MASONIC PAPERS and ADDRESSES
‑ OF -
W. BROTHER THE REVEREND JAMES W. ROBERTS
PAST GRAND CHAPLAIN, G.R.A.,
Compiled by; BRITANNIA LODGE NO. 18, PONOKA, ALBERTA
M.W. BRO. THE REVEREND JAMES W. ROBERTS
GRAND MASTER, GRAND LODGE OF ALBERTA,
A.F. & A.M. 1999
Updated by; BEACON LODGE #190, RED DEER, ALBERTA
These papers were originally compiled and published by W Bro. Harry J Noble and the Brethren of Britannia Lodge #18 in January, 1995. This re-publication is done in conjunction with MW Bro Roberts being honored at the Masonic Spring Workshop (Masonry In The Mountains) held in the Kananaskis April 17th, 18th & 19th 2009. He also received his 50 year jewel this year.
The book includes his addresses and papers while he served as the Theme Speaker at the Spring Workshop in 1969 & 1989, and his Grand Chaplin addresses while serving as Grand Chaplin of the Grand Lodge of Alberta in 1970, 1971, 1982, 1983 & 1993. It also includes a paper submitted to the Grand Lodge of Quebec in 1993 and the Christmas message in four of the Grand Lodge Bulletins (now called The Alberta FreeMason) in December 1969, 1981, 1982 & 1992. What is remarkable about these papers is that they all apply equally well today as when then were written. They portray principles important to Freemasonry for yesterday, today and tomorrow and should be read by every Freemason.
Added to the book is MW Bro. Roberts Grand Master’s Inaugural Address “Sharing the Vision” when he was installed as Grand Master in 1998 and his Grand Master’s Address at the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Alberta, A.F.&A.M., in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada in June 1999.
From a personal standpoint, Bro. Roberts’ dedication to Masonic principles and his quiet message - if you want something done “stand up and do it” - has always been a true inspiration to myself and all Masons he has come in contact with. The music he provides, accompany the degrees and meetings of Beacon #190 (and other Lodges and meetings), has been inspirational in lifting our Lodge to a higher level and can only serve as an ongoing inspiration to others.
Bro. Clark Johnston
When my friend and Brother, Harry Noble first approached me about a venture to collect some of the Masonic papers I have given over the years, my immediate response was a mixture of surprise and humility that anyone would have considered what I have written as being worthy of publication.
All of the papers I have given over the years have been in response to what I have seen as felt needs within the Craft at the moment of writing; and, as I have read over the papers again, I realize that I could have said many things in a much better way. I will also admit that I am much more at ease in speaking than in writing, and my presentations were not always faithful to the written text. However, the main message was, and still is, there.
If any part of these collected papers will be of value to Masons and Masonry, then I will consider that to be the supreme compliment.
My grateful thanks to W. Bro. Harry Noble for his efforts in compiling this volume.
V.W. Bro. Jim Roberts, P.G.C.
Red Deer, Alberta
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH of
JAMES WILLIAM (JIM) ROBERTS
'A well‑travelled man and mason'
James William (Jim) Roberts was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, on March 12th, 1920, the eldest of five children of Richard and Hilda Roberts. He took his early schooling in Calgary, and at the age of 16, at the height of the depression, he went to work as a delivery boy for a local butcher. In 1939 Jim joined the Calgary Highlanders, and for the next seven years he served in the Armed Forces. During this time he completed his high school matriculation by correspondence. Near the end of the war he graduated from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, England with the rank of Lieutenant.
Following the war, Jim was employed by the Ford Motor Company, and at this time, became an active participant In Bowness (now Foothills) United Church. In 1951 he entered St. Stephen's College, graduating in 1955, and was ordained In the United Church of Canada. He received his Bachelor of Theology degree in 1969.
Following his ordination, Jim served churches at Barrhead, Claresholm, Calgary (McDougal), Edmonton (Ottewell and Highlands), and Camrose. He was elected President of the Alberta Conference of the United Church in 1977. After retiring in 1985, he served as part time Minister in Calgary, Cochrane and Ponoka, and presently is a retired Pastoral Associate at Gaetz Memorial United Church, in Red Deer.
His Masonic career began in Barrhead Lodge No. 171, and he has been a member of a Craft Lodge in every area where he has been a Minister. These included Cairo # 32 at Claresholm, Kelvingrove # 187 in Calgary, of which he was a charter member and its Worshipful Master In 1968. In Edmonton he was a member of Eastgate # 192 and of Highlands # 168. He affiliated with Camrose Lodge # 37 during the time he lived in that city. On moving to Calgary he rejoined Kelvingrove Lodge for another five years, and he is presently an Honorary Life Member in that Lodge. He now resides in Red Door and is a member of Red Deer Lodge # 12.
Brother Roberts has served as Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Alberta on five separate occasions (1969,1970,1981, 1982,1992); was a theme speaker at the Masonic Spring Workshop of two occasions (1969 and 1988); and has been the Masonic Workshop Chaplain on several occasions. He is a member of the Lodge of Perfection, Central Alberta Valley, the Mlzpah Chapter of Rose Croix and of the Alberta Consistory of the Edmonton Valley. During his Masonic pilgrimage, he has taken a keen Interest in Masonic education, especially as it has related to religion, and has produced several papers on the subject.
Jim is married to VI, and they have two children, four grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren. (Updated 2009)
Masonic Spring Workshop - Masonry In The Mountains
- 1969 - Masonry is – Involvement 1
- 1988 - Today's Morality ‑ Masonry at the Crossroads
- (Part 1) A Critique of Freemasonry’s Critics 9
- (Part 2) Society and The Mason's Moral Leadership 18
- 1993 - Freemasonry and Religion 27
Paper submitted to the Grand Lodge of Quebec, Nov., 1993
- Freemasonry And Religion
Grand Chaplain Addresses (Annual Communications, G.R.A.)
- 1970 ‑ G.L. Communication, Edmonton 34
- 1971 ‑ G. L Communication, Calgary 40
- 1982 ‑'From Dry Bones to a Living Perpendicular' 46
- 1983 ‑'A Tested Stone ‑ A Sure Foundation' 51
- 1993 ‑ What Does The Lord Require of You?" 56
Christmas Messages Grand Lodge Bulletin
- 1969 ‑ A Christmas Message 59
- 1981 ‑ The Leading of a Star 62
- 1982 ‑ A Christmas Meditation 64
- 1992 ‑ Three Roads to Bethlehem 67
Grand Master’s Address
- Inaugural Address – “Sharing the Vision” 70
- 1999 – Grand Lodge Communication, Red Deer 74
Masonic Spring Workshop 1969
Masonry is ‑ Involvement
Bro. J. W. Roberts
Involvement' is an 'in' word today. All the way from those in the so called establishment to the ‘way‑out’ protesters within society all want to be known as the ‘involved’. And whether they are or not doesn't really matter ‑ just as long as they think they are. Let us say immediately that anyone who belongs to any church, fraternal group, service club or any organization must become involved in it if it is to have any value for him. Today I want to speak about Masonry and involvement where we find it and the problems that surround it. I do not expect that you will agree with me in my conclusions but my intention is to provoke discussion and if I do that I have ‘involved' you to some extent. If I do that I have done the job that I have set out to do.
‘Involvement' means various things to various groups. For the service club member this is easy to define. It means getting behind the projects of a club, in either direction or doing. In the church there are three steps taken to involvement – decision, commitment and involvement. For no matter what we may decide or no matter how we may commit ourselves, without involvement there is nothing done. But in Masonry, or any other fraternal group, involvement is not as 'cut and dried' as all that. For the person who joins Masonry knows little or nothing about it when he is outside its precincts. Thus the Mason has to learn to become involved in a rather unique way.
Let me, then rehearse for you the way in which a Mason becomes involved or where involvement becomes a possibility along with some of the 'hang‑ups' that I see in the system. There are, it seems to me at least three areas, or should I say, three steps where the possibility of ‘involvement' becomes or could become an actuality.
The first step along the way is when a candidate first enters the lodge room. He is blind in two senses – physically, became he is hoodwinked; and psychologically, because he is without insight of a Masonic nature and he has no idea of what is going to happen. The first overpowering feeling that a candidate has, therefore is one of complete and utter dependence. He has to rely on the guiding arm of a Brother to conduct him where he does not know where to go and then on his knees he confesses that his faith is in God, but knowing as well, he must rely on the hidden Brother. None of us will ever forget that the whole feeling in the first Degree is one of humility. He is being guided, blind and humble, poor and penniless in both worldly goods and spirit. And all through that first Degree it would seem to me, humility is the lesson being inculcated. It is the first lesson that a Mason receives. And it is the one great lesson that we are likely to over look in the times that lie ahead. For without humility one cannot really learn what it means to become involved. We listen with care, but often without comprehension and ask unconsciously (at times consciously), “What would you have me do?" So when I say that we have a unique introduction to ‘involvement’ in Masonry, this is what I mean. We differ from many other groups for there is no 'Plunging' into involvement from the moment of admission.
The second step in involvement takes place also in the first Degree at the time when he has his physical sight restored. But the initiate is “still in the dark’ in term of Masonic teaching and unfortunately ‑ at least under our present system ‑ is going to remain this way for some time. We know that the reasons are evident to us. The teachings are bound up in symbols, abstraction and a somewhat archaic language, which may have great beauty, but it lacks directness, which is a clear necessity in this day of advanced communication. We know that we will always be ‘learning' in Masonry, but very often it takes months and years for the meaning of even the most elementary teachings to come through and some members unfortunately give up trying. Now the reasons are it seems to me, clear.
At this point I would like to make rather a long aside to grapple with the question. “How can it be possible for a Mason to know that in which he is involved, when we have a system that does not dwell long enough on the basic issues right from the start”. You may want to argue with this, but I would think that no one would deny that the object of Masonry, as seen through the eyes of a newly initiated, passed or raised Brother is simply to get ready for examination, so that the next degree or 'plateau' may be reached. But as far as the meaning of the work, and the application of the symbols to real life, there just hasn't been sufficient time.
In papers delivered by Ned Rivers and Morley Merner at an interprovincial Conference of the Four Western Jurisdictions, they registered grave doubts about whether we do, in fact, prepare men within Masonry with anything like the care we ought to. Now I don't always agree with learned authorities within our craft, but in these papers The Fellowcraft Degree Makes a Mason Think (portions of which were published in a recent Grand Lodge Bulletin) they make some valid and pertinent observations which bear upon the subject I am tackling. May I, in my own words, say some of the things they said?
First: the basis of much of the work in the Lodge is to literally push a man through three hoops to get the 'bag of candy' or 'pot of gold' at the other end ‑ that the object of Craft Masonry is to get a man through to the place where he is a Master Mason. But he does these things without really learning what Masonry is all about. You may counter with, “if a man really does his homework and is willing to learn, he will have much light shed on the questions that bother him.” My contention is that they do not know what questions to ask. It is also my contention that in this busy society of ours, he is not going to find the time. And his sponsor is every bit as busy as he is. How, then can we ever expect a man to become involved in the real principles of masonry, when he has only a halting glimpse of its symbolism.
Second. The whole subject of what an ‘apprentice' really does in real life escapes us. We make a man an apprentice for one month, (some may take up to two or even three months) and so the majority of Masons experience a very brief apprentice period. But is this a good thing? In the world of skills and tools, we would not dare turn out a man after a thirty day exposure to his trade or calling. What makes us think that it can be done in the world of 'ideas', especially where those ideas are veiled in allegory and symbolism and where the ideas am often abstract? Even on the practical side of things, as is described in the paper by Ned Rivers, we give new initiates the By‑laws of the Lodge, without any explanation except for a short bit that is read to every new member of a Lodge. The only answer to this is to give the apprentice more time and better instruction. The question that we must ask, and I hope that you will discuss, is, “What should we do about it”. Perhaps we need to get back to an older system where the Entered Apprentice spent several months in that degree before he moved up. Perhaps we should allow at least six months between degrees, during which time we should go over very carefully all of the symbolism and allegory, and relate them to the practical action that a Mason is supposed to demonstrate in his own life. We should have 'lodges of instruction’ where the teachers of the apprentices will be those who know its meaning well. And then when the Initiates come to their time of examination, they will not only know the words, but they will also know the meaning.
In the degree a person is exposed to an hour and a half of lectures, perambulations and other detail. For him he can only say, “I was involved in something” ‑ fleeting lectures, hazy symbolism, difficult‑to‑grasp allegory ‑ and later he will add hard‑to‑learn obligations.' But surely for him to become involved, Masonry must be much more than this. And the only way he can become involved in the principles of Masonry is when the symbols and veiled teachings become meaningful to him.
Some will suggest that if we lengthen this period between degrees, we will lose a number of good men to Masonry. But I would suggest that an examination of most Registers in the Province today would demonstrate that we are not reaching and involving a great many who are joining Masonry, and the umbilical cord appears to be their yearly payment of dues. There would be one main benefit from spacing the degrees at wider intervals, especially between the first and the second. If he learns his work well in the first Degree, then he has a 'mind set' which will enable him to grasp the symbolism of the succeeding degrees with a lot more precision. Let me underline again, that if we do not make the initiate understand, then there is no way that its principles can become relevant, and If the principles aren't relevant, then there is no way in which a Mason can become involved as he ought
When a man first comes to light, it is not enough to tell him about the V. 0. S. L. the Sq. and the Cs. He must be taught that these symbols when related to life have significance; that the V. 0. S. L is the rule and guide to faith and that we live in a moral universe, but it depends on our application to the principle; that the Sq. is that by which we guide our moral activity in terms of activity in the world; and that the Cs. symbolizes our scope of activity, in a meaningful way toward our Brother, and the rest of the world. “To be a good man and true” is the first lesson that a Mason is taught ‑ but often this lesson escapes him because we do not spend nearly enough time making this a fact that is well and abundantly symbolized.
