Saturday, June 6, 2020


Freemasonry on the Doorstep
An Individual Freemasons response to the Covid-19 Pandemic
By Tom Hendrickson-P.G.M.


In the past few months, we have watched the deadly Coronavirus sweep across the world, and ferociously spread across the United States. The Covid-19 pandemic has created a type of national emergency that has severely disrupted society and our daily lives, in ways that we have never experienced before. Most of the state governors have imposed drastic measures ordering their residents to remain in their homes and to practice social distancing to slow the spread of this deadly virus.
Our country has experienced many crises in the past. There were wars, acts of terrorism, hurricanes, flooding and many other natural disasters. In those emergencies, we as the public were called to action, but this time is different. This can be life or death for many individuals, it has affected all Americans in multiple ways and the crisis came with inadequate warnings about the magnitude, both for health of the nation and the economy. This national emergency is different as we have been told to go home, wait or work in isolation along with totally and dramatically changing the way we normally live our lives. 
Social distancing started out with avoiding physical contact and staying at least six feet away from other people to lessen our chances of catching COVID-19. Then it quickly expanded to the prohibition of people gathering in groups. In particular, this kept us from our Masonic activities. It also meant not attending our houses of worship, concerts, sporting events or even participating in a pickup game of basketball. Schools, colleges and universities closed and shifted to online learning. Any business deemed non-essential locked their doors. Some employees were sent home with equipment to work from home while others have been layed off or furloughed. Those employees that have confidence in their jobs have no idea when they might return, but some others have no confidence in returning to their jobs ever again.  Self employed individuals wonder how to pay the bills and if life will ever be what we knew as “normal” ever again.

In just a few weeks COVID-19 dramatically changed our lives. We are all struggling with our own anxieties and uncertainties about our lives and COVID-19. Listening to my Brothers, friends and family members I think I can say we all share some of the same anxieties. We all fear catching COVID-19, or that our family members will get sick. We are worried about financial hardship from being laid off from our jobs, or will we have a job to return to? We may have experienced loss from our retirement investments or college savings? How long will my savings last and how can I pay the bills? If older or have health issues, if I catch COVID-19 will it kill me? With no promise of when the situation will be over the uncertainty is starting to influence our mental health. Our fears coupled with uncertainty leave some terrified by the unknown risks.

Shelter in place, social distancing, social isolation or the term lock down have new relevance to our daily lives, and depending on your perspective, may be easier for some to cope with than for others.
Shelter in place or locked down may be different for someone else, but to me they mean the same thing.

Social Isolation or Locked Down is a term depending on your perspective but means the same thing.  

We were ordered to stay in our homes except for buying food, seeking medical attention, pick up prescriptions or for other types of essential services. Health authorities have issued guidelines for people who have serious underlining health conditions that might be at much greater risk for severe illness or death from the COVID-19.

In a very short period of time living day to day became more complex and certainly add to the sense of fear surrounding the Coronavirus. We were only allowed to leave the house for the essential needs. Getting coffee, eating out, visiting the gym, going to the barbershop, watching a movie and even seeing our doctors and dentists become impossible.

Suddenly wearing a mask and rubber gloves become a daily essential and almost routine.  When we go to the grocery store, we are met with long lines, and empty shelves. On one of my trips to the store I could see the anxiety in a woman’s eyes and hear the despair in her voice as she was talking to her husband. “No toilet paper, no hand sanitizer, no bleach, no chicken…now what?”

There were and are some people who cannot leave their homes because they have underlying health conditions and it is too dangerous to risk getting exposed to the virus. Even the Minnesota is “opening up” and relaxing some restrictions, those individuals still have to be careful as the danger has not passed. There are those with mobility problems that have had to change their daily routines.  These groups of people have the added worries of if they will have enough food to eat, and what are they going to do when their medications run out. Where do they turn for help to obtain the necessities of life for weeks or months? Many have lost their spouse and have been living alone for some time. The few friends that they do have left are in the same situation that they are in or are living in a care facility which is, as has been shown in the death rates, its own difficult situation.

