Tuesday, June 8, 2021

What you Should Know about the Masonic Service Association Short Talks Bulletin

Graphic by the MSA

What you should know about:

The Masonic Service Association Short Talk Bulletin

By Tom Hendrickson P.G.M. Grand Lodge of Minnesota

 Lodge Education


Tonight, I’d like to talk about the Masonic Service Association and the Short Talk Bulletin.

How many of you know what the Masonic Service Association is?


Did you know…

It was during World War I that various Grand Lodges, and influential Masons approached the federal government and offered their support to the American Troops. It was determined that the Masons would be able to serve a very useful purpose in helping the armed forces, however the government did not want generals and other officials “pulling their hair out” in dealing with 48 separate Grand Lodges (the United States only had 48 states then).  So, in 1919, at the Conference of Grand Masters in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the Masonic Service Association was created to coordinate the U.S. Masonic efforts to provide aid to the American servicemen.

The mission of the MSA, was and is, to provide services to the Grand Lodges that they would find difficult to provide for themselves. In 1919, the association developed four functions that are still in effect today.

Disaster Relief

When a natural disaster or terrorist attack occurs the MSA will make an appeal to all the Grand Lodges and act as the central collection point for funds. All the money received by the MSA is sent to the Grand Lodge in the affected state.  No portion of the money is kept by the MSA but is passed thru at 100% of the amount collected. I have personally seen the MSA efforts after the 2008 Iowa Flood and again after the 2011 North Dakota Flood. 

VA Hospital Visitation Program

I could talk an entire hour about the good work and services that this program provides, including visitation and personal services for disabled or lonely veterans. Last year, in 2020, this program provided 500,000 volunteer hours provided by Masons to 150 VA Hospitals and state veteran homes across the United States.

Masonic Information Center

The MSA has created a wide variety of pamphlets, booklets, and brochures that tell the public about Freemasonry. These materials have been sent to more than three million people in the past twenty years.


The MSA also publishes the Short Talk Bulletins, and Short Talk Podcasts.


How many of you know what a Short Talk Bulletin is? Raise your hand-ok

Tom Hendrickson-Collection
 Did you know…

Every month the MSA sends via the US Mail the Short Talk Bulletin to every Grand Lodge as well as every Lodge in the United States and Canada? They even have subscribers in New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Japan, Mexico, England, Ireland, and Scotland.  A whopping 16,000 are sent every month, making the Short Talk Bulletins the most widely distributed masonic publication in the world.

When was the last time you read one?

Did you know…

The Short Talk Bulletin covers sixteen different subjects or categories? The subjects range from the workings of the lodge, leadership, Esoteric Symbolism, philosophy, charity and famous Masons, just to name a few.

Did you know…

The Short Talk are written by some of the most noteworthy Masonic Scholars of the 20th and 21st Century.  Influential thinkers as well as ordinary masons who have valuable insights to share. The very well-known and admired Masonic Author, Carl H. Claudy, wrote 350 Short Talk Bulletins and has been referred to as the “Father of the Short Talks”.

When was the last time that a Short Talk was read, and discussed in a Lodge Meeting?

Did you know…

They are designed to be read in Lodge during a meeting. Each Short Talk is designed to be a maximum five-minute read. A short discussion is encouraged following the reading. This method will produce a fifteen-to-twenty-minute Lodge Education Session at every lodge meeting for twelve months.  

Do you know…

Where the Lodge stores them?

As Grand Master and in the Grand Lodge I had the opportunity to travel and visit all the Lodges. I still do. One of my favorite questions I would ask the Lodge Master and Secretary is, “where do you keep your Short Talk Bulletins”? 

One Lodge Secretary proudly said, “I have every Short Talk Bulletin since I’ve been the Secretary here for the last seven years. I asked, where are they? He said, “in the safe”. He walked over to the lodge safe and opened it.  Inside I saw a neat stack of the Short Talk Bulletins kept together with red and yellow rubber bands. I asked him why he kept them in the safe. He replied, “I don’t want the Masonic secrets just laying around for anyone to see”.

Another Lodge Secretary said, “oh, I have them right here”. He then opened a drawer of his desk. I peered into the drawer and saw this mass of unopened envelopes containing the Short Talk Bulletins. The secretary said, “I thought they were junk mail; we get a lot of junk mail you know”.

One Worshipful Master replied, “well our Junior Warden was interested in them, so we had them mailed to him”. The Lodge Secretary replied that the Junior Warden wasn’t the Junior Warden any longer because he demitted two years ago.