The third symbolic step taken in Masonry involvement takes place when we are raised to 'stand on our own two feet.' We enter on a Brother's arm ‑ we are raised to stand on our own feet. This is where we begin as independent workers within the Craft. This is the time when our own initiative becomes important. This is the time when we either, in fact or symbolically, become the supporting Brother for those who enter into the lodge room for the first time. Here is where meaningful involvement ought to begin ‑ but the question must be asked. Does it?
I think that we are all aware of the great numbers of Masons who drop away after the first few months, and one of the reasons is that we fail to sustain the interest which has already been built up. For three months or more, there has been a concentrated interest in them and on their degree work. Then, when they are raised, and having passed the last examination, they find that they are desperately alone in many instances. They have not fully understood all that has gone on in the past, and now that they, as it were, on their own two feet, they do not know in which direction they ought to be heading.
In a large city Lodge, the road to the beginning of the chairs is a long one, and in the interim they do not feel that they can become involved in its life in a meaningful way. In all of the Lodges of which I have been a member, the most important work was the degree work and the other kinds of education have been largely neglected. This is not true in every Lodge perhaps, but I would say that it is probably true in the majority of them.
It seems to me that the term 'Masonic Education' must undergo a revival – or, to use the 'in' term a renewal. And we must involve these new members in that kind of education, not only by listening, but by getting them in the act of research and delivery of papers. Work in the Lodge in degrees is much more easily delegated to Masters of the past because they know the work, but it may be more essential for us to involve the novice a lot more often than we do. For if a new Mason does not become involved in the work, he does not become involved, and Masonry is not likely to have the stamp of relevance it ought to have for them.
I have always been an ‘uneasy Mason’, and it stems from the fact that we neglect the area of involvement in the craft more than we do in other areas of life. Yes, we become involved in a meaningful fellowship, which we need. But is this enough? It seems to me we have to become involved in the Crafts meaning and its implications for life. And we can only do this when we best understand what Masonry to all about. It was argued in a previous paper that Masonry is not a religion. But there is a great similarity between the teachings of religion or ideology to the teachings of Masonry. In religion we simply cannot be content to memorize a creed, we must activate It: We cannot be content to utter a prayer, we must make its fulfillment a possibility by what we do and what we are; it is not enough to know the symbolism or know the correct language form, we have to translate these into meaningful ethical action. And that is precisely what Masonry ought to be doing. For by activating our simple creeds, and being a part of the fulfillment of our desire for the Craft and for society, we are getting involved where it really counts.
In the General Charge that follows every Installation, we find the summary of what a Mason ought to be and it states quite flatly that he is one who, without parading his goodness or his charity, is in fact involved in these things in his life. But it must begin right at the very beginning of his pilgrimage though Masonry. And we can fulfill our responsibilities in a better way than we do it now. My object is not to be contentious, but simply have you renew your thinking in an area where we do not do as well as we might. Masonry is involvement. And if we are not involved ‑ every Mason ‑ then we cannot possibly carry forward its great teachings with the intensity it is meant to have.
Masonic Spring Workshop 1988
Today's Morality ‑ Masonry at the Crossroads
Part 1 - A Critique of Freemasonry's Critics
Bro. Jim Roberts
Whenever one tackles a difficult subject, it is not always easy to find a starting point. It’s something like the man who got lost on one of the back roads in Ireland and stopped at a farmer's gate to get directions to Kilkenny. After a period of confused cogitating the farmer scratched his head and said: "If I were going to Kilkenny, I wouldn't start from here"... And by the time I have wound my way through the two papers I have prepared, you might well say that I got lost several times on my way to Kilkenny!
When we examine the title of this year's theme for the Workshop you might well wonder at the sanity of anyone who in two papers would dare tackle two immense subjects. i.e. “Today's Morality" and “The Future of Masonry". Both you and I know that this is not possible. Indeed the themes might have been reversed. i.e. “Society at the Crossroads," and along side of that, “Masons' Notions of Morality”. In a way, this is the path I am going to follow, for no one will deny that we, as a society are at a crossroads of some magnitude, and the changes we have seen in our social and individual mores over the past two or three decades ‑ which are still going on ‑ will have serious ramifications for the future of our society. I am going to deal more specifically with those changes in the next paper.
I would also like to say at this juncture that I am not going to deliver two moralistic and moralizing lectures ‑ despite my calling. Neither are you going to be let off easily. In my particular profession there is a short cryptic proverb that covers it. "We are here to comfort the afflicted ‑ and to afflict the comfortable" If Masonry is under the gun in our society, we must not forget that we are also members of that same society, and we must examine ourselves in a serious fashion. I want to help that process today and tomorrow.
Let me begin our examination with a short statement about morality. Actually I prefer the term “moral philosophy” for the term morality often indicates a kind of rigidity that allows no freedom of choice whatsoever. A moral philosophy, on the other hand, is one that is based on a search for truth based on Principles that are God‑given and shown to be such. In any search for truth there must be latitude enough to permit light to come from every available source.
The working tools of the Mason, for instance, are the principles by which we function: the philosophy which we embrace is our search for truth, and it must be an honest search that allows us to correct error and uphold what is true. A moral philosophy is based on three things. First, that a person has the ability to make moral decisions. Second, that he has the capacity of applying moral and ethical decisions to life's processes. There is also a third dimension that is often alluded to in Masonic teachings. Mabel and William Sahakian in a little book by the name of “Ideas of Great Philosophers” say 'Ethics may be defined as the study of right conduct and the good life’. Consistent with our moral teachings Masons are taught that ethics are the elements of human behaviour that bring harmony to our existence and to the lives of those around us. Ethical decision making is not simply a duty to do that which is right: It should also be a pleasure, for our fellow human being is being assisted by that kind of motivation. On the other hand, as we are well aware, unethical or immoral behaviour is that which sows the seed of disharmony.
But if immorality is that which brings disharmony, then why is our social setting bent on doing that which is self‑destructive? The Time Magazine of just about a year ago had on its front cover. “Whatever happened to Ethics” with a subtitle that spelled out what they were driving at, "assaulted by sleeze, scandals and hypocrisy, America searches for its moral bearings ...” And a graphic displayed a compass not the Masonic representation ‑but a mariners compass, with the needle wavering between right and wrong. The articles that followed painted a dismal contemporary scene and, if things do not change, an even bleaker prospect. No part of American (or Canadian) life has been untouched by the blight of this “Upas" tree: business, politics, entertainment ‑ and even religion! Most of us are aware that the PTL scandals involving, Jim and Tammy Bakker has had a devastating effect on TV evangelism ‑ as indeed have the more recent revelations of one Jimmy Swaggart. I can't say I am sorry that it has happened ‑ but I am sad about the way it happened.
And who have become the 'High Priests' of judgment in our time? Why the media of course. They are most willing to confess the sins of any who have erred ‑ and especially those in high places. Their judgment has been withering and lacking any kind of compassion. The strange anomaly in all of this is that while the social fabric seems to be full of holes and the walls of morality seem to be crumbling, the daily media is hardest on its public figures. Gary Hart, a Presidential nominee in the US is condemned for doing that which every soap opera from Dallas to Another World upholds as being normal. Another candidate is caught stealing someone else's prose and is dammed as a plagiarist. God help any of us who speak publicly because I am sure that many of us commit that sin regularly (I know that I am comforted by the words of a famous Bostonian preacher Henry Ward Beecher who said. “All work and no plagiarism make for dull sermons") On the other hand, an American Hero is propelled to fame by TV, even though he is a self confessed liar! In the whole area of morality and ethical decision making, society is on the horns of a dilemma. I am going to try to say 'why" in the next paper.
One of the questions that is being missed by those in the craft and those outside of it is the nature of Masonry today. Masonry has many critics and we have to examine what it is they are saying. We might preface this with the question "When, has Freemasonry ever been without its critics?” From its inception, there has always been, for many, a dark cloud over Masonry and within the craft there are those who have sought changes and certainly in some instances, changes have been made that have made Masonry a better fraternity. And I do not doubt that this will go on. Since I began the preparation of these papers, I have read two books by those who see that we must make necessary changes ‑ as they see it ‑ but some of their proposed solutions leave much to be desired. Lynn Perkins in a book entitled Masonry in a New Age has as some of his titles Masonry at the Crossroads, The Unrecognized Masonic Crisis, Freemasonry in Transition, and so on. But for me, at least, he does not offer solutions that would not also change the very nature of the Craft. A more reasonable approach to change is found in LC. Heim's work A Modern Mason Examines His Craft, but even here he would be found to be controversial by many. Anyone who criticizes the Craft from within does it from what they consider good premises, and I think we need to hear what our members are saying. We should have the latitude to debate in good faith without feeling that we are threatened, or undermining the Institution.
But, what about those outside of the fraternity? How do we respond to those who are our profoundest critics? In the last several years them has been an escalation in the criticism of Masonry by a small but very vocal group of people in our society. I had not realized just how strident this criticism had become until about five years ago, when as Chaplain of Masons in Alberta at that time, I was asked on two or three different occasions to look at the problem. And I was surprised to learn of the extent and the depth of their enmity. I think that most of us know that a lot of criticism of the Craft has been with us for a long time. And we also know that them have been times and places where simply being a known Mason was life threatening or at the very least, merited social ostracism. As individuals and Lodges, we do not treat the detractors of Masonry very seriously. On the one hand that may be a good thing ‑ but on the other it may do us harm in the long run. We could spend a lot of time building fortresses against attack, only to discover that the rabid anti‑Mason will always find a way in. We cannot afford to be insular or separated out from the world, for we are apart of that world. But as Masons, we ought to know what our critics are saying for at least two reasons. First, so that we can discern among ourselves the errors in their judgment of the craft, and, just as importantly, examine what they are saying and ask ourselves how responsible are we for those attacks upon us. Perhaps in this kind of exercise, we can frame some kind of uniform response to our detractors.
However, before dealing with our severest critics, I would like to ask a question which was raised at one of the informal area meetings held in Calgary earlier this year. The question in one form or another was this: 'How do you think Masons and Masonry are perceived by the public at large? The short answer might well be that the majority of the public has not really given the Craft much of a thought at all. The very nature of our Craft does not lend it self to that same kind public attention. But when the Order is criticized publicly, then the average person is likely to believe what they read without too much critical judgment. The most visible Masons in the minds of many are the Shriners on parade and as good and valid as their charitable work may be, and as colourful as their dress and as diversified as their activities in a parade, yet they represent a very small part of the Masonic Order. And from what I have observed do not reflect very much of the Craft as we know It. Still others look upon us as a “secret society” occupied with their own interest and do not seem to be in touch with the real world. There are others who are a bit more knowledgeable, usually those with relatives in Masonry who see them playing an important social role in their public attitudes. In smaller communities Masons are often seen as being those among the leading citizens of the town, with many of them serving both civic and community organizations. And, of course, the feminist movement views Masonry as the last bastion of male chauvinism, feeling that it is alive and well in Freemasonry. I think that it is fair to say then, that Masons are not generally perceived to be a threat to our society nor are they viewed as prime movers in the social setting. But, as I have intimated before, when Masons do get spates of publicity, it is usually negative and quite baseless ‑ but the public will often believe what they hear and read.
There is a minority, however, in our society who are strident in their condemnation of Masonry. They view the Masonic Order as demonic and treacherous, and their sole object seems to be the destruction of the Craft. The group is not large, usually religiously motivated from the extreme fundamentalist fringe, and are well organized and look for any and every vestige of that which will downgrade Masonry.
I want to therefore examine what the major critics are saying ‑ and only then in part ‑ and to also examine two other things. First, what is the appropriate response: and second, how much are we responsible for what our critics say – if indeed we are. I hope what this will do is generate some further study by the craft Lodges. There are two areas where you can get grist for the mill. A little book that gives a historical perspective in a few pages is where you can begin. It's entitled Let There Be Light and subtitled A Study in Anti‑Masonry. It also has some current material but the book clearly demonstrates clearly just how old and persistent some of the criticisms have been. The other volume is one that has aroused great controversy for many Masons: Stephen Knights polemic against Freemasons entitled The Brotherhood. Stephen Knight was a gifted writer who was able to blend half‑truth with falsehood so skillfully that the uninitiated will read his books believing all that Knight has set down. Only his hate for the Craft has rendered him weak in his presentation. The title of his book The Brotherhood may sound harmless enough until we realize that he uses the term “brotherhood” in the same sinister fashion as when applied to the Cosa Nostra or Mafia. He describes Masons as anarchists, manipulators, and a law unto themselves and are fed by false concepts of religion which in turn has made them a source of corruption in the Church and State in England. And the fact that both the Church of England in Britain and the Methodist Church in England have launched enquiries into the Masonic Order testifies to the importance they have placed upon works like those of Knight's.
Let us then look at three or four critiques. The one that is the most persistent and ancient is that Masonry is a religion that practices dark cultic acts, and uses symbols that come from a dark mythology. In fact, as late as this Fall there was an ultra‑conservative preacher here in Alberta who managed to link into one address “Mormonism, Masonry and Magic" and he was simply reciting the old litany found in the vocabulary that they use. They carry their condemnation to the point that the one we call God is really Satan in disguise. And where do they get their information? Why, right from our rituals of course, where our critics see allusions to ancient mythologies that are there. But they are also there in portions of the Volume of the Sacred Law of the Jews and Christians.
I am certain that none of us who are here today labour under the illusion that what goes on in the Craft is not known to others. All of that which is written in rituals, as well in our oral tradition is available from the nearest public library. Not all information is correct, but it comes close enough. Where did it come from? Masonry has always been blessed ‑ or cursed ‑ with its disgruntled ex-members, for whom any previous obligations are inconsequential. And as Stephen Knight so clearly indicates, they will stretch the truth into a lie and what they produce is a caricature of Freemasonry ‑ a parody of the real thing. Our obvious response is to say nothing to critics of this kind, for they will not listen anyway. However, when there are families that are divided because of this false publicity and there is strong urging on the part of a family to have a Mason leave the Craft he dearly loves, then it can become a real problem. And sad to say, more than one Mason has left the Craft to keep peace in the family. H.L. Haywood says that there are many theories that have been put forward to discredit Masons ‑ all the way from being assassins or Mayan Indians in disguise, or have taken Druidic obligations (whatever they are) and Haywood says that despite the multiplicity of back grounds, the critics all have one point in common: ‑that they ask a Freemason to believe that Freemasonry was never itself ‑ but was always something else in disguise. Masonry offers no “Plan of salvation” ‑ it simply offers some help along the way. Whatever else Masonry may be able to do. It cannot "aspire to supplant the church ... [nor] can a Freemason's Lodge hope to satisfy the spiritual life of man expressed in [his faith]."