Lock down is a term often used by state and federal prisons and also by a young mother who lives in my city and resides in an exceedingly small apartment with two young children. She recently has been laid off and lost her access to daycare. She takes her kids outside for one hour a day for fresh air and exercise or sometimes longer on a nice day. “Just like the prisoners in the supermax” she told me and laughed. She used to go grocery shopping with the kids but now given the virus, she does not dare expose them nor do stores want extra individuals in the stores. She really needs someone to pick up a few things at the grocery store or to watch her children for a short time so she can make the trip.
I have been very lucky that having to shelter in place has not been a hardship and I have enjoyed it.  While I share the anxieties of many individuals, my family has been very fortunate too.

Shelter in Place
My wife has been very blessed to be able to work from home. Her daily commute is from the bedroom to the office saving several hours a day of typical commute time. She has been able to stay focused and connected and still manages to squeeze in laundry between conference calls.
My daughter and grandson have been staying with my wife and I, and it has allowed us all to connect more and have great talks. My daughter is a working Mother, and this has allowed her slow down her pace and focus on work and school. She gets a break while I play with my grandson.
Our normally quiet but spacious home has become, an office, a three-star restaurant (my opinion as I do the cooking), a pre-school, and a gym but most important it is filled with laughter.

However, for those coping with anxiety or depression, being thrusted into social isolation can be particularly destabilizing. They have developed normal schedules and routines that help them to successfully and effectively live their lives with meaning and purpose. Going to work, meeting with friends for coffee, going to the gym, participating in a Yoga class, or attending a book club meeting, all of these options, almost overnight. ceased to exist because of the Coronavirus.
With the problems and benefits I have observed during this period of social isolation, I saw that we as human beings have a strong urge or essential need for social connections. We crave social contact as we sometimes crave food. This is true for all individuals but, I believe, was made more acute by the threat of COVId-19.

For me, Freemasonry means the masonic ritual is not just a ceremony but a teaching to be lived. Freemasonry becomes a way of life. If I did not act or do something, I would not be practicing the oath that I took.  My entire work life I had to create solutions to urgent problems and to act quickly. For me to be able to remove those anxieties and fears was a piece of cake,

I had developed a list of Widows, Brothers, and friends that I call every few days and to see how they are doing. Many of them live alone and their grown children are living several states away and daily life can be lonely for them. I would ask them for a list of groceries they needed, and if there was any anything to be picked up at the pharmacy. I would bring the needed items to their home and place them on their doorstep. I would ring the doorbell, and step back up to allow for social distancing. Everyone was eager for a conversation. I did learn to bring a lawn chair, for some of those talks could last awhile.

The time we are living can be filled with much uncertainty and we should protect and take care of ourselves and our loved ones.  But if you could find a way in your heart to spend a little time on a simple act of kindness for a lodge brother, a widow, or a neighbor, you will find yourself among many others who have found that we can change the world for the better one act at a time.



Freemasonry is my way of life, and I found another place to live my Obligation



Thursday, May 21, 2020

Grand Lodge of Russia-Sing Auld Lang Syne


The Grand Lodge of Russia with Grand Master Andrey Bogdanv has made a video in support of Freemasons across the globe. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Owatonna-Austin Minnesota York Rite Get Together


Generally speaking Freemasonry in our state is decreasing in size, and our York Rite is to no acception. In the past decade the population in our smaller communities, and rural areas have decreased as well. Throw in the aging population in the equation and there is a problem to having thriving Lodges, and effective York Rites.

There are a few people (myself included) who saw the problem, and working with other Companions and Sir Knights to develop a plan to get over those obstacles.

