process, and I’m still digesting. Fortunately, I have plenty of reading material to catch up on… and another degree to learn! I got together with some other brothers and we’re assembling a degree team for the 13th degree – the Royal Arch of Enoch. I’m excited about it!

I did, however, turn down a petition for the Knights of Saint Andrew. Right now, I want to focus on the York Rite (Symbolic lodge inclusive), and I know that if I get involved with KoSA, I’ll get carried away. I’d like to get through the East in Chapter/Council at least, first. This is one of those inevitable things, so never fear, Knights.

The Fort Worth #148 Podcast

Man, oh man, has this podcast been a blast. I’m super thankful that we’re on holiday break, though. I love the podcast, but it has definitely been taxing time-wise. This has been such an amazing opportunity for self-education and excellent conversation – I love it. I’ve been really getting the art of editing the podcast in a timely manner down as a strong skill, but I need to work on it – can’t stay up late all the time! I am looking forwards to next year. We’ll be cutting down our releases to two episodes per month. This way, we can focus on bringing higher-quality content to our listeners, while giving ourselves some breathing room. I’d rather release two great 1.5 hour episodes per month than 4-5 okay ones. It’s gonna be great, so stay tuned.

Christopher Livingston – Changing Masonry in a Changing World

This was originally posted to the Texas Freemasons Facebook group by Brother Christopher Livingston on the 18th of September, 2017.

Changing Masonry in a Changing World

Christopher Livingston

The world is changing. The largest taxi service in the world is Uber. It doesn’t own a single vehicle. The largest hotel service in the world is Airbnb. It doesn’t own a single property. A key retailer? Amazon, which made $136 billion in 2016 without a single brick-and-mortar storefront. Software has disrupted and displaced the world of the 20th Century and will continue to disrupt industries in the coming decade.

Every leader acknowledges that America’s culture is changing. To reach a changing culture, Freemasonry needs to change. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t need to change the Landmarks. We shouldn’t change the message or the meaning. Just the method. One is sacred. The other is not.

The wise leader is taking steps today to position his lodge to respond to these things. I know that’s what I have been doing at my lodges and as President of the 14th MWSA, where I have the privilege of serving.

It’s not clear what Freemasonry will look like in the future, but there a few trends are becoming clear. Here’s what I see as characteristics of the lodges that will make an impact in the next decade:

  1. An Admission of a Problem and a Need. Most lodges will not revitalize because leaders and members refuse to recognize that their lodge is in trouble. Those who do acknowledge the problem have taken a major first step. Those lodges will make a commitment to move in a new direction.
  2. Humility. This characteristic is obviously related to the first. Leaders and members must not think they have all the answers. They should have a humble and teachable spirit. They will be willing to bring outside persons in to help them view their situation more objectively.
  3. Outsider Focus. Lodges that become passionate about people outside their walls will be far more effective than lodges that are passionate about keeping the few people they have inside their walls. Better still, they will have a healthier lodge. We call individuals who are fixated on their own wants and needs selfish and immature. Selfless and mature lodges will have an impact because of their passion for the Brotherhood of Man.
  4. Concrete Purpose. Freemasonry consists of a body of men banded together for the purpose of mutual, intellectual, social, and moral improvement. It endeavors to cultivate and exhibit Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth; not only to one another, but also to the world at large. The successful lodge has this purpose as a driving path to everything it accomplishes.
  5. Strategic Goals. The successful lodge will have an overarching strategic plan on how to accomplish its concrete purpose. Lodges may implement different goals, but those goals will be exhibited through a plan. The plan suggested by the Grand Lodge is completion of the Vanguard requirements, but some successful lodges will add to or deviate from that suggested plan.
  6. Quick Decision Making. Lodges with slow and complicated decision-making processes will be unable to keep up with the progress of change. There are times to be slow and deliberate, but everyday decisions must come quickly. Today’s generation is the first to grow up entirely on a diet of technological solutions. A study by Carleton University in 2006 gave the famous statistic that web designers have 500 milliseconds to impress and engage a user landing on their page for the first time. 500 milliseconds. The new world values quick decision making.
  7. Innovation and Flexibility. The lodge doesn’t need to change its purpose, but it does need to change its methods. Flexible and adaptable lodges innovate around strategy and different initiatives and have the freedom to make changes to make an impact moving forward. They are willing to try a variety of things to make an impact and are courageous enough to kill something as soon as it stops producing results.
  8. Valuing Online Relationships as Real Relationships. Lodges that aren’t online beyond a website are going to miss the boat. Real interaction with real people on online is the new norm. In 2016, the Pew Research Center concluded that 79% of online American adults and 68% of all American adults use Facebook. Social media use is almost as common in 2016 as television use was in 1960. Think about that.
  9. Prioritizing a “For You,” not “From You” Culture. Lodges in decline often think in terms of what they can get from people—dues, time, donations, growth, etc. Lodges that will make an impact will be passionate about what they want for people—personal development, intellectual development, leadership development, etc.
  10. A Tailored Experience, Not a Tailored Message. Successful lodges won’t tailor the message to bring in members, they will tailor the experience. Ritual will not be shortchanged. Examinations will not be perfunctory. Last year there were Christmas presents under the tree at my house. But 90% of those presents were purchased online. The message was still sacred as we gathered early Christmas morning, but the experience leading up to it was different—we skipped the mall. The sacred parts of Freemasonry must not change, but a successful lodge will tailor the experience to better reach a new generation.

