Author Archives: masonicmaven

The Word: Hale

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

Albert G. Mackey, in The Lexicon of Freemasonry, defines Hail and Hale, together.  Hail, from the Saxon word “hael”, refers to an inquiry, such as, “Whence do you hail?”, which may be used to ask from what lodge you are a member. Hale, however, is more typically used within the lodge room and means to conceal. It is derived from the Saxon word “helan”, to hide.


Trust: The Building Block of Leadership

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

No relationship can last without it. When lost, it is not easily found.  And it requires regular maintenance.  What is it? Trust. If you want to be an effective and respected leader you must strive to earn and maintain the highest level of trust within your organization.

So, what exactly is trust?  Simply stated it is the confidence one places in the ability, character, and truth of a person.

Just because one holds a leadership title doesn’t mean it comes with a certificate of trust.  Trust is something you earn over time and is granted by others. You can’t buy it.  You can’t rush it. You can’t demand it. And it can’t be faked. It is usually earned in small doses, although sometimes it can be reinforced by some significant, selfless action.  There are no public announcements when you gain it, but you will know when you have achieved it – or lost it. It manifests itself in a palpable synergy between two people or within a team. Productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness rise.  People feel better about themselves and teamwork flourishes.  It’s the secret sauce of a strong relationship – any relationship.

Trust is action based – you can’t talk your way into a trusting relationship; you must “walk it like you talk it”. The dynamics of trust can be different depending on who grants the trust, although the way you gain it has common components.  Trust in a marriage involves fidelity between husband and wife – that’s different than the trust between a leader and his or her organization. However, in both situations mere talk does not ensure trust.  Demonstrations of commitment, honesty, empathy, faith, and truth are common ingredients in any trust recipe.  You can’t just want trust without putting in the work. You can’t just demonstrate it when it is convenient for you or to meet some personal objective, and trust must be unconditional.  Sincerity is key, since most people, over time, will see straight through an insincere or self-serving effort to gain trust.  They may also feel deceived. Once you have lost their trust people are very reluctant to give it again without serious and genuine attempts on your part to rebuild the relationship.

Motivational leader Stephen Covey states the following in his national bestseller book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people. But it takes time and patience.”  Covey illustrates the relationship between trust and various levels of communication in a diagram that demonstrating as trust increases, so does synergy.


Covey Levels of Communication


Covey also uses a bank account analogy to explain how two people build trust and use it to weather challenging periods.  As the relationship begins, each person starts making deposits into the other’s emotional bank account.  To Covey “personal integrity generates trust and is the basis of many kinds of deposits”. He further states that “lack of integrity can undermine almost any other effort to create high trust accounts.” As the relationship grows, so does each bank account balance. Openness flourishes, integrity shines, and truthfulness reigns. Then, when a crisis develops within the relationship the high account balance covers the major withdrawal.  However, if deposits have not been regularly made, then there will be insufficient funds and the relationship suffers.  Sometimes the damage is irreparable. What is the message here? To build trust in each of our relationships we must work hard at making emotional deposits, no matter how small, into the accounts of others.

Trust is a two-way street – not only must you earn the trust of others, you must also reciprocate and demonstrate trust in them.  This is especially true for leaders who must depend on an atmosphere of trust and openness to motivate others and build self-satisfaction.  Without trust you cannot lead.1

Before a relationship is formed, leaders must sometimes take a leap of faith that the person they are leading is capable and competent.  This is also true when leading teams. Major General Perry M. Smith, USAF Retired, in his book Rules & Tools for Leaders states “Without trust and other elements of mutual respect among leaders and their associates, an organization will often suffer a combination of low performance and poor morale.”  In relationships void of trust, people start acting for themselves, rather than the good of others.  But, when trust is earned and granted by both parties, synergies and collaboration develop.  Then, barriers to success quickly evaporate.

In his book Why Dream Teams Fail, Geoffrey Colvin states “Trust is the most fundamental element of a winning team. If people think their teammates are lying, withholding information, plotting to knife them, or just plain incompetent, nothing valuable will get done. The team doesn’t create synergy. It creates ‘dysynergy’ – two plus two equals three, with luck.”2

So, how do you start to build trust.  James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, believe leaders go first; thus, as a leader you must be the first to trust.  In other words, you must demonstrate “your” trust before seeking the trust of others. This requires self-confidence, which some may find difficult.  But the rewards are great, and a contagion of trust will develop. Let others know who you are.  Vocalize your aspirations and what you stand for.  Share your values and the principles you follow in life. Be open and demonstrate candor. People are always judging your intentions, so help shape the perception by others by taking the lead in building a trustworthy relationship.

The following are some of the ways you can begin to demonstrate trust and then maintain it:

  • If you make a promise, keep it
  • Do what you say you will do
  • Keep your word and honor your commitments
  • Be consistent
  • Play fair
  • Be there when people need you
  • Treat others with respect and dignity
  • Follow the golden rule
  • When someone speaks with you, listen intently
  • Make eye contact during conversations
  • Be open to other viewpoints
  • Don’t talk about someone behind their back
  • Keep appointments and arrive on time
  • Always maintain confidentiality
  • Demonstrate faith in others and in their abilities
  • Don’t be afraid to be wrong
  • Apologize when you hurt someone
  • Demonstrate genuine forgiveness
  • Be a team player; don’t be self-serving
  • Praise in public; criticize in private
  • Be sensitive to the needs and interests of others
  • Share information and promote transparency
1 James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2007), p. 224
2 James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2007), p. 225

Masonic Spotlight: Brother Against Brother – Picket’s Charge

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

(Editor’s Note: Reference related video and publications at the end of the article to view and read more about the events mentioned below)

They gathered at the base of the hill, uncertain of what lay ahead, yet proud and determined to succeed. In the heat of summer fate had brought them to this place, previously unmemorable, but one that, by days end, would never be forgotten.  Among the men were those who would lead them in their pursuit, including Lewis, who was well trained and experienced in his profession.  As he pondered his task, his thoughts included his friend of seventeen years.

Likewise, others would gather at the peak of the hill, uncertain of what lay ahead, yet proud and determined to succeed. In the heat of summer fate had also brought them to this place, previously unmemorable, but one that, by days end, would never be forgotten.  Among the men were those who would lead them in their pursuit, including Winfield, who was well trained and experienced in his profession.  As he pondered his task, his thoughts included his friend of seventeen years.

Soon the bloody events would unfold, when men in blue and gray would violently face each other for a third consecutive day, a day where death and destruction would tragically reign.  It was a day that reminds us of the vicious brutality that mankind can wrought upon one another.  It was just another instance of a conflict that pitted brother against brother, and Brother against Brother.

Armistead and Hancock – An unbroken friendship

Brigadier General Lewis “Lo” Addison Armistead, born February 18, 1817 and from Virginia, and Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, born February 14, 1824 and from Pennsylvania, became close friends while serving in the 6th U.S. Infantry. Armistead came from a family of military men, including his father who fought in the War of 1812.  His uncle, Major George Armistead, commanded the American troops at Fort McHenry during the 1814 battle that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner. Hancock, who would later run for U.S. President in 1880, and Armistead, who married Cecelia Lee Love, a distant cousin of Robert E. Lee, both fought in the Mexican – American War (1846-1848) along with Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee and other military leaders who would serve opposite each other less than two decades later. Both Armistead and Hancock attended West Point Military Academy. Hancock graduated; Armistead resigned, but later, with the help of his father, obtained a commission as an infantry second-lieutenant.

Tragedy brought these friends closer together when Hancock supported Armistead after the death of Armistead’s wives and children.1 In 1850 Armistead’s daughter, Flora, died in April and then his wife, Cecilia, in December, leaving only his son Walker. Armistead married Cornelia Taliaferro Jamison in 1853, but she tragically died in 1855, predeceased in 1854 by their son, Lewis B. Armistead.

Masonry was a common bond between these close friends.  Armistead was a member of Alexander-Washington Lodge #22 in Alexandria, Virginia and a charter member of Union Lodge 37 in Fort Riley, Kansas.  Hancock, a member of Charity Lodge #190, Norristown, Pennsylvania, also belonged to Royal Arch Mason, #90, and Hutchinson Commandery, Knights Templar #22.  In the heat of battle their Masonic connection would serve as a poignant reminder of how brotherly love can rise above the carnage mankind often rains upon each other.

