The Old Past Master Battles
By Worshipful Brother
Frederic L. Milliken
The Old Past Master loved to get to Lodge
early. There was something about opening that Lodge room door and gazing on
that altar when all was quiet. And then sitting down in a seat on the
sidelines and just thinking and mediating about all that had gone on over the
many years in that room. It sent shivers down his spine.
All the Masters gave him the keys to the Lodge.
They welcomed someone dependable who could open everything up in case they
were running late. This evening Master Reynolds was early coming in right on
the heels of the Old Past Master. Worshipful went right to the office and
plumped down in the chair at his desk. The look on his face could have
frightened a scarecrow.
“What’s troubling you, Worshipful,” the Old
Past Master softly ventured.
“It’s this darn letter from the Grand Lodge.
They are instituting new financial reporting rules. Seems like every year that
goes by Grand Lodge has more rules and regulations to impose on us,” replied
“What are they looking for,” queried the Old
“They want a complete evaluation of our
property, the building and everything that’s in it, certified by a reputable
estimator. Furthermore, and this is the real kicker, they want statements from
our banks and brokerage houses as to exactly how much money we have, after
which they want a complete written rundown on how we have spent every penny.”
“Do they explain why they feel that they need
to have this information?”
“Grand Lodge says that if one of its
constituent Lodges is sued that the litigators will always include Grand Lodge
in the suit. Some of these suits are for embezzlement or suits when the Lodge
gets in financial difficulties. The Grand Lodge feels that it needs to know
our financial standing and that we are following acceptable accounting
“And what do you intend to do? It feels as if
you are wrestling with a tough decision.”
“I intend to tell them to go fly a kite but I’m
a little nervous about doing that”
“Who are you going to tell to go fly a kite,”
asked Secretary Levin as he stepped into the office.
“Oh, nobody special,” piped up the Old Past
Master, “Just Grand Lodge.”
After the two filled him in, he retorted, “I’m
not surprised. Last year Grand Lodge issued rules on exactly how candidate
instruction was going to be performed and what material was to be covered. The
year before they required all Lodges to have both property and liability
insurance and that it be purchased by the Grand Lodge provider.”
“Well it’s time to open Lodge,” Master Reynolds
declared, “I think this issue should go before the entire Lodge. We will
discuss it tonight and I would appreciate support and help from both of you.
Oh, and Secretary Levin please post this issue in the next summons.”
“Right,” replied Secretary Levin.
“We have your back,” added the Old Past Master.
After opening the Lodge, Worshipful Reynolds
dispensed quickly with the minutes, sick brethren concerns, charitable events,
and other petty business. He then read the letter from Grand Lodge, explained
his reluctance to comply and opened up the floor for discussion.
“The Chair recognizes Secretary Levin”
“Last year Grand Lodge issued rules on exactly
how candidate instruction was going to be performed and what material was to
be covered. The year before they required all Lodges to have both property and
liability insurance and that it be purchased by the Grand Lodge provider,”
exclaimed Levin. I say it is time for us to put our foot down and call their
“Let’s not forget what has been going on in
other jurisdictions,” added Brother Garcia as he rose and was recognized by a
nod from the Master. We have the racial mess at Gate City Lodge #2 in Georgia
where they sought to expel the Master, the expulsion of Past Grand Master
Frank Haas in West Virginia, the almost expulsion of Derek Gordon in Arkansas,
the expulsion of Mike McCabe in New Jersey, the recent expulsion of Past Grand
Master Neal Bidnick of New York and the expulsion of the Deputy Grand Master
of Arizona to name just a few. Could you be headed for expulsion, Worshipful,
if you refuse to go along with Grand Lodge?”
“I can’t rule out the possibility,” replied
Master Reynolds. “And if I choose that route I don’t want to bring any of you
others with me.”
“Oh, I will gladly go down with you and the
ship,” the Old Past Master replied.
“Here, here,” rang up a chorus from the Lodge
Rising the Senior Deacon, Brother Jackson
pointed out, “What is really so very wrong and un-Masonic about many of these
prominent Masonic expulsions is that they are done without a Masonic Trial,
probably because there was no due cause for them in the first place. In the
case of PGM Haas the Grand Master lured him into his Lodge on false pretenses
and then before his Father expelled him without due recourse.”