However, Masonry does what no sectarian religion can do. It accepts all who profess a belief in God and attempt to walk in a moral path. But the Craft does more than that. It has the capacity to strengthen the bonds of individual faith, even as we are kneeling with others whose expressions of faith are different. All are strengthened as they kneel together. As Masons we will. (in Dr. Collett’s words again) – “never treat lightly the divine ministries of our (individual faiths)" but will honour them with his presence and commitment. I am not attempting to make a pitch for a church ‑ but to say that we must be careful that we do not conclude that our Masonic experience is comparable with that of religious commitment and that is all we require. “Truth, honour and fortitude” was the secret combination of life of Hiram ‑ and added to those was that of piety ‑ all seen in obvious form in the way he lived. We can do no better than our Master.
In the next paper I am going to look at the question of Masons and Morality, for it is here that our pilgrimage to a better way of life must begin. If indeed we are at a ‘crossroads’, then, what are we going to do about it?
Masonic Spring Workshop 1988
Today's Morality ‑ Masonry at the Crossroads
Part 2 - Society and The Mason’s Moral Leadership
Bro. Jim Roberts
In the last paper I made some statements about the meaning of morality and ethical response ‑ I want to recall two items for you. Any moral philosophy is not simply obeying a rigid set of laws, but is a basis for studying appropriate responses. And secondly: a good moral philosophy is one that attempts to bring harmony to the whole of life ‑ and that includes our brother’s and sister’s lives as well.
In Haywood's book “More About Masonry”, he has a chapter that is well worth your time to read entitled Masonry and Ethics. He makes some observations that I am sure you would agree with, but I wonder how well we apply them. He says. “When a man is good to himself his goodness is identical with what it is when he is good to another”. That is another way of saying “love your neighbour and yourself.” He continues, “there is no such thing as private morality‑ still less is there any difference or conflict as between private and public ethics... neither is it true that the external world in which we live and move is morally neutral or non moral." What Haywood is saying is that the world is made up of people who have concepts about ethical action, and that in what society reflects. As Masons, we are a part of the world’s scene, and it would be unwise for us to think that we are untouched by the moral perceptions ‑ or lack of them ‑ in our society. But we must also realize that we as individuals have some power to change what we perceive to be wrong. But perhaps we ought to examine the basis of much of what is, in my opinion, wrong in the world in which we live.
Let me preface my comments with a statement that I believe to be true. Whenever new ideas or radical changes are introduced into our society there is a sincere desire usually to make the world a better place in which to live. No one sets out to destroy the world for they know; they too, will be consumed. The desire for change normally includes making our society more efficient, more hopeful and more just. Every ideology was spawned in an imperfect society hoping that a utopia would emerge. All have succeeded only partially, all have failed in one way or another.
In the Western world in particular (although no part of the world is untouched), there are many areas in which change of the most radical kind has taken place. And in most instances they have cut both ways for good and for evil. Lets look at three among many.
The first arena of change has to be our technology. A few years ago now, Jacques Ellul, a French lawyer, sociologist, theologian and author wrote a book entitled La Technique translated into English as The Technological Society. The gist of this book is, that though we are helped immensely by the new technology (and it has advanced by leaps and bounds since he wrote the book), he warned that technology in and of itself is amoral ‑ that is "hi‑tech" has no moral principles unless we as human beings bring moral principles into what we undertake using this technology. If we do not, he says, then, we shall find that our technology will control us. For him the threat is real. We must admit that as efficient and labour saving as our new technology has made us it has also opened doors to its exploiters and has in many ways created insurmountable problems for those who depend on its use. The possibility of misuse and lack of moral control is already known to us and has penetrated those areas of business and other disciplines that were once considered impervious to misuse. And we are well aware that this technology can place tremendous power in the hands of a relative few who have the capacity to use it in an unscrupulous way. A textbook on moral principles has not yet been written in this area.
The second area where there has been considerable change is in the arena of human rights. Human rights legislation has come about because of the obvious inequities in the treatment of human beings. There is no question in my mind that this has long been needed. Through our concern for human rights the rights of women have been addressed; the rights of minority groups especially our native people have been heard in more meaningful ways; and the poor, the disadvantaged, the visible minorities have a voice where at one time it was lost in the strident noises of a society that seemed not to care. But as good as human rights legislation has been, there have been many in our society who have used ‑ or should I say abused ‑ the legislation in a selfish and immoral fashion. Not a day goes by without a report in the media of some form of what I consider to be a misapplication of what the Charter of Rights was intended to do. For many people human rights means license for them to act in an entirely uninhibited fashion with as few restraints as possible and without any concern for what it may mean to others in society. What has really happened is that there has been an erosion of social rights and the excesses and the selfishness of a few has made a mockery of the Charter. Our police and court systems are very often hamstrung by that which was meant to create a basis for social justice for all. Only too often real justice is perverted because of some technicality that has to do with individual rights and has nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the individual.
When human rights are based solely on individual rights, then it no longer has, what I consider at least, a true moral connotation. There must be room for the rights of society as well. I know that there are those who will say that such a conclusion is simplistic, but from where I sit I have no other criterion by which to judge.
And the third area which has a bearing on all other areas of change is that the standard of morality has changed in our society. Now I am sure that none of us would really like to go back to the 'blue Sundays' and ‘black and white morality' of the era of our youth, at least mine which was along time ago! There was a time when wrong doing had no defense. My father was not a man of many words but he knew how and when to take appropriate action and was well acquainted with that part of my anatomy in anything but an artistic way. But in the lifetime of many of us there has developed a permissive morality. The chief spokesman for this ‑new morality (as it has been called) is one Joseph Fletcher in a work entitled Situation Ethics. He discards the notion that we require any “thou shalt nots” with respect to human behaviour: Our ethical decisions should be made out of the motive of “responsible love.” He says that in all of our actions requiring moral response let the situation decide the ethic and as long as we do this in a responsible loving context then it is OK. But the illustration that I remember the best was a quote at the end of an article in TIME which asked the question “what meaning does responsible love have to an eighteen year old boy in the back seat of a car with a sixteen year old girl?” As well motivated as the author may have seemed to be, he opened a Pandora’s Box of mischief the like of which we find hard to duplicate. It has become a purely selfishly based ethic, and what, at one time seemed to glue society together has been dismissed as “old hat” and “passe.” The rules of the game of life are gone and we all know that even the simplest game requires rules of some kind. The ramification of this once again goes far beyond the individual and has infected the roots of our society. Lifestyles that were once considered to be anti‑social or possibly destructive have now been embraced. The norm for the primary groups of society was once the nuclear family ‑ now there are many options ‑ serial marriages, common law relationships with no sense of commitment in many cases etc. And right now in our church (as you must be well aware) we are battling with the whole concept of the place of the homosexual in society. Many of us can see the need for their rights as individuals, but cannot see their lifestyle as acceptable as a norm and concerned people all across Canada are attempting to struggle with the whole issue. And those raising the questions are not bigots nor are they unfeeling. There is a genuine concern about a group of persons in our midst about whom no one has any definite way of defining who they are, and we are struggling with that. The fact remains that our whole society is plagued with the permissive morality, and if we fail to address it in our lives and in our Lodges we do so at our peril.
Society then is at a crossroads in many areas. But with it we as Masons are members of that society along with our many brothers and sisters who are not in the Craft.
When we enter the Lodge we bring with us some of the baggage that has been laid on us by the world. While we are in the Lodge we leave it just outside the door, but we pick it up again as soon as we leave the sacred retreat. And though we have been counselled ever so clearly to go out into the world with higher and better resolves, I wonder how many of us ‑ and I include myself - take with us the working tools of the speculative Mason. If we leave the working tools safely in their box, then of what value are they?
One of my earliest experiences in Masonry is now a great embarrassment to me and I trust that you will keep this a secret among yourselves. During the first degree, a Brother presented me with the working tools of that degree. And he handed me a most beautiful crafted twenty four inch gauge ‑ and it was mine, for he said “I now present you with the working tools, ... “ But he reached over and took it back! My feeling was a mixture of shame and guilt. But in reflection I learned a great lesson from that ‑ not immediately ‑ but gradually, as light in Masonry often is. What that Brother was giving to me that night was no less a gift for they were not crafted artifacts but useful speculative tools for the world of which I was a part. I wonder, my Brothers, if we do not leave the working tools in the Lodge to be on display again at the next meeting. I wonder if it's not only “the secrets of Masonry we lock up in the safe and sacred repository of our hearts" but the meaning of the square and compasses as well. Oh yes, we are counselled to take our precious teachings with us into the world. My question is "How well do we undertake that counsel and apply it?”
Now I realize that I am skating on thin ice for some and there will be those who will be having “roast minister" for a bedtime snack tonight. But I want to warn you I am a tough old bird. And I believe in Harry Truman's famous aphorism “If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen." I want to relate an incident that is non‑Masonic to illustrate something about our responsibility as Masons. The incident involved a young lady whom I did not know, I just happened to be there as an onlooker. She was a nice looking girl, well dressed and smart appearing. And around her neck was suspended a gold cross, beautifully crafted and no doubt prized by her. But something, I don't know what, disturbed her and her language took on enough colour to make a sailor blush. What ever she may have been proclaiming by the cross suspended from her neck, it stood silent in the face of what she was proclaiming to her listeners. What she revealed to me was not what the cross represented.
I want you to know that I was not raised in an ivory tower away from the real world. Before I was in the Ministry, I was in the army for seven years and in industry for another five, and I obtained a finely honed vocabulary from those experiences. And I am sure that there were times when I used inappropriate language only to regret it later. I guess there are also times and places where it might be considered OK by the group in which we find ourselves. But there are times when it is not only not necessary, it is entirely inappropriate. Festive boards are meant to be a time of good fellowship, laughter and story telling. But the honour of the craft suffers when some stories are told. And I can’t tell you in all candour that I inwardly cringe when I hear same of the stories that are told, not because of my calling a minister but because I am a Mason who really believes that we cannot leave behind in the Lodge Room those things that we claim to be a part of our daily living. I don't accept the dictum of many in our society that “boys will be boys" and that is sufficient excuse for off colour humour. I accept only “Masons must be Masons.”
My friends and my Brothers, we are called to be leaders in our society – and if we do not begin to exercise responsible leadership in our fellowship, then where does it begin? The theme of the Grand Master this year – as we are well aware – is “Brotherly Love Exemplified – The Freemason as a Role Model.” A role model is a new, but more effective way of saying “a good example”. But it goes beyond that simple definition. A role model is a living human being who exemplifies all that I would like to be, and endeavour to follow. None of us is that “perfect ashlar.” We are on that pilgrimage from that "imperfect” to the “perfect” we would like to attain. As we are well informed in the teachings of our order, our love for our Brothers and Sisters has first call upon our gifts and graces. The role model therefore, begins in the Lodge and at the Festive Board. And this, my Brother, was the earliest recollection of Freemasons that I had. Masons were the cream of the men in the town where I lived, and had ideals that I felt I could follow without misgiving.
The role model then begins in the Lodge but it is in the society of which we are a part where we hone our skills and use those principles and landmarks that should set us apart from many others. We called to be as Masons, role models in our homes for we are the ones who are teaching the leaders of tomorrow, our children and grandchildren, giving them physical, spiritual and moral guidance that will assist them to cope with what is often a cold impersonal computer oriented society. No matter how efficient our high‑tech society has made us, we still require the love and the care of a human being in our dealings with each other.
We are called to be role models in our communities, to be caring and responsible leaders of children’s groups in our communities and our churches. And many of you are. In our Lodges it is clear that we have a mandate to care for the impoverished, not only in body, but impoverished in mind and spirit as well. Our concern must extend into the homes of the shut‑in, the lonely elderly, those in nursing homes and extended care units. As leaders our lives must demonstrate that we are committed to the good for all humankind, not only in words but in deeds also. And in that leadership we are making the world a better place in which to live.
We are called to be role models in our daily work. Nowhere is it more important to observe the plumb line dropped into our midst than in our daily labours. For it is here that the principles of truth and justice, fair play and tolerance are to be seen. Immanuel Kant, a philosopher who had much to say about ethics and moral behaviour, said in what is called The Categorical Imperative. “Act as if the principle from which you act were to become, through your will, a universal law of nature.” Hence, if you can see your way clear to save a few bucks on that tax form, and only you will know. Listen first to what Kant says: “Alright, then, lets make it universal law, everybody can do it.” Or let me put it another way, the Golden Rule which is found on one form or another in many faiths says: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Principles are not items just where they are essential to our own well being, they are valid at all times. In other words, my Brothers, we are called to be roll models wherever we are and no area of our life is exempt. We do not have an option as men or Masons in the world.
I want to conclude with a couple of thoughts that may not relate, perhaps, but are important to the future of Masonry. If Freemasonry is indeed at a crossroads today there maybe many reasons, certainly more than I have mentioned. Some have suggested that we need to update the way we do things, both in the ritual and the conduct of the Lodge. Others have said that we need to have a better image in society that we need to become more relevant in the modern world. Still others would like us to be more service oriented. And, with L. C. Helms, I would agree that there are many areas that we could examine and make those kinds of changes that would enhance the meaning of the Craft, for both ourselves and our society. But the future of Masonry has always depended upon the people who make up its membership, and especially the leaders of today and tomorrow. We can tinker with the machinery, change its program structure, amend the Ritual and so on, but In the last analysis it is who we are in our Lodges and our society that will determine our destiny. L.C. Helms says near the end of his book A Modern Mason Examines His Craft that we must plan with both our heads and our hearts.