As 1861 approached, Armistead and Hancock, like thousands of other soldiers, had to decide which side to support as the drums of war grew louder.  Several future war heroes were stationed in California where, on June 15, according to the memoirs of Lewis’ wife, Allie, she and Winfred hosted a farewell party. This was just two months after the shelling of Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, marking the beginning of the American Civil War.  While attending the party Lewis Armistead gave his bible and personal belonging to Allie for safekeeping, to be opened only in the event of his death.2 Allie writes that, “Hearts were filled with sadness over the surrendering of life-long ties.” Armistead resigned and supported his state of Virginia and is believed to have said, “Hancock, goodbye; you can never know what this has cost me, and I hope God will strike me dead if I am ever induced to leave my native soil, should worse come to worse.” Hancock remained in the Army, saying, “I shall not fight upon the principle of state-rights, but for the Union, whole and undivided”.

Pickett and BinghamCourage and compassion

Like so many others who served in battle during the American Civil War, there were some who’s name would be forever remembered and some who would remain virtually unknown.  General George Pickett would be remembered for his bravery under fire in a charge that bears his name; Captain Henry H. Bingham would demonstrate human compassion that to this day is known only by a few.  History and fate brought them together on opposite sides of a stone wall, situated on a grassy ridge that stood forty feet above the surrounding terrain.  It was here the tides of war would change, what some call the high-water mark of the Confederacy – its deepest penetration into Union lines. It was here, as part of a larger attack, 15,000 Confederate soldiers charged 6,500 Union forces in fierce combat involving more than 200 cannons, countless rounds of bullets that tore into human flesh, and hundreds of bayonets that reflected the bright afternoon sun.

Bingham was born on December 4, 1841. Just 21 years old when he served on General Hancock’s staff as Judge-Advocate during the Battle of Gettysburg, he would later receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous leadership at the Battle of the Wilderness.  After the war Bingham became Postmaster of Philadelphia, then served as a U.S. Congressman from 1878 until his death in 1912. Brother Bingham was a member of Chartiers Lodge #297, Cannonsburg, PA and a life member of Union Lodge #121 in Philadelphia.

Pickett was born on January 16, 1825.  Known as a dandy for his flamboyant look that included ruffled shirts, an elegant riding whip, long ringlets of hair falling on his shoulders, and a curled beard, he graduated last in his Class of 1846 at West Point. He served with distinction during the Mexican-American War, later resigning his commission in the United States Army to join the Confederate States Army.   A year before his death on July 30, 1875, Pickett was granted a full pardon for his actions during the Civil War.  George Picket was a member of Dove Lodge No. 51 in Richmond, Virginia. During the Civil War some believe he was also a member of military lodge Old Guard Lodge No. 211. Pickett was a member of St. Alban’s Chapter Royal Arch Masons and Richmond Commandery No. 2, Knights Templar.

Gettysburg – July 3, 1863

As dawn broke on the morning of July 3, 1863, battle preparations were already underway by the Confederate soldiers serving under the command of General Robert E. Lee. The day was clear and bright; an eerie silence lay over the field.  A week earlier brought no indication the tiny town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania would play host to the formidable forces of Lee and Union General George G. Meade.

Two days of battle had already taken its toll at the Peach Orchard, Wheat Field, and elsewhere as the Confederates tried unsuccessfully to take the Union right and left flanks. The Confederate forces occupied the high ground on Seminary Ridge, where they placed approximately 140 cannons.  This deadly artillery pointed across the expansive and rising field that gradually led up to a stone wall located on Cemetery Ridge, situated on the side of Cemetery Hill. Here the Union forces were committed to holding off a possible advance up to the wall. Against the better wishes of Lieutenant General James Longstreet, known for his expertise in defensive tactics, General Lee desperately sought a victory and exclaimed, “The enemy is there, and I am going to strike him.”  In the end, General George Pickett was ordered to lead 15,000 troops in an open field assault on 6,500 Union infantrymen.

The Confederate plan of attack was set in motion. In preparation for a frontal infantry assault a cannon barrage would attempt to soften the Union defensive line.  Longstreet would then engage six Southern battalions as well as a division under General Pickett, who would lead his division up the right side of the hill toward the stone wall defended by the Union forces. After reaching the Union left-center, Pickett’s troops would pivot left to roll up its line and face the Northerners head on. One of his brigades was led by Masonic Brother and general, Lewis Armistead. As they advanced the infantry had to cross, midway, the Emmitsburg Road before reaching the treeless void leading up to the stone wall. The focal point of Pickett’s Charge would forever be known as The Angle. To Longstreet it was a suicide mission.

Pickett’s Charge (click HERE to view a map of the attack and related pictures)

At 1:00 pm, in 87-degree heat after a morning of relative quiet, Union generals were enjoying lunch, naps, and cigars in the shade of a small tree at the rear of the Union line. Suddenly, two Confederate cannon signal shots were fired from Seminary Ridge, followed by a thunderous Rebel cannonade. It was quickly met by an equally thunderous Northern cannonade.  One account called it “heaven’s thunder” while Longstreet thought it was like “mighty wild beasts growling at each other and preparing for a death struggle”.3

Two hours later, as the cannonades began to subside, Pickett prepared his advance over a mile of open ground toward the top of the ridge where General John Gibbon led his forces in the center of the Union line. Pickett exclaimed, “Up men, and to your posts! Don’t forget today that you are from old Virginia.”, after which the fateful advance began with Pickett riding at the head of his division.4 Armistead was said to have shouted, “Rise men. Men remember what you are fighting for. Remember your homes, your firesides, your wives, mothers, sisters and your sweethearts.”.5 The slow and deliberate advance, given the distance and heat of day, would take almost 20 minutes to cross the open terrain.

When the infantry firing between the two lines eventually commenced, shot, shell, and shrapnel rained down with the only cover being the lingering cannonade smoke.6 Although words cannot adequately describe the carnage that transpired that hot and fateful afternoon, one soldier wrote “Men went down like grain before the reaper.”   Stretching along both sides of the Emmitsburg Road, immovable five-foot post and rail fences slowed the advancing line and the Confederate soldiers where cut down, and yet the advance continued, with Armistead yelling, “Steady, men! Steady”.7 As the smoke cleared nearly two-thirds of Pickett’s division had become casualties8, but the advance still continued toward the stone wall. They formed a wheeling movement, exposing the right flank. Union troops responded by firing at point blank range, inflicting severe casualties.  By the time it reached the stone wall Pickett’s division was a fraction of its original strength – just 200 men9.

Cul-De-Sac of Death

As Armistead’s brigade approached the stone wall the colors fell to the ground where President Tyler’s grandson, Robert Tyler Jones, retrieved and raised them. Armistead yelled, “Run ahead, Bob, and cheer them up”, prompting a wild charge.10 Upon reaching the stone wall Armistead was observed with his black hat on the tip of his sword, raised high over his head, leading his men in combat. With his hat aloft he told his men to “Follow me, boys, give them the cold steel”, after which they followed him over the barrier into the “cul-de-sac- of death”.11 Moments later, Armistead was shot, falling to the ground along with his sword and hat.  It is said, but not proven, that as Armistead fell he gave the Masonic sign asking for assistance.  Taken prisoner he was rushed to a Union field hospital.

Noticing the call of distress Brother Henry Bingham came to Armistead’s aid.  Upon learning that Bingham was on the staff of his close friend and Brother, General Hancock, Armistead handed Bingham his watch and other personal effects. Armistead asked Bingham if he could speak with Hancock, upon which Bingham explained that Hancock had been badly wounded – just 100 yards from each other.  In response, Armistead reportedly said, “Tell General Hancock for me that I have done him and you all an injury which I shall regret the longest day I live.” Two days later Armistead died from his wounds.

Watching the events unfold on the field of battle was Brother Pickett, who ordered the artillery battalion to open fire on the federal troops advancing on his left flank. When told there was little remaining ammunition Pickett knew that failure was imminent. Eventually the Confederate forces retreated toward Seminary Ridge; the advance and retreat lasted just 50 minutes. The Confederate casualties (killed, wounded, or captured) exceeded 6,000, while the Union side suffered 2,500 casualties defending 300 yards of battle front. In utter defeat Picket was believed to have said, “Where oh where is my division?” to which Lee reportedly responded, “All this has been my fault. It is I who have lost this fight, and you must help me out the best way you can.”


