Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Everything Old is New Again

1955 International Farmall -WB Paul Otte Proud Owner


Everything Old is New Again

Potluck and Hayride- Oriental Lodge #34 of Cannon Falls, MN

In my opinion, there is a lot to be said for the famous quote from the 1700’s writer Johathan Swift, who wrote Gulliver’s Travels, that “everything old is new again”.

This quote demonstrates the reoccurring nature and cycle of life, the drawing wisdom from past experiences to navigate solutions to today’s problems or situations.

When I was a young Mason, many moons ago, but who is counting, I attended many potlucks and get togethers with my brothers, outside of regular Lodge nights. Most of those events were not even in the lodge, but in Brothers homes, backyards, garages, and city parks. I have many memories of these informal gatherings that provided an opportunity to get to know each other and create bonds between us.

It was during those informal activities that I really got to know my Lodge Brothers and forged solid lifelong relationships.

I can’t put my finger on the time frame when these types of get togethers started to diminish, but like many things in life, the frequency gradually reduced, until the gatherings no longer happened at the Metropolitan Lodges.

As I was progressing thru the Grand Lodge line during the 2000’s, and as Grand Master, I had the great pleasure of traveling around every corner of the state from the “big city” Lodges to smaller rural Lodges. I must say I fell in love with many of the rural lodges because they were deeply involved in their communities, a principle tennet of Freemasonry, I even joined Red Wing Lodge and am active.  

I was very excited when I received an invitation to attend Oriental Lodge #34 annual Potluck and Hayride on August 30, 2023. It’s a lodge that I have been to many times, but not recently, and it was a gracious offer I couldn’t refuse.

Oriental Lodge is located in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, approximately 45 miles from Minneapolis. The Lodge will be celebrating its 163rd Anniversary this October. The Lodge building has a very prominent location in the towns center. The Lodge members are very active in the town’s civic affairs. If you’re curious how the Brothers came up with the Lodge’s name 163 years ago, the word Oriental means “from the East”, how fitting for Masonic Lodge.

The lodges Secretary, Paul Otte, has hosted a lodge gathering at his country home to kick off the start of the Lodges Fall calendar for the past four years, factoring out the pandemic years.  This is a wonderful way for the members to gather and reacquaint themselves, with the Lodge being dark of the summer months.

The timing of the gathering is strategically important, it is exactly one week before the return to the normal Lodge calendar. This opportunity to gather in an informal setting, creates interest and generates excitement among the Brothers for the returning to Lodge and formal Lodge nights.

I have been told by the MN Grand Lodge, that attendance in our Lodges is down, with Brothers very slow to return to Lodge since the pandemic. I believe if more Lodges would host kick off events, like Oriental Lodge, it could greatly help generate interest in the return normal Lodge activities.

There was also ample time to socialize before and after the potluck dinner, but the highlight of the evening, for me, was a hayride for those who wished to ride. It was a picture-perfect evening for a hayride. Riding on the country roads thru the forests, and fields thru the scenic rolling countryside. The tractor pulling us along was a 1955 International Farmall, built solid last the test of time, much like Freemasonry.

Having grown up in Minnesota, a get together and a potluck just go together.  It’s a great way to bring people together in a relaxed atmosphere that allows time to talk, eat and get caught up on what everyone was doing over the Summer. It was also an opportunity for the six new Master Masons to get to know their Lodge brothers. The wives also got a chance to renew friendships and make new friends.

Also, a potluck get together has many Masonic qualities. It’s a shared activity with shared responsibilities. Everyone brings something to the table. It doesn’t matter if it’s something homemade or a last-minute purchase. It is a shared endeavor with something for everyone.

For those of us who practice our Freemasonry in the metropolitan areas, we can forget that just as many Masons practice Freemasonry in small towns and country Lodges. Attending Oriental Lodge’s potluck was also a wonderful reminder of my families farming background, and a way for us to quietly celebrate our Minnesota Farming heritage.