Rising and being recognized Brother Brown chips
in, “Are we going to all make a decision and all go along with that decision
or are we going to let the Master, alone take the fall if we choose to fight
Grand Lodge on this issue.”
“The chair recognizes Past Master Hathaway.”
“As you all know I just received my 50 year pin
so I have been around awhile, explained Hathaway. It didn’t used to be this
way. Grand Lodge was our ceremonial head much like the Queen of England is to
the government of Great Britain. It required a uniformity of ritual and sent
out District Deputies to insure compliance. We were all inspected but in the
vast majority of cases if we were abiding by the Landmarks it was routine. We
had our reports to file, but it wasn’t information that Grand Lodge used
against us. Grand Lodge’s job was to represent us across the nation and
worldwide, to charter new Lodges and approve of mergers and to offer
instruction and help. It was not to micro manage the daily affairs of every
constituent Lodge. Today Grand Lodge has become a control freak.”
“And it has to stop here and now,” yelled
Brother Renault without being recognized.
The Master frowned at such an outburst but then
looked over at the Old Past Master inviting him with his body language to take
the floor and provide some leadership.
“Well before we go off half cocked,” said the
Old Past Master as he rose with a nod from the Master, let’s pursue avenues of
accommodation. Let’s discover how pliable Grand Lodge will be. Perhaps we can
meet Grand Lodge halfway, they give a little and we give a little. I think
that we should try to settle this amicably with a meeting of the minds.”
“So be it,” declared Worshipful Reynolds. I
will schedule a meeting with the Grand Master if he is willing and try to work
out some sort of middle ground solution. In the meantime I would like a
committee to explore other possibilities should the ax fall and come up with
an escape route. Old Past Master would you chair such a committee?”
“Aye, Worshipful, I will do just that,”
answered the Old Past Master.
“I will appoint Secretary Levin and Past Master
Hathaway to that committee. Old Past Master please enlist up to two more
Brothers of your own choosing,” said Worshipful Reynolds. The measure is
tabled until our next Communication which will be a Special to be convened two
weeks from today. Now let us adjourn.”
Exactly two weeks to the day The Old Past
Master pulled into the Lodge’s parking lot and parked right next to the
Master’s car. He was extra early but still the Master had beaten him there.
Breezing into the office he found Worshipful Reynolds at his desk.
“Evening Worshipful,” offered The Old Past
Master. “What’s new since we talked on the phone a couple of days ago. Did you
get to have a tête-à-tête with the Grand Master?”
“Yes I did,” replied Master Reynolds. “And the
news is all bad?
“How so, Worshipful?”
“The Grand Master would not give an inch and
even added the requirement, coming out soon in a follow-up edict, that every
Lodge will have to submit a budget to the Grand Lodge. It will have to include
all expenses and proposed expenditures of the Lodge as well as all income and
resources upon which the Lodge plans to draw.”
“Well that’s going a little overboard, isn’t
“It fits right in with their micro management
of chartered Lodges and points to a continued grab for power. I am afraid we
must proceed with Plan B. How have you and your committee come along with a
solution to our problem?”
“We have all the preliminaries in place. All we
need now is for the go ahead to execute.”
For the next hour The Old Past Master and
Master Reynolds huddled in deep conversation, planning that night’s meeting
and how everything would be presented.
On the dot of 7:00 PM Master Reynolds opened
the Special Communication of Lodge and addressed the Brethren. Due to the
Summons outlining the topic for the evening and word of mouth, the Lodge room
“Brethren, I bring you bad news from our Grand
Master with whom I have personally met this week. He refuses to compromise on
the order that we received and discussed at the last stated meeting two weeks
ago. Furthermore he has added the requirement, forthcoming in a written order,
that we submit a budget, along with every other constituent Lodge, to the
Grand Secretary revealing all our sources of income and forecasting all our
expenditures. The question becomes Brethren do we submit or do we refuse?”
“The chair recognizes,” Brother Andrews,
declared the Master.
“Why that’s outrageous, ” bellowed Brother
Andrews. What are the consequences should we refuse to comply with the Grand
“The consequences could be my expulsion and the
expulsion of any and all others as well as the Grand Master taking our Charter
and closing the Lodge,” replied Master Reynolds.
