‘So Is There a Problem’

Brethren;

I want to tell of an instance that goes to prove the “Diversity” of our Brothers in our Great Fraternity. Last month I received an e-mail from our Editor, Rich Rygh, of our Wisconsin Masonic Journal.

“I have the attached photo which would make a nice cover photo for the WMJ. I have never taken a photo during the conferral of a degree. What is your opinion? Do you think we are showing more than we should? I don’t want to offend any of the Bros.”

The picture was taken at the Oshkosh Masonic Center during a Master Mason Degree conferral during the E.A.A. Convention at my request. The picture was of the newly made Master Mason at the Altar, after the Obligation, prior to the Brethren being seated. I thought it was a great picture and I personally saw nothing wrong with it. I did realize that the question from Rich Rygh was asked for a reason. So I sent the picture to the Grand Officers and to the Past Grand Masters. I wanted a reply “Yes” the picture should be used or “No” do not use it. I forgot one thing, “There is never a simple yes or no answer to a Freemason”.  (For the most part that’s a good thing to understand our Brothers views and concerns. “That’s Diversity”.)

Here are some of the comments received:

  “I see no problem including the picture (with the candidate at the altar) in the Journal.

 There have been other pictures of Masonic activities (more detailed) already shown on the internet. Videos were made and provided by the Fraternity.

 Showing the picture in the Journal is within the authority of the Grand Master!

 In Wisconsin, during the open installation of the Grand Master, and also the local Master of the Lodge, it is the custom for them to kneel at the altar, place their hands on the open bible, and take an obligation.

 And this is all done before God and non-Masons, is the candidate at the altar really any different?”

   “I read with interest each of your replies to GM Siewert’s inquiry and found myself wondering what the exact nature of the problem was regarding publication of this quite wonderful (and to this Mason, touching) example of our craft at work.

   I find the observations in the second paragraph of Bro. Steiber’s comments to be intuitive.  Bro. Matthes as well as Bro. Kent also make some valid points.  In my opinion, these are the voices of young men who see our fraternity as an organization which must become more “user friendly” if it is to grow and flourish. Personally, I believe they are correct.

  In order to test the theory expressed by Br. . . ., I simply Googled “Pictures of a Master Mason Degree” and promptly received 2,860,000 possibilities. Like it or not my Brothers, we are NOT a secret anymore.

   What I’m leading up to is this, a picture is a picture is a picture. Let’s not over think this OR read anymore into it than what it is . . . a picture. Had this been a complete video depicting the entire degree rather than a split second in time, I may have had a problem with it. As it was, the only thing I felt when I contemplated its content was the stirring of warm and happy memories. And, should this same feeling occur within the breast of a brother who long ago knelt in the same manner before his peers, haven’t we accomplished something good and noble?

   To hold fast to tradition is a laudable as well as worthwhile endeavor. In an ever changing world, this gentle craft represents a solid base on which to anchor our common beliefs. And while I may not see the day that decisions directly effecting the very survival of our fraternity and how it is perceived by those outside of it will have to be made, it is quite possible that the young men mentioned above will.

   But I digress…  If the candidate shown in the picture has no problem with it… and Rich can photo shop in some hair on those shiny spots I see nothing wrong with publishing it.”

   “I read this email this morning. I’ve been thinking about this. I will say I’m in complete agreement, it is a very beautiful picture, one definitely worthy of the front cover of the Masonic Journal. However, the beauty of the picture is not what is in question here though, it’s the meaning of it. I agree that this scene has been available for a long time via the internet on sites both for and against Masonry. Even more so on the History channel when they show a Brother (From New York if I remember correctly?) being lead around the room hood winked. I fully understand how we need to be careful and not reveal too much, holding fast to the aura of secrecy we do still have. But maybe by allowing this picture to be printed in the journal, it won’t reveal too much, but instead, maybe the picture will create it’s own mystery and intrigue leading more people to try to want to discover our real hidden truths or worse case…it will open up an opportunity for brothers to discuss what these very lines of publicity are.

   What this picture shows is a full room of sharp dressed men, it also reveals some of our diversity especially with men of all ages shown together, and alludes to a fellowship that can be had with a group of men such as this. It reveals we are active and we are bringing in new members to our fraternity. It’s like a store window on main street, it reveals a little bit about what the store is about but you have to go inside to know what it truly has to offer.

   I do however think that there is one more aspect to consider. That is of the candidate himself. In a sense, this is his photo, his moment and it should be considered what he would like. If it’s a moment he would like to keep private, I would say that ends the discussion and we respect his wishes.

   My opinion is that I believe in this case we can be the store front window. Lets give them a glimpse of something and create some of those questions that might bring somebody in the door to find out what else is on our shelves. And with the ok from the newly raised Brother I would vote to share this moment.” 

   “I want to say thank you to MWGM Dennis for two reasons: first, for many sleepless evenings of tossing and turning and, second, for the thought-provoking question.  

   I can find myself agreeing with most, if not all, of the brothers’ comments regarding this question.  

   For those that say “no”, I believe that it is a special and private time for the candidate and I understand their feeling to keep it a secret.  

   For those that say “yes”, I believe it is a time to share the picture and, as  . . . said, it is already out there. 

   I believe that we should use the picture in the Masonic Journal and use it as a recruiting tool as well. As our much beloved Brother and PGM from Iowa said at our Annual Communications, it is time to have an elevator speech and share the secrets of “AHA and CWD”. As the picture depicts, the candidate/brother is promising to aid, help and assist and to never cheat, wrong or defraud anyone.

   It is also my belief that we need to worry more about the oath that we have taken, act upon it and grow this fraternity into what was once a very strong brotherhood – a family.”

You noticed last month the picture never appeared. Why not,  because after reading the responses, I realized that Freemasons are passionate about the Fraternity and its Ritual. “Guess what!” I found all comments either pro or con, yes or no contained valid points. It was the response from our Grand Lecturer that was the determining factor not to publish the picture:

  “Beautiful picture, but it is for us and not the public. What we are witnessing in the picture is part of the esoteric work.  Even though we must put up less than honorable past members who felt compelled to reveal our work, and who apparently feel no pain in violating pledges, we should not let that sway into thinking that this is okay for the public to see. Stay the course and keep our esoteric work confidential. My Brothers, I struggle with this every time I write an article that comes close to violating my obligation by revealing the esoteric part of the ritual. This picture is revealing our esoteric work and I ask that it not be published.”

It became evident that we need to quit hiding our light under a bushel. We can promote Freemasonry by sharing our values, telling people why we are members, why they should be members, showcase our philanthropic endeavors and still maintain the mystique of membership. I would also suggest that Lodges use the News Hawk Program to its full potential.  Have your Lodges looked into the matching fund grants that are available? Why aren’t we using the media to tell our story and celebrate the accomplishments of our Brothers with our Communities?

Your Grand Lodge Strategic Planning Committee is in the process of developing guidelines for Communicating through the use of Social Media. Jeff Bezos said, “What’s dangerous is not to evolve”.

After reading this article, discuss it at your Lodge Meeting as part of a Masonic Education event.  I’m sure there will be many opinions.  Take time to listen, express your views and respect the opinions of your Brothers.  “That’s Diversity” Remembering that we can agree to disagree retaining our commitment to Harmony & Brotherhood.

Fraternally,

Dennis V. Siewert

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