March 13, 2015
By Gene Goldman, with Morgan P.
This is the true story about my friend, and dear Brother Mason. We will call him Morgan. Morgan was a college student when this story started, while a member of the U. S. Army ROTC. Morgan was, and still is, a follower of Wicca (a religion influenced by pre-Christian beliefs and practices of western Europe that affirms the existence of supernatural power and of both male and female deities who inhere in nature). As a Wiccan, Morgan believes in a Supreme Being and strives every day to maintain a good relationship with Deity.
In October of 1993, Morgan applied for the Degrees of Masonry to a Lodge in the town where he was attending college. As is the requirement in that Masonic jurisdiction, he was elected by a unanimous ballot. Two months later, in December of 1993, he was Initiated an Entered Apprentice Mason in that Lodge (we will call it his First Lodge). In February of 1994, after passing a suitable proficiency, now Brother Morgan was notified that he would be passed to the Degree of Fellowcraft on the 5th of March, 1994. So far, our Brother’s progress in Masonry is no different than any other Mason who has gone that way before.
Nor should it have been. Brother Morgan applied of his own free will and accord, met all the requirements, was found Worthy and Well Qualified, and came Well Recommended. On that basis he was Initiated an Entered Apprentice Mason.
On the eve of his Second Degree, on the 4th of March, 1994, Brother Morgan was notified that he would not be taking his degree the next day. He spoke with the Master of the Lodge, who advised him that it was only a temporary delay. Then, the Master started asking questions about Morgan’s beliefs. Brother Morgan had answered those same questions before, while being investigated prior to being elected, and in a more abbreviated form during his Entered Apprentice Degree, a mere two months earlier. As Wicca is not as well known as many other religions, he happily confirmed that he did, and does believe in a Higher Power.
Brother Morgan graduated from University in May of 1994, and at about that time he was directed to apply to do courtesy work at home. No particular reason was given.
Brother Morgan was very busy with post-graduation matters until early in 1995, when he applied to do courtesy work. The Master of his lodge reported to the lodge that Brother Morgan had told him he was a “tree worshiper” and “non-believer in a Supreme Being”. Because of that lack of understanding of Wicca, the Master informed Brother Morgan that he would not be allowed to advance in Masonry.
To Aid and Assist
During this time, there was a very active Masonic community that frequented the Masonic forum on a site called CompuServe. Several of us (yes, dear reader, I was active in the forum) were past Masters, many were not, but one was far more well-known that any of the rest. At the time, Allen E. Roberts was the most prolific living Masonic author. His works are still available on Amazon, as well as any Masonic supply house. Brother Allen was also a gifted educator, and one of the most respected Masons in the US. He was also a dear friend, and we who knew him deeply miss his gentle nature and truly Masonic character. Brother Allen was a true Gentleman. Safely rest, my dear Brother.
In 1995, Brother Morgan joined the forum, seeking advice about his options. A half dozen (or so) of the forum members (including myself) offered Brother Morgan advice, and even more offered their sympathetic support. One of the more useful pieces of information was the name and address of grievance committee chairman in his jurisdiction. But some of us did something more. We began privately discussing (what we saw as) this injustice, and the unanimous feeling was that we should do something. Brother Allen announced that we WERE going to do something, and while he kept the details to himself, he began making phone calls. An unconfirmed rumor has it that he offered to write a book about how religious bigotry has no place in Masonry. And that he considered Brother Morgans experience an excellent case study.
While we were discussing potential strategies, and Brother Allen was also making his phone calls, Brother Morgan contacted the Grand Lodge Grievance Committee. While Brother Morgan was beginning his active duty service to our country (at MP school), the committee requested a written explanation of his Wiccan beliefs. He provided one, and included an FAQ from the Pagan Student Union at a local university, along with related excerpts from the US Army Chaplain’s Handbooks.
The Grievance Committee deliberated for a considerable period, and finally, in 1996, they recommended to the Grand Master that Brother Morgan be approved to advance in Masonry. Happily, the Grand Master agreed, and instructed the lodge to strike any record of the objection.