The Battle of Gettysburg brought 163,800 men on both sides into mortal combat. According to the Grand Lodge of Masons in Pennsylvania, when the Civil War began there were an estimated 500,000 Masons in America.  Of those 500,000 it is believed that 18,000 participated in the Battle of Gettysburg. Today there stands on the south side of Gettysburg, in the National Cemetery Annex, a sculpture depicting the moment Captain Bingham cradles his mortally wounded Masonic Brother, General Lewis Armistead.  This Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial was dedicated in 1993 and includes a plaque with the following inscription: “This monument is presented by the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania and dedicated as a memorial to the Freemasons of the Union and the Confederacy. Their unique bonds of friendship enabled them to remain a brotherhood undivided, even as they fought in a divided nation, faithfully supporting the respective governments under which they lived.”

1, The Tragedy of Friends at War Lewis Armistead and Winfield Scott Hancock on Cemetery Ridge, March 4, 2014.
3 John C. Waugh, The Class of 1846, (Ballentine Books, 1994), p. 466 “(Hereafter referred to as Waugh, Class of 1846.)”
4 Waugh, The Class of 1846, p. 470.
5 Waugh, The Class of 1846, p. 471.
6 Waugh, The Class of 1846, p. 476.
7 Waugh, The Class of 1846, p. 476.
8 Waugh, The Class of 1846, p. 478.
9 Waugh, The Class of 1846, p. 479.
10 Waugh, The Class of 1846, p. 480.
11 Waugh, The Class of 1846, p. 481.

Related Videos and Brochure

Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial – Video:
Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial – Brochure:
Hancock at Gettysburg video from the movie “Gettysburg”:
Final Request from Armistead video from movie “Gettysburg”:

British Freemasonry – A Brief Introduction (Part 2)

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

In part one of this British Freemasonry introductory series you received a brief overview of the Craft in England, Scotland, and Ireland; and an introduction to early British lodges.  This second installment describes the grades of membership and the events leading up to the formation of the Grand Lodge of England.

Membership Grades


References to the term “apprentice” did not appear in Britain until the early 18th century, probably due to its position at the bottom of the worker hierarchy. Given most building projects were large scale it should come as no surprise that the position of apprentice would not receive the same attention as the grades above it.  The work of this lowly grade was as significant as any, and yet, this worker grade was not mentioned in general writings until it appeared in the British Book of Constitutions in 1723.  After working seven years as an indentured apprentice a man could become eligible to become an Entered Apprentice within his lodge.  Where the indentured apprentice could not work unsupervised or employ subordinates, the Entered Apprentice enjoyed these privileges.


It was the norm that after his 14 years as an apprentice the worker could be admitted into the lodge as a Fellow of the Craft.  He could now take on contracts and employ workers. Prior to the grade being referenced in the Book of Constitutions, the term “fellow”, like that of apprentice, had not been used for centuries.  Originally, it just indicated a man was part of a fraternity, with no significance of being part of a worker grade. This changed in the 14th century.


Toward the end of the 14th century references to Warden also appeared in print, by which time it reflected a worker who took an oath of loyalty to the Master and the regulations.  By the end of the 15th century Wardens were also responsible for managing the lodge’s finances.

Master Mason

Prior to the 18th century the grade of Master Mason referred to a man responsible for a building project. It was not uncommon for a Master Mason to be referred to as Deacon, Warden or Preses (i.e. presiding officer).

The Layer

Also known as a setter, the layer was a less-skilled worker that was proficient with the trowel, which he used to build up stones laid by more experienced masons. Upon completion of a structure, unemployed masons might take work as a layer to feed himself and his family. Likewise, a layer might obtain employment as a mason during times of worker shortages.  Nevertheless, there was often friction between these two sets of laborers, resulting in regulations to govern their work.


As with any profession, imposters tried to pass as legitimate masons. These ‘cowans’, first mentioned in Scotland in 1598, had served their apprenticeship.  They were trained and proficient but had not yet been admitted into a lodge. As such, they were not part of the fraternity and thus were avoided by those already admitted into the lodge. In fact, cowans were prevented from working. This was according to a statute in place in 1598, which reads as follows: “Item, that no master or fellow craft receive a cowan to work in his society, or company, nor send any of his servants to work with cowans under pain of twenty pounds so oft as any person offends in this respect.” In 1738, the term cowan was first found in English Freemasonry, appearing in the Second Book of Constitutions.

The First “Accepted” Masons

References to British Freemasonry go back to at least the 15th century, with the first record of an initiation of an “accepted” mason appearing in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1600.  In 1641, it is believed that Alexander Hamilton and Sir Robert Moray, Scottish generals leading their armies in England, were initiated at Newcastle-on-Tyne by members of Edinburgh lodge.

Over time, English men of importance became honorary members and were referred to as accepted Masons.  One such person was a lawyer named Elias Ashmole. According to his diary he was initiated in 1646 at Warrington in Lancashire and thought to be the first non-operative mason to be accepted into an English lodge.

To this day the dispute still exists as to which country introduced accepted Masons into the fraternity. Nonetheless, for the new “accepted” Mason, symbolism and allegory helped paint a mental image of an architecturally strong, well-build structure of body and mind.

Grand Lodge Rises from the Ashes of Revolt

Elias Ashmole was initiated during the height of the English Civil War, when the Royalists, of which he was one, were opposed by the Parliamentarians. Different political and religious viewpoints and opinions divided communities; freedom of speech was denied; and Catholicism was under attack from Protestants who were at odds among their different denominations.  Due to his views, Ashmole was taken prisoner by the Parliamentarians. And yet, he recognized that brotherly love, relief, and truth could weather the tumultuous storm and that the mason’s tools could serve as metaphors for how man should live.  Men began gathering within a fraternal order, guided by God, to bring civility, tolerance, and reason into harmonious forums of discussion.  The Age of Reason and the scientific method began to prevail over religion thought. The seeds of today’s speculative Masonry were thus sown when accepted Masons outnumbered operative stone masons. Then, in 1715 the failure of the Jacobite Rebellions to replace parliamentary government with absolute monarchy made a more open political and religious landscape ripe for the formation of a grand lodge.


In the next and last installment of English Freemasonry – A Brief Introduction, The Grand Lodge of England becomes a reality and Provincial Grand Lodges are formed.


Christopher Hodapp, Freemasons for Dummies, (Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2005)
Robert Gilbert and John Hamill, Freemasonry: A Celebration of the Craft, (J. G. Press, 1993)
Michael Johnstone, The Freemasons: The Illustrated Book of an Ancient Brotherhood, (Arcturus Publishing, 2012)

The Word: Hecatomb

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

In ancient Greece a sacrifice to the gods of 100 cattle was known as a hecatomb (hekatómbē). According to Wikipedia, however, from a practical standpoint as few as 12 cattle often passed for a hecatomb.  These offerings were made to the Greek gods Hera, Athena, and Apollo during special religious ceremonies.  Legend has it that after inventing the 47th proposition (i.e. problem) of Euclid, the Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, in celebration, sacrificed a hecatomb.

One explanation of the sacrifice, taken from the Iliad, reads as follows: They arranged the holy hecatomb all orderly round the altar of the god. They washed their hands and took up the barley-meal to sprinkle over the victims [cattle], while [the priest] lifted up his hands and prayed aloud on their behalf.

Lodge Secretary – Skills, Personality Traits, Roles and Responsibilities

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

The following is a dynamic list of potential skills, roles, and responsibilities for a Lodge Secretary.  The lists are not to suggest that every Lodge Secretary possess everything listed, but rather to raise one’s awareness of areas for self-improvement. Some lodges may have other members who fulfill some of the roles and responsibilities that may in practice, default to secretaries.  This list is not exhaustive and will be periodically updated. Some of the items below were derived from the Lodge Secretary Training Presentation developed by R.W. Stephen Cohn, conversations with current and past Lodge Secretaries, and personal experience.