Each Freemason actively involved in Masonic activities must remember the simple children’s saying, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
Submitted to the Grand Lodge of Quebec,
Rev. J. W. Roberts B. Th.
FREEMASONRY AND RELIGION
I have been asked to respond to a request from the Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of Quebec, A.F. & A.M. to the Alberta Grand Lodge with reference to the above named topic. As will be observed in what follows, I do not think that I can add very much to the debate which has always centered about the Freemason's relationship to religion. Over the past several years there has been a heightened awareness of number of "Anti-Masons” in our midst who would like to see the end of the Masonic Order in our society. This of course is not new. In a brief but well documented history of Anti-Masonry by Alphonse Cerza entitled “Let There Be Light” (subtitled A Study in Ant: Masonry) 1 he traces the history of anti-Masons from 1652 down to modern times. In almost every instance the source of criticism of the craft has come from the churches of the Christian faith, and where it has not some branches of the Christian church have quickly taken up the cause. Since Cerza’s opus was written there have been further critiques of the Masonic order by many, but especially by the British Methodist church and the Church of England in Britain. And in recent days, the Southern Baptist Convention in the United States created a furor when they proposed that members of their church could not be members of the Craft. And while the Convention turned down the motion, (as reported in the latest Grand Lodge Bulletin 2) yet it has left its mark in the minds of many as to the reason why such a motion was even considered. In recent years none have been as virulent as the many spokespersons from the conservative wing of the Christian faith who have viewed the Masonic Order as Satanic, heretical and anti-Christian.
Over the past several years I have presented papers to Masonic Lodges and Workshops on the subject of Freemasonry and Religion and have read extensively on this particular subject. The two main volumes I have used are Cerza's book (quoted above) and Forrest Haggard's The Clergy and the Craft. The latest work that has come to hand in recent days is The Scottish Rite Journal (Southern Jurisdiction February Issue 1993) 4 and is as comprehensive as anything I have seen. One of the most cogent articles is one by the Rev. Dr. Jack J. Early, a Mason and an ordained clergyman. But the whole issue is filled with articles that contrast Religion and Masonry in a very satisfactory way, and should be a rich resource for those interested in the topic.
The following sections are excerpts from some of my previous papers along with some updating of the data.
- THE CLAIMS OF THOSE WHO EQUATE RELIGION AND MASONRY
(A) Within the Craft there are well meaning brothers who have said that "Masonry gives them all the religion they need or require". Often this comes from those who have no religious affiliation at all; or from those whose definition of religion is scant or uninformed. Cerza in his Let There Be Light states that a Masonic author has contributed to the confusion by stating that "genuine Freemasonry is pure religion" and there are not a few that believe that this is so. The obvious antidote to this kind of equation is better education within the Craft.
(B) The second group would be those who have little knowledge about the Craft, but have made judgments on what they have heard, seen or read, or who have been in a Lodge Room opened to the public. “We work in temples; we have an open Bible on the altar; we claim a belief in a Supreme Being: we have prayers and many of our teachings come from the Bible; they have a systematic code of morality; they have a philosophy of good works and they have a person called a Chaplain (as do many secular groups!) - and the lists could go on ... 6 There are many people who do not view Masons as subversive or harmful but would equate religion with Masonic teaching because of some similarities that exist in their minds between the two; and they can hardly be blamed for that. Once again there is an antidote - or perhaps we should say - a reasonable explanation that we, as Masons, can present. Many good statements have been made including Dr. Early's statement in the Scottish Journal (p26 quoted above); and one of the most comprehensive and yet succinct is in Cerza's "Let There Be Light" (p 41) M.W. Thomas Roy D.D.7 who was the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1952 said (and I am quoting freely) "we have none of the marks of religion (that is) we have no creed (except our belief in a Supreme Being); no confession of faith; no ritual of worship; no symbols that are religious in the sense of the symbols that are found in churches, synagogues (or mosques). Our purpose is not that of a religion; there is no doctrine of salvation; we seek no converts; we do not solicit new members. (parenthetical comments are mine). In brief, as Dr. Early says "Masonry does not provide a system of faith or a plan of salvations.”8 Most, if not all churches, do provide such assurance.
- THE CLAIMS OF THOSE WHO ARE OPPOSED TO MASONRY ON THE BASES OF CHRISTIAN RELIGIOUS TEACHINGS.
(A) It is not within the scope of this document to outline the number of charges that are laid at the door of Masonic teachings. Once again Cerza, in his work, "Let There Be Light" has outlined what our opponents are saying (page 38ff).9 Whenever we examine what the opponents of Masonry are saying from a religious point of view, we must remember that each denomination has its own set of criteria as to what is and is not a valid expression of what they view as "the Christian Faith". Neither can we overlook the fact that branches of the Christian faith criticize one another, and no matter who they criticize, they do it from their own dogmatic point of view. Hence any statement from many of these churches begins with the premise “Ours is the only true religion!" If that premise is accepted then it is easy for them to define what are departures from their point of view, and the claim to hearsay, Satanism, etc., can be easily established. When they examine the teachings in the Masonic Rituals (which are available to even the least zealous) then it becomes simple logic for them to see from their perspective how wrong Masonry is, and how misled we seem to be. But remember, they are doing the defining of "religion" from their own stance, and what they are using from the rituals or other literature is often misunderstood or blatantly deceiving. Warren Hultgren in “The Scottish Rite Journal” (p82)10 correctly notes that "Public libraries and book stores record with some accuracy the so-called secrets of Masonry. Not all that is written or spoken is accurate. Many of the conclusions drawn are deceptive”. p 82, 3 (italics mine).
The problem becomes one of how we deal with these accusations. It has been the habit of the Masonic order to say nothing in the face of criticism, but in these days of "investigative journalism" we can no longer hope that the latest attack will soon be over and go away. Masons in The Southern Baptist Church have given us a pattern I believe, in facing those who are opponents within our own churches with answers that come from within the Craft, and where we can begin the discussion from our own premises. Where there is a massive publicity campaign sponsored by any Church or any other segment of society, then it is up to the Masonic order to make a pubic statement about who Masons are and what they stand for. When we are silent we give credibility to the statements of those who are anti Masons.
(B) The M.W. Dr. Jack Collett, past Grand Master of the Alberta Masons says in The Clergy and the Craft "The most serious criticism that clergymen have against Freemasonry is that some claim that their Lodge gives them all the religion they need and that they feel they have no need of the church." (Page 107)11 The Masons who make that claim have completely misunderstood the teachings of the craft and do a serious disservice to both the church and the Lodge.12 There are some clergy who have no opposition to the craft per se, but see the Masonic Order as opposition, when for instance; degree practices are called for on Sunday morning. It is incumbent upon Masons to keep alive loyalties to the churches to which they belong for they provide that which the Lodge cannot possible do, nor does it purport to do.
(C). CLOSING STATEMENT
H.L. Haywood in his book More About Masonry says that the critics of Masonry have one thing in common " ... that they ask a Freemason to believe that Freemasonry was never itself but always was something else in disguise.”13 This is most clearly seen by those who take our teachings and symbolism to state something patently false. Haywood reminds us that Freemasons was founded by Freemasons, and the statements they make about themselves have more validity than any of its critics.
THEREFORE WE CAN AFFIRM:
(1) That Freemasonry ‘while sharing many of the same elements of religion’ has never claimed to be a religion per se. Freemasons are a group of likeminded individuals who work for the betterment of themselves and of the world in which they are privileged to live and work in.
(2) Freemasonry does not purport to offer a plan of salvation available to all, indeed it expressly affirms that "it takes good men and makes them better”.
(3) Freemasonry has never openly challenged any religious body or denomination on the basis of their belief; on the contrary, it has always encouraged members of the Craft to be vital members of the religious persuasion they embrace.
(4) Freemasonry does not have to make (nor should it) any apology for the teachings of the craft with reference to morality, ethics or its relentless search for truth. Nor does it need to hide the fact that all human beings are a part of the Freemason's concern.
(5) Freemasonry's belief In a Supreme Being is that which binds us to all people everywhere who express that same kind of belief; and with the understanding that we will be guided in our decisions by that One who has many names, but acknowledge his Fatherhood, and that we are all children of His, and Brothers and Sisters of one another.
John A. Mirt in a quoted publication in "Let There Be Light", says in part: Freemasonry is religious, but it is not a religion, nor is it intended to replace the Church in devotion to Deity. It does not teach religion, but joins with religion for the moral betterment of mankind.”14 In my opinion, the whole issue of Freemasonry and Religion cannot be better or more succinctly expressed than it is in those words. May the Supreme Architect of the Universe continue to inspire us, and bless us with His continuing presence.
NOTES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
- Cerza, Alphonse, "Let There Be Light” subtitled A Study in Anti-Masonry, Mason The Masonic Service Association, Silver Spring, Maryland, reprinted 1983. A valuable resource in digest form, and has an extensive bibliography.
- The Grand Lodge Bulletin - November, 1993 - Alberta Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M.
- Haggard, Forrest D. The Clergy and The Craft, Missouri Lodge of Research 1970.
- The Scottish Rite Journal Southern Jurisdiction, February issue 1993. Religion and Freemasonry P 28
- Cerza, A. op cit p. 41
- Roberts, Rev. J. W. from a theme paper on Freemasonry and Religion, entitled Masonry at the Crossroads - A Critique of Freemasonry's Critics Alberta Workshop 11990 p307 ff.
- Cerza, A. op cit page 41.
- Scottish Rite Journal, op cit page 28
- Cerza, A. op cit p 38 ff
- Scottish Rite Journal op cit. Hultgren p 82.
- Haggard, F. op cit p 107 (quoting Dr. Jack Collett)
- Haggard, F. op cit p 107 (quoting Dr. Jack Collett)
- Haywood, H.L., More About Masonry 1980 ed. page 9
- Cerza, A. op cit p 42
Annual Communication, G.R.A., Edmonton, Alberta
V.W. Bro. J. W. Roberts, Grand Chaplin
GRAND CHAPLIN’S ADDRESS
My first words this morning would be ones of appreciation to the Very Worshipful the Grand Organist, Brother Harry Farmer, for his capable and meaningful accompaniment to our hymns this morning. How dismal life would be, brethren, if we were not able to lift our voices and hearts in song, and how much more effective is that singing when the leadership is of the calibre we have with us today, in Harry Farmer's virtuosity.
My second thought today is also one of appreciation to our Most Worshipful, the Grand Master, Phil Kendal for appointing me to this high office of privilege and responsibility as Chaplain to the Most Worshipful the Grand Lodge of Alberta. While the task has been demanding, perhaps more demanding than I thought, it has also been fulfilling and perhaps the real reward of this past year has come from working with the Grand Master, whose example of humility in office and personal devotion has been an inspiration to me and I am certain to many of us in Grand Lodge as well. This morning we are here for two reasons, to pay honour to whom honour is due; and to collectively say our thanksgiving for those servants of Masonry "from whose nerveless grasp have dropped forever the working tools of life; and are now in a new dimension of existence, but still under the care of the Supreme Architect of the Universe.
Many of the names that I read to you this morning will mean a great deal to those who have been in Grand Lodge for some time. Others, like myself, who are relative newcomers to the Grand Lodge of Alberta, know only a few by name and fame within the Craft, and even fewer as personal friends and acquaintances. Two years ago, at the Memorial service, my distinguished predecessor and colleague, Bro. Dr. Cecil Swanson commented that "at such a service as this, it has its own address. We assemble to honour our Elder Brethren who have been raised to the Grand Lodge above?” This is true, and if we were here to simply honour the dead, then we could conclude at this point But I think that we ought to suggest, even as Archdeacon Swanson did in his address, what we ought to be actually honouring, and continually honouring, that which has been left to us as a heritage from those Elder brethren of all ages.
On Monday evening last, I took part in the raising of four young men to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, and was privileged to give them the final lecture in that pilgrimage which took them from the simple request that they made at the door of an Entered Apprentice Lodge that they might be given light in Masonry, through to the highest honor that Craft Masonry can confer, the sublime degree of a Master Mason. And for those of you who are familiar with the Ancient York rite, you remember that early in the lecture, the Hiramic legend is summarized briefly and then we are told that the purpose of recalling that event is to inculcate the solemn and sublime doctrine of the immortality of the soul. While I do not wish to debate the intent of the scholars who first set down this lecture, may I suggest that this teaching is only secondary to the real meaning of the life and the death of Hiram Abiff. In the last few sentences in that lecture is the summary made, not only for this legendary figure but for Masons of all time. "Finally, my brethren, let us imitate the example of our Grand Master Hiram Abiff, in his virtuous conduct; his unfeigned piety to God, and his inflexible fidelity to his trust". And even as I was saying these words, my mind went forward to this morning, to this Memorial Service that I knew I was going to be conducting and my thoughts were what better counsel could be given to the Grand Lodge meeting than these words which found expression in the lives of those that we honour today.
Today, in our culture, man does not have to die for what he believes, at least in most instances he doesn’t, there are rare exceptions in the martyrs of our time as we well know. But the strange and sometimes tragic commentary that can be made in this day is that when a man does not have to offer his life for what he believes, it is also more difficult for him to live for what he believes. We face very few obstacles in our Masonic pilgrimage in these days, and even when we do, we do not treat them as matters of life and death. But this does not take away from us the imperative of the teachings of the Hiramic Legend, for they are readily translated into our times and into the living of these days, and are as fundamental to Masons and Masonry as they were when this story was first unfolded. Briefly let us look at the three of them with a modern day application of thought.