Because Brother Morgan was now living in Washington DC (still serving our country), he asked a local lodge for assistance with the courtesy work. That lodge was unable to assist, but a nearby lodge provided the assistance, Passed him to the Degree of Fellowcraft in June of 1996, and Raised him to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason a month later, in July of 1996. It took Brother Morgan over three years to do what most US Masons do in three or four months. Later, Brother Morgan affiliated with a third DC lodge.
Meanwhile, Back Home
In April of 1997, Brother Morgan made a trip back to his first lodge in order to attend a special annual meeting, but was informed that if he showed up, the Master would cancel that special meeting and name Brother Morgan as the reason, now asserting that Brother Morgan made false statements to the Grand Lodge Grievance Committee.
Brother Morgan moved to Massachusetts in April of 1997. He affiliated with a lodge there and was appointed Chaplain in September of 1998. He was elected Junior Warden of his new lodge for the 1999 term.
Still serving in defense of our country, Brother Morgan was deployed to Bosnia in 2000, and continued into 2001. Returning to his new lodge in the fall of 2001, he was promptly elected Senior Warden. The following Masonic year, in 2002, Brother Morgan was installed Worshipful Master of his lodge.
After a number of years, Brother Morgan received a political email from an officer of his first lodge, using the lodge email list (including their Grand Master and Grand Secretary), with the lodge address as the sender. Brother Morgan replied to the email, saying that he believed political email under the banner of a Masonic lodge was inappropriate. This generated a response from the individual who Initiated Brother Morgan as an Entered Apprentice Mason years earlier, saying never to contact him again as Brother Morgan was “not a true mason” and had lied.
A true Mason, Brother Morgan continues to pay his dues to his first lodge to this very day.
May 22, 2014
The One That Got Away
By Brother Gene Goldman, pm2
He came to this country, and learned some English along the way, from SouthEast Asia, as a teenager. When he was a young adult he applied for membership in my lodge. I was serving as Master at the time. One of his investigators mentioned that he didn’t seem to know much about the fraternity, but seemed like a nice enough guy. Not an unusual situation, so I planned to assign him one of our more thorough coaches, to make sure he was taught properly. I never considered the cultural aspects at play.
Imagine the situation here. We had two candidates that night. He was the second, so he waited in the lobby with our Tyler, a retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant (who looked every inch the part). Of course, our Brother Gunny had his Tyler’s Sword prominently displayed, as is the custom. Our young friend seemed to take special note of the big brute of a Marine with the sword who stood watch over him.
The Stewards and Marshall came out to take the first candidate into the preparation room. Visualize this: our friend is being guarded by a Marine with a sword. Out come two more big guys with spears (actually, they are ceremonial staffs, but they do look deadly) and a guy with a billy club (we call it a Baton, but you get the picture). The three armed guys take the first candidate into the preparation room. The big Marine, and his sword stayed with our friend, like he was guarding him.
The Tyler said he never heard a peep and did not see how, but when they came back out to get our friend, he was nowhere to be found.
This is a true story, and happened while I was serving my Lodge as Master. As Master, I blame myself. I should have taken this young man aside and talked about the symbolic nature of our ceremonies. About how everything has a meaning, and that at no time would he ever be in any danger or even be made uncomfortable. I should have told him that all these symbols are presented strictly for their moral and ethical implications and none should be taken at face value. They should be appreciated for their personal meaning. I should also have shown him around the Lodge Room before we opened that evening.
I should have done these and other things, but I didn’t. And it haunts me to this day. So, every opportunity I get, I share the symbolic nature of our ceremonies, and how they are intended to create a transformational experience that will bring the individual from who he is to who he wants to become in a moral and ethical context. I have adapted the Lodge Walkabout guide I found to use with applicants. It takes only a few minutes and allows them to feel much more comfortable.
Especially with a candidate who is less familiar with us and what we do.