  • Communications Manager
  • Relationship Manager
  • Time Manager
  • Project Manager
  • Recordkeeper
  • Bookkeeper
  • Team builder
  • Meeting Assistant
  • Publicist
  • Writer
  • Scribe
  • Arbitrator
  • Diplomat
  • Confidant
  • Advisor
  • Mentor
  • Leader
  • Organizer
  • Liaison
  • Public Speaker
  • Bylaws Expert
  • Grand Constitutions Source
  • Protocol Source
  • Application Software User
  • Social Media Student
  • Photo Organizer and Editor

Skills and Personality Traits

  • Effective note taking, listening, speaking, and writing
  • Detail orientated
  • Patience
  • Relationship building
  • Accuracy and attention to detail
  • Time management
  • Ability to prioritize
  • Ability to organize large amounts of data
  • Able to instill trust
  • Sound judgement and discretion
  • Strong proficiency with Masonic Online Registry Interface (MORI)
  • Working knowledge of word processing, spreadsheet, and publishing software applications
  • Understanding and possible working knowledge of photo storage, sharing, and editing
  • Understanding of appropriate web site content
  • Understanding of and comfortable using social media
  • Understanding and comfortable using mail distribution groups
  • Basic understanding of sound bookkeeping practices


  • Record and transcribe meeting notes, and present them to the lodge at the next meeting
  • Generate and distribute monthly notices in a timely and accurate manner, with input from the Master
  • Receive and record dues payments and other monetary receipts
  • Maintain accurate and complete membership information on MORI and local database
  • Issue dues cards in a timely fashion
  • Receive correspondence from outside the lodge (ex. Grand Lodge, members, district officers)
  • Fully understand lodge bylaws, grand constitution, and Masonic protocol
  • Process membership applications and keep candidates informed about meetings and events
  • Read applications for membership during monthly communications
  • Procure and distribute candidate kit contents
  • Ensure recently raised Master Masons sign the lodge bylaws
  • Assist the Master in creating investigation committees
  • Procure, when authorized, Past Master jewels and aprons
  • Provide monthly report (control sheet) on membership statistics
  • Complete Grand Lodge Return of Officers
  • Prepare for and meet with District Secretary prior to DDGM official visit, ensuring records are in order
  • Apply to Grand Lodge for dispensations, when necessary and required
  • Process demits, suspensions, reinstatements, certificates of compliance and prior membership
  • Provide required reports to Grand Lodge: IRS 990, Age 89 Report, Grand Lodge Dues Form, Annual returns (i.e. vouchers), Recapitulation.
  • Be aware of and comply with IRS filing requirements
  • Remit payments to Grand Lodge, when necessary and required
  • Help ensure receipt and timely distribution of awards and medals, including the following: Veteran’s Medal, Service Awards, Past Master certificates, Master Rookie and Master Builder Awards.
  • Assist in preparing for official visit of the District Deputy Grand Master and fraternal visit of the Grand Master or District Deputy Grand Master

The Secretary

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

Some might say the Lodge Secretary runs the lodge.  Well, that may be true in some lodges, but this is not generally the case.  It is true, however, that an effective and efficient Lodge Secretary plays a pivotal role in the success of any lodge.  It’s not for everybody and not everyone should be a Lodge Secretary.

For those who aspire to this important office there are some key skills and traits you need at your disposal, including communication, interpersonal, management, leadership, and technical.  You also need the right personality that allows you to work with a variety of different people, personalities, and backgrounds. All these must come from a variety of sources: naturally, with training, or with personal growth.  You don’t need to be an expert in any given area, but you do need to be aware of the role each one plays.  Having a working knowledge of each and the ability to keep learning are key success factors.

A dynamic list of Lodge Secretary roles and responsibilities exists on  This article describes the experience of preparing for and serving as the Lodge Secretary, as told from a variety of sources, including RW Alan P. Koufos (17 years as Secretary of Rabboni Lodge, Westwood, MA) and Brother Robert R. Khouri (8 years as Secretary of West Roxbury – Dorchester Lodge, Westwood, MA).  It also describes the skillset and personal traits one must have to be effective.

Carefully Filling the Position

It is not uncommon for a member to suddenly find himself the secretary of his lodge.  There are times when, for a variety of reasons, the Lodge Secretary position suddenly becomes vacant.  During these times an Assistant-Lodge Secretary, if one exists, can seamlessly move into the position.  If your lodge does not have an Assistant-Lodge Secretary, you should seriously consider filling this position.  Given the measurable ramp-up time to be effective you are doing a disservice to both the new secretary and the lodge by not having a succession plan.

This role should not be filled with just a warm body to satisfy some requirement to do so.  It should be thoughtfully and carefully filled with someone who is qualified or can prepare and learn quickly. Given some lodges may lack the resources to do so, those lodges should request guidance from Grand Lodge.

Skills and Traits

The Lodge Secretary wears many hats: manager, project manager, organizer, arbitrator, record keeper, writer, listener, liaison, diplomat. Taken together, it can be said that the Lodge Secretary is in the business of communication and interpersonal relations, and thus needs all the skills associated with those roles.

Since these traits are required to be an effective Master, one might say a lodge should consider a Past-Master to fill the role of Lodge Secretary. In most cases this may be true. They will argue that he will already be familiar with developing the monthly notice, Masonic protocol, Grand Lodge rules and regulations, creating a meeting agenda, selecting an investigating committee, etc. However, just because a man served as Master, doesn’t guarantee he will serve well as a Lodge Secretary.  He can fall victim to the Peter Principle, where one tends to aspire to his or her level of incompetence.  For example, a great software programmer may not be an effective software manager.  The right man, with the right skills and the ability to quickly learn and apply new material, who may not be a Past Master, can quite nicely fulfill the position.

To help you decide if you possess the right stuff to be the Lodge Secretary, here is a list of some soft skills and traits you should have or acquire:


Effective note taking: shorthand seems to be a lost artform but being able to take comprehensive notes during a monthly meeting, without interrupting the flow of the meeting, is a must have skill.  Everyone has a few tricks we learned while in school.  Utilize those and learn a few more. Get a good book or check online for training and tips.

Sound listening skills: you may be the first person approached to answer a question, resolve a conflict, or provide advice on protocol or process. Being able to listen attentively, utilize reflective listening, and trying first to understand before making yourself understood are productive arrows in the listening skills quiver. Sound listening skills allows you to better understand what is being said or asked, and results in members being more apt to approach you. Get a good book or check online for training and tips.

Effective writing: this includes how to write a business letter for those times you need to communicate officially with Grand Lodge, a lodge member, or a candidate for the degrees. You also need to create concise and complete meeting minutes and assist with writing the monthly meeting notice. As in honing your listening skills, get a good book or check online for training and tips.

Effective speaking: this is useful for those times when you must read a report; or update the Master and lodge with information from the district, Grand Lodge, or another source. Concentrate on clear pronunciation, pace, projection, properly timed emphasis, and grammar.


They say patience is a virtue and for the Lodge Secretary this could be considered a fifth cardinal virtue.  As mentioned, the secretary wears many hats and deals with many people within and outside the lodge, some with abrupt personalities and short fuses. While manifesting sound communication skills the secretary needs to practice patience if he wants to continue to work effectively in all his roles.  For some, patience almost comes naturally; for others, not so much.  Everyone has a boiling point, but the more the secretary can control his emotions, the better life will be for everyone.  If patience does not come naturally to you, there are other positions within the lodge that may be able to utilize your other skills and talents.

Accuracy and Attention to Detail

Part of being an effective communicator is getting the facts right and being aware of the details.  Incorrect and or insufficient information can be harmful and an inefficient use of time, requiring additional clarifications and corrections. Done enough times, your credibility and reputation can be compromised.  Taking the time to get it right the first time reaps rich reward.  You need to be mindful of the big picture, but you also must provide the right amount of accurate detail without losing your audience.  

Time Management, Prioritization, and Organization:

Like in any other important role, professionally or personally, the Lodge Secretary must practice sound time management skills along with the ability to be organized and effectively prioritize work.

There is a steady stream of communication that flows to and from the secretary’s desk, from a variety of internal and external sources. This includes general paperwork, applications for membership and affiliation, letters, emails, phone calls, text messages, invoices, cash receipts, candidate material, and awards. The secretary also needs to be aware of a variety of deadlines imposed by Grand Lodge, candidate degrees, tax reporting, District Deputy official and fraternal visits, etc. To deal with the above items the secretary needs a sound method to organize his work.