First, his virtuous conduct. Virtue is not an “in” word in these days and smacks of that kind of hypocritical self righteousness that most of us would eschew. But in the setting of this legend it has a far wider application than we are likely to give it in these times. The greatest thing that can be said of a man today is that he was a great and good man. Even the enemies of Hiram were able to say this, and the insurrectionists realized that in the final analysis, they would have sooner had his credentials than their own. Virtuous conduct means much more than obeying the moral law in that limited and narrow sense. It means the exemplification of that kind of conduct in which anything that is worth doing is also worth doing to the best of ones abilities. Virtuous conduct means not only being good ‑ it means being great along with our goodness and today we honor those who have in their past lives, given us that kind of an example, and though they did not perform in this area as though their lives depended upon it, yet they felt no life would be worthwhile without it. This virtuous conduct first seen in this misty, legend, finds a place for emulation in our own lives and anything that we have seen in those that we honour today that reminds us of that conduct, we would do well to emulate.
The second quality of this man’s life was his unfeigned piety to God. Today in cultures that are very different than our own, men practice what we are preaching. The devout Arab alone on a small knoll in the desert, will turn his face to the East at certain times of the day, and make his prayers to Alah. He doesn’t wait to be watched, he does it as an automatic part of his life. The Hebrew in another corner utters his prayers daily to the same God that Daniel dared to worship despite the probations of the reigning King. And in the Christian world, private masses and prayers are offered, not dependent on any other motive than that this is the desire of their hearts. In all of these, there is this unfeigned piety, there is no sense of pretense at worship, neither is there any mode of pretension, but It becomes a part of the daily living. We live in a society that is in a hurry. We gulp down a cup of coffee as we read the sports pages, but take little or no time to offer up our prayers to God, no matter how brief, before we take to our individual trestle boards of life. And yet how much more important it is for us to make time for the acts of contemplation that we need, because we need, as the television ad so often reminds us, the pause that refreshes. Not in the same way, but certainly we need it where we need to retreat from the hurried world into the hidden recesses of our hearts, where we may indeed commune with God. As Masons, I suspect we are inclined to do in our age what most do round about us. We are not inclined to take that kind of respite so necessary to these bodies and minds of ours. We require that contemplative rest that is based upon the unpretentious and intimate approach to Him who is the author of our lives and who is so well exampled in the Hiramic Legend.
And the last characteristic of this martyr of Masonry was his inflexible fidelity to his trust. Perhaps it is here that we acknowledge our role of indebtedness in a collective sense to those who are our elevated Brethren. For we are not only reminded of the kind of example they gave us, we are also reminded that the torch has been thrown into our hands and we have the task of carrying forward that fidelity to Masonic trust. In the turbulence of our times, we are constantly looking for that which is stable. That which has credible integrity, and certainly the principles of Masonry are universal in this respect. This does not mean that we are inflexible In terms of our posture toward society in the world. Indeed, Masonry must more than ever be really sensitive to the world and the demands that are being placed upon it and we must step out to match the demands that will carry forward what is trustworthy in our teachings and, in our principles and to put our whole faith in that kind of trust that men of all ages have done before us. Tradition is only as valid as it is relevant for the mind that we are attempting to reach. The inflexibility comes in our fidelity to our trust and not the way in which we demonstrate it. The principles must become living principles within our society if they are to be valid at all.
We often hear that the object of Masonry is to take a good man and to make him a better one. Let me in the name of those who have truly been concerned in this area and are not now with us, carry this one step forward. The object then, of a good Mason, is to make Masonry better. One ought to naturally follow the other. And perhaps this is the reason for our thanksgiving today. There is no greater honor than to serve Grand Lodge and constituent Lodges with meaningful purpose. On the other hand there is no emptier honour, if that It can be called at all, when there has been serving without fidelity to the trust that has been reposed within us. And so this morning, through the lives of others, through the Hiramic legend we are reminded of the duty of the living in the fraternity and to the fraternity, and to carry forward the fidelity of all good Masons in the past. And particularly those qualities that we have seen in action in the lives of those we have known and admired.
The summary given in this lecture in the third degree is still valid for the 1970’s and even though the events of the story are shrouded in mystery, the principles, and the teachings are crystal clear. Masonry thanks the men of the past who have upheld its highest aspirations and Masonry looks to you today to carry forward that threefold thrust into its life in the only way it will be seen ‑ by our virtuous conduct, our unfeigned piety to God and our inflexible fidelity to the trust that has been placed in our hands. Amen.
Let us unite together in singing a hymn of Dedication. - LORD, SPEAK TO ME
The Rev. JW (Jim) Roberts, Grand Chaplain
Annual Communication G.R.A., Calgary
V.W. Bro. J.W. Roberts Grand Chaplain
GRAND CHAPIANS ADDRESS
Before I bring before you the list of our Honored Dead, I would like to make a few comments which are pertinent at this time.
Tomorrow morning I will be concluding my tenure as Grand Chaplain and I would like to express my deep and sincere appreciation to the Most Worshipful the Grand Master, M.W. Bro. Ed. Thompson, and to his immediate predecessor, Dr. Phil Kendal, who both saw fit to appoint me to this high office for the past two years. When I was first appointed I did not realize the extent of the task to which I had been called and especially when it had to be kind of a part ‑ time job in the context of a life that had a busy pastorate but since being a member of Grand Lodge in this way I have certainly come to have a much greater appreciation both for the office of Grand Chaplain and for the officers of the Grand Lodge. For me it has been a most rewarding experience and I thank the members of Grand Lodge and the constituent Lodges who have supported me in any way during my tenure. I will be leaving Calgary shortly to take up new duties with the United Church in Edmonton, our fair city to the north, and I hope that as time goes by I will, have an opportunity to visit there.
Last year during the installation of the Grand Lodge Officers, it was during the Installation, as a matter of fact, of the Grand Master, I received word that my father had passed away earlier that day. Having conducted a Memorial Service the day previous, I felt the pathos of that time very deeply and although my father was not a Mason, yet the feelings that I had were related to all of the things that I had mentioned the morning before. And since that time, I have thought of the great number of the unknown Masons and thought that I would base what I have to say this morning on that theme because the ones that I want to refer to and speak about were not members of Grand Lodge but none the less without them Grand Lodge could never have existed.
After every war, almost every nation has epitomized as a symbol of mourning, one they call the Unknown Soldier. One who fell in the heat of battle and could not be identified except that he wore a uniform of that country and was often as not a Private in rank, one of the common soldiers. My meditation this morning is simply based on 'the unknown Mason’, the one who either through choice, or by situation did not attain the rank of Worshipful Master, perhaps never sat in the chair, in any chair of any lodge and yet served with devotion, with the kind of devotion that perhaps would shame a great many of us. They wore their aprons indeed, 'unspotted from the world' and who have presented themselves naked and trembling before the great white throne and are hearing the words "well done our good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, now I will make you ruler over many things, enter into the joy of your Lord." There have been many of these unknown Masons pass away in Alberta in this past year, known perhaps only to the Constituent Lodge to which they belonged and yet with a full knowledge that that lodge would not have been as strong had it not been for their presence there. Oh yes, we must have leaders who show the way, and their names are enshrined in our hearts and minds as well as in our record of proceedings. They deserve the honour paid to them by both Grand Lodge and their own Mother and Home Lodges. Each of these leaders could count on those who assisted then, and each of them will say, I am sure, that the position they have attained within Grand Lodge, has come about, at least in part, because of those unknown Masons who have patiently and loyally carried out the menial work that had to be done. In the apron presentations we make in every degree, we are told of the vast numbers of unnamed men who were Apprentices, Fellowcrafts, the Masters, all of them unnamed, but without them the Temple of Solomon would never have been erected.
So it is in our time. Our Temples are not raised without the man who is not named, spiritual nurture is not exercised only by and for the few; the impact of Masonry is not felt unless the unknown person is also functioning. And so as we read the names of those who have meant a great deal to the Grand Lodge in the past, let us also remember in the silence of our hearts those who have entered the Grand Lodge above, but never entered a Grand Lodge on earth and pay our silent tribute to the hosts who we cannot name, but whose influence and vitality and love has fed life into our order, and that under God, they do stand named, and they do stand remembered.
OUR FRATERNAL DEAD
Grand Chaplain: Brethren, it is well that we pause before the meeting of Grand Lodge to pay our tribute to those who have, in the last year, passed on to the Grand Lodge above. The writer, Jesus Ben Sirach, tells us that “the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God,” and we know that this is true; but we are also aware that the deeds of good men are not 'interred with their bones', but live on long after them. The names of the Grand Lodge Officers that I read today are but a portion of those who have given themselves to the Craft, and by their influences, have made a significant contribution to society as well. In our service today, we not only pay our tribute to those now in another vale under God's care; but we dedicate ourselves to the best principles that they upheld, and to the good works they accomplished. These are they, then, who from this Grand Jurisdiction have won for themselves a place in the Lodge above under the care of the Grand Architect of the Universe.
We mourn too, with our sister jurisdictions, the passing of many distinguished members of the Craft; as well as those who were faithful members of the Craft, who served well within their own lodges. The assembled brethren will observe a minute's silence in tribute to those now gone from our midst, to their eternal home.
Prayer: Eternal God, whose days are without end and whose mercies cannot be numbered, we give you thanks for the lives of those who have served their Craft and society well. May we see in their lives, that which will encourage and help us in all we do, and thereby treasure their memories in the best possible way we are able. We commend to your care, all those who mourn the passing of loved ones. Though their hearts be heavy with sorrow, let their future be bright with hope, for we ask it in thy great name, Amen, So Mote It Be!
HYMN OF DEDICATION
Words by Bro. Archdeacon Cecil Swanson, DM, Past Grand Chaplain.
Music: Melcombe Tune.
- Lord, when in lodge we humbly stand
and make the solemn threefold sign,
Give us to know that heart and hand
Should inward strength and peace define.
- Help us to shun the evil sight
That shames the heart or senses sway,
That heart and conscience clean and white
May guide us in the Master's way.
- If head we strike in sorrow’s gloom
Our inward joy by faith renew,
That we may know no lasting doom
Where shines the light of life anew.
- He walks but in who lacks a hip
And halting limps the course of life
But he who walks in fellowship
Finds brother‑love to end all strife.
- 0n foot to foot and knee to knee
And throbbing breast to beating heart,
And shoulders locked in ecstasy
When we the Builder's Word impart!
Grand Master: Brethren, at this point, just in case I neglect to do this later in the proceedings, I would like to express to V.W. Bro. Jim Roberts, our Chaplain, our appreciation for the very excellent service that he has given to the Grand Lodge during the past two years. While we realize that he will be moving from the beautiful city of Calgary to the country to the north, closer to the North Pole, at the same time he will still be in the Grand Jurisdiction and I am sure that on many occasions he will be called upon to exercise his talents and gifts in service of Masonry. We certainly have appreciated the leadership which he has given us in the various tasks and offices assigned to him and I am sure that you join with me in expressing our appreciation to him and our good wishes as he begins his work in a new pastoral charge.
The Rev. JW (Jim) Roberts, Grand Chaplain
Annual Communication G.R.A., Calgary
V.W. Bro. J. W. Roberts, Grand Chaplain.
FROM DRY BONES TO A LIVING PERPENDICULAR.
It so happens that this is one of my favorite portions of scripture. This portion that I have read to you, we see the Old Testament prophet at his best. Ezekiel was a visionary, a dreamer at a time when many had given up any kind of thought that Israel would ever be restored to even a shadow of her former greatness. But Ezekiel was telling them in words of both chastisement and hope that this vision could come to something, in this vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones.
He and his dream is set down on an old battlefield where the Israelites of old had fought their battles and many had died. And Ezekiel is asked by God, "Man can these bones live”? And the prophet knew better than to give him a direct answer and said, "Lord, only you can answer that question". And the reply thunders out," I will put new breathe into these dry bones and my spirit will become their spirit” and as in that oldest creation story, once again God stoops down and breathes the breath of light into man and the whole host of Israel comes to its feet. Mighty, not because of the bones and the flesh, or the sinews and the nerves, but because the very breathe of life is within them. From dry bones to life, from a dead level to a living perpendicular, to phrase it Masonically. Lift it from darkness to light, from dust to a new life of useful service and spiritual maturity.
Today, as we remember our fraternal dead and offer our thanksgiving to God for their contribution to the life of our order and as we prepare ourselves for yet another communication, I would like to briefly lift three phrases from this imaginative story for our consideration tonight.
The first is a question, Man, can these bones live? That is the perennial question. There has never been an age when God has not asked his people that very same question. There are many places where there are dry bones in our society. Those who live and breathe, true enough, like you and I but who are dead on the inside. They join our Lodges and our synagogues and our churches and other organizations and their names are enscribed upon our books but in name only.
These are the ones who live in our society seeking their own ends and who give nothing to it and who ascribe to something that is called the virtue of selfishness. They are those like the prodigal son who, living in some far country wasting their lives, come back home. These are the dry bones that Ezekiel saw and that we can see too. The question is put to each one of us, "Can these bones live again"? And the answer is, yes indeed, they can and we like Ezekiel need to become the agents by which these dry bones live. To sit and complain about our dead wood will do nothing. We need to become partners with God and with others in restoring the muscles to their lives, the nerves to their grasp, so that they will come from the dead level to a living perpendicular. The classic line of the parable is still there. This, my son, was dead and behold he is now alive. The waiting Father gives up on no one, neither can we, whether it is in the Lodges or in our communities. Those who have gone before us did not give up, neither can we.
The Second part follows then. I will put my breathe into you, into your dry bones and you will live. The word for breathe or wind or spirit are translated from the single word in both Hebrew and Greek. The Ruach of God was the Hebrew wind of God, the spirit of God. And when that spirit of man is breathless, then the breathe of God is gone. But Ezekiel raises an important point, the way that God speaks to the dry bones. To Ezekiel it is clear. Prophecy to those bones and say to them, "Hear the word of the Lord". And Ezekiel does. And God still uses persons to communicate with other persons. One of the first definitions of preaching that was given to me was that preaching is the communication of truth through personality. I first heard that great truth from the M.W. Bro. Ed. Thompson in his homiletic classes when I was a member of them, and it has stuck with me ever since.