Lodge Education Officer, Roger Otte, presented an informative talk on the Plumb Line. The information was educational for the Brothers, and informative regarding an aspect of Freemasonry for the others attending “all without revealing the secrets” Roger said with a chuckle.

Oriental Lodge has had a very successful year bringing in six new members and in doing the degree work, with all six new members attending the potluck. Two of those new members drive 60 miles to attend Lodge. They pass five to ten Masonic Lodges to get to their new Lodge in Cannon Falls.  That is impressive and tells me that Oriental Lodge has done an excellent job of making their Lodge a special place that is welcoming, relevant, and a meaningful experience for them.

I had a chance to chat with, and get know, Worshipful Master Greg Ziemer. I congratulated him on the six new Brothers that he raised. He said thank you and gave me smile, and said I think we may have couple of more soon, which is really encouraging.

I think Oriental Lodge may have a blueprint that can help some other Lodges. I hope to explore this further in the coming months.

At the close of the evening, our hosts Paul and his wife Tracy, stood in the driveway as we said our goodbyes. In another fine Minnesota tradition, they stood with plates full of their garden’s bounty offering home grown tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini to any takers. I couldn’t pass that up!

The evening was fun, uplifting and memorable while being nostalgic and thoroughly enjoyable.  I thank Oriental Lodge for the invitation to attend and thank to everyone for the wonderful food and fellowship.

Some may call her a "Concrete Princess, but she is a beauty. 







Friday, August 25, 2023

Rochester Valley Scottish Rite BBQ

On Thursday August 24th I had the opportunity to drive 90 miles to Rochester Minnesota to enjoy an evening of fellowship and BBQ with my Brothers with the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Masons of the Valley of Rochester. 

This is a small group who are energized to do the work of bringing more light to Free Masons in Southeran Minnesota. 

It was pleasure to spend time with them and feel their energy and enthusiasm. They were discussing the plans for their upcoming calendar of degrees for their class of candidates, plans for education for the new candidates, plus education of existing members for the year. They also discussed selection of restaurants to hold feasts, and of course a Road Trip to the Grand Daddy of all, the Scottish Rite Festivals in Guthrie Oklahoma.

You can see for yourself the full calendar below. 

Oh, and the BBQ dinner of ribs, slaw, potato salad, beans, corn bread was just outstanding. All were made by our very own Past SGIG and Potentate, Jerry Oliver. 

If you are a Master Mason who lives in Southern Minnesota, there is still time to get your petition in to be part of the 2023-2024 Class of Candidates. The Class will start in two weeks. 

Friday, August 11, 2023

Grand Lodge of Minnesota- Past Grand Master Luncheon 2023

 The Fourteenth Annual Past Grand Masters luncheon was held on August 11, 2023, at the Minnesota Masonic Home in Bloomington, Minnesota (Covid prevented us from meeting in 2020). 

It is an occasion for all the Past Grand Masters along with the current Grand Master and his Officers to celebrate our heritage and honor our traditions, embracing the present while looking to the future.  

We have gathered since 2009 in the mid to late Summer when things are more relaxed, and it’s easier to travel. It’s also a more convenient time for the Grand Master and his officers to attend before their calendars become filled with Lodge events. 

It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us to escape our daily activities for a time and to gather together in one place for just a couple of hours to share past memories and discuss the future with the newest officers. 

There were many who could not attend due to health issues, work and family commitments and we missed them, we were able to receive updates from those familiar with their circumstances.

There were no deaths to report among us this year, and that's something to celebrate! 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Boston Commandery #2 Strawberry Festival


I had the distinct honor and privilege to attend one of the finest Masonic events and one of the preeminent Knights Templar events that I have ever attended, thanks to my Masonic Brother and Eminent Commander Dan Daily, and the Boston Commandery #2.

The invitation materialized because I was planning a trip to Boston that was a combination of business and pleasure. I was excited for this trip as a chance to renew my relationship with my Masonic Brothers that I had developed when I visited Boston as the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota in 2011.

The Boston Commandery#2 Strawberry Festival is one of their premier events of the year. It is a social gathering held each year just before they stop activities for the Summer.