Again, this is just what I see from my experience serving as WM at Richardson and Hillcrest lodges. I could be wrong, but hopefully this gives you some ideas. I’m talking in generalities because I don’t believe there’s any one right way to lead a successful lodge. But I have points, because I think there are some characteristics that are universally successful.

Elevator Speeches

There will come a time when you need to explain what the heck Masonry is. Sometimes, you won’t have very long. It’s best to come up with an “elevator speech” for those occasions. My answer is a little dramatic:

The world is an awful place, and there’s not much that we can do about that on the macro scale. What we can do, however, is give men the opportunity to change and improve themselves using moral tools and teachings centered around love of God and love of one another in order to better implement the moral values they already had. By doing this, a man not only changes himself, but the world immediately around him – and sometimes reaching even further than that. So, we can’t change the world on a macro scale, but we can change it many, many times on a micro scale. Masonry is an organized effort to save the world through love, one man at a time.

M∴I∴ Jason Mitchell – Funding a Lodge from the Ground Up

This was all originally written by M∴I∴ Companion Jason Mitchell in the comments of this post. All I’ve done is format it for easier sharing – many thanks to Brother Mitchell for writing this in the first place.

Funding a Lodge/Organization is something that is important to me. I’ve started a Mark Lodge, two AMD Councils, a Black Hat Club, an SRICF College, and been part of the planning for bodies for Athelstan and Acon.

In all that time, I’ve seen:

  • seven ways to incorrectly fund a an emerging Masonic body;
  • seven ways to incorrectly fund a brand new Masonic body;
  • and at least a dozen incorrect ways to continue funding an established body.

Unlike your existing Lodges, the ability to see and take a Masonic organization from idea, to conception, to charter, to sustaining, and probably death, in the case of the Mark Lodge, has been fascinating, because I’d argue less than 1% of masons have ever seen a Masonic organization established from the ground up.

For me, it comes down to this: I don’t care about your sentimental attachments to your (misquoted) ritual, I don’t care about your statistical outliers of that one guy who is great but broke, etc.

I care about funding an organization that is self-sustaining, at least financially, for two, or three, or four generations in advance – with the foresight that there will be expenses and needs thenk, that I cannot even conceive of now. By that, I mean try explaining powered light to someone in the 18th century, or websites and online payments to someone in the 1950s, and so forth.

For me the measure of success, regardless of the actual dollar amount, is that all money coming into the Lodge today, is spent 30, 40, or 50 years from now. The paycheck-to-paycheck cash flow (if you can honestly call it that) is wrong. We are living, we’re barely sustaining – it’s scarcity survival.

What that does mean for Masons today, is whatever that dollar amount is that it takes to fund your Lodge as is, double it – at least – so you’re putting money back into the bank.

Use the following formula to find out what you need to get the Lodge off the ground:

Initial Funding = (Total funding from Part 1) + (Three times the double of the total from Part 2)


Initial Funding = P1 + 6(P2)

This will give you everything you need to get the Lodge off the ground, and three years of projected operational costs in the bank. There should be no further purchases to kit out the Lodge, and all the money coming into the Lodge is spent at a later time. If you never spend more than 80% of your income (no zero-sum budgeting), then as a function of time, you will be growing financially.

