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Friday, December 15, 2017

Georgetown (D.C.) Lodges Have Close Call


Speaking of fires, Brother Mark Wright in Washington, D.C. reports that the Masonic bodies in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood had a very close call in the pre-dawn hours this morning. The building immediately adjacent to the Georgetown Masonic Center had a major fire that fortunately does not seem to have spread to their facilities. 

From Mark's message:
"The building next door to the lodge hall rented by the historic Potomac Lodge No. 5, Benjamin B. French No. 15, the Georgetown York Rite Bodies, and several other lodges, had a major fire that started on the second floor of the building. Potomac Lodge had a devastating fire in 1963 that resulted in them selling their building and land and taking a 99 year lease on the third floor of the newly constructed building, which is used exclusively for Masonic purposes. 
"Potomac's lodge archivist Chris Ruli and several other officers have been up in the building inspecting for fire damage, particularly checking rooms and storage areas nearest the burned building, and they believe they have not suffered any losses (the famed George Washington gavel on loan/display at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center).
 "The firefighting efforts created quite a mess in Georgetown traffic this morning, as the water trickled down Wisconsin Avenue and into the major Wisconsin and M Street intersection, where it promptly froze in this morning's low temperatures!"
Several news reports and videos were posted throughout the day.


Thankfully, the irreplaceable historical items of Potomac Lodge and the other five lodges, plus the appendant bodies, that have inhabited the Georgetown Masonic Center remain safe. The next time you're in the Washington, D.C. area, be sure to visit the Georgetown Masonic Museum.



Shamokin, Pennsylvania Lodge Destroyed By Fire


The home of Shamokin Lodge 255 in Shamokin, Pennsylvania was completely destroyed by a devastating fire yesterday morning. Despite a recent sale of the building, the lodge continued to meet in the top floor until now.

From an article on the DailyItem.com website by Eric Scicchitano:


Maybe it’s silly to mourn the loss of a building to fire.
Maybe it’s misguided to hold too dear the landscape of wherever one calls home.
Make no mistake, though, the city of Shamokin took it on the chin again when one of few downtown properties that still held a glimpse of a prideful past burned up and was partially torn down.
The Masonic building, originally built as a YMCA, stood at Independence and Eighth streets since 1901. Today, it’s gone, reduced to a pile of brick and mortar and memory. Skeleton walls surround the debris, fated to join the pile.
First responders arrived on scene shortly after 1:30 a.m. Thursday amid sub-freezing temperatures and a light snowfall. They found the four-story building fully involved. Flames were visible, shooting from several windows of the building’s first three floors.
Heavy smoke blew through windows and the brick walls throughout the structure.
Shamokin Fire Bureau initially mounted an interior attack, a brave but impossible move. The fire spread fast and burned hot.
“Once the guys made entry, the third-floor windows actually blew out and flames came out into the street,” said Deputy Fire Chief Steve Jeffery.
Fire chiefs on the scene quickly called for a second-alarm and made the decision to take a defensive position from the outside. No one was inside and the building is separated on all four sides by city streets and a parking lot.
[snip]
Clayton Andrews, of Pottsville, looked uncomfortable as he sat in a chair before sunrise Thursday inside city hall on Lincoln Street, across Shamokin Creek from the fire scene. He clasped and unclasped his hands as he spoke about the building he bought in August for a $45,000 investment.
“My stomach, I’m a wreck. I don’t know what to do,” Andrews said.
Beloved among residentsThe building is known to those familiar with the city as the former home of the Fun Shop. More so than the gift shop itself, the Fun Shop’s female clerks endeared themselves to their customers which endeared the store to Shamokin and its visitors.
After eight decades in the building’s basement, the store closed for good in April 2016. Messages of goodwill and goodbye were scrawled in marker on the glass door. A sign announcing the store’s closing remained in a window.
The building had been a hub for professional services in the past, too.
Andrews said there were currently four tenants: A Piece of Cake bakery, Geisinger Home Health & Hospice, accountant Francis Sobotor and the Shamokin chapter of the Free and Accepted Masons. Geisinger, though, was at the end of its lease and had already ceased operations there, a spokesman confirmed.
The Masons were constituted in 1851 and moved into the Temple above Independence and Eighth in 1909 after buying the building from the YMCA. Its third-floor meeting space is described in Shamokin’s centennial book published in 1965 as “what is acknowledged to be the largest and most beautiful subordinate Masonic lodge room in eastern Pennsylvania.”
A century after 400 Masons attended the ceremonial first meeting in the new lodge, Andrews hoped for new tenants to move in. He said he had a doctor lined up and another potential tenant looking to open a fitness center in the basement.
Recruitment is over. Instead, Andrews worked with City Administrator Robert Slaby to contact his property’s insurer and arrange demolition.
“I’ve got to figure out how to get this down. They said it’s not safe,” Andrews said hours before the figuring out was completed.
Figuring out the cause of the fire and its point of origin is ongoing, according to Zimmerman. Shamokin Police Patrolman Ray Siko, the city’s fire investigator, was on scene Thursday.