Without a sound system to effectively receive the information, properly process and distribute it to the correct recipients in a timely manner, and organize it, all with a sense of proper prioritization, the inexperienced secretary can be easily overwhelmed. Knowing this before assuming the secretary role and preparing for it in advance will make life a lot easier for everyone.

Develop, through online material, training, books, or a friend a system of organization that is simple, effective, and supports the way you work.   Follow the same steps to learn effective time management and prioritization methods

Trust, Confidentiality, Judgement and Discretion

As mentioned, the Lodge Secretary is often the “go to” guy and first point of contact for information and guidance, sometimes during difficult times.  Like any other personal relationship, a level of trust must be developed where confidentiality and discretion are its cornerstones.  Once trust is established people will be more candid and know they can confide in you with sensitive, possibly embarrassing information.  The Lodge Secretary must be able to maintain this level of trust and confidentiality, while balancing it with sound judgement and discretion, especially when someone’s safety or the interest of the lodge is at stake. The secretary must be able to use all the soft skills at his disposal to access and judge a given situation, maintain trust and confidentiality, and practice unbiased discretion to determine what next steps, if any, are necessary.

Software Application Proficiency and Online Skills

You don’t have to be a techno-nerd to serve as Lodge Secretary, but you do need to have a minimal working knowledge of word processing, spreadsheet creation and maintenance, and publishing. Microsoft and Apple products provide such a tool set, but there are other discreet products.  However, the more standard the product, the better the chance that others will be able to communicate without software compatibility issues. If you don’t feel comfortable with your skills in any of these areas, seek education via the least expensive channel that works best for you.

Here are some considerations regarding software applications:

MORI: one application that Lodge Secretaries live in and must thoroughly know how to use is MORI, the Masonic Online Registry Interface. This is the jurisdiction-wide membership recordkeeping system that Grand Lodge and all lodges use to store information about all Masons in Massachusetts.  Grand Lodge provides training and support, and it is incumbent on all Lodge Secretaries to become extremely proficient in its use and navigation.  At the lodge level access is restricted to Lodge Secretaries and the Master.  The time to learn this system is not in the heat of battle, but rather, before you assume the secretary role.  To find out more, contact your Lodge Secretary or contact the Grand Secretary’s office.

Word Processing: outside of MORI the next most important software application is word processing. MS Word is a common, easy, but robust word processing tool with a myriad of features. It includes mail merge and labeling for commonly used letters and the monthly notice.  You might also consider other word processing tools, like Google Docs. The more standard the toll, the better.

Spreadsheets: you may want to store some membership information locally, which might require you to use a spreadsheet application.  For example, there are always requests for someone’s contact information.  If the member agrees to make his information available, the secretary can store member information in a spreadsheet, like MS Excel, which also allows filtering, sorting, reporting, and query capability. Then, you can share this information with authorized recipients. You don’t need to be an expert, but you should have a sound working knowledge of a good spreadsheet tool. For some who are more experienced, a basic database tool like MS Access provides more robust capability than MS Excel.

Publishing: the most recognized responsibility of the Lodge Secretary, outside of taking meeting minutes, is generation of the monthly meeting notice.  Having basic publishing skills and access to a basic publishing application like MS Publisher make life a lot easier.  Once again, you don’t need to be an expert to add a unique look to the notice and event announcements.  If you are not familiar with this kind of application seek guidance from another lodge member, another Lodge Secretary in the district, a friend, or online.

Photo Storage and Sharing: a picture is worth a thousand words and those lodges who share experiences through digital pictures have a great team building and marketing tool at their disposal.  Consider taking advantage of free photo storage services through Google, Yahoo, or another provider.  For a few more dollars you can purchase additional storage from them.  Instagram is a current favorite for photo sharing, as is Facebook.  Of course, adding photos to your lodge web page is a convenient medium for anyone, Masons or non-Masons, to measure the activity within a lodge.  All the above helps keep members coming and attracts new members.  Although the responsibility for photo storage and sharing does not have to be a Lodge Secretary responsibility, it sometime becomes so by default.  If this is the case, then the Lodge Secretary should have basic skills in these areas. Regardless of who stores and shares the pictures, be sure to include some in your monthly notice.

Photo Editing: like photo storage and sharing, image editing may default to the Lodge Secretary.  This skill is not critical since photos can be easily shared without editing them.  However, skill with image editing applications can add a different dimension to your photos.  Your digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR) manufacturer provides this capability, as does application providers like Microsoft (i.e. Microsoft Picture Editor).  Your smartphone may also provide editing features.

Web, Social Media, and Email

Like it or not, the web and especially social media is the best way to keep members informed and the public aware that your lodge exists, is active, and is healthy.  Once again, the Lodge Secretary may, by default, be responsible, fully or partially, with creating and maintaining your lodge’s web and social media presence.  Even if someone else provides these skills, the Lodge Secretary should have a seat at the table when deciding on the appearance and content of your web site and social media presence.  For example, since the Lodge Secretary is the primary conduit for information traveling to and from the lodge, he has a vested interest in the capability of these tools, the way they will be used, and especially timely content updates.  The Lodge Secretary, at a minimum, should be aware of what is available and how they are used so he can maximize the efficient flow of information.

Email is so common that most people use it every day.  For a lodge, an email group serves as an important tool in quickly and efficiently distributing information to multiple people.  As such, the Lodge Secretary should be proficient in using email group capability hosted by providers like Gmail and Yahoo.  Rabboni Lodge in Westwood, MA uses a Yahoo Group for broadcast emails, which helps when requesting manpower for lodge events, notifying officers of a funeral service, or notifying members of an ill Brother.  To keep the content strictly lodge and Masonic based, members email the secretary with content. Then he vets the material and if acceptable, distributes the content to the email group. These are just some of the ways a Lodge Secretary can take advantage of email group capability.


How are you with another person’s money?  Are you comfortable with handling it and keeping transaction records?  Bookkeeping lodge cash receipts before presenting those receipts to the Lodge Treasurer is a fundamental responsibility of the Lodge Secretary.  A very basic understanding of bookkeeping is helpful so that you can properly track and account for monies received by the lodge.  For example, receipt of dues payments and associated recordkeeping is required.  An understanding of a basic voucher system is necessary to follow generally accepted accounting principles.  This information is available online.

Relationship with the Master

It is vitally important that a strong and respectful relationship exists between the Master and the Lodge Secretary.  It is also important that this relationship is a two-way street. Friction between these two officers manifests itself in a variety of different way, often at the most inopportune time. Like any relationship their mutual respect must be earned and continually fostered. For the good of the lodge they must both leave perceived slights and an unproductive attitude at the door of the lodge.

The secretary must be able to respect the Master’s boundaries and authority, and must resist the temptation, especially if he is a Past Master, to control the presiding Master. Even with a weak Master in the East, the secretary must respect the fact the he is not the Master. Instead, the Lodge Secretary/Past Master can better serve the lodge as a mentor to the presiding Master.  Sound guidance and council, timely reminders, following the Master’s preferred communication method (ex. Phone, email, text) proactive assistance, discretion, in addition to utilizing the skill set described in this article are beneficial to all.

In Closing

There are many things to consider in deciding to assume the office of Lodge Secretary. You need an understanding and sufficient level of proficiency in soft and hard skills, so strive to improve your skill set in all areas.  Beyond this, consider the following steps to prepare for the Secretary position: take Lodge Secretary training provided by Grand Lodge; study the Lodge Secretary’s Handbook that is available through Grand Lodge; serve as Assistant-Secretary, if possible, for at least a year; and form a mentor-protégé relationship with the current secretary, if possible.  Be sure to reference a dynamic list of Lodge Secretary skills and personality traits, roles, and responsibilities at

Finally, lodges should incorporate a succession plan by selecting a qualified member to serve as Assistant-Secretary, who can seamlessly fill a vacancy, planned or unplanned, in the Lodge Secretary position. Some lodges may not have the resources to fill the role but must continually seek to do so.  Lodges cannot run effectively without a competent Master; likewise, it also cannot run effectively without a competent Lodge Secretary.