Oh, and most importantly – build in an exit strategy! Determine now, not later, financial performance thresholds that automatically trigger closing the lodge.

Part III is suggested on-going operational assumptions.

Part I: Getting Started – Outfitting

Here is where you decide, “do I want a solid gold apron, or is a shiny brass one enough, or do I want shiny plastic?” You need to determine:

  • what it will cost to legally establish the body, be it fees to the sponsoring/chartering masonic body, legal fees (if incorporation is necessary), bank fees, etc…
  • the total price to outfit the body. Using a Lodge, and assuming you have a building to meet in, and that building has chairs already, that means everything: from aprons to altars, to rods, to jewels, to patents, to ballot boxes, to ritual books – I mean literally everything. You’ll want at least one of everything, possibly two on things that may wear or get dirty.
  • prices for boxes to securely store and transport all those things in, unless the building comes with storage, but even then, boxes help protect them in storage, so it’s good to have.
  • if you need to insure these effects against loss or damage, and if so, and it requires a down payment, get that number too.
  • the total price on all administrative tools: Dues cards, folders, paper clips, pens/pencils, laptop, printer, paper, ink, filing cabinets, desk, pens, envelopes, postage, business/calling cards, website, accounting software, etc – everything the Secretary, Master, and Wardens will materially need to have in their possession for their job (bearing in mind, we’re not talking about having 100 pencils for Brothers who suddenly need one in Lodge).

Part II: Get Going – Operational

Don’t go cheap here. Don’t try to cut corners. Again, you want real costs for real results. This will be expensive.

  • What is the total cost of rents for the year? Stated and Special meetings, Educationals, Officer meetings, Everything.
  • Are there dining costs the Lodge must absorb? Example: will there be refreshments at officer meetings? If so, there is an operational cost.
  • What is the cost of education and training? What books and materials will you need to have for the first 36 months to fully train and prepare candidates, and officers, into Masonry, and the culture of the Lodge? Does your GL require officers to participate in any training/course, etc? This is one of the first places we start cheating ourselves and others. Prepare for the future. Is digital truly equivalent to physical for a new candidate?
  • Do candidates get patents and/or presentation Bibles? You’ll need a supply on hand. What is your expected number of EA, FC, and MM?
  • What other materials will Candidates receive from the Lodge, to commemorate their Initiation, Passing, and Raising, if any? Again, another number.
  • What is the total cost for Lodge communication to members? I’d argue you need physical mailing, plus at least two other forms of communication (email, social media, texting, etc).

Part III: Preparing for the Worst and Other

  • Always put 10% of your income into long term savings.
  • Always set aside an additional 10% of your income as a buffer for a given fiscal year to cover cost overruns. Unused portions should go into long term savings.
  • Assume you’ll never receive any money for degree fees.
  • Assume you’ll have 30% voluntary dues compliance before the due date.
  • Assume you’ll have an additional 20% within 60 days following the due date.
  • Assume you’ll receive an additional 30% dues compliance with costs, 12 months late.
  • Never assume more than 80% total dues compliance after any length of time.
  • Always match your dues to a firmly establish economic indicator: DOW, COLA, etc., something. Increase dues constantly.
  • Never, ever, ever, ever, take cash.
  • Always take credit card payments – never pass on the processing fees, that’s a cost of doing business these days.
  • Take ACH payments.
  • Take EFT payments.
  • Take checks.

Destroying the 24-Inch Gauge

It’s been kind of a crazy period of time. Lately, I’ve been really stretching the limits of my 24-inch gauge. I am really enjoying it, but it’s not easy. I love pouring my efforts into all things, especially Masonry, but I definitely need to make sure I take personal time now and then.

I’ve done a less than stellar job of balancing friend groups. There’s more than a few friends who I think about every once in a while and realize, “wow, [X] and I haven’t hung out in a while.” I’ve been pretty good about keeping the vast majority of my commitments, but the problem, I feel, now lies in actually arranging those commitments to begin with.

It’s very easy to keep commitments when they’re at lodge. That’s where I’m expected to be, and where I enjoy being. It is a breeze to be there! Having a central location to do stuff makes things very easy. I feel like right now we are also in a huge busy season right now. We’ve had a bunch of raisings and plan on having another one soon, followed by at least one passing, and at least two initiations. There are many brothers in need of instruction, and many ritual parts to be learned.