The Boston Commandery has a 221-year history that is deep, rich and unsurpassed. I would be amiss if I didn’t briefly mention their history and to add perspective for all to appreciate it more.

When knowledge of the Order of the Temple came to Boston. America was part of the British Empire, and King George III was its King.

Traveling British Military Lodges played an important role in the spread of Freemasonry across the globe. When on October 1, 1768, several regiments of British soldiers arrived in Boston, among them were several regiments that had military lodges. The 14th Regiment (Irish) in which Army Lodge #58 was held, and the 29th Regiment (Irish) in which Army Lodge #322 was held. A month latter the 64th Regiment (Irish) in which Army Lodge #106 was held was added. It was these Army Lodges which brought to Boston a knowledge of the Order of the Temple.

These troops held regular Masonic relations with the Lodge of St. Andrew in Boston which had received its charter from Scotland. Within a year, a Royal Arch Chapter under the charter of St. Andrews was formed. The recordings of this first meeting were preserved and today we can see that at the meeting ten Brothers were present, of which six were soldiers, and four were members of the Lodge of St. Andrew. The British Soldiers were chosen as the top three officers. This implies that the soldiers knew the work of the Royal Arch. The orders of the Knights Templar were performed under the Royal Arch Charter.

From August 28, 1769, until 1794 the orders of the Knights Templar were worked in the Royal Arch Lodge.

Then from 1794 the Orders were continuously worked without a chartered authority, but the knowledge of the ritual was never lost. 

On March 12, 1802, a group of Masons who were Sir Knights, established Boston Encampment of Knights of the Red Cross. On December 21, 1805, these same Masons formed the Encampment of Knights Templar, and on March 15 of that same year, the Encampment of Knights of the Red Cross dissolved, and later the name was changed to Boston Commandery #2 Knights Templar.

Thomas Jefferson was President when Boston Commandery #2 was formed. –

The venue for the festival was the Daversport Yacht Club, located just thirty minutes north of Boston.   If you have traveled to Boston, you are aware that traffic in and around Boston, can be challenging at all times of the day.

Daversport is tucked away on a nineteen-acre picturesque waterfront peninsula on the Porter River that leads directly to the Atlantic Ocean. The idyllic view is just a classic Massachusetts waterfront view.

The gathering location was a courtyard surrounded by groomed gardens with a large tent pavilion. The weather could not have been more perfect, which given the rainy days leading up to the event, was a bit of a surprise to me.

Inside the tent, the tables were set with white linens for the 98 attendees. Waiters were roaming with trays of appetizers, a bartender was serving refreshments, and just outside the door was a well-proportioned table full of cigars.

The stage was certainly set to facilitate for the magic that occurs when the Masonic Brothers gather and engage in conversation, but we simply call it Brotherly Love. When this group of Masons meet, their conversation is relaxed, open, caring, curious, nonjudgmental and filled with humility. 

It was so good to see familiar faces and re-connect with acquaintances, as was well as meet so many new Brothers. It was the most welcoming of meetings, and as a matter of fact, they were very concerned about my welfare being from the Midwest, so they wanted to help me fit in. My Brothers at the table, as we waited our turn at the buffet line, conducted “how to speak like a Bostonian lesson”.  Yes, I took notes…

I was politely informed that for those natives from Massachusetts or MA, as they refer to the state, only have 25 letters in their alphabet, which does not include the letter R.

We had a lot of fun as they helped me learn the correct Bostonian pronunciation of chowda, lobstah, wotta, or the phrase, I pahk the cah in Havahd yahd.

Now that’s Brotherly Love!  

As we were waiting for the main course to be served, I was asked if I liked lobster. I replied that it is a delicacy in Minnesota, and I enjoyed the sweet tender meat. As I finished speaking the waiter placed a platter containing the biggest lobster, I have ever seen in my life in front of me. I had never seen a lobster that big back at my hometown Red Lobster!!!