Masonic Spotlight: George Washington and The Battle of Long Island – The Retreat That Saved a Nation

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

There are volumes of books on George Washington.  There are no shortage of cities and streets named after our first president.  There are countless statues and monuments commemorating the father of our country and our Masonic Brother.  This article is not meant to provide a detailed biography of our most famous founding father, but rather to take one of his possibly little-known accomplishment to help illustrate the contribution Washington made to the protection of our liberties and the creation of our great nation.

The Battle of Long Island, fought early in what later became known as the War for Independence, was a critical milestone in that revolutionary cause. A defeat on the Long Island peninsula would have meant more than a British victory on the battlefield; it would have quickly and effectively ended the Revolution. Instead, the rebellious cause would live for another day and ultimately persevere in total victory. No small feat for a man who had reluctantly accepted his country’s call to lead the newly formed continental army made up of a collection of farmers, misfits, and citizens of separate colonies that were more independent from each other than a cohesive force for change.


Born February 22, 1732, George Washington grew up in colonial Virginia among the provincial gentry of wealthy tobacco planters. Privately educated, mainly by his older brother, Washington gained surveying experience in the Shenandoah Valley, aspiring in 1749 to the position of surveyor of Culpeper County, VA.  In 1754, as a commissioned lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia, Washington, along with 150 men, were sent to establish an outpost in in the Ohio Valley. On July 3,1754, at the Battle of Fort Necessity, a badly sited location not far from the recently lost Fort Duquesne, the young military officer found himself on the doorstep of history – the beginning days of what would become the French and Indian War, also known globally as The Seven Years War.  Here Washington was forced to surrender, after which time he returned home and soon resigned his commission.

The following year, as aide-de-camp to General Edward Bradford, he returned to the Ohio Valley in an expedition to Fort Duquesne. Once again, the French were victorious in a battle that cost Bradford his life.  For Washington, his frontier fighting experience would serve him well throughout the remaining years of conflict and later during the War for Independence.

Prior to the opening shots of the American Revolution, Washington and his wife, Martha had settled into a relatively normal existence at their Mount Vernon home in Virginia.  But this quiet life was soon interrupted by his election to command five Virginia militia companies. He then actively participated in the Second Continental Congress, having assuming a quiet role in the first. It was here that John Adams nominated Washington to serve as commander in chief of the proposed Continental Army.  Unanimously elected, Washington took command of his troops on July 3, 1775 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1776, after fortifying Boston and ultimately causing the British to evacuate the city, General Washington led his troops to New York, which, for many reasons, was a strategic location for both sides.

Defending Long Island

New York City was of major strategic significance for both sides, given it was situated at the mouth of the Hudson River. This waterway served as a natural divider, splitting New England and the rest of the colonies. More importantly, the Hudson River led to Lake George, which led to Lake Champlain, then to the Richelieu River that emptied into the St. Lawrence River.  From there, one could navigate to Quebec City.   It is no wonder that General Sir William Howe, commander of the British Army, sought control of the river to divide and conquer, and that Washington sought to prevent Howe from doing so.

On June 29, 1776 tensions escalated with the arrival of an armada of British ships in New York Harbor. This show of force was meant to shock and awe the colonists, with one American rifleman stating he “thought all London was in afloat”. Washington sent alarms out for more militia and sent Martha back home to Virginia. Sandbags were placed at strategic points, cart horses were rounded up to pull artillery, and men were ordered to load muskets and keep firearms ready, day and night. They feared the unexpected, and the unexpected was now upon then.

Through shore batteries and sunken hulls Washington tried to convince Howe that navigating the waters was both risky and useless. But by July 2, 1776, British troops landed unopposed on Staten Island and were warmly greeted by the Loyalist, who later pledged an oath of allegiance to King George III. The virtually non-existent American Navy and inexperienced American forces were no match for the superior British naval fleet and polished British Army. Eventually there would be 31,625 highly trained British forces matched against 19,000 Americans with varying military experience, if any at all.  Coupled with high desertion rates, geographic jealousy within the ranks, and expiring short term enlistments, Washington had much to deal with internally. To make matters worse, Congress was not cooperating in supplying adequate finances and enlistments, Tory plots were waged against the American forces, and there was lack of experience within Washington’s subordinate generals.  This is hardly the position one wants to be in while defending the most strategic geographic location of the war to date.

Despite his challenges, Washington remained confident in his fortifications, manifesting it by dividing his army among the Islands of New York Harbor, including Long Island to the east. In doing so, however, Washington ran the risk of cutting off routes of retreat should defeat seem imminent.  By trying to protect every conceivable location, Washington’s confidence put his men at risk, while also risking all that he had and especially the future of the Revolution. His military inexperience kept him from realizing the indefensibility of New York City.  His talents as a commander had never been tested on a large scale. He lacked formal training on the European pattern. His only military experience had been that of colonial warfare with no experience commanding large bodies of men or the use of special arms.

On July 12th, cannon was heard firing from the bay south of the British anchorage; a salute to the arrival on scene by General Howe. Also, that day, two British warships sailed up the Hudson River as far as Tappan Bay, suffering little from the American guns, and cutting off Washington’s communication with Albany and New Jersey. Washington’s army was now split between Manhattan and Long Island, with the Hudson and East Rivers as well as Long Island Sound under British control. Howe was positioned to strike the divided American forces at will and prevent the arrival of rebel reinforcements. Possible avenues of retreat were restricted to one route, up through northern Manhattan, but General Howe refused to act until he had definite military superiority over Washington. Retreat by water was seemingly impossible.

The original British objective was not battle, but peace.  General William Howe and his Brother, Admiral Richard Howe, were sent by Britain as Peace Commissioners. However, Washington spurned several overtures. General Howe never wanted to fight British subjects, and, at the time, Washington did not know why Howe refrained from attacking.  Had he known, a conflict might have been avoided.  From a military perspective, Washington could have removed all inhabitants of the city and burned the town, but this would have destroyed the spirit of future patriots and injure the American cause. He felt the need for action, and with the Howe brothers frustrated with their failed attempts at peace, the seeds of battle were sown.

During July and August American reinforcements continued to arrive, and yet, Howe restrained himself from attacking until his own troop strength increased.  He was also concerned about the American’s strong hill entrenchments – Bunker Hill and the Siege of Boston were still very fresh on his mind. Howe was still hoping to outwait Washington. He moved most of his army to Long Island, yet Washington, fearing a feint, kept most of his troops in Manhattan. Soon, fearing a joint attack on both locations, Washington moved over a third of his army to Long Island. His hope was to hold Long Island and starve the enemy out of the country.

Howe finally made the decision to eliminate the Americans on Long Island before attempting to take New York. On August 21th Washington noticed troop movement on Staten Island and ships began to sail to the tip of Long Island. On August 22, the enemy dropped anchor at Gravesend Bay to begin their landing and the American command on Manhattan could only watch.  At this point Washington still believed an attack on both Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights was still possible, but the protective guns on British war ships prevented Washington from opposing the landing.

Washington’s misfortunes continued.  General Nathanial Greene, who led the construction of the still uncompleted Brooklyn Heights defenses, took ill and was replaced by the unreliable General Israel Putnam of Bunker Hill fame.  The Americans had hoped to trap the British in another Bunker Hill and mow down the enemy during their frontal attack.  Greene’s illness was thus concerning to Washington.

Amidst this backdrop the Battle of Long Island began on August 27, 1776. Both Howe brothers believed the battle would last but two days, since they were confident Washington would be trapped.  In fact, they believed defeat would bring the war to an end. But, where unrealistic confidence kept Washington from accounting for the unwinnable predicament into which he was placing his army, the over confidence of the Howe brothers prevented them from adequately securing the East River as a possible retreat route for Washington’s forces. They were more concerned with negotiating peace and winning over the Continental Congress.

In the process they ignored the buildup of boats by the Americans on the Manhattan shores of the East River and the buildup of 9,000 American troops on Long Island.  Washington’s idea was to trick the British into thinking the boats were for more reinforcements, when instead, they were on standby for a possible retreat. Despite this, General Howe began a formal siege as the weather began to turn for the worse. On August 29th, Washington began to believe that the fate was not turning in their favor and thoughts now were of retreat. A council of senior officers decided that it was required that night. Mariners from the Massachusetts coastline were ready to steer the boats over and back, transporting men, horses, and supplies, all under the cover of darkness.  Howe had no inkling that Washington would try such a feat, so the element of surprise was in play. Then, as nighttime descended, lady luck brought in a northeast wind that prevented Howe’s fleet from protecting the East River, and a vicious rain storm began to blow in.  As morning broke the next day and the rain began to subside, fog contributed to the retreat effort and the mariners successfully transported their precious cargo. As the last of the men were brought across, shots rang out in their direction; four were wounded with no one killed.