Shamokin Lodge 255 was chartered in 1852 and was home to Northumberland County's first Knights Templar Commandery. I can only assume that those historic archives are all now destroyed with the building. 

Shamokin is in central Pennsylvania, located roughly between Harrisburg and Scranton. I am unable to find a website or Facebook page for the lodge, so I have no information at this time about what their future plans may be. Below is the only color photograph I have been able to find online of what was their beautiful lodge room before the fire (I do not know the source).


An earlier black and white image was posted by Dalado Photography:





Thursday, December 14, 2017

Iowa Masonic Education Conference 2/24/2018

Early next year, the Grand Lodge of Iowa will be hosting what has become their annual centerpiece educational program. The Iowa Masonic Education Conference will take place Saturday, February 24, 2018 at the Des Moines Scottish Rite Masonic Center, and will feature the following outstanding speakers:
Robert G. Davis - Renowned Masonic author and Past Secretary of the Guthrie, OK Scottish Rite
Chandler Gordon - Past International Counsellor, DeMolay International
Daniel Hrinko - Past District Education Officer, Grand Lodge of Ohio
Chad Simpson - Director of Program Development, Grand Lodge of Ohio
Jordan Yelinek - Director of Lodge Development, Grand Lodge of California
Registration fee is $25. Please make a reservation by contacting Darrell Fremont at the Grand Lodge of Iowa at 319-365-1438 or via email at darrell@gl-iowa.org




Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Speaking Tonight in Massachusetts, Sort Of

I'll have the distinct honor of speaking tonight at Thomas Talbot Lodge in the northwestern Boston suburb of Billerica, Massachusetts. Dinner begins at 6PM; lodge opens at 7PM; and I believe my part of the evening starts around 7:45 or so.

I just won't be there.

This will be a unique experience for a couple of reasons. First, this will be a video conference between myself and everyone attending this evening. So, please don't bring books thinking I will sign them, or that I'll have any with me. I'm actually in Indianapolis still taking care of Alice in her bed of pain with her post-op knee. The lodge will be projecting my mug onscreen, which means I'll have to break down and move the junk out from behind my desk for the occasion—at least out of camera range.

Second, if any of you have heard me elsewhere, you'll be thrilled to know I'm not making a speech you've heard before. Instead, this will be something that lodges seem to have enjoyed more of recently—a back and forth conversation, sharing ideas from around the country about membership, retention, programming, social media issues, ego tug of wars, and much more. We'll talk about problems and solutions, successes and failures, hare-brained schemes and brilliant ideas, and anything else anyone wants to throw around. 

I understand that the lodge will conclude its business and officially close before we get started, and this will be an open gathering. So members, guests, and even non-Masons may attend. And yes, we tested this technology out a couple of weeks ago just to be sure it works.

The lodge is located at 11 Concord Road, Billerica, Massachusetts. If you have questions about the evening, please contact Worshipful Master Lee Spach at master@thomastalbot.org

By the way, if you still haven't got your Christmas tree yet, come out to the lodge tonight. Their annual Christmas Tree Sale is going on now. 

Down with plastic trees! 

Bet they'll even tie it to your car roof.


Thursday, December 07, 2017

New to the Knights Templar? There's A Book Just For You

After watching the premiere episode of Knightfall that was entertaining and very well done, I want to pass along my own personal kudos to the writers for very pointedly inserting the line of a Templar Knight bitching about having stated meetings.

Brilliant. The show gets two thumbs up at Hodapphäus just for that alone!

(Shameless self-promoting commercial announcement)

In case you're new to the subject of the Knights Templar and hunting an introductory reference book as Knightfall starts airing this week on History™, permit me to blatantly recommend the following volume co-authored by myself and Alice Von Kannon: The Templar Code For Dummies (Wiley: 2007) $19.95  

Also available in a Kindle edition for $10.99.


The Templar Code For Dummies

You'll find the full story of the rise and fall of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, from their humble start on the road to Jerusalem guarding pilgrims, to their meteoric climb as the most powerful military and political force in the Holy Land and Europe, their role as the first international bankers, and their subsequent plummet from grace and influence to total destruction—all in just the two hundred short years of the 12th and 13th centuries. 

