So I Did This Thing…


Recently I was a guest on The Working Tools Podcast, These brothers are doing really good work. After you, hopefully, enjoy my thoughts be sure to check out the other topics and guests.


An Oasis of Kindness


Not long ago, I was privileged to see the Broadway musical “Come From Away”. Set in the week following the September 11 attacks, “Come From Away” tells the story of what happened when 38 planes carrying some 7000 passengers were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada – a town with a population of 9600.  As I watched the show unfold I could only think that in the wake of something horrible, something amazingly human happened.

I am privileged, with permission, to share this firsthand account from my Brother RW Mac Moss, a member of Airways Lodge #26 under the Grand Lodge of Newfoundland & Labrador.

Gander Freemasons Hall is the meeting hall and club rooms for the Masonic Fraternity in Gander & area. The building was erected in 1956 and has seen several expansions and modernizations to keep it up to date. The top floor or Blue Room is the meeting space for Gander Lodge # 16; Airways Lodge # 26; Unity Lodge # 32; Arklie Chapter # 3 Royal Arch Masons; Central Council, Royal & Select Masters; Crossroads Preceptory and the Gander Shrine Club. The downstairs space is called The Square & Compass Club. It has a small private bar, a functional commercial kitchen, and table seating for approximately 120 dinner guests. All of the named organizations begin their meetings in September following a two month summer break.

For many years, a small group of Masons would meet at the Hall around 4:00 pm and have a, (sometimes) quiet game of cards. On September 11, 2001, the usual group was beginning to gather, but the main topic today wasn’t cards or the weather. Everyone was aware of the NYC 9/11 incident and everyone was aware that Gander International Airport was receiving a lot of planes. Shortly after 4:00 pm the phone at the Clubrooms rang. It was the Gander Emergency Operations Centre inquiring if the Club would accept up to 100 passengers from TWA Flight 819. Don Leyte was the Building Manager for the Gander Masonic Hall but he had to get clearance from the President of the Gander Masonic Hall Company and the Masters of both Gander & Airways Lodges.  (Bros. Fred Moffitt* & Terry Hollett). This clearance was quickly obtained and Don called the EOC and told them they were beginning to prepare the building for Passenger occupancy.

Calls quickly went out to Lodge Members and their friends to bring in blankets, bedding and food! The Square & Compass Club has a standing credit account at Gander Co-op Store and several members including Gander Masonic Hall President, Hayward Clarke, were delegated to go to the Co-op and get enough food to get them through the next 24 hours. The volunteers worked through the evening and early morning, cleaning and clearing the meeting room and club room, making sure they would be ready for their guests.

The “Blue Room” where Masonic Meetings were held, has a beautiful Blue wool carpet adorned with Square & Compass symbols. Don was told that they would be receiving cots for the Passengers, so it was decided to cover the carpet with plastic to keep it from getting dirty. However the cots didn’t arrive until the afternoon of September 12 but the 100 guests slept in relative comfort their first night on that magnificent carpet.

The Square & Compass Club was uniquely qualified to feed the Passengers from the TWA Flight. Regular Masonic social functions are held at the clubrooms for Christmas, Valentines or Installation banquets where Lodge volunteer cooks regularly prepare and serve food for up to 120 Masons & their Ladies.

Around 3:00 am on September 12, the first busses arrived bringing the travel weary, emotionally distraught, passengers from TWA Flight 819. As with all host locations, the Passengers crowded around the single television, and tried to absorb the images of destruction that led them to this tiny town in Newfoundland & Labrador. Hayward Clarke recalls periods of deathly quiet followed by exclamations of profound grief and shock as the passengers saw the planes impact the Twin Towers. The Masons and their Ladies wept with the passengers as they jointly felt the loss inflicted on America.

Eventually the Guests were led upstairs to the Blue Room where Brethren of both Lodges and their Ladies issued them their blankets and pillows and urged them to settle down as best they could and try to get some rest. The only cautions issued to the guests were, “No food or drink in the sleeping area.” (That was done to protect the carpet!), and “Please keep talking to a whisper.” The carpeted area was approximately 50ft X 30 ft. Each guest had 15 square feet, a space about 2.5 ft. X 6.5 ft. to lay out their bedding. The expression sleeping ‘head & toe’ took on a whole new meaning.