The most important way in which truth is communicated to others is through us. The mandate for us all today is to prophesy to these bones. To tell the truth, as we know it, like it is, man, with none of the garbage, just the plain unvarnished truth. Because that is our task. And no matter where we are, we have already sworn to uphold the truth. But there is that further step that each of us must make in communicating the truth. The way that we live and react, to life around us. We have the capacity to communicate truth through that gift that God has given to us all, the gift of his breath upon us. And with that we are able to reach out and touch others and raise those dry bones to a living perpendicular.
Thirdly "Then I will put my spirit in you and you will know that I have spoken," says Ezekiel. In other words, you will act. It is no good knowing the truth unless it extends into doing the truth. Young people today have sayings that are wiser than we sometimes allow. You will often hear them say, "I want to be where the action is”. Well, that is where Ezekiel wanted the children of Israel to be, where the action was. And that's where those who have been our distinguished Brothers of the past would want us to be tonight, on the cutting edge.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans in the twelfth chapter says, "Therefore, my Brother, offer yourselves to God, not just the dry bones but the whole bag, the whole ball of wax. The worship of heart and mind and soul and strength. Only too often, in our religion and in our philosophies of life we reduce our concepts to an intellectual exercise and when we do our debates become and soundings and important matters become, simply, academic.
Both Paul and Ezekiel speak about the heart of man, for God seeks, not only, to change the mind of man but his heart as well. Someone once said, “Give me the mind of man and I will change the world", and the respondent said, "Give me the heart of man and I will change man". Brotherly love and compassion, two of the three tenets of our fraternity, are matters for the heart. They are based on the stirrings that lie deep within each of us. Loyalty and compassion and concern and caring could all be dismissed in an academic assertion. But the heart does not dismiss them. Let men trample your flag or desecrate your temples and the heart responds in anger at these monstrosities. Oh yes, we need both the mind and the heart but let us not forget the heart for the mind without the heart is dry bones.
Ezekiel still speaks, from that Valley of Dry Bones, to us today. We here in our time, a lot of pessimistic sounds, that we live in difficult times. We speak as though difficult times were invented in our age and that they are products of our time. But we well know that many of us lived in times of depression and war and those who have gone before us knew harder times than we will ever know and God willing, we will never know them.
Every age raises its own prophets to speak the truth to the Dry Bones and gives us disciples to lead us along the way. When they have had their day and we gather in conclaves such as this, to say thank you to God, for those whose lives were living perpendiculars in our midst, powers of strength in our fraternity, we will remember that we are here too to speak to the Dry Bones. And the way that we honour them best is to cherish what they cherished. to honour what they honoured but more than that, to see the potential in ourselves of declaring to the Dry Bones that there is hope, that there is more than Dry Bones, more than the dead level and to see that each of us can be the instruments of raising our Brothers, our Fraternity, our Society from the Dry Bones to a living perpendicular.
The Rev. JW (Jim) Roberts, Grand Chaplain
Annual Communication G.R.A. Red Deer
V.W. Bro. J.W. Roberts, Grand Chaplain
A ‑ TESTED STONE ‑ A SURE FOUNDATI10N
Last Saturday, the Most Worshipful, the Grand Master and several of the Grand Lodge Officers past and present as well as many Brethren from around the Province of Alberta gathered to witness and participate in an ancient ceremony that is rarely seen in these days, The Ceremony of the Laying of a Comer Stone.
There was a time when the Grand Master and his Lodge were called upon by the community at large to perform this ceremony for many public buildings such as churches, hospitals, schools etc., and it was indeed, an act of blessing by the Grand Lodge to the enterprise at its very beginning.
In Forestburg last Saturday, I was privileged to be a part of this ceremony, the only one I had ever attended in the four terms I have served as Grand Chaplain. And so this prompted me, my Brothers, to do a little research in this area from the Old Testament of the Volume of the Sacred Law. And while it does not say much, what it does say is significant, and I found the contexts where the cornerstone was alluded to as very insightful.
First: let me read you the two passages that are the basis of the Meditation today.
SCRIPTURE: JOB 38: 1.7; 40: 3.5; 42:2
Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man: I will question you, and you shall answer me."
"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone ‑ while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?"
Then Job answered the Lord: "I am unworthy, how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer, twice, but I will say no more."
Then Job replied to the Lord: "I know that you can do all things, no plan of yours can be thwarted."
ISAIAH 28: 14 ‑ 17
Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers who rule this people in Jerusalem. You boast, "We have entered into a covenant with death, with the grave we have made an agreement. When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us, for we have made lies our refuge and falsehood our hiding place."
So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.".
There are two or three points made in these readings, and in drawing our attention to them, I want to also say that the remarkable qualities of a corner stone, are precisely those found in a figurative sense in the Masonic careers of those we have recalled today in fond memory and in thanksgiving. But not only for those of the past do these lines speak. They are the necessary equipment for the committed Mason in our Lodges today. We are reminded of the words of the N.E. Corner lecture (and here I paraphrase a bit) "it is customary at the erection of all stately and superb edifices, to lay a foundation stone and you have been placed at the north east angle to figuratively represent that stone, so that you may raise, beginning this evening, a superstructure, perfect in all its parts, and honourable to the builder". On that evening there was a beginning. No, it may not have seemed so at the time, for when our principles were put to the test, we had to admit to a sense of failure.
One of the first lessons we learn in Masonry has to do with the laying of a foundation stone. We recall the words of God when He confronts Job’s humbling words that reminded Job he had a long way to go to gain understanding and wisdom. "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations? On what were its footings set? Who laid its cornerstone?” At that N.E. Comer Job had no answer, and neither did we, as Entered Apprentices, in our N.E., Angle. But I would also remind you that every Mason begins there, and that every Mason we remember tonight, whether he attained the distinguished East or was simply a faithful Tuesday night Mason, he began his commitment to the Craft with the humble beginnings of Job, who was able to say to the Grand Geometrician "I know you can do all things, and no plan of yours can be thwarted". And whenever we begin in true humility, and trust the one who laid the foundations of the earth, and yet can work in and through us, then we are assured that nothing can thwart His plans.
The second reading from Isaiah, builds on that. I began some verses back from the reference to the cornerstone, because it is important for us to know to whom this is addressed. God, as He often has had to do, chastens those who would tear down justice and righteousness within their societies. And He says, "Therefore hear the word of the Lord you scoffers, those who have made a lie their refuge and falsehood a hiding place”.
In every age, Masons have been attacked by those who regard our order as inherently evil, and view us as dark forces in the community and the world. It may arise in any quarter, even from the church at times, other organizations, and often upon fears that are baseless and knowledge that is indeed false. I have heard of at least three instances in this past year when either a Lodge or one or more of its members have been pilloried by fellow members of their communities, and in some instances have, as Isaiah says, used "lies as their refuge and falsehoods as their hiding place". But thank God, our ancient Brethren, who suffered far worse than we ever did, counselled "silence and circumspection, particularly when before the enemies of Masonry". And from what I have heard, our Brethren have followed that good advice even when there was a great deal of pressure to respond to that which we would deem unfair and untrue. A Mason has nothing to hide, his badge is always in evidence, and his deportment is always his credential.
Isaiah was told "Look, no matter what others say, I lay in Zion a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, and the one, who trusts, will never be let down, because My measuring line is justice and My plumb line is righteousness.". My Brethren, Masonry does not survive on argument and skillful rhetoric but in the belief that lays the foundation stone in every one of our lives a tested stone, a precious cornerstone.
Last Saturday, after all the principles of architecture were applied to the cornerstone and the answer had come from strong and certain voices, "The Craftsmen have done their duty!" Then the Most Worshipful, the Grand Master stroked the stone three times and said "Well made, truly laid, well proved, true and trusty.".
And what better commendation can be given a life which has become a tested stone, a cornerstone. And for those Masons we remember tonight with fondness and appreciation, they have indeed been the cornerstones of much of the Masonic work here and in other jurisdictions and concordant bodies.
The words of the parable to those who have done their work were "well done good and faithful servants, I have set you over a few things, now, I will set you over many things enter into the joy of your Lord."
And when all of the implements of speculative Masonry have been applied to the lives of our departed brethren surely the Grand Geometrician will use the same words "well made, truly laid, well proved, true and trusty". And our commitment to the Craft can be no less than that of our remembered brothers ‑ our task remains the same to walk steadfastly with righteous purpose, seeking justice for all God's children and demonstrating brotherly love before our God and in the sight of our fellow men and women. And may God Bless our united indebtedness.
The Rev. JW (Jim) Roberts, Grand Chaplain
Annual Communication G.R.A., Edmonton
V.W. Bro. J. W. Roberts, Grand Chaplain
“WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU”
(Based on Micah 6:6 to 8)
Most Worshipful, the Grand Master, Distinguished East and Brethren all:
I have once again been given the honour and the privilege of conducting this service of Memorial and Thanksgiving, a service that points to the past, and serves to remind us of the gifts and graces of many dedicated Masons who have served Grand Lodge and their Craft Lodges over many years. But a service of this kind must also point forward reminding all of us that we are now the ones who have the task and the privilege of leading our Craft into the future and the responsibility is now in our hands to continue that good work which has been fostered and sustained over the decades by those we have named this morning, as well as the many others unnamed but none the less important people in the history of Masonry in this jurisdiction.
In the prophet Micah in the Hebrew Scriptures there is counsel there that will always be relevant to the Mason. It begins with the question: “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself down before the High God?” And the short answer is, there is nothing that has earthly value that God wants, there is no material sacrifice in and of it self that a human being can make that God needs. Nothing, but then Micah goes on to say "He has shown you, 0 man, what is good…..”
Unfortunately the word “good" in our English language does not render the strength of the Hebrew meaning of the words, for He is really saying “there is a far better way for you to go; a far better way than you have taken in those sacrifices I do not need”. It’s reminiscent of the words that close the Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens when the hero says "it is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done." Micah says there is a far better way of expressing one's devotion to God than by all of the things that God does not need or want. What, then, does the Lord require of you? What is God asking of us? Micah says by implication, the “better way” is within your scope, within your grasp, the “better way” is available to all. And when a Mason reads the requirements in Micah carefully, he cannot help but see that the ties that bind Masons together find their genesis in this summary statement from Micah.
What does the Lord require of you? Exactly what Masonry requires of us? First to do justly; one of the four cardinal virtues, as we are well aware, is justice. In fact Socrates says that justice is the greatest of all virtues. And in our Masonic teachings we are taught that “Justice is that standard or boundary of right which enables us to render each person their just due without distinction” i.e. without prejudice or discrimination based on false standards. Justice is that which goes beyond legalistic definition and has as its basis a genuine concern for all people. Justice is the one essential in the belief that there is a Brother and Sisterhood of all people everywhere and we as Masons are committed to that belief. To do justly is written, as it were, in our constitution.
The second point Micah makes is to love mercy, or in the original meaning, to love kindness. Micah meant this to be "Kindness to one's Fellows" and we all know what he is getting at. Needless to say every one of us has fallen short of that maxim, to love kindness and to love mercy and yet basic to our Craft is this ideal. And we need to be reminded again and again that kindness is a part of our expression to others for it is the only way kindness can be expressed, in any meaningful way.
And finally, to walk humbly with your God! I remember not long ago someone telling me he had no problem walking humbly with God; it was with other people that he had problems walking humbly with.
The teaching of the Hebrew law is clear: that we love God with heart and soul and strength, and that we love our neighbours as our as ourselves and unless we love our fellow man, how can we love God, for our love for God is best expressed through our relationships with our Brothers and Sisters in our human pilgrimage.
Micah concludes then that “nothing more is needed” and I would suggest that the best way we have of honouring those who have been our leaders in the Craft and are now in God's loving care, is to follow their example “of doing justice, in loving mercy, and walking humbly before our God and with one another".
The Rev. JW (Jim) Roberts, Grand Chaplain
Grand Lodge Bulletin December 1969
A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
V.W. Bro. The Rev. J. W. Roberts, Grand Chaplin
The message of Christmas is a universal one, although a Christian Festival, the joy and expectations of the season transcends creeds and definitive theology and creates in man renewed thoughts of love, compassion and hope. Even in cultures and religions where Christmas has no place in their teachings, yet the spirit of Christmas is present, and the season is one of sharing and an expression of the eternal optimism of mankind. Masons everywhere should find implicitly stated in the Christmas message, the deepest truths concerning their relationships to one another and the world around them. In bringing Christmas Greetings to you on behalf of The Grand Lodge, I would like to refer to the writings of an anonymous poet in which he said in part:
"Christmas is a spirit,
and the spirit of Christmas is Peace;
Christmas is a gladness,
and the gladness of Christmas is Hope;
Christmas is an experience,
and the experience of Christmas is Giving”
In these few short lines, he has summarized the meaning of Christmas.
First: Christmas is a spirit and the spirit of Christmas is Peace. Freemasonry at its best is a spirit and finds its expression in the harmonious relationships within the Craft. Throughout our teachings, we find such words as harmony, brotherly love and friendship. We pray that our lodges may be 'conducted in peace and closed in harmony.' But in this season, we are urged to do something more than simply wish for "peace on earth, good will among man." We are called upon, both in and out of the Lodge, to pursue and learn of the "things that make for peace." In the terrible tensions of our time, we may think that peace is an unattainable goal. But before it can become a universal fact, peace must be an individual aspiration. The Mason's task is always to 'bring peace to the troubled mind' and to do what they can to remove the barriers that separate man from man, in the knowledge that we are all children of the Most High.
Second: Christmas is a gladness, and the gladness of Christmas is Hope. We use the word 'glad' today in a rather superficial sense, often empty of its original meaning. The old English word from which we derive the word glad, meant 'bright,' or 'gilded with light.' Christmas is a season, then, that is 'bright with hope.' Whoever has seen a little child's face at Christmas time will see this definition exemplified. The sages of old, in the Volume of the Sacred Law, saw the highest hopes revealed in Light: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them has the light shined." And the beautiful story of the birth of the Christ Child, is best epitomized in a line from a well known Carol, ‘the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight." For Masons and Christians alike, the step between Faith and Charity is Hope. Our gladdest Christmases are the ones that inspire in us the kind of hope the ancients saw.