Instead of using his fleet to land troops in northern Manhattan and deny a land escape route for the rebels, the Howe brothers allowed Washington and his troops to eventually retreat up Manhattan, cross the Hudson, and then march into New Jersey.  The war would drag on until September 1783, when Lord Cornwallis, who led British troops at Long Island, would surrender at Yorktown, Virginia.  During the intervening years, Washington would gain experience, surround himself with heroic generals, and motivate his troops through harsh winter quarters.  The love of those he served and who served him culminated in Washington being unanimously elected as the first President of the United States on January 7, 1789.  After serving eight years he retired back to Mount Vernon where he died on December 14, 1799.

Masonic Career*

George Washington was initiated as an Entered Apprentice in the Lodge in Fredericksburg in Fredericksburg, Virginia on November 4, 1752; passed to the degree of Fellow Craft on March 3, 1753; and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on August 4, 1753.

January – March 1788: A committee from Alexandria Lodge № 39 calls on George Washington at Mount Vernon. They ask him to serve as “Charter Master” of the lodge as it seeks to move from under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and be re-chartered by the Grand Lodge of Virginia. Washington agrees.

April 28, 1788: Edmund Randolph, Grand Master of Masons in Virginia, grants a charter to Alexandria Lodge as the twenty-second lodge in Virginia. The charter names George Washington as the lodge’s Worshipful Master.

December 20, 1788: Washington is re-elected Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 for one year, starting December 27, 1788.

September 18, 1793: The cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol is laid by three Masonic Lodges with President Washington presiding as “Acting Master” of the ceremony.



John R Alden, A History of the American Revolution, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1969
American History Magazine, December, 2017
Bruce Bliven, Battle for Manhattan, Henry Holt and Company,1956
North Callahan, George Washington, Soldier and Man, William Morrow & Co., 972
Henry B. Carrington, Battles of the American Revolution, Battles of the American Revolution, A.S Barnes and Company, 1876
Marcus Cunliffe, George Washington, in George Washington’s Generals, William Morrow & Co., 1964
James Thomas Flexner, George Washington in the American Revolution, Little, Brown and Co., 1968
Bruce Lancaster and J.H. Plum, The Book of the Revolution, American Heritage Publishing Company, 1958
Shelley Little, George Washington (1732-1799), Minton, Balsh, and Co., 1929
Henry Cabot Lodge, George Washington, The Riverside Press, 1889
John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1948
Frank Moore, The Diary of the American Revolution, Washington Square Press, 1967
John. W Shy, Charles Lee: The Soldier as Radical, in George Washington’s Generals, William Morrow & Co., 1964

Project Management – A Practical Guide

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

There may come a time in your Masonic career where you will be responsible for a project.  It may not be called a project, but that’s what it will be.  Maybe you volunteer for organizing an open house or someone assigns you the task of planning and running the lodge family barbecue. Maybe you are planning your installation as Master of your lodge.  Make no mistake about it, at some point you may take on the role of project manager and you need to be prepared.

So, where do you begin?  You can start by remembering some fundamental concepts.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Some people wait till the last minute and then, in a flurry of activity, pull it all together and make things happen.  That’s not me. Everyone is different, and I get that, but if you are not inclined to be a last-minute wonder you need a plan.  Plans come in all shapes and sizes, from the back of a napkin to a massive project plan like that used for the Big Dig Project in Boston. The more detail you have the greater the chance things won’t fall through the cracks.  When I managed projects professionally I used Microsoft Project, but in my personal life I use a simple Excel spreadsheet.  Whatever tool you use, make sure to keep it simple with just the right amount of detail.

Project Plan Phases

Try using the following four phases to organize your work: Planning, Staging, Implementation, Post-Implementation.


This is the longest phase and will consume most of your time, depending on the length of the implementation phase. The more quality time you spend here, the smoother the implementation phase.  I once planned a two-site Masonic open house that lasted six hours; I spent almost 180 hours planning it. If you plan well, and build in contingencies, you reduce risk during the implementation phase.

When in the planning phase consider the following:

Key Question – My first question is always: who do I need to make happy?  Is it my manager, my manager’s manager, my customers?  Knowing who to make happy helps you decide on priorities when conflicting demands cross your desk.  In Masonry, you need to know who you ultimately need to please.  Depending on the project it might be your lodge membership, your lodge Master, the District Deputy Grand Master, or someone at Grand Lodge.

Macro Ideas – Next, begin creating macro ideas for how the project will look.  For example: What is the completion date or event date?  Once known, and once you determine the scope of the effort, you will work your way back toward the present to determine a start date.  How many team members do you need, what is your talent pool, and what are their roles? What are the estimated costs and what is your budget?  What logistical challenges will you face?  What steps are dependent on each other?  What is the critical path, that is, what are the critical steps that, if not accomplished, will derail your project?

Resources – Time, manpower, and money are three different types of resources, and form a three-legged stool.  A compromise in one impacts the stability of the stool.  The reality is that most projects are lacking in one or more of these resources.  Maybe you have enough time, but low finances restrict scope.  Maybe money is not a problem, but there aren’t enough people to get the work done in the compressed timeframe you’ve been given.  Your challenge is always trying to find a way to balance ideal resource requirements with the limited resources you have at your disposal.  You may need to reduce the scope of your project, ask people to work more hours, or seek lower costs to get the job done.

TIME: Use time wisely and assume things will always take longer than you think.  Some tasks require you to take an iterative approach.  For example, if you are planning something you have never done before you will need to learn as you go, requiring you to start early, begin slowly, and then build up your experience. Some tasks require you to take a sequential approach.  For example, if you are planning to purchase material for use during an event, you may need to conduct initial research, then contact potential vendors, then purchase the material, and then setup the items prior to the event.  These steps need to be time sequenced, starting with the end date and working your way back to a start date depending on lead time and people’s schedules.  Always build in some buffer time since Murphy’s Law is ever present.

CRITIAL PATH: Knowing and understanding your critical path and what is in that path will reap rich rewards and make better use of available time. It also helps to mitigate potential problems. For example, during my open house planning I had to get financial commitments from the seven district lodges, matching funds commitment from Grand Lodge, plenty of volunteers, and vinyl banners at three locations.  These milestones all fell on my critical path, with dependent paths associated with each.  A failure to accomplish any of the critical path milestones at the proper time would have a significant and negative impact on my success.  Of the 180 hours I spent planning the open house, I spent a majority of my time on critical path milestones.  I planned these milestones with buffer time built in and contingencies in case something failed. Non-critical path milestones are important but tend to have less impact on the project should something go wrong.  However, don’t take these less critical milestones for granted.  I have seen instances where taking one’s eye off these steps caused problems. It distracted the project manager from staying focused on critical path accomplishments; so, be careful.

MANPOWER: When it comes to satisfying manpower requirements in a non-profit environment, relationship building is important.  Remember, volunteers need to know that their time is respected and valued.  Your job is to ensure this.  We all have demands on our time, so make their volunteer hours well spent.  You can do this by treating potential volunteers as important, respecting their time, getting to know them, providing genuine opportunities for them to perform worthwhile tasks, letting them know why their work is important in meeting the values of the organization. You also need, as best you can, to match the right people with the right task.  For example, if you need someone to greet the public, seek and assign someone who is well spoken and personable. If someone is constantly late, shy away from having them open the building and getting the event set-up; they may be better suited to a task that is not time dependent.

Remember two key points as you try to satisfy manpower needs in a non-profit organization: first, people like to be asked; don’t assume they will help just because you want them to.  Secondly, ask them directly, in person if possible, and get verbal commitments.  Intentions don’t get the job done; commitments do. Just asking for a show of hands for who can help doesn’t always get you the response you need. Once the hands are raised, hand them a pen and piece of paper for their name, email address, and phone number. This step forms a commitment that most people will honor.

