The Old Past Master Battles Mainstream Madness

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 Worshipful Reynolds.

“What are they looking for,” queried the Old Past Master.

“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 practices.”

“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 bluff.”

“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 room.

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”

“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 was packed.

“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 Master.”

“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 Master..

“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 Garcia.

“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 nay.”

“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 plan…”

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 stay.

“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.

 

STATED COMMUNICATION

 

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 this location.

The Old Past Master breezed into the office.

“Worshipful, everything is happening so quickly.”

“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 discussion.”

“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 that was!”

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 rules.”

“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.”

EPILOGUE

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.

         

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