For my last story, the Lodge Secretary said that every meeting he announced that he has received the new Short Talk Bulletin and places it on the corner of his desk for anyone who wants to read it. He said that “it just disappears, and I never see it again, so I know at least one person reads it”.  

 Did you know…

The MSA has published The Short Talk Bulletin continuously every month since January 1923. Let’s see 12 issues a year for 98 years equals a total of 1176 bulletins.

I think it’s easy to see why most, if any, Lodges don’t have a complete set of the Short Talks. I know that there are many Grand Lodges that possess a complete or near complete collection of The Short Talk Bulletins. Most of those are under lock and key which greatly restricts accessibility.

Did you know…

The leadership at the MSA displayed the advance vision to ensure the entire collection would be available. They embarked on a daunting task to collect all of the Short Talk Bulletins and they had the wisdom to select S. Brent Morris, Editor of the Scottish Rite Journal, to get the job done.

In 2013 the MSA began the colossal undertaking of collecting all the Short Talk Bulletins and placing them in chronological order and editing the typeface to give or more modern font. Then the bulletins were bound into a volume that includes an index in the back of the book for easy reference. The complete set is six volumes covering the years from 1923 to 2017. Each volume averages 700 pages.

Initially there was a choice of two different bindings. The Master Mason Edition sold for $98.00 and the Grand Master Edition for $158.00. In reviewing the MSA website, the price has dramatically decreased and there is an extremely limited availability.

How many here know what a Podcast is?

Listening to a podcast is like listening to a radio program, but the podcast has many advantages. The radio program is usually live, and you need to tune in at a specific time. The Podcast is a prerecorded digital audio recording that is made available on the internet. You can download it to your computer or your phone, and listen to it, anytime, anyplace, anywhere you wish.

Did you know…

That the MSA has a Short Talk Bulletin Podcast?

The Short Talk Podcast was the brainchild of Brother Michael A. Smith of Freeport Lodge #23 Grand Lodge of Maine. His inspiration came to him one night as he was serving as Tyler of his Lodge. As he was out in the ante room, performing his Tyler duties he discovered a dusty bookshelf containing many old Masonic books. The book that caught his eye was “Short Talks on Masonry” by Joseph Fort Newton. He found that the” book was made up of short, deep yet digestible, independent chunks, disseminating the history, allegories and meanings to be found within Masonry”

The discovery of the old book took Michael on a new Masonic adventure for two reasons. Michael was a new Mason and he found the information contained in the book meaningful in his Masonic Journey.

After some conversations with Brothers, he also discovered the MSA Short Talk Bulletins. He saw that the almost of a hundred years’ worth of Short Talk Bulletins had been placed in six massive books. He said that “all that wonderful information is not accessible to the average smartphone savvy Brother on the go, and that the majority of the Craft today had little exposure to its excellent content”.

The second factor that prompted Michael was his day job is a Producer and Publisher of Audio Books.  He felt the material in the Short Talk Bulletins would be perfectly suited for a Podcast. He could get those “thousand-plus-faceted jewels of Masonic light” out to a broader audience from those forgotten lost leaflets and he could professionally produce them as a spoken audio file. His vision of the Short Talk Bulletin Online Audio Library was born.

Michael approached the Masonic Service Association and discovered that “Apparently, no one had seriously considered producing audio from the publications, so I composed a contract that brought profits back to the Masonic Service Association of North America to directly support their worthy campaigns”. 

Michael Smith has also engaged many other Masons to help narrate. You will hear the voices of various Grand Masters, Grand Lodge Officers, and even notable Masons such as Chris Hodapp Author of Freemasons for Dummies. Another interesting dimension is that Michael has ask authors who had written a Short Talk to narrate it for the podcast. Many times, when an author who reads their work, it can make it more of a personal experience.  

The podcast is just another way to help those that are searching for a pathway to help them towards self-improvement.

Did you know…

In January 2020, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota presented a donation of $12,000 from the Col. James B. Ladd Fund to the MSA to continue the production and improvement of its Podcast program. The MSA greatly appreciated the generosity of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota.

Did you know…

The Short Talk Bulletin Online Audio Library currently has 282 podcasts that have been produced and are available to download and listen to. There are another 100 episodes that have been recorded and are being prepared to be released. There are approx. two to three new releases every week. Its easy to see that it’s getting a lot of use, for there have been 207,000 downloads. The first podcast was released on November 30, 2018.

You can subscribe to the podcasts for $20.00 and remember that all profits directly help the MSA. You can subscribe at the following link.



Did you know… 

Once you subscribed you can get those timeless lessons of masonic light and it can be as easy as shouting, “Hey Alexa” or asking Siri, “find me the Short Talk Bulletin”.



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