Third: Christmas is an experience, and the experience of Christmas is Giving. Giving is the active name for Charity, or self giving love. Thomas a Kempis summed it up in these words: "He, who lives with purity, considers not the gift of the lover, but the love of the giver." To many people in our society, charity is a cold word, often devoid of feeling because 'the love of the giver' is not present. But to the Mason, charity is an experience; it is love in action, whether in thought, word or deed. It is the giving of ourselves to those both within and without the Lodge, without any thought as to whether that love should be requited. Another poet once said that 'Love came down at Christmas time,' suggesting that God was sharing his love with mankind in a unique way. It also reminds us that each of us, as children of God, has the task to make our giving, our Charity, so real that God's name and nature will be revealed in us, and to His name will be the praise. But it can only happen when we express our Charity in such a way that it will be an abiding experience in our hearts. At the very heart of Christmas is this one eternal aspect of the season 'which extends beyond the grave, to the boundless realms of eternity.'
To close, let me quote another author "if on this Christmas Day, I can look into the faces of men and see the love and goodness of God written thereon; and have them see some of his Holy Light of Peace and Good Will mirrored on mine, then on this blessed day, have I touched the hem of the Christ Child's garment." We will also indeed, have touched the Ancient Landmarks of the Craft.
The Rev. JW (Jim) Roberts, Grand Chaplain
Grand Lodge Bulletin December 1981
The Leading Of A Star
By V.W. Bro. J.W. Roberts, Grand Chaplain
In the story of The Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke, the hero tells his three companions: "I have called you here to tell you of a new light and a truth that have come to me through the stars". He spoke of a new light to guide and a new truth to experience. Thus did the Magi, or as we call them, the Wise Men, set out on a journey that would bring them to a threshold of a new revelation by the light of leading star.
Did you ever stop to think that of all the people in that part of the world, only three saw this star as a divine portent? And I wonder how many of us today look for the same kind of light and truth in the stars of life. For a few moments then, let us meditate on this beautiful story and draw some conclusions for the contemporary scene. The first quality of a star is that of its constancy. Whether the star is fixed or moveable, there is the highest degree of constancy. And what is more, the astronomers of any age can predict the movements of the stars years and years ahead. The Wise Men of that age were prepared for this one bright star.
The first lesson then is one that teaches the necessity of knowing that which is constant. In our Masonic Order we are being reminded in every meeting and every degree that there are standards which are eternal, and that our landmarks are unchanging. They are like the fixed stars or the constant orbits from which we ought not deviate. A meteor or a comet may be spectacular, as are indeed, some innovations of the moral code, but we learn to our sorrow, they are inconsistent, and useless to set a course in life by.
Second: One writer suggests that God used not the sun or the moon to lead the Wise Men, but a star, which by comparison was much paler. And no matter how bright a starry night may be, there is very little real guiding light on a desert floor. We can well imagine how the Wise Men must have yearned for a clearer light for their journey so that they would avoid the hidden holes and submerged rocks on the caravan trail. How natural it is for us to desire the kind of path that is easy and uncluttered. We dislike having our clearly worked out plans go awry. But sometimes we are given light "but only partially" and we become impatient and we fret and complain that the guiding star does not have a sun's brilliance or even a moon's glow. Yet when we look back on life and its journey, are we not aware that at the bleakest times and on the darkest nights of our soul's pilgrimage, we were very much aware of the pale star's leading? So the Wise Men of that age, and of this age, are helped by the slender light of a star that leads us through the darkest valleys.
But what good is the leading of a star unless there is a destination? The story tells us that "the star which they had seen in the East went before them till it came to rest over the place where the young child was." There was a destination for the Wise Men. They did not set out with the confidence that they would reach an intended goal. It was a journey undertaken in faith, and yet with an assurance that the destination God had intended, would be there!
At Christmas time the light shines anew, bringing us to old landmarks or newer destinations. It shines in a world's darkness and leads us again to the young children of our world. We come to them led by the light God gives, with our gifts of brotherly love, relief and truth, sharing our abundance with them, with the hope that the guiding light will become theirs. May the message of the Wise Men's Christmas be that of Artiban ‑ "I have called you here to tell you of a new light and truth that have come to me through the stars.”
Grand Lodge Bulletin, December 1982
A CHRISTMAS MEDITATION
V.W. Bro. Rev. J.W. Roberts ‑ Grand Chaplain
When I was a student on a Mission Field I asked one of my members for directions to a certain town. "Well," he said, "there are three ways to get there, the main road, the side road and the back road" and he went on to tell me the disadvantages and advantages of each of the roads. At this time of Advent and Christmas, I wonder how many of us realize that there were three roads to Bethlehem! In the brief space of this meditation let me describe these roads for you, and at the same time, seek out some of the truths that are symbolically represented by each road.
First: there was the main road. The highway of that time led from Nazareth to Jerusalem, and thence south to Bethlehem. This was the road of Mary and Joseph. Caesar's orders were "every man and his family is to appear in his ancestral home, there to be counted, and a head tax exacted. Let no man ignore this order." It mattered little to an arrogant Caesar that the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem was long and that Mary was with child. The road was one of necessity, a well travelled road, with many on it going about their business in both directions. For us, even at Christmas time, the main roads must be taken if we are to get everything done. There is no time to dream or stand idly by. It would be nice if Christmas was like the idyllic scenes depicted on Christmas cards, the quiet peaceful hearth, the softly falling snow, but, ah yes, we are on the road of necessity. And when Caesar beckons, we must move! And Christmas reminds us of the high road of service and the main roads of necessity each must take.
But then there are the side roads, and there was one in the Christmas story. The Shepherds lived out on the hills when in response to an angel's song they said, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see . . ." The road of the Shepherd’s was one of curiosity. Side roads are for the curious. You have time to stop and reflect, and ask questions. Every one of us have travelled this road at Christmas time. Every child is a walking question mark, and the rest look at the gaily wrapped Christmas gifts with wide‑eyed curiosity and great anticipation.
Once again, this says something about life. If we are to realize the fullness of life, we must heed the ancient dictum. "Seek and you shall find; ask and it will be given to you, knock and the door will be opened for you." During the whole year the side roads are good, but especially at Christmas time we would want to experience the joy and wonder of the curious shepherds.
And then there are the back roads; those on which a lonely traveler might get lost and where direction markers are few and far between. In the Christmas story, the Wise Men took the back roads to Bethlehem. One of the things that often happen to people on back roads in strange territory is that they arrive late! The Wise Men in the Christmas story (so tradition tells us) arrived twelve days late! However, for me at least, the back roads to Bethlehem were a road of faith. Led by a star across a land filled with danger and the unknown they arrived at Herod's palace and thence to Bethlehem. Matthew tells us it was a road of faith that led the Wise Men there. And it is the road of faith that leads any wise man, king or commoner, to the true meaning of Christmas in these days. The back roads of our time are many, and full of frustration, danger and anxiety. But to follow them in faith may bring us to the place where we too, place our gifts at a King's feet, and give thanks to God for the richness of life he brings to each of us at this time of the year.
So as your main roads of busyness and necessity; on your side roads of curiosity and anticipation; and on your back roads of faith, may all of you be led to celebrate a joyous and happy Christmas!
The Rev. JW (Jim) Roberts, Grand Chaplain
Grand Lodge Bulletin, December 1992
Three Roads To Bethlehem
V.W. Bro. Rev. J.W. Roberts ‑ Grand Chaplain
There is a carol which opens with a question ‑ "How far is it to Bethlehem?"‑ and the response is quickly made "Not very far!" But in the Christmas story, it's clear that the journey that each of the various groups took were as different from each other as they could possibly be. It is also clear that the symbolism of these pilgrimages are as meaningful today as they were in the time when the Christmas stories were first set down.
There are three roads to Bethlehem in the story. First was the road of Mary and Joseph. The main road ran through Nazareth, the town in which this couple lived. It went south to Jerusalem and a further seven miles to a little town where King David was born, Bethlehem. The main road was the road of necessity. Caesar had decreed that all had to report to their ancestral towns to be counted (and taxed), and Mary and Joseph were of King David's line. Hence it was necessary for them to take that arduous journey to Bethlehem, difficult at the best of times, and especially difficult for Mary "who was great with child." It was a road they had to take, the road of necessity. And the Christmas story reminds us that there are many roads of necessity we have to take, hard roads in which we must make decisions that affect not only our own lives but the lives of those around us. But, as in the story of this season, there is always the possibility of a new direction.
The second road is the shortest, although it is a side road. Up in the hills above Bethlehem there were shepherds who said, in response to an angel's song "Let’s take the road into Bethlehem and see..." It was the road of curiosity. If there is anyone who has not travelled over this road at Christmas, then they have not known the full meaning of this wonder filled time. Every child, at this time of the year, is a walking question mark! Every gaily wrapped gift, whether it has his or her name on it, becomes the object of their curiosity. And which family does not have within it one or more "shakers", those persons who pick up a gift that has their name on it and shake it to see what sound it produces, or they test it, weigh it and give that package every test known to them short of opening it. These are the ones who are on the road of curiosity. For the shepherds, that curiosity led them to a discovery, not just of a stable and a family, but that which sent them back rejoicing at the meaning of their new found discovery. They were, as the Apostle Paul puts it, "surprised by joy."
Our side roads of curiosity will always lead us to new and meaningful surprises, if we follow their leading. Holy Writ suggests this in many places, but the one that has the Christmas message is, "Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened unto you."
And then there are the back roads of life. These are the roads that the Magi took. As many of us have learned through sad experience, the back roads may, in theory, be the shortest way to get from A to B and yet we become hopelessly lost. But the Christmas story tells us that it was a road of faith for the Wise Men. With only the light of a single bright star to give them direction, they made their way across an unknown wilderness. Tradition tells us that they arrived twelve days late, but then faith does not always run on our time tables. Every journey of faith begins with a glimmer of light and when we persist in our journey, then that light becomes a beacon of assurance and we can bring the gifts of our lives and ask God to use them as He wills.
The three roads to Bethlehem are still ours today. What begins as necessity for Mary and Joseph, continues as a road of curiosity for shepherds and a way of faith for wise men and women everywhere.
To all of you, whether you celebrate Hanukkah or the Festival of Christmas, may you have a Blessed and Happy Holiday!
The Rev. JW (Jim) Roberts, Grand Chaplain.
“Sharing the Vision”
From the Grand Master’s Inaugural Address (1998)
MW Bro. James W. Roberts
In the ancient liturgies of the church, we are led through a series of progressions from the past to the future. It usually begins with an act of adoration and ends with an act of dedication. I want to base this inaugural address on three of those progressions.
The first act is that of adoration. The act of giving God precedence in all we undertake that brings us, hopefully, to the conclusion that “not my will, but thine be done” and it is in true humility that in accepting this high office that I declare to you my allegiance, first and foremost, to the Grand Artificer of the Universe and, secondly, to the ideals of Freemasonry which, in my mind, are very closely linked.
The second act is that of Thanksgiving, not only to God, but to the many who have made this day possible, and in particular those who have encouraged me in the pilgrimage from Junior Grand Warden to this day and for the trust that this Grand Lodge has placed in me.
My special thanks to you my friend and brother, MW Bro. Stan Harbin, for your constant support and patient leading. Thank you for your introduction today. And to MW Bro Basile Costouros, and his installing team for the dignified way they have carried out the installation and investiture today. And I would also like to pay tribute to our immediate past Grand Master, MW Bro Hugh Young for his counsel and guidance. But I would like to reassure you that as I cannot bring that splendid Highland accent to this high office, neither do I have the same skills and presence of my predecessor, and I say that in all sincerity.
There are two to whom I would like to pay tribute, who emerge as very important people in my life journey. Both are Masons, although on first meeting them I did not know that, nor was I a Mason. The first is one who is a colleague and very dear friend the MW Bro Jack Collett who on behalf of the Calgary Presbytery some 48 years ago this month recommended me as a Candidate for the Ministry and I am sure it wasn’t without some misgivings. He was the one who gave me that start in my calling that has lasted to this day. And the other is one who is now in the bosom of the Father, the late MW Bro Ed Thompson who was my homiletics professor, and taught me that preaching was the communication of truth through personhood. I stand in the shadow of both of these brothers in faith and in Masonry, and acknowledge their influence in my life in Masonry and ministry.
And my thanks to the newly appointed and elected officers who have accepted positions of importance in the Craft. We are indeed a team, along with the boards and committees that look after the needs and wishes of Masonry in this jurisdiction. The success of all of the undertakings of the Grand Lodge depend upon an effective team.
The third aspect of every liturgy is that of dedication! On this day I would emphasize how important it is for me to bring as much commitment to this office of the Grand Lodge and its future as I can muster.
Some years ago my good friend and yours, MW Bro Myron Lusk came to this place of honour with the theme “Vision — Two Thousand” and he set in motion the important concepts of strategic planning and renewal, and I remember the enthusiasm he brought to this Grand Lodge. And each of the Grand Masters since that time has picked up on one or the other facets of what that plan meant to them. Last year MW Bro Hugh Young gave new impetus to this initiative by asking the Junior Grand Warden to undertake specific ways of expediting a Strategic Plan. This process, as you are well aware, has been noted in the reports and is well under way with a select committee from across the jurisdiction. My theme for the coming Masonic year is Share the Vision. This is no trite request!
It is my earnest plea to every Brother in every Lodge - to every Grand Lodge Officer to look upon this theme as a challenge. The act of sharing means using our energy, our gifts and our talents, be they large or small to accomplish the goals we are striving to meet.
Where change is required, let us face it with the expectation that it will make our Craft more relevant, vibrant, meaningful and accessible. But it cannot be done by diminishing respect for our ancient landmarks and principles. It was the vision of our forbears, in which we share, that has made our Craft an honourable and worthy institution that has helped to shape our society on abiding principles.