The Owatonna and Austin York Rite have come together for a monthly social event, and to assist each other with degree work. This photo is the second such monthly event. Positive things are already occurring from it. One of those Brothers pictured is a potential candidate. There was discussion that at our next meeting three more perspective York Rite Candidates will be invited to join us. Seventeen came for dinner. Plans for this quarterly business meeting will be for a full form ritualistic opening. Something that has not been seen in these parts for sometime.

To make changes, all is needed is a little thinking out of the ordinary, having the courage to try something  different. a little communication and finding a comfortable place with great food.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Minnesota Grand Commandery Selects Pastor to Attend Holy Land Pilgrimage


Pastor Karl Jacobson with members of the Minnesota Grand Commandery

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2020



The Minnesota Grand Commandery is proud to announce that it has selected a Pastor to attend the 2020 Knights Templar Holy Land Pilgrimage. Reverend Dr. Karl Jacobson of the Good Shepard Lutheran Church, located at 4801 France Ave. Edina, Minnesota is the Pastor chosen for 2020. Karl graduated from St. Olaf College in 1996 and was then accepted at Luther Seminary graduating with a master’s in divinity in 1996. He has subsequently served congregations in California, Virginia and Minnesota.

Karl took a break from parish work and returned to school to obtain a doctorate in theology to undergo a more in-depth study of Gods Word. Karl then taught Religion and the Bible at Augsburg College for six years. He currently serves as the Senior Pastor of the Good Shepard Lutheran Church. 

Karl is married to Angela (who is also a Pastor) and they have five children. In his free time, he enjoys reading, golf, tennis, and watching the Vikings (and simultaneously despising the Packers). Karl is also a published author and he has written many books, written commentaries on Biblical topics, and blogs about the Bible and popular culture.

Pastor Jacobson is very excited to have been selected for the Holy land Pilgrimage. He stated, “I know the gospel and the other biblical stories well, but to walk them, to be in the physical locale will I believe enrich them for me and for my teachings.” He is looking forward to having the opportunity to make a presentation, upon his return, to the Sir Knights of our Grand Commandery.

The Knights Templar Holy land Pilgrimage for Christian Ministers is a program that has been offered from Grand Encampment since 1977. The purpose is to provide an intensive educational and spiritual study with a historical and cultural immersion experience. Sir Knight Tom Hendrickson, who traveled to Israel in 2017 for the same pilgrimage stated, “it’s easy to see why a Pastor who has had the opportunity to walk where Jesus walked, to see the landscapes, to place your hand on the Wailing wall in old Jerusalem, to hear the sounds and see the cultures of the people will gain much that will have a positive effect on the Pastors spirituality, and in his teaching and preaching to his congregations”
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The Knights Templar have sent over 3,000 ministers on the pilgrimage over the last 40 years. The Minnesota Grand Commandery has sponsored four Pilgrimage Ministers since 2010. The Grand Commandery has a dedicated fund for the purpose of sponsoring a Minister for which they hold an annual fundraiser to raise funds. The cost of the pilgrimage is approximately $3,400, which includes round trip air travel from JFK airport to Tel Aviv Israel, all lodging, meals, transportation, tour guide, travel Insurance as well as other associated expenses.

For 2020, Zion Commandery has generously provided Pastor Jacobson with additional funds that will assist him with the cost of air travel from Minneapolis to JFK airport in New York city.

If a Commandery would like to sponsor a Minister for next year’s trip please see the requirements on the Holy Land Pilgrimage website and send a recommendation to the Minnesota Grand Commandery Grand Recorder.





Saturday, January 18, 2020

Thanks for Lunch Bob

Special Masonic Lunch-Thanks Bob
Those of you who are Freemasons know that we enjoy good food and Brotherhood. You are probably wondering what could be so special about this photograph of a plate of food and why is it so important to write about it. That's easy, "Bob bought us Lunch'. Now here is the rest of the story...

In Freemasonry we develop long term relationships with members that can last well over half a century or longer. This is a short story about Robert John Pemberton, a Masonic Brother who I have known since the Fall of 2008 when he was raised a Master Mason.