“Then I say that we should not fight the Grand
Master on this,” countered Brother Parantopoulos after being recognized by the
“And I say that if we give in now we will face
yet another showdown in the future on an equally contentious issue,” said
Brother Allendes jumping up from his seat and getting the nod from the Master.
Senior Deacon Jackson slowly rose and after
getting the eye of the Master wearily uttered, “When will it all end? When
will we decide enough is enough? Is it now or later?”
“LATER,” rose a chorus from the sidelines.
“NOW,” rose another chorus from the sidelines.
“I move that that we take a vote for
informative purposes to see where we stand, ” offered Senior Warden Leavitt.
“I second the motion,” chipped in Brother
“Brethren we have a motion before you to take a
vote to see where we stand on this issue,” declared the Master. Do I have any
discussion on the motion.
“All those in favor say aye, those opposed
“The ayes have it, ruled Master Reynolds. “The
Chair declares that this will be a secret ballot. The three top officers will
count the ballots. Brother Deacons, prepare a secret ballot which will be in
written form. Brethren you will write on a slip of paper ‘yes’ to signify that
we should resist the Grand Master and ‘no’ to signify that we should submit to
the Grand Master.”
After the vote had been counted Master Reynolds
addressed the Brethren. “Out of a total of 63 total votes cast, the results
are 41 yes votes to resist and 22 no votes to submit to the Grand Master.”
Past Master Early asked for the floor.
“Worshipful, what does this mean? How can we proceed if we are divided? Either
decision will alienate some Brethren. Do we go just by majority rule?”
At this point Master Reynolds looked over at
The Old Past Master. With a nod The Old Past Master assumed the floor. You
could hear a pin drop as he stated, “Brethren the Committee that was appointed
to look into an escape route has a plan that will satisfy both those in favor
and those opposed to refusing to submit to the Grand Master. Here is the
The Old Past Master presented his plan and a
masterful one it was. He told the Lodge that it came down to a matter of fight
or flight - or cave in which was the least palatable option. He said that he
would present the flight alternative but that those who wished to stay could
“As this Lodge is only 50 miles from the state
line I looked into literally transferring our Lodge into another state”, he
said. The Old Past Master then related how he had spoken to the Grand Master
of the adjoining state (they were old friends) about whether what he proposed
would meet with any objections. The Grand Master told him that as long as he
was not involved in a war with another jurisdiction, as long as he did not
have to take sides and if the Brethren from The Old Past Master’s Lodge wished
to apply for plural membership in his state and then later apply for a new
Lodge charter, well that was all legal and above board and he could see no
violation of his jurisdiction’s Constitution and would welcome them.
Then The Old Past Master informed his Lodge
that he had spoken to the Master of Smithville Lodge in Smithville right on
the border. They had a nice building and he asked whether an entire Lodge of
Brethren affiliating with his Lodge who would perhaps in the future apply for
a charter of their own would be acceptable. The Master informed him that as
long as they all paid a year’s dues without the possibility of any rebates
they were most welcome.
But The Old Past Master was not finished yet.
He then advised the Lodge that it would be wise to sell their existing Lodge.
The way things were going at Grand Lodge another edict might come down from
the Grand Master that all Lodge buildings were to become the property of Grand
Lodge. Thus the funds from this Lodge would be forever lost. The Old Past
Master said that he knew that the Prince Hall Lodge in this area, now meeting
in temporary headquarters, was looking to purchase a permanent location. He
broached the Master and offered to sell this Lodge for a reduced cost, no
money down and that his Lodge would be the banker providing Prince Hall would
grant his Lodge a 99 year lease free of charge. He made the offer contingent
on approval by a vote of the Lodge and the Prince Hall Master said that he
needed to do likewise.
After his presentation Master Reynolds asked
the Lodge to hold all discussion until the stated meeting two weeks hence. And
he admonished all that what was said within the walls of the Lodge room stayed
within the walls of the Lodge room. He said that all the Brethren needed time
to think things over and that many right now might be on information overload.
With that he promptly closed Lodge. Much discussion followed with the
collation after Lodge but no decisions were made.
For the second time the Master was there
already when The Old Past Master pulled into the Lodge Parking Lot. This was
going to be a large and long stated meeting and perhaps for some the last at
The Old Past Master breezed into the office.