Sharing the vision requires the contribution of each one of us with honesty and candour - “always speaking the truth in love”, but facing the future with courage and hope; fearlessly plumbing the depths of not only who we are, but why we are here - to spread the Grand Masonic message of brotherly love, relief and truth under the Fatherhood of God and for the benefit of all humankind.
As to my plans for the coming year, I am not only your Grand Master; I am first and foremost your servant. I want to visit as many Lodges as I am able to. But it is at your invitation that I will come. I would like to have that special privilege whenever possible to present the veterans of the Craft with their anniversary jewels but also take the opportunity to encourage and support our younger Brethren to take hold of the reins of leadership that will lead us into the new millennium. As we respect the past, so must we prepare for the future.
May the Grand Geometrician of the Universe guide you in right paths, and grant you courage and strength to continue in your good work, and may you know that peace that will prevail, as together we share the vision.
THE GRAND MASTER'S ADDRESS
Grand Lodge of Alberta
Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons
Red Deer, 1999
Edwin Markham, noted American author, in his poem The Creed has these lines "There is a destiny that makes us Brothers, none goes his way alone: All that we send into the lives of others, comes back into our own". I stand before you today with a heart full of thanksgiving for the privilege of allowing me to serve you over the past year as your Grand Master. You are the ones who gave me that privilege, but more than that, you have given me support far beyond anything which I might have expected or indeed, deserved, and I give thanks to the Grand Architect of the Universe for giving me strength and guidance over the last twelve months. And to you, the members of Grand Lodge my gratitude for your encouragement, counsel and support. Your gift to me has made this year very special. I have not "gone my way alone". If I have made any contribution to this Grand Lodge, you have made it possible!
It is my now my responsibility to give you an account of my stewardship over the past year and reflect on what I have seen and heard and learned. And I must confess how different my experiences have been as to what I expected. I was surprised by the extent of your loyalty to Grand Lodge, the warmth of your welcome and your dedication to the Craft.
While there are several areas on which I wish to comment, I will confine my remarks to those places that I think are fundamental to the future of the Craft in our Jurisdiction
Our Fraternal Dead
Over the past year, as we have been reminded, many of our Brethren who have given so much of their time and talents to the Craft have left us to join the Grand Lodge above. Although the MWBro Gordon Thompson left us more than a year ago, the Grand Lodge Committees have missed his presence at their various meetings in which he served with wisdom and careful guidance. We also marked the passing of MWBro Jack Collett who was in many ways an inspiration to me and to many others who knew his gentle manner and wise counsel. We also suffered the loss of one of our District Deputy Grand Masters, RWBro John Rigby, of the Three Rivers District. I attended the funerals of RWBro Paul Rabel and the Memorial Service for the late RWBro Ray Roberts. Several hundreds from the communities and Lodges of our Jurisdiction attended these services. I extend to all who have lost loved ones over the past year, my deep appreciation for their gifts to the Craft in Alberta, and our sympathy in their loss.
Visits of Craft Lodges
My visits to the Lodges of our Jurisdiction were based on the requests made to me by those Lodges. In every instance I was graciously received and I enjoyed their fellowship. Many of the Lodges invited me to attend special celebrative nights and I found them all interesting and enlightening.
I particularly enjoyed the privilege I had in presenting many veterans of the Craft with their 50 year Jewels and in at least two instances, the 60 year bar. These Masons were dedicated men who gave of their time and talents to the Lodges to which they belonged. There were a few Lodges who had Award Nights, and the families were invited to share in the celebration of their loved ones receiving their jewels. Their appreciation of witnessing the presentations was very positive. I would most certainly commend this kind of approach to Award Nights in future presentations. The Schedule of my visiting will be found at the end of this submission.
- The Outdoor Lodge in July at Bassano. A unique experience if you have never had the opportunity of witnessing one! It was very well supported by many visitors.
- The Institution of Millennium Lodge U.D by the Grand Lodge of Alberta, in September and the festivities that surrounded that visit, the first such celebration in many years, and I was privileged to have conducted the ceremony welcoming them into the Grand Lodge under dispensation.
- I attended the District Meetings of Calgary Highwood District (at Bowness), Central District (at Rimbey) Lakeland District (in Edmonton) Battle River District (at Camrose) and the Mighty Peace (at Wembly). Generally speaking, the meetings were well attended and the business conducted in an efficient manner. Many had a Masonic information and education component with good discussion following the presentations.
- Welcoming the visiting Scottish Brethren from Oban, Scotland in both Calgary and Crossfield was a special privilege and I am sure the Scottish visitors will count this as a memorable visit.
- The Vacant Chair Ceremony at Glenbow Lodge in Calgary which is held every year around Remembrance Day, was very impressive and was well attended and open to the public. I was privileged to give the Memorial address.
- The Grand Master's Levee which was held in the Freemasons’ Hall in Edmonton on New Year's Day was a great experience which my wife and I enjoyed very much. The Saskatchewan Lodge is to be congratulated for putting on this event year after year.
- During the year I was involved in a number of Award Nights. Four Lodges arranged to have families present in the Jewel presentations. I also had the privilege of presenting 50 year Jewels to two members who could not be at a Lodge Meeting, one in a hospital and the other at home. Family members were present each time and were very grateful to the Grand Lodge Officers for the fact that they could attend the Jewel presentation.
- A tri‑lodge meeting for Red Deer Lodges was a fine evening of fellowship. The coming together of a number of Lodges for a fraternal visit is a good idea and I would recommend this to the Lodges of our Jurisdictions.
Conferences and Inter‑Jurisdictional Meetings
During the year I was privileged to have represented The Grand Lodge of Alberta in Conferences and in other jurisdictions. In the fourth week in June Vi and I were in Glasgow, Montana attending the Montana Grand Lodge Annual Communication. A few weeks later we were present at the meeting of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario. In January, I, along with RWBro Webber attended the Grand Lodge of Colorado and enjoyed their hospitality. In every Jurisdiction we were warmly welcomed and were included in the fellowship during the meetings and at their social events, and we were asked to bring greetings on your behalf.
The larger Conferences gave us an opportunity to listen to some very fine addresses and heard how other Jurisdictions were having the same successes and problems that we in this area are having. The Grand Masters of North America met in Honolulu, Hawaii this year, along with the Grand Secretaries and Deputy Grand Masters. The agenda was a crowded one and ably conducted by a Grand Master from Alabama. One could easily be overwhelmed by the variety of initiatives that various Jurisdictions were undertaking. I was surprised at the apparent change in the views of the "Three Degrees in one Day" concept. A year ago at this same Conference, there seemed to be a negative feeling about them, but over the past year several places have tried the one day degree class and were optimistic about the results. However, the real test will come in the months and years ahead. I am not convinced that One Day events will assist the Craft but it will be worth our while to watch what these results might reveal. There is a great deal of attention in some jurisdictions in involvement in the schools and programs for children, which was another surprise to me, because of the vigorous approach they had toward these programs.
The All Canada Conference was held again in Winnipeg in March, and I found the topics under discussion very interesting. One of the theme speakers was our own RWBro Cecil Blackburn who addressed the group on the subject of financial planning for the charitable part of our work. At this Conference the Grand Lodge of Newfoundland and Labrador was formally received as members of the Conference. They also considered the One Day Classes and were unanimous in their rejection of this concept.
The Grand Masters, Grand Secretaries and line officers of the Four Western Jurisdictions met in Canmore at the end of last September, and I found this to be the most useful Conference of all of those we attended. The main reason for its usefulness is to be found in its format. Papers are presented by the Senior Wardens of each jurisdiction, and are then followed by discussion groups in which every member present is able to participate. The atmosphere is similar to a retreat, and ample time is given over to discussion of what is happening at various levels in the jurisdictions. The problems in constituent Lodges are much the same everywhere, and I am sure we came home better informed and more motivated to tackle problems, and to build on our successes.
I also attended the Masonic Spring Workshop which had as their keynote speaker Bro Christopher Knight, co‑author of The Hiram Key and The Second Messiah, who was an able communicator on a somewhat controversial subject. The workshops were very interesting and topical dealing with such issues as our relations with Prince Hall Masons; on planning good meetings and worthwhile other subjects. Once again the fellowship was top notch and discussions very fruitful.
I also attended the Hands Across the Border annual celebration in Wainwright, and found it to be more relaxed than other conferences, although it was very well planned. RWBro Norman Thomas of our Jurisdiction was the theme speaker this year and his inspiring address was very well received.
Reflections of the Condition of Masonry
You will have heard the official report on the Condition of Masonry in our Jurisdiction, and I appreciate the dedication and the hard work of the District Deputy Grand Masters over the past Masonic year, and the summary prepared by the Deputy Grand Master. I would like to add some personal observations. Because of the very nature of this report, I would suggest that more time be given to this area at our Grand Lodge Communications.
This year we had three amalgamations which were conducted in Especial Communications of Grand Lodge. Reasons for amalgamations are never easy to define, but as a general rule declining numbers and the lack of potential leadership seem to be the main concerns. The strange anomaly is that every one of the amalgamations were very well attended, and led me to wonder why this route had been taken. We have to face the fact that every amalgamation adds to the attrition of the former members and many members take the option of demitting rather than connecting with the new Lodge. Still, the option of amalgamating is preferable to surrendering a charter, where the losses are considerably more. Every effort must be taken to ensure that amalgamation is not simply "an easy way out"!
Grand Lodge Committees
I have always been a believer that where you have strong and vital committees, you have the potential for a sound organization. We are blessed in our Jurisdiction with a good committee structure. I have attended many of the committee meetings, and was able to observe the way in which their business was handled, and issues coming before them were dealt with care and thought. I appreciated the conciliare approach with which I have been accustomed, where every voice is given an opportunity to be heard. I appreciated too, the leadership of the Grand Secretary at these meetings for his knowledge and grasp of the various issues that were before them. I wish to express my thanks to the committees for their welcome into their midst and the option to comment. The Board of General Purposes under the direction of its President, RWBro Norman Senn handled the business of Grand Lodge with good planning and careful attention to detail.
As I have already stated, I visited Lodges by invitation. This method may have some fall out, as there could be Lodges which I should have visited and, perhaps, offered to be present, especially for those who may feel they are being overlooked. I would urge the DDGM's to be alert for the Lodges that may have the feeling they are being left out and request the Grand Master to pay them a visit. Wherever I visited there was almost always a good turnout of visitors and I was impressed by the support that many Lodges gave to the member Lodges of their own district.
I must say that these visits were the highlights of my year. The fellowship of the Brethren in both the Lodge meetings and at the festive boards was outstanding and I wish to thank them for their loyalty to the Grand Lodge and its Officers.
Foundation for the Future
The initiative that was begun under the leadership of MWBro Hugh Young last year was carried forward under the leadership of RW Bro Gerry Webber in a Strategic Renewal program with the title of Foundation for the Future under a plan that was given the name of The Doric Plan. It was at their initial meeting that I chose as my theme for the year "Share the Vision ". As the year went on, I realized that the theme has a far wider application than I had envisioned at that time. As you are well aware there has been a great deal of planning done in the Foundation for the Future initiative, but the activity has not been as great as was expected and there have been setbacks over which we had little control. But the plan is a good one, and can easily be adapted to every single Lodge, for it begins with the input of the "grass roots" Masons, and builds on their findings. In our travels we have learned that we are not the only Grand Lodge that is working on this kind of initiative. But the way is not easy and requires a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Let us continue to share in the vision we have for our beloved Craft.
I do not have any recommendations as such, but there are some suggestions which come out of the reports already given, as well as from my own observations.
- It is important for the Foundation for the Future initiative to be carried forward. There needs to be a concerted effort to get the individual Lodges to share in this venture. It will yield bigger dividends to those that participate.
- There is an ongoing committee on Masonic Charities which are encouraged to look at the place of fund raising in which Masons are involved. I have appreciated the attention given to this area by RWBro Art Jones, Deputy Grand Master who chaired this committee. I trust that this committee will continue in its good and rather complex work.
The good work that is being done by The Masonic Higher Education Bursary Fund and the Masonic Foundation is to be highly commended. There are a number of Lodges and associations which are also doing good work. We are of course reminded again, that the Masonic Order is not a fund raising group for charitable purposes. This theme was repeated in many of the Conferences I attended.
There are so many people that I would like to thank for their concern and support. It would take too many pages to do this properly. I wish to thank all of those officers of Grand Lodge and the Past Grand Masters, who have accompanied me on my fraternal visits and for their service to the Craft over the year.
The District Deputy Grand Masters have been very helpful wherever I have visited and have given me wise counsel and I count many of them as close personal friends. To those members of the Central District who have been my chauffeurs, getting me to the meetings and home again safely, and to the Red Deer Lodges for their support and involvement in this meeting of the Grand Lodge, my heartfelt thanks! And to RWBro Gerry Webber, who has been a good friend and wise consultant in so many instances. I would also like to express my thanks to Judy Rivers, who has been my main contact with the Grand Lodge Office, and who, along with her associates has made my year a little less chaotic in the administrative details, in which I have limited skills! And especially to my good Lady Vi, whose life and agenda were dramatically changed over the past four years, and for her love and support, and is now ready for a more serene life.
Last year at the Montana Grand Lodge Meeting, MWBro Jack Rehberg, the theme speaker asked the question "Are you a thermometer or a thermostat in your Lodges." The implication was that there is little we can do about a thermometer; it simply states what the reality of the air temperature is. But a thermostat is capable of changing the atmosphere. That is our challenge, as it always has been. In sharing any vision it requires that we have the attributes of the latter.
May the Grand Architect of the Universe continue to bless and guide our Grand Lodge, and inspire us to the higher good for all human kind because we care for the fellowship of which we are a part and the society to which we belong. The "destiny which makes us Brothers" will assure that.
A standing ovation with prolonged applause demonstrated the feelings of the assembled Brethren.