I feel like I arguably don’t sleep enough. I usually feel like I’m super busy, and that’s why I go to bed so late even though I have to wake up early. That also seems like a ridiculous excuse to try and cover up a severe lack of discipline. Maybe one of these days, I’ll figure it out.

On a more positive note, the Commandery Orders were incredible. This was last month, on the 15th. We had/were a bunch of candidates. I really enjoyed the Order of the Red Cross. The story behind it was really entertaining in both a serious and a light-hearted way. The Order of Malta kind of threw me for a loop, though. It felt like it was super-packed with information that just flew by at astronomical speeds. I will have to sit down with a copy of the ritual and a highlighter in order to properly “unpack” all of that.

I was privileged enough to be the exemplar candidate for the Order of the Temple. I have never experienced anything quite so mind-blowing in terms of ritual. There were parts where I had to keep myself from laughing, parts where I was deeply moved, and parts where my heart was pounding, ready to leap out of my chest in excitement and awe. I once heard the OOT described as “everything you ever thought a Masonic degree would ever be,” and I have to say, that’s not wrong. Oddly, I wouldn’t describe it as “life-changing,” as I have heard before. This experience profoundly resonated with emotions and convictions that I have held for a while now. There is no course in direction – if anything, there is now only fuel added to the fire in the engine. IN HOC.

A Cryptic Message

Wow, what a wild ride. I had been given some “hints” regarding the Council degrees, but I still wasn’t prepared. The Royal Master degree in particular was very beautiful! The solemnity of the soliloquy gave me shivers. There’s a lot that I would like to discuss, but unfortunately most all of that is stuff that I can’t talk about publicly! It was a great experience and I’m still digesting it, so to speak.

Instruction Certification & the Royal Arch Degree

Well, it seems that I finally went and got myself official. As of Saturday (the 25th), I am officially certified by the Grand Lodge of Texas to teach the memory work for degree proficiencies, and the opening of all four lodges (the fourth being the Lodge of Sorrows).

Initially, I drove all the way to Phoenix Lodge in Weatherford. When I got there, just before the forum (degree exemplification and general Q&A) at 9 am, I was asked, “Hey brother! Are you here for the Commandery Work Day?” My confusion must have beeen pretty evident. I quickly explained that I was there for the exam certification, and was then told that it had been postponed to next weekend. The paper copy of the schedule posted up in the dining hall had been the same one as on the PDF I had on my phone; however, the paper version had a correction on it, in pen. The PDF, naturally, did not have this change.

At this point, I settled in the hallway, hanging out with some brothers I knew and some brothers that I didn’t know, chit-chatting about memory work, Commandery, and a few other things. One brother pointed out to me that Krum (and therefore Krum Lodge’s certification exams) was only an hour and fifteen minutes away. If I hustled, I might still be able to catch the last 20 minutes of the forum, and make it in time for the certification exams.

So I hustled!

I managed to get to Krum Lodge and had a great time. I met some District Instructors, members of the Committee on Work, and all sorts of other brothers. One brother had even heard of the podcast that I put out with some of my lodge brothers! The exams went well, and when I left, I was officially “C-certified.”

Last night (Monday, March 27) was also pretty eventful. I managed to double-book myself for both Blue Lodge and Royal Arch Chapter. We had four profiencies in two different degrees in Blue Lodge, and I had my Royal Arch degree scheduled! I had to excuse myself before the last EA profiency, because it was time to go to Chapter. I was really bummed about that, because I am usually the examiner during proficiencies, and I was really looking forwards to this Brother delivering his work.

The Royal Arch degree was absolutely incredible. It was incredibly immersive and I’m still digesting it. I am looking forwards to the next time – when I can participate in it. I would write more about it, but to be quite honest, I have to let it settle a bit before I can competently talk about it! It’s got to be one of my favorite degrees so far, though. I might actually like the experience of this one as an initiate even more than the Master’s degree (although the Entered Apprentice degree still remains my favorite). This was a very physically-involved sort of experience, which I thought was awesome.

Super happy with my experience. I even bought a RAM emblem to put on my car! Very psyched to see what happens in Cryptic Council.

Advanced to the Honorary Degree of Mark Master

Today I was advanced to the honorary degree of Mark Master Mason! I was one of three candidates. It was a fun and interesting experience. The degree team did a great job despite having a bunch of people missing – those filling in did very admirably. There was joviality (something very strange compared to my Blue Lodge experience) and quiet, solemn moments. Overall, it was a pretty wonderful time. Next stop: Virtual Past Master and Most Excellent Master!

Handley Lodge Captures the Travelling Gavel

Where the magic happens: the Fort Worth Masonic Temple

Last night was pretty great.

Fort Worth Lodge had its stated meeting night, and I was pleasantly surprised to see so many visitors – at first only minorly so, then majorly so. I shared the elevator with three or four brothers from Handley Lodge on the way up to our dining hall… Then I quickly realized, as the time went on, that they were coming out in force! Our little dining hall was packed. Handley Lodge brought out 15 brothers to come help take the travel gavel.

The Grand Lodge of Texas (AF&AM) 64th District Traveling Gavel:

Eyes on the Prize

The room was abuzz with excitement. Many of the Fort Worth Members were whispering to each other over the food – cooked on the Fort Worth Lodge #148 Smoker, of course – as we were and are totally psyched to get so many visitors. I pro-tem’d the Senior Deacon’s part, and began running around the dining hall, collecting names and titles as fast as I could.

The time to file into the lodge room came, and we ran out of aprons! We had to dig in the closet for a third box of aprons. We had a total attendance of 54 brothers. Once visitors were introduced, all first time visitors were given a Fort Worth Lodge pin.

One of my little treasures, the Fort Worth Lodge #148 pin that was given to me the night that I was raised:

Light in Pin Form

We blasted through the regular business, with some minor delays during a slightly more free-form portion of lodge, and then got to the presentation of the Travel Gavel. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of that, since we were in open lodge at the time (meaning photography is verboten), but it was wonderful. In addition to the travel gavel on the plaque, Fort Worth Lodge has decided to toss in the Mega Gavel as well. Now, in addition to the existing stipulations on the gavel, the Mega Gavel will be travelling with the regular plaque. After our Brother Hando Nahkur played a very stirring piece, we closed out and Hollywooded for the camera. All in all, a great night in Texas Masonry.

A group photo (most of us are in here):

Everyone gather ’round!

14 of the 15 brothers from Handley, with guest appearance by the Mega Gavel (Worshipful Master of Handley Lodge, Haskell Rogers III, is in the middle with the plaque):

Brethren of Handley Lodge

Our pro-tem WM, SW Greg Wright (on the left), poses with some of our brothers from Webb Lodge! We really hope that they are the next ones to get the gavel. Ed (on the right) is a Past Master of both Webb Lodge and Handley Lodge:

The Brethren of Webb Lodge

The Quest for Judas Maccabeus

Founder of the Order of Judas Maccabeus, Brother Herman Sarachan

My latest obsession is one that I’ve touched on before in the article I shared by R∴W∴ Raymond Beardsley. For those of you that have not yet heard of the Order of Judas Maccabeus, it was an order founded in New York State by a group of brothers seeking to provide non-Christian brethren with a chivalric experience which they might otherwise miss out on, not being eligible for Commandery. The founding of the Order did involve Masons from many aspects of the Craft, particularly many representatives and leaders from the Grand Commandery of New York.

One of my goals has been to reach out to brothers that were involved in the Order. This has proved to be very difficult. Many of the men involved in OoJM have passed away, or don’t have an online presence, which makes reaching out a lot more difficult! When I first read the article by Brother Beardsley, I figured that I should try and see if I could contact him. That is when I found out that he had passed away about two weeks before I had found the article. No luck there, unfortunately, and may Brother Beardsley rest easy in the arms of the Creator.

Initially, I thought I had reached a dead end. However, having read the article, I had a jumping-off point: the home Chapter and home Council of the OoJM founder, Brother Herman Sarachan. I sent out emails to the recorder of Doric Council #19 and to the recorder of Hiram Chapter #62. My email to Hiram Chapter was a little bit of a Hail Mary, because I wasn’t sure if this was a reformation of Hamilton Chapter, or if it was a different entity entirely. As of yet, I still have to hear back from their recorder, so my assumption is that it is a different Chapter entirely.

However, I was able to hear back from Brother John Dudley, the Recorder of Doric Council (also the Secretary of Northfield Lodge #426). He informed me that he had been a member of the Order and had watched it slowly die. At the time of his joining, he was the 71st member of the Genesee Valley Assemblage #1, which is is shown on the scan of his last dues card for the Order, which he sent to me:

John Dudley’s OOJM Dues Card

Brother Dudley then put me in contact with (R∴W∴) Brother John Gallant, who was not a member of the Order, but had been in contact with Brother Beardsley. I emailed Brother Gallant to talk to him and see what I could learn, and ended up with an incredible surprise. Not only did Brother Gallant inform me that there was an Assemblage operating in Texas, he sent me a copy of the Texas ritual! I don’t feel comfortable posting/sharing the ritual in such an accessible format, so I will try to describe the document. The “Standard Work” was written by Brother Sarachan in 1974 in New York State, and the Texas ritual’s latest revision, according to the document, was in August 2007, by the late Brother Cliff Cameron. Brother Cameron was a Knight of the York Cross of Honor, and the 2007 Grand Historian of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Texas.

The Order conferred two degrees, the Order of David and the Order of Judas Maccabeus. There would have been a third order, the Order of the Temple, but Brother Sarachan died before he could finish it. From what I have been told, my understanding is that there were/are some efforts to finish the Order of the Temple, but I cannot verify this.

The Order of David teaches the lessons of love and devotion through the story of Jonathan and David planning David’s escape from King Saul’s grasp. The degree opens the Volume of Sacred Law (VSL) to Samuel 1 18:1. The officers of the Order of David are:

  • Sovereign Master
  • Companion Senior Warden
  • Companion Junior Warden
  • Companion Captain of the Guard
  • Companion Marshall
  • Companion Warder
  • Companion Sentinel

After the candidate is made a Companion of the Order of David and has observed the drama, the new Companion retires without the Assemblage’s room, and the Assemblage resumes labor in the Order of Judas Maccabeus, due to having called down to the Order of David for the purpose of conferral, and the Companion is made a Valiant Prince. The Order of Judas Maccabeus teaches the lessons of fidelity and devotion (to faith) through the story of the Maccabean revolt against the Hellenistic regime of Antiochus IV. The degree opens the VSL to either Psalm 23 or Ecclesiastes 12 (it’s unclear which is used). The officers of the Order of Judas Maccabeus are:

  • Sovereign Prince Commander
  • Valiant Prince Chancellor
  • Valiant Prince Orator
  • Valiant Prince Cohen
  • Valiant Prince Treasurer
  • Valiant Prince Recorder
  • Valiant Prince Captain of the Guard
  • Valiant Prince Marshall
  • Valiant Prince Warder
  • Valiant Prince Sentinel

They are seated in the Assemblage room as such:

Layout of an Assemblage Room

There, dear readers, is where I had to go from. My next step was to find out how to contact Brother Cameron, so I reached out to the Grand Recorder of the Grand Council of Texas. I was informed that he had passed away, but that there was a Grand Chapter/Council History and Preservation Committee. I have yet to hear back from either of the emails that I sent to the committee members, unfortunately. I also reached out to the Grand College of Rites, as I am a member (“Fellow”). No dice there, either. Radio silence.

At this point, I think I stalled out for a two weeks, because I was pretty stumped about what to do next. I talked about it with my brothers in lodge, and online, on Reddit, etc, etc, etc. It was then that someone suggested that I email Brother Arturo de Hoyos, who is an expert historian on most anything and everything Masonic. Brother de Hoyos was very friendly and informed me that this was actually an avenue of investigation that one of his associates was pursuing! The running theory is that the group is totally defunct. If so, the rituals will be printed as Collectanea for the Grand College of Rites. I emailed him what I had in terms of general materials, contact information, and so forth. Hopefully something will turn up soon!

In the meanwhile, I am continuing my search. I’m not sure where this will lead me. Honestly, I am really hoping that there’s still an active Assemblage somewhere in Texas. All you would need is to to grab five companions of the Royal Arch, and then have them inducted into the Order. That being the required number of Valiant Princes for an Assemblage to form and meet, perhaps there is hope for the future of Judas Maccabeus?