It had been a decade since I had eaten a whole lobster and as I looked at that huge lobster, I was trying to recall the process to get to that highly prized succulent meat. I observed that the brothers sitting around be appeared to be true afficionados, so I followed their lead.

First, when eating a lobster, one does not utilize a lot of culinary sophistication.  No way around it, I was going to get up close and personal with my meal. I was going to be eating with my fingers, and it was going to be messy. That big lobster bib they handed to me was a suit saver, and I highly recommended that you use it whenever eating lobster, for that bib is all that stands between you and a multitude of lobster juices.   It will be come your best friend, especially if you happen to be wearing a suite and silk tie as I was. What commenced was a lot of cracking, pulling, and twisting with bits of shell and juices flying in all directions.  I used a tremendous number or napkins and wet wipes, and I wished I had thought to bring a roll of paper towels. Eating a lobster isn’t just a meal, but an experience, and a workout as well.

As I was busy cleaning the flying lobster juices from my glasses and getting my fingers caught in the lobster cracker, I found the conversation between the Brothers both uplifting and pleasing for they were discussing what activities they were planning for their Lodges and the York Rite. It was so exciting to hear of the plans for an upcoming installation of a new Worshipful Master and officers of a Lodge and that they were expecting 120 people to attend. The York Rite degree teams had been holding rehearsals and had a few last degrees to perform before the summer season, and they were already throwing out ideas for Fall activities. For me, as a Craft Mason, it was warming to the heart to hear that the state of Freemasonry is alive and in such good caring hands.  

After dinner the R.E. Grand Commander, Sir Knight, Eugene Blake Nichols, of the Grand Commandery of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, held a short ceremony passing out some well-deserved recognition certificates. Afterwards I had the pleasure of chatting with him for a few minutes. What a nice guy.

But I must also include meeting WB Jim Orgettas, the Executive Personal Assistant to the Grand Master. He was so gracious when he refused my offer to pay for the dry cleaning of his suit, as he sat next to me at dinner, and I splashed him many times with lobster juice as I was trying to eat my lobster. For more information on WB Jim, see my blog post of July 21, 2023 “My Visit with the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts”.

After the comments were concluded by the distinguished Brothers, we all gravitated out into the courtyard, where we watched the sun set in the painted sky, with a cup of coffee, dessert, and a cigar. We did what Mason’s do best, had more meaningful conversion.

As the evening waned, we began saying our goodbyes. Every hand that I shook and pair of eyes I looked into, was a wonderful masonic moment, for it was very much a “happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again” moment.

I think the nicest complement I received was when I heard the words, “We hope you make Boston your second home’”.  Upon consideration, I think I will try to do that. 

I especially wish to give many heartfelt thanks to my Masonic Brother who is the Eminent Commander of Boston Commandery, Daniel J.T. Daley, who invited me to attend and transported me to, this wonderful Boston Commandery celebration.

I am going to let the cat out of the bag. It was Dan who was responsible for the organizing of this event. It was with his caring heart, keen eye to detail, style and panache that brought a Strawberry Festival to a whole new level that I had not experienced. As Grandmaster, all we ever had in Minnesota was strawberries.  Let me just say, lobster versus strawberries. There really was not a contest.

Friday, July 21, 2023

My Visit with the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts


Grand Master George F. Hamilton and I at the Massachusetts Grand Lodge     

I recently visited Boston on a trip that was a combination of business and pleasure. I was excited for this trip as I was anxious to renew relationships with my Masonic Brothers that I had met when I visited Boson as the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota in 2011. Renewing these friendships was the highlight of the trip for me.  I had attempted to return to Boston years before, but those trips did not materialize due to Covid.

I had been invited to the Boston Commandery #2 Strawberry Festival, one of the premier events for their Commandery, and one of their main social events of the year. It was a classy event and one of the most pleasurable Masonic events I have attended, but more to come on that later. There will be another upcoming blog post with photos of this event in the very near future.  It was so good to see so many familiar faces, renew acquaintances, and meet so many new Brothers as well. The words warm and cordial don’t describe the event well enough.

WB Jim Orgettas, whom I met at the event, is the Executive Assistant to the Grand Master of Massachusetts. He told me that the Grand Master had heard I was in town and invited me to come to the Grand Lodge and meet with the Grand Master. I was really stunned by such an honorable and courteous invitation. During the dinner, two Brothers approached me and offered to drive me to the Grand Lodge so I would not get lost.  If you have ever driven in Boston, you know how honorable those offers were. I stated I could walk as my hotel was not far from the Grand Lodge, Boston is a very walkable city, plus I could not inconvenience anyone to drive me 1.2 miles in Boston.  So, on June 21st I walked from my hotel on the Long Wharf to the Grand Lodge. It was a most enjoyable walk.

Jim Orgettas-Executive Assistant to the Grand Master
(When the above sign is lite-The Grand Master is in)

When I arrived at the Grand Lodge, I was greeted and escorted by Jim Orgettas to the Grand Master’s suite of offices. Standing in the doorway was Grand Master George F. Hamilton. He greeted me warmly and we had the most delightful, informative, and uplifting conversation.

In Massachusetts, the Grand Master serves a three-year term with Grand Master Hamilton’s term running from 2023-2025. The three-year term ensures continuity and ensures deliverable programs.

In the 288 years the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts has existed, they have chartered a number of Lodges overseas, so the Grand Master does a lot of foreign travel. He is also responsible for developing programs to serve the 20,000 Masons in the state. It was exciting to hear about the new programs and efforts that Grand Master Hamilton is initiating. 

As I was about to depart, Grand Master Hamilton offered the services of his Grand Lodge to me. I asked to speak with the Grand Lodge Historian Walter Hunt. I had some questions that I knew he could help me with on upcoming articles that I was writing. Unfortunately, he was unavailable at that time, but arrangements were made for me to contact him later. 

I stated that I had been to this beautiful building before, but I wanted a few photographs for my blog. Before I knew it, the senior tour director appeared and took me thru the Grand Lodge. 

The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is located at 186 Tremont Street overlooking the Boston Common. 

The current building is the third Grand Lodge erected on this site. The current building was designed by the architectural firm Loring and Phillips. It was made of concord granite and completed in 1898. It has nine floors above the street level, and two below. 

The interior of the building houses six very large lodge rooms with six fully functioning pipe organs, the Samuel Crocker Lawrence Library, which contains one of the largest and most important masonic collections in the world, administrative offices, and enough meeting space for All the Masonic bodies. 

The mosaic of the coat of arms for the Grand Lodge is on the exterior of the building and was placed there in 1966. 

The Grand Lodge is truly filled with treasures that are steeped in history. I don't have enough time in this one article to cover a lot of them. Here is two items I dont think you will find in other Masonic places that are of interest. 

This beautiful hand-crafted chair was a gift to Grand Master John T. Heard (1857-1859)
from the Brothers of the Craft to ensure the comfort of the Grand Master.

Please notice the eight legs supporting the chair...It was said that Grand Master was a big man and the Brothers didn't wish to see him embarrassed by crashing onto the floor. Now that's Brotherly Love!

The next three photos are "A Room of Reflection." We would call it A Chamber of Reflection, but we don't talk about that in Minnesota...ha.

The photos do not do this room justice. It truly is a work of fine art, and can only be fully appreciated by seeing it in person. 

Boston is my favorite place to visit.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Service and Fellowship: A Spring-Cleaning Celebration at St. Paul #3


St. Paul #3 gathered for a service and fellowship night, bringing together the Brothers to accomplish some clean up on the exterior of the Triune Lodge building at the same time enjoying each other's company. Its events like this that serve as an opportunity for the members to work together, bond together, and create a more welcoming environment for the lodge and neighborhood. 

In between shoveling dirt and rubble, making trips to the dumpster with heavy buckets, the Brothers took advantage of sharing stories, experiences, and making the evening a truly meaningful and enjoyable event.

Sometimes you have to do more than just pay your dues...