On the way, you'll discover the origins of the Holy Grail myth and the proliferation of sacred relics throughout the Middle Ages; the rise and suppression of Gnosticism and other "heresies"; the Mary Magdalene "black Madonna" cults; Baphomet and the accusations of witchcraft, idolatry, sodomy, and heresy against the Templars; the very real plots of King Philip IV ("the Fair") and his hatchet man, Guillaume de Nogaret that unfolded against Pope Boniface VIII, successor Clement V, the Jews and the Lombards in France, and finally, the Knights Templar themselves; famous real and alleged Templar historical sites like London's Templar Church, Rennes-le-Château, what remains of Paris' Temple and execution sites, and Scotland's Rosslyn Chapel; and much, much more. Plus, you'll find the modern day connections to the Templars, along with organizations that claim descent from them. Even the Templar theory of the creation of Freemasonry and why the two groups are associated with each other now. 

All for a paltry $19.95! Less than a meager sawbuck! How can you go wrong?





Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Tonight: Knights Templar + France + Holy Grail = Knightfall


History (the channel) premieres its new miniseries, Knightfall, tonight (December 6th) at 10PM. To coincide with this major production (from the same team who created The Vikings), History has also helpfully put together an extensive companion website, complete with historical background, maps of critical areas in both Europe and Outrémer, descriptions of the major players, and much more.

There are initiations (that will sound remarkably familiar to us), intrigue, battles, an impressive recreation of the Paris Temple compound, and even some real historical facts that get wedged into proceedings. The opening episode starts with the fall of Acre, and because of the age in which we live, it's filled with the requisite gore-filled slaughters these things revel in. And the real downside to this whole series is that we all know how it ultimately ends on the Île aux Juifs.

Yeah, yeah, it's got trumped up jazz about the Holy Grail, "basic cable" sex, duplicitous religious characters, and the rest of the standard panoply of modern, "sophisticated," big-budget cable entertainment. And from some of the dialogue in the trailer, the authors have been carefully mining the whole library of serious and imaginary speculative history (along with a couple of tag lines I seem to have written myself a few years back). They even seem to be treating Philip "the Fair" and Guillaume de Nogaret with just the proper amount of Snidely Whiplash panache they deserve. One wistfully wishes Claude Rains and Basil Rathbone were still alive to play them. *sigh*

But still, you know. 

It's the Knights Templar for a whole new audience. So, set your DVR and enjoy. Early reviewers are saying get past Episode 1's slow spots, because by #2 you'll be hooked.

(Not intending to be deliberately provocative, I'm just observing an unintended coincidence this afternoon. President Donald Trump just issued a declaration today announcing that the United States is officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol of the State of Israel. World leaders have been predicting major violence in the Muslim world as a result, and the leader of the terror group of Hamas that controls the Palestinian territories has proclaimed that the U.S. President has "opened the Gates of Hell."

What has changed in 900 years concerning the land once called Outrémer, besides the names?)


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

GL of New York Organizing Two New Academic Lodges

For too long, Freemasons have largely ignored colleges as potential sources of new men seeking bonds of fraternalism and association with quality men of character, experience, and maturity. That is very, very slowly starting to change.


The Grand Lodge of New York is enthusiastically embracing the "Academic Lodge" concept that is being actively being promoted by the Masonic Renewal Committee, using examples developed in other East Coast jurisdictions, along with the UGLE's "Universities Scheme." New York Masons have established a Committee for Fraternity on Campus under the leadership pf RW Edmund "Ted" Harrison. They are currently seeking interested members to form two academic lodges in New York City—one for the Columbia University community to be called Columbia Lodge U.D., and another for the City University of New York (CUNY) community to be called Illumination Lodge U.D. Neither lodge will have any official university affiliation, and both of them will meet at the Grand Lodge headquarters building on 23rd Street, and not on either of the schools' campuses. They will be joining the Seventh Manhattan District under the leadership pf Daniel Eckman and Earnest Hudson. Both lodges are expecting their dispensations by the beginning of the year.


A preliminary website has been set up for Columbia Lodge in anticipation of their official opening at www.columbialodge1754.org .  They are welcoming petitions for membership and affiliation, both locally and internationally, so they can quickly add to the twenty or so brothers who are helping to start this new lodge.  Membership is open to students, alumni, faculty, and staff from all Columbia University divisions, as well as to their direct relatives (father, son, husband, brother). New York permits out of state memberships, and the international membership fee is very reasonably set at $150 to encourage even overseas members of the Columbia community to join. Also, their meetings will take place only during the academic calendar, about eight times a year, and will be on Saturday mornings at 11am followed by lunch.  

Organizers are attempting to give a Continental-influenced flavor to Columbia Lodge, with slower progression from degree to degree, a requirement to present papers before advancement, an expectation for a paper or other presentation to be delivered at each communication, and other features.

(NOTE: If I receive contact information for the CUNY-related Illumination Lodge, I will update this post and place it here.)

UGLE has 72 similarly organized lodges that are aligned with colleges and universities throughout their jurisdiction as part of their Universities Scheme. By contrast, there are remarkably few in the United States. However, there are several Academic Lodges currently chartered. Have a look at them and see how they have handled their formation and characterization:
Also, be sure to go back up and check the links for the MRC and UGLE programs.