“Worshipful, everything is happening so
“I know. It is for the best. Let us get our
heads together once more to prepare for one heck of a night.”
And so they did, the Master and his right hand
man, The Old Past Master.
Master Reynolds opened Lodge right on the dot
of 7:00 PM dispensing with all formalities except the reading of the minutes
of the last Special Communication after which he addressed the Lodge.
“Brethren we have all had two weeks to ponder
the proposals of The Old Past Master and his committee, Master Reynolds
started off. “We owe these Brethren a debt of gratitude. I have spoken to
many, many of you either via telephone or E-Mail. At times my wife thought
maybe I was operating a bookie joint out of the house.”
“I have heard from about 20 Brethren that they
have already applied for affiliation to Smithville Lodge in our neighboring
state,” he continued. “I have done likewise myself. Tonight it is a time to
say goodbye to some, to make sure we provide for those who are staying and to
vote on whether to sell the Lodge building. So let’s open the floor for
“Yes, Senior Warden Leavitt.”
“I will be joining you in Smithville as well as
will the rest of your officers to a man”, offered Senior Warden Leavitt. “I
will miss this building and will hold in memory all the great times that I
have been a part of here. But a new day is dawning, a day that will see us not
among the downtrodden but rather flourishing in peace and harmony.”
“Here, here,” rose a chorus from the sidelines.
“I guess all of us will miss this place”,
stated Brother Garcia. “Why I remember when we had the Kilwinning Degree Team
here to a packed house. Even the Grand Master came that night and instead off
battling us he locked arms and sang Auld Lang Syne with us.”
“I remember the night we had a roast of now
departed Past Master Lee,” responded Past Master Hathaway. “Oh what a night
And so it went on for the better part of an
hour. Each Brother rose to tell a story of a time in the past where the Lodge
held a grand affair which meant something special to him. After the stories
died down Master Reynolds again addressed his Lodge.
“Now comes the part where we must decide the
fate of the Lodge building. I have heard from the Prince Hall Master who
informs me that his Lodge has accepted our offer of sale. We must now vote on
whether to sell this building.”
“I move that this Lodge building be sold to the
Prince Hall Lodge according to the stipulations drawn up by The Old Past
Master and his committee,” proposed Secretary Levin.
“Second the motion,“ Brother Allendes added.
“Brethren you have heard the motion to sell
this building,” said Master Reynolds. “Is there any discussion on the motion?”
“Is this something that will go through right
away,” asked Brother Brown, “before word gets out that we are jumping ship and
the Grand Master steps in to void the sale?”
“Day after tomorrow we will be passing papers
if we get a favorable vote here tonight,” replied Master Reynolds.
“Seeing no other questions, all in favor say
aye, those opposed nay. The ayes have it, the building will be sold.”
Master Reynolds having heard one or two nays
further stated, “Sorry Brethren but this is one instance where majority
“Until such time as we figure out where our
Lodge will ultimately land or if there will actually be two Lodges, one in
each state, we will set up a trust fund to receive payments from the Prince
Hall Lodge,” stated Master Reynolds. At such time as there is a final
determination of our fate the trust fund will be fairly allocated.”
“Past Master Steuben, I understand you will be
one of the ones staying.”
Yes Worshipful, I am too old to do all that
traveling,” replied Past Master Steuben.
“Well as the senior member here I will appoint
you to organize those who remain after we depart as most of us will be
demitting from here after we are fully entrenched in our new jurisdiction. Now
let us close Lodge and celebrate our decisions.”
6 Months Later
The officers and members of The Old Past
Master’s Lodge were accepted into the Lodge in Smithville without incident.
The brotherly love and affection with their new Lodge was so great that they
had not yet decided on whether to apply for a charter to form a new Lodge in
their new jurisdiction or to just remain as members of Smithville Lodge.
Things were not quite so harmonious back in
their old jurisdiction. When all the demits came in and the Grand Master
learned of the mass flight to another jurisdiction and the sale of the Lodge
he threw a fit. He promptly pulled the charter of the Lodge. Then he started a
lawsuit against the Lodge for the misuse of Lodge funds and for selling a
charted Lodge building to an entity not part of the jurisdiction. Finally he
decreed that any Brothers who had set up shop in the neighboring state would
never receive a reciprocal funeral service should their family apply.