Breakfast the next morning was as good as you would get at a quality hotel. A variety of cereals, fruits & juices, eggs any way you liked them,  a choice of bacon, ham or bologna and white & whole wheat toast, washed down with brewed coffee and orange pekoe tea. The Passengers loved it!

The lunch meal came from soups, sandwiches, & casseroles donated by members and friends of the Masonic community. Later that afternoon, the S&C Club was informed that food was now available at the Community Centre Ice Arena and the coordination of food acquisition, storage and delivery was being done by the Salvation Army.

As was the case with many Host sites, some of the more elderly passengers were taken into homes of Lodge members, to give them a more comfortable bed. Over the course of the 4 days, all of the passengers were taken home by volunteers for showers.

The building had only one telephone and that created some stress among the Passengers as it was difficult to restrict the length of the calls once a passenger had made connection to a loved one. The phone was in use all night and well into the next day at no charge to the guests. Herb Morgan, a Mason and a volunteer at the S & C Club was returning to the Lodge following a noon food run when he noticed a young couple sitting on the grass outside the building. The young lady was crying her eyes out and the young man could not console her. Herb went over to the couple to see if he could help in any way. The young lady was distraught because she had not been able to contact her family and knew they must be very worried about her. As Herb was driving back to the Lodge, he had noticed that NewTel  (the phone company), had set up banks of telephones on tables on their property only300 metres from the Lodge building. These phones were available to passengers for free! As it was a beautiful day, Herb offered to walk the couple over to the telephones, making sure they could find their way back to the Lodge.

Every evening someone would show up with a guitar and entertain the passengers.

Some of the volunteers at the Freemasons Hall were Don Leyte, Cyril Edison*, Jack Granville, Wayne Wareham, Fred Moffitt*, Gerry Mercer*, Aubrey Cooper, Mark LeGrow*, Gerry Kean, Don Milley*, Herb Morgan, Wilson Hoffe, Joe Dunphy and Gander Masonic Hall President, Hayward Clarke. (* Deceased)

At the time there was a Masonic Ladies Auxiliary and these Ladies provided great service to the Passengers as well.

Note:  Many of the Masons were involved with serving passengers at other host locations in Gander. If the Mason was a teacher, he was most likely involved in serving passenger needs at his school. All Gander Churches had passengers so many of the Masons were involved in serving the needs of passengers through their church. Personally, I was a member of Airways Lodge # 26 but also the Principal of the Gander Campus of the College of the North Atlantic, a post-secondary training college. We had 442 passengers from Air France Flight 004 (We had the two Kevins from the “Come From Away” musical.) and 172 passengers from Lufthansa Flight 416. (Mac Moss)

On 9/11/2001 Gander received 38 aircraft. 2 US military aircraft, the crews and passengers of which were cared for by the 9 Wing Royal Canadian Air Force Base in Gander. The remaining 36 aircraft were all wide body jumbo jets with passenger loads of 85 to 360 passengers. In all of these aircraft there were approximately 6700 passengers and flight crew. The Flight crews were given hotel rooms as they were required to have mandatory rest and would be fresh to fly when the planes were called to depart. All the passengers were sheltered by Lodges, churches, Lions Clubs, Kinsmen Clubs, Elks Clubs, fire halls, Canadian Legion Clubs and schools. Their bedding was as rough as a single sheet on a tile floor, to a wooden pew in a church, to a canvas cot, to luxurious, English wool, Masonic Carpet, to a comfortable bed in a private citizens home. All of the food and accommodations were provided free to the Passengers!

Passenger Comments:

“Stranded in Gander, TWA flight 819, was given a gift, a lesson in humanity, kindness, and hospitality during our short stay. With all the madness in the world, to fall into a community of such care. The world could take lesson from you folks!! Thanks Gander, Masonic lodge, Jerry, Mona, Ness, