Focus from the Masonic Information Center

Focus is a newsletter from the Masonic Information Center, issued periodically through the year.  It presents activities, including the Annual Report of the Center, as well as news and information about the general image of Masonry to the public.

Focus April 2015

Masonic Information Center (2014 Report)

The Masonic Information Center (MIC) was founded in 1993 by a grant from the late John J. Robinson, well-known author, speaker, and Mason. Its purpose is to provide information on Freemasonry to Masons and non-Masons alike and to respond to critics of Freemasonry. 

On several occasions in its first 20 years, MIC teams have responded to instances of sharp criticism of Freemasonry, often by religious-based organizations.  However, the thrust of the MIC’s efforts over the years has been providing information to educate Masons and the general public about the Fraternity, in hopes of eliminating such challenges before they begin.

As an arm of the Masonic Service Association, MIC uses many communication media, including website, email, telephone, and direct mail.

The Internet, for example, including Facebook, is increasingly used as a tool to accomplish MIC’s goals.  Numerous items created by MIC, such as the improvement guide for Lodges, “It’s About Time,” are available for reading on the MSA website, www.msana.com.  Also on the website are, “Fact Sheets About Freemasonry,” prepared by MIC on such subjects as: Freemasonry and Religion, Freemasonry and Secrecy, and Freemasonry and Women.

MIC Publications

In the 21-year history of MIC, a variety of pamphlets have been published, such as Who Are the Masons?, What’s a Mason?, Get a Life, A Response to Critics, There is No Sin in Symbols, and What Freemasonry Has Done for the World, which are available in individual or bulk quantities.  More than 3.3 million of these MIC booklets have been distributed.

Support

Through the years, the Grand Lodges of North America have contributed regularly to assist in the work of the Masonic Information Center and we sincerely appreciate the financial and volunteer work they provide.

MIC Steering Committee

A Steering Committee of distinguished Masons and Masonic writers from across the country guides the direction of MIC, and their contributions are very valuable.  The members are:

Dean R. Alban           Robert G. Davis                Gary Leazer
George O. Braatz      Tom Foster                        
Robert Conley           David Goodnow                George D. Seghers
Joseph R. Conway    Thomas W. Jackson         Terry Tilton
John Cooper              Jack Jones                        James Tresner         

Special Members and Consultants

Bernice Robinson               S. Brent Morris                      Peter Normand

Logo Significance For MIC Explained

The logo of the Masonic Information Center is the partially completed “C,” containing the Masonic Square and Compasses.  The letter stands for “Center.” The “C” is incomplete because communication, the Center’s mission, is ongoing so long as humankind needs Freemasonry’s universal message of Brotherhood, Relief, and Truth.

‘Who From Their Appearance . . .’

In the second section of the Master Mason, we’ve heard the line, “. . . who from their appearance were workmen from the Temple. . .”

What exactly about their appearance, made their occupation so recognizable?

In an upcoming book, Cathedrals Built by the Masons, Author Russell A. Herner, gives an in-depth description about how the workers on King Solomon’s Temple dressed:

The apron was a significant part of the working dress of the operative stonemasons.  Most of the heavy labor was done manually which exposed stonemason’s clothing against the abrasive limestone and sandstone. . . The lambskin leather apron was strong, thick, and long enough to protect their clothing, and it became the traditional badge of an operative mason. 

. . . The leather aprons also had a flap or bib at the top, which overlapped the apron itself and became an additional layer of protection.  The apprentices who did most of the heavy manual labor would need this additional protection more than the overseers. . .

Brother Herner is an active Ohio Mason, who also published Stonehenge: An Ancient Masonic Temple. 

For information on the new book, see “new releases” at www.schifferboooks.com — the publishers website.

Famous Masons Comment On News Coverage

A visit to the Newseum in Washington, DC, is always an enjoyable experience.  A recent visit discovered two comments about the news media, etched into the walls.  Both were written by famous men who were Masons.

The late Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States and Past Grand Maser of California: “I always turn to the sports section first.  The sports page records people’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

The late Rudyard Kipling, author and English Freemason: “I keep six honest serving men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.”

Charitable Grants Give Lodges Exposure

As part of its 125th Anniversary in 2014, the Grand Lodge of North Dakota, through its Masonic Foundation, issued a challenge to each Lodge in the jurisdiction.

The Foundation would give a $500 charitable grant to each Lodge for its local community.  All the Lodge had to do was find a charity in the community and make application.

If accepted, the check would be sent to the charity via the Lodge, with local publicity encouraged during the check presentation.

Curtiss Mundahl, PGM, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of North Dakota, said there was very good participation in the program. “Lodges gained a bit of visibility and often there was newspaper coverage,” he said.  “Those that participated received genuine benefits.”

Focus September 2014

‘Stirring Things Up’ Good Masonic Practice

A Lodge in Wisconsin began renting a large room in a church building as its meeting place.  A public Grand Lodge dedication service was planned, with the Masonic members and families, plus members of the church, in attendance.

According to an account written by Wisconsin Grand Chaplain David Ritchie in his column in the Wisconsin Masonic Journal, after the traditional dedication ceremony, with corn, wine and oil, the practice of a few speeches ensued. Finally, the pastor of the church was asked if she would make a few remarks.

She told how pleased she was at the ceremony and how closely it followed ancient traditions. She spoke on how she thought the Masons meeting in that place was a good fit.

Then, according to Chaplain Ritchie, “she said something that I wished every Mason could hear. She said that, when the first man approached her about using the space, she knew nothing about Masonry, but she knew this man and that he was someone who ‘stirred up good.'”

Then, Brother Ritchie wrote, the pastor told how when looking at the men in the congregation who were Masons, that these men, too, were men who “stirred up good.” If these were the qualities of men throughout the fraternity, she thought, she would be glad to work with them.

The pastor based her judgment initially on just one man. She saw someone who “stirred up good.” She did what we all do. We use what we know to judge others.

Chaplain Ritchie asked, “Do people see you, as a Mason, as someone who ‘stirs up good’ at work, as a neighbor, in your place of worship, in the VFW or Legion, as Little League coach, in your sportsmen’s club, or elsewhere?”

When you are the person who the public sees as the example of Freemasonry, will your reputation be for “stirring up good?” 

Getting The Word Out

One of the “cornerstone” efforts of the Masonic Service Association over the decades has been the Hospital Visitation Program.

Masonic volunteers provide services to Military Veterans at VA Medical Centers and state veteran hospitals across the country, often not receiving much attention.
To help bring the information of this Masonic service to more persons, MSA has published a new tri-fold pamphlet, “Masonic Service Association Hospital Visitation Program.”  It is the first attempt in many years to produce an up-to-date brochure on the program.

The pamphlet is perfect for passing out to all Master Masons, particularly to new members.  It also can be distributed to the public, at open houses, fair booths, or for other opportunities.

The pamphlet may be ordered in quantity from the Masonic Service Association office.  There is no charge for the booklet.

Two MSA Officer Leadership Digests Have Been Reprinted

Two venerable digests produced by the Masonic Service Association have been in great demand in recent months, requiring reprinting.

MSA ordered the Sixth Edition of Tried and Proven, A Lodge System of Masonic Instruction.  The Fifth Edition was printed in 2002.

Also newly reprinted is MSA’s Leadership digest, the first reprinting since 1990.

Both digests were part of a “Lodge Officers Package” of nine MSA digests at a sale price when all were purchased as the same time.

Social Media Draws Attention From Freemasonry

 Across the continent, Freemasons have been increasing, substantially, their use of social media, which has become a prime topic for conversation and discussion at Masonic conferences and symposiums.

What guidelines should be utilized by Masonic groups?  When should Grand Lodges get involved in such practices by local Lodges and Masonic members?  Should a Mason’s use of social media be different from that of an individual citizen? 

Last year, at the Rocky Mountain Masonic Conference, a “Social Media Code of Conduct for Freemasons” was approved, and since then, several individual Grand Lodges have voted to endorse such a “code” in their jurisdictions.  The conference includes the Grand Lodges of Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico.

Here is the “code” approved by the Rocky Mountain Conference:

Social Media Code of Conduct for Freemasons

• Freemasons should conduct Social Media activities in a way that reflects membership in the Craft, acting in a way that presents a positive image of the fraternity; avoiding private piques and quarrels; being cautious in behavior; courteous to our brethren and to promote the general good and to preserve the reputation of the fraternity.

• Postings should not bring discredit to Freemasonry nor should they fit within the definition of Un-Masonic Conduct as defined by the member jurisdiction. Conduct contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between Freemasons, or to society in general, is improper.

• Freemasons need to be aware that postings are a permanent record; and therefore an individual’s conduct may influence the world with a positive or negative image about the individual and also about Freemasonry. Postings and actions on the various Social Media outlets should reflect the highest standards of morality and integrity that Freemasons practice within the Lodge.

• Lodge notices, and information contained within Lodge notices beyond the time and place of meetings, should not be discussed. There should never be discussion related to petitions, applications, background checks or investigation of an applicant. There should never be a discussion regarding balloting on an applicant.

• It is improper to identify any Freemason as a member of the Craft unless he has provided his consent or has already identified himself as such. It is improper to post of images, video, recordings, etc. of other Masons without their consent. Posts must comply with the Grand Constitutions, rules, regulations, and edicts of the Jurisdiction.

• Postings that are anonymous or posted by fictitious names should be avoided rather than encouraged. Participation in discussions with those who most often are looking for discussions outside of what is Masonically acceptable should also be avoided.

• To ensure our fraternity represents itself to the high standards we believe in we must regulate our actions by individual restraint and through Brother-to-Brother intervention. As a Freemason, advise a Brother if what he has posted is improper within the framework of our Grand Constitutions, laws, rules, regulations, edicts and the general regulations of Freemasonry.

• Contact and communication with other Grand Lodges or their subordinate or concordant Lodges must be conducted through the Office of the Grand Secretary.

• Freemasonry in North America is governed by independent legislative bodies known as Grand Lodges who exercise absolute Masonic authority within a State or Province. Only Grand Lodges can make authoritative statements, and these apply only to their members.

 

Focus June 2014

Do You Have A Masonic Elevator Speech Ready?

An elevator speech is one that you can deliver to one or more persons while taking a brief elevator ride.  It may be 30 seconds, or 1 minute long.  It must summarize and provide an important message in a minimum of words.

For example, you step onto the elevator with a business associate, who says, “What is that lapel pin you have on?”  By the time you reach his or her destination on the 3rd Floor, you should be able to say it is a Masonic pin, and state a few positive things about your membership or about the organization. 

How many times has an opportunity similar to that happened to you, but you quickly answered and hoped the other person would change the subject?

How often, when you thought about the opportunity later, did you wish you would have been ready to produce a short, intelligent response?

The time to prepare your “elevator speech” and explain Freemasonry and what it means to you – is now – before that chance arises.

The opportunity may come on the street corner; it may occur as you are departing from church; it could materialize in a fast-food line as you are waiting to order.  

Some Masons believe the lack of having such an “elevator speech,” is why membership is not advancing as it should.  Too often, Masons are reluctant to speak up about their Masonic membership.  Too often, they are not prepared to say something positive, and so don’t say anything.  Too often, they just feel unqualified to be that needed “public relations” representative for our Fraternity.

In the Indiana Freemason magazine in 2013, George Burkley, a Past Master of Tyrian Lodge #12 in Goshen, IN, presented his views on the need for an “elevator speech.”  If someone would say to Brother Burkley, as they were entering an elevator, “I hear you are a Mason.  What’s that all about?” here is what he might say:

Freemasonry is the world’s oldest and largest fraternal organization for men over the age of 18.  We are dedicated to serving our members and their families through building relationships, social networking, and activities with our members and in the community.

Freemasonry is not a religion but it is an organization where every member must profess a belief in God.

Freemasonry is not a charity but it is an organization that sponsors numerous charities, for example (and here he names charity endeavors that his Lodge, Grand Lodge, or one of his appendant bodies in Freemasonry supports).

And finally, Freemasonry is not a volunteer organization but it is an organization where its members voluntarily bind themselves together to make themselves, and their community, a better place.  Personally, my closest friends outside my family are members of the Masonic Fraternity.

Cover of Guide ‘Masonic Funeral Services’ Guide Revised, Updated

A new version of this venerable brochure is now available.  The full title is, “An Open Letter Concerning . . . Masonic Funeral Services,” and it is aimed at clergy of all faiths. It promotes understanding of Masonic funeral practices. 

The brochure, however, is also great for the education of Masons, whether new members or those seeking more information regarding the Masonic funeral procedure.

This pocket-size pamphlet has been a popular item for many years for MSA, and not long ago supplies had dwindled.  The newly designed and edited version is a more contemporary communication tool, but with the same traditional understanding of our Fraternity’s views of the subject.

  • Single copy, $1, includes shipping, and must be ordered by mail from MSA.
  • Package of 50 brochures – $14, plus shipping (from MSA or online)
  • Package of 100 brochures – $27, plus shipping (from MSA or online)

New MSA Disaster Relief Milestone Reached

The Masonic Service Association, which has been providing disaster relief assistance for more than 90 years, has surpassed the $10 million plateau in funds contributed.

In May, MSA wired $42,500 to the Grand Lodge of the Philippines and THAT action elevated MSA above the $10 million mark. To see the entire 90-year history of this service provided by the Masonic Service Association. Go to MSA’s webpage on “Disaster Relief.”

The latest donation of $42,500 brings to $185,000, the total of relief that has been given to the Philippines, following the typhoon that struck the island nation last year.  That appeal has now ended and all the contributions have been sent to help our brothers in the Philippines.

Since 1923, when Masonic Service Association issued its first appeal to help Japan, the MSA has become the recognized and credible Masonic group in North America, trusted by all Grand Lodges to forward disaster aid when it is needed.  This has been one of MSA’s key services for nearly a century.

Also, remember that this is not MSA money.  The funds are donations from YOU – from individual Masons, Lodges and Grand Lodges. Not a penny of it is kept by MSA for administrative costs.  All disaster appeals are initiated by a Grand Lodge, and all money collected is forwarded to that Grand Lodge for local distribution.

The Masonic Service Association of North America is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible.

Community Awareness Of Freemasonry

Since its creation more than two decades ago, the Masonic Information Center (MIC) has led the effort to expand community awareness of our Fraternity.

The overriding thought in all of MIC’s programs, brochures, and news media contacts, is for the general public to have a better understanding and appreciation for the activities of Freemasonry. 

For seven years, ending in 2013, MIC conducted a Mark Twain Masonic Awareness Program, with Lodges being awarded for their efforts to increase awareness, both among their own members and it the community.  Even though the award program ended, some of the recipients’ entries are still maintained on the MSA webpage, as examples for other Lodges to follow.

One particular Lodge, in its entry for a Mark Twain Award, gave the following statement of what it believes is the value of such awareness:

Our Lodge is located in a relatively small coastal area of Maine.  Although we are not large is size, we believe that success, as a fraternity, can be measured more relevantly by the strength of our community than by the volume of our members.

Our experience has been that community itself can be infectious, and that one of the best ways to attract new and motivated members, and keep them as such, is to have a strong presence in that community, and be outwardly involved beyond our monthly meetings.
Encompassing all we do in that goal, and being active, has been our most successful way of creating awareness.  The more involved we are in our community, the more aware that community becomes of us.

This was part of the entry for Alna Anchor Lodge #43, located in Damariscotta, Maine.

 

Focus April 2014

MASONIC INFORMATION CENTER

2013 ACTIVITIES

 

The Masonic Information Center, an arm of Masonic Service Association, maintained its ongoing review of Masonic information needs and challenges in 2013.
The MIC continues to keep its Masonic audience aware of valuable existing materials, as it examines new educational opportunities and seeks better ways of distributing information and communicating important facts about Freemasonry.

During 2013, the Center acknowledged its 20th anniversary of service to the Craft.  It was created in 1993, and a number of the individuals on the initial Steering Committee two decades ago continue to assist in the MIC’s information efforts. 

The Committee was particularly saddened a few months ago with the untimely death of Richard H. Curtis, an original and very dedicated member of the Steering Committee for all 20 years.  His leadership and professional skills were significant in many of the successes of the MIC. 

Focus On The Internet

The world today, and increasingly the Masonic Fraternity, is utilizing the Internet as a primary method of communicating and spreading information.  Our Fraternity, in general, and the MSA, in particular, has sometimes been slow in grasping this communication opportunity.  While the MSA has had a webpage for a number of years, its potential has never been realized.  In 2013, the Internet was used increasingly as a tool to accomplish MIC’s goals.

More often than ever before, new information was added to the MSA webpage – www.msana.com – keeping the page fresh and using it to communicate to the Masonic world, as well as the general public, about our Fraternity.

An Online Store was opened early in the year, where popular MSA and MIC brochures and digests can be purchased with the use of a credit card – the method used by much of society in the retail world.  Internet purchases of MSA materials grew considerably during the year and continue to advance.
Periodically, “sales” and “bargains” are being offered as an incentive to use the Online Store.  We encourage everyone to visit the website regularly, see what “news” is shown, and take advantage of the Online Store.

Also new is the opportunity to make donations on the website to MSA-related charitable efforts.

We must thank the Masonic Eastern Star Home (MESH) Foundation of the District of Columbia Charities, for a grant to assist in the various webpage improvements made this past year.

MSA’s outreach on Facebook also made positive strides in 2013.  This is one of the social media sites that is very popular across the nation. More than 1,400 individuals have “liked” the Masonic Service Association on Facebook, and they receive regular messages and alerts about activities and developments of MSA and Freemasonry.  We encourage all Masons on Facebook to “like” the MSA and they too will be part of our improved communication efforts.

Mark Twain Awards

The Mark Twain Masonic Awareness Award program, after seven years of operation, was concluded in 2013.

The decision to conclude the award program was made after discussions over a two-year period during the Conference of Grand Secretaries and a survey of Grand Lodges for their opinions on the program.  Several Grand Lodges have programs that are similar. The concept for Lodges to develop programs to create greater awareness of Freemasonry (1) among their own members, and (2) in their communities, is a valid idea.  Such programs should be continued by all Lodges for the betterment of the Lodges.

MIC Publications

The MIC continues its distribution of thousands of publications each year.  The most recent major brochure, What Has Freemasonry Done for The World, was initially published in mid 2012, but during 2013, a second printing was needed because of its popularity.  A total of 200,000 copies have now come off the press.
Since 1993, the MIC has been educating Masonic members and the public with accurate explanations of Freemasonry.  A recent tally shows that 7 major pamphlets over the years by MIC have been distributed to some 3 million individuals. 

Masonic Outreach

The Masonic Service Association has the great advantage of its name and accessibility and is often sought out by individuals from around the world for information about Freemasonry. The MSA office frequently receives emails and telephone calls from individuals – often from mid East and African nations – who want to join Freemasonry.  When possible, we explain how someone joins the Fraternity and that they must petition a Lodge in their home community.
The access to MSA via the webpage enhances such contact opportunities.  Sometimes the news media calls for information and opinions.  Sometimes, a family member wants information on a deceased grandfather, or a person seeking a petition calls, and in both cases we refer them to a Grand Lodge that can be of assistance.

Attacks on Freemasonry by anti-Masonic organizations or by those with religious issues with the Fraternity do not seem to be as frequent as they were in years past. That is good news but we continue to be vigilant.  The Masonic Information Center continues to offer several of our publications – A Response to Critics, There is No Sin in Symbols, and Facts About Freemasonry – as excellent explanations of why there should be no problems between Masonry and religion.  These brochures are available in quantity from MSA.

Summary

The Masonic Information Center, as it has for 20 years, stands ready to answer the call for new and continuing, factual and credible, easy-to-access information on Freemasonry.

We sincerely thank the Grand Lodges for their support of this effort.

Bible Publishing Error Causing Problems

A Bible publishing error has created some issues among anti-Masons.  Gunnar Carlson, Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of New Mexico, in the Grand Lodge’s magazine, has written this explanation:

A Masonic Bible differs from an ordinary Bible only in that it contains special sections. These sections have remained unchanged throughout the years, that I can find, until the 1995 edition published by Heirloom Publishers of Wichita, Kansas, and copyrighted in 1991 by DeVore & Sons.

The Biblical Index in this edition contains a new term not seen in earlier editions. This term is:

NORTH SIDE: In Masonic symbolism the North Side of the Lodge represents God’s exalted throne.
Isaiah: 14 12-23 is given as a Biblical authority for this definition.

Lucifer is described in Isaiah as an angel, fallen from Heaven to hell, where he sits in “The sides of the North.” Since Masons allegedly put God’s exalted throne in the North (according to the 1995 Bible), and Lucifer sits in the North, it is clear to anti-Masons that Masons believe Lucifer is God!

This “error” has become worse since some Masonic Lodges have published the “Index to the Holy Bible concerning the work of Freemasonry,” extracted verbatim from the 1995 Bible, on their web sites to include the new term “North Side.”

To be correct, this definition should read:

NORTH SIDE: In Masonic symbolism the North Side of the Lodge represents a place of darkness.

This is because King Solomon’s temple was so far north of the ecliptic that neither the sun nor moon ever illuminated its North side.  Masons therefore put no candle on the North side of the triangle of candles at our altars since we consider the North side of the Lodge a place of darkness, not the location of God’s exalted throne!

Of further interest is the fact that in translations of the Bible newer than the King James version, the word, “Lucifer,” is replaced by “The King of Babylon” and Lucifer appears nowhere else in the Bible.

I can find no Masonic ritual, lecture, practice, symbolism, or suggestions that Freemasons consider God’s exalted throne to be the North Side of the Lodge.  This error, however, has become a cornerstone of the 30-page anti-Masonic package that has been fastened to Lodge doors in at least three states.
Our Most Worshipful Grand Master Bill Childers, has spoken to the Chief Financial Officer of Heirloom Publishers (a Mason), Brother Mark Brosz, who was unaware of this error and said the error would be corrected in the next printing in 2014.  He will include the above information in their next newsletter that goes out to Lodges across the country.

Focus Newsletter Archives

Focus is published quarterly by the Masonic Information Center.

Those that have been published online are archived here. If you are look for a specific article, it may be easier to use Search, than to browse through several issues.

2013

April  |  September  |  December

2012

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2011

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2010

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2009

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2008

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2007

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2006

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2005

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2004

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2003

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2002

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2001

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2000

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