Bob was an active Mason, but I spent most of the time with him in our York Rite (Chapter,Council, Commandery). Two nights a month we would have dinner at our Rite. I always made sure that I sat next to Bob for I found him to be a wonderful conversationalist, plus he really cared about people.

Bob was like a loaf of fresh French Bread. Hard and crusty on the outside, warm and soft on the inside. Those who didn't know him so well may have thought him a curmudgeon.

I have always believed that our personalities are made up of our life experiences and how those experiences shape us. I think that was true of Bob as well. Bob and I shared the experience of being Veterans. That experience that we shared and gave more insight to each other. Bob served in the Navy, a real Blue Water Sailor his whole tour was spent on a Replenishment Oiler. This is a ship that carries tens of thousands of gallons of aviation fuel, diesel  and other highly combustible fuels. His ship would replenish air craft carriers and other ships at sea. Bob said it was a task that required you to perform in hazardous heavy seas. You had to follow the simple rules or you could have a disaster. The kind of disaster that you did not get a do over. I think this is why Bob had great difficulty accepting peoples bad behavior or inability to follow the simplest of tasks, like not using your turn signal when driving, people using cellular phone while driving and bicyclists  on freeways just to name a few.

Another of Bobs life experiences that gave me great perspective about him was that he was a proud graduate of the University of Michigan, He also identified closely with his Finnish heritage. He had a successful career in the Risk Management business. He always had a hug smile when he talked about his kids.

One day Bob said that he was thinking of going to a summer camp to work on his understanding of the Finnish language. At first I was very supportive, and informed him of all the benefits to immersing into that language environment. Then I changed course and gave him a hard time about going to a summer camp with twelve year olds. Bob tried to calmly inform me that this language camp had an adult only week. I then proceeded  to kid him about summer camp romance sitting around the campfire flirting in Finnish with women half his age. We had a good laugh.

Bob had a series of serious health issues for awhile. We had kept in touch as he progressed thru them and when Bob would come to our meetings I was glad to see his improvements and his health becoming restored.

About six or seven months ago Bob said that he had a pretty busy day with an appointment. Now Bob always had an appointment during his day, so it was nothing unusual. Usually he would share information he received when visiting with his investment counselors, his tax accountant, or while attending one of his professional associations that had a speaker. It was always some kind of information that I could use or something that may make me think in my own affairs.
Except that night Bob said that he had just prepaid for his funeral! I said "Bob, I thought you were ok"?  Bob replied "oh ya Tom I'm fine" but there are a lot of advantages of doing this and then Bob gave all the benefits and disadvantages of planning early and how it all worked.  Just like he was explaining the new tax law or the Governors screwed up transportation bill.

When Bob had finished I said " Bob, are you really ok"? Bob explained he wanted to do this so his kids wouldn't have to go thru that experience and expense when that day comes.

Then Bob said "Tom you gotta to come to my funeral, I got a great lunch planned for you guys". Tom you like Hawaiian Rolls and Cheesy potatoes"?  I said "Ya Bob, I love them". Bob said "You think most of the guys will like that?" I replied "Bob, whats not to like"? Then we both laughed.

Bob was not feeling well and went to the hospital on December 21, 2019. He unexpectedly passed away on December 23, 2019. Today, January 18, 2020, the family held Bob's funeral and the Brothers of Minnehaha and Phoenix Day Light held the Masonic Service.

Today, Bob bought me and his Masonic Brothers that he loved lunch.

Thanks for lunch Bob, and for all the time we shared on this earth together. It meant alot to me.

Robert John Pemberton
Born
March 27, 1940
Flint, Michigan

Died
December 23, 2019

Memorial Service
Washburn-McReavy Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Officiant
W.B.Wiley Smith
Pastor Paul Nelson

Inurnment
Fort Snelling National Cemetery
Minneapolis, Minnesota