MONEY: In most projects there never seems to be enough money.  Understanding this will help you make wise decisions regarding project scope.  Maybe you are planning a recognition dinner, but after adding up the cost you may decide to go with a nice, lower cost luncheon instead.  Although you would like to hold that fancy installation dinner at a nice local restaurant, you may need to opt for a catered meal at the lodge building with fewer guests.  The main thing is to include the creation of a budget early in the process.  Although early estimates may be a bit off, you hopefully will get some sense of what is possible and what can be afforded.  Keep comparing your plans with your available or potential budget and don’t wait too long to make an adjustment, even though it may come with disappointment.  Better to learn early that you can’t afford something than to find out after commitments have been made.

Staging (A.K.A. pre-implementation):

This is the phase just prior to implementation or execution of the plan. It can be as short as a few hours or a few days. It represents all the activities required to physically get the venue set for the event.  For example:  food delivery and preparation, hall or location preparation, documentation replication and distribution, signage, trial runs, last minute activities, pre-implementation meeting, travel considerations, etc.  If you spent enough quality time in the planning stage, the staging phase can be somewhat of a formality.  The types of staging tasks you require will depend on the type and scope of project for which you are responsible.


Once again, with proper planning the implementation phase should proceed with few problems – notice I said ‘few’, for there will always be problems you don’t expect. But if you “expect” the unexpected, you will mitigate the impact.  The focus now changes from hypotheticals to reality.  Here your leadership and interpersonal skills come into play as activities happen real time.  Try to keep track of what is working and what is not, especially if you or someone else will run the same type of project in the future. Do you need to put a contingency plan in place to handle a problem that you thought could happen but hoped would not?  Maybe the weather did not cooperate?  Maybe some key volunteers did not arrive on time. Maybe guest turnout is not as high as expected and volunteers are tripping over each other.  On the other hand, maybe everything is happening like clockwork and success is imminent – but, then again, you knew that would happen.

Post-Implementation (A.K.A post-mortem or lessons learned)

Once the event is over, the volunteers have returned home, the signs are down, and the lights have been turned off, it’s easy to just pat yourself on the back and put things behind you.  But that would be a mistake.  Every project needs an evaluation of what went right and what did not.  Sit down with key volunteers and assess what worked and what you would do differently.  Even if you or someone else does not plan a project exactly like the one you just completed, there may be some similarities with future projects.  Meeting soon after project completion will allow attendees to critique the project while memories are still fresh.  Take careful notes and who made the comment.  Share this information with future project leaders – why invent the wheel.

In conclusion – The next time you are responsible for a project, no matter how small, consider the four project phases of planning, staging, implementation, and post-implementation. Put you plan “on paper”, physically or electronically.  Keep it simple but with sufficient detail.  Build in time buffers, plan contingencies, and perform a post-implementation review. To help you do all this, reference this sample project plan.

British Freemasonry – A Brief Introduction (Part 1)

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

Masonry in America started in 1733 in Boston, Massachusetts when Henry Price received a commission from the Grand Master of England to charter St. John’s Grand Lodge.  Over time Freemasonry spread throughout America with jurisdictions now in each of the 50 states.  American Masonry, like our nation, is rooted in Britain.  As such, an understanding of our heritage provides an appreciation of our British lineage – think of it as Masonic genealogy.

This is the first article in a short series on British Masonry, concentrating on our Masonic parent, England.  As you might expect, there is no shortage of material on this subject; a student of Freemasonry has plenty of available resources.  This series is not an exhaustive study, but rather a brief introduction that may inspire you to expand your study.

Early Manuscripts

In London’s British Museum there exists a document dating back to AD 1390, which defines the rules and regulations of British Masonry.  The Regius Manuscript (A.K.A. The Regis Poem or Halliwell Manuscript), is the oldest of what is known as the Old Charges and addresses the problems of unemployment and finding work.  According to Freemasons for Dummies by Christopher Hodapp “It covers standards of workmanship, a moral code, rules for membership, and an especially strong desire for friendship among the members.” Sixty years later the Cooke manuscript was produced. Named after Mathew Cooke who edited it in 1861, it is believed to be the first document mentioning speculative Masonry.1

The Old Charges, also known as Masonic MSS, consists of 78 manuscripts dating from 1390 – 1852.  This series of regulations, or charges, describe the social behavior of Masons, both within the Craft and society at large.2 Each one typically contained three parts: an opening prayer or invocation; the legendary history of the Craft; and the peculiar statutes and duties, the regulations and observations, incumbent on Masons.  It is believed that readings from the Old Charges were delivered to candidates during membership initiation.3


In Scotland, the Schaw Statues (1598 – 1599) described Masonic practices.  Named after William Schaw it describes duties of lodge members.  King James VI of Scotland charged Schaw with establishing rules for how lodges should function.  According to Giles Morgan in Freemasonry: It’s History and Myths Revealed, the Schaw Statues “detail the duties of lodge members. They ban lodge members from undertaking work with unqualified Masons and reveal that Masons who produced work of a low standard could expect certain penalties. They also allude to Masons sharing knowledge of a spiritual nature. Interestingly, the statues also require that the lodges should test their members’ ability to memorize information.”4

Not everyone, however, was happy with the new rules.  The Lodge of Edinburgh was named the first and principle lodge. However, the Lodge of Kilwinning claimed their lodge was older and thus sent Archibald Barkley to speak with the king and resolve the problem.  The king was not available and so Barkley spoke directly with Schaw, who proposed the Lodge of Kilwinning be the head of the second principle lodge. Schaw refused and a Grand Lodge of Scotland would not be formed until 1736.  To this day, it is generally believed that the oldest Masonic Lodge is that of Kilwinning Lodge No. 0. Also known as the Mother Lodge of Scotland, it is believed to date back to 1140.

Hodapp tells us that by the late 1500’s “Freemasons were admired by society, and suddenly, nobles wanted to join the Scottish Masonic lodges and to bask on some of their reflected glory. They didn’t have any real desire to know how to carve stones, but there was a certain prestige to being an honorary member of a group holding sacred knowledge that had been passed down from biblical times, with a legendary connection to Solomon’s Temple.”5


The Grand Lodge of Ireland is the second oldest Grand Lodge in the world.  Although there is no definitive evidence that operative lodges existed in Ireland, speculative Irish Masonry can be traced to June 26, 1725, when the Grand Lodge of Dublin elected its first Grand Master, the First Earl of Rosse.   Interestingly, however, according to Wikipedia, a brass square, the Baal’s Bridge Square, dating back to 1507 contains the following inscription: “I will strive to live with love and care, upon the level and by the square.”

Masonic Craft Guilds

Originally, craft guilds in Britain existed to provide high standards of technical workmanship, to protect trade secrets, and provide rules for governing members and membership. All this was true for a variety of trade crafts.  Typically, guilds tended to be local, with members residing in the same, small geographic area, where they fulfilled their careers throughout their life.  Like other guilds, the masons, through financial contributions, helped feed sick members who were unable to work; in addition, the funds helped offset the cost of funeral arrangements. Guild members also worshipped together. However, unlike other guilds, masons travelled throughout England and Scotland, searching for work, and their organizations tended to be regional in nature.

Early British Lodges

Documented accounts from 1277 indicate that physical lodges were not only places where masons worked, as in Europe, but also where Masons resided.  It is where they slept and ate their meals, allowing workers to avoid the issues associated with traveling to work from the local village, oftentimes a long distance away. In 1598 we learn via the minutes from Scotland’s Aitchison Lodge that the lodge was not only a physical structure, but also a community.6

(In the next edition of the Maven’s Journal the story continues, including a description of the different grades of membership in British lodges.)


1 Christopher Hodapp, Freemasons for Dummies, (Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2005) p. 25
2 Robert Gilbert and John Hamill, Freemasonry: A Celebration of the Craft, (J. G. Press, 1993), p. 13
3 Albert G. Mackey and Charles T. Clenachan, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, (The Masonic History Company, 1920) p. 464
4 Giles Morgan, Freemasonry: It’s History and Myths Revealed, (Fall River Press, 2008) p. 96
5 Christopher Hodapp, Freemasons for Dummies, (Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2005) p. 26
6 Michael Johnstone, The Freemasons: The Illustrated Book of an Ancient Brotherhood, (Arcturus Publishing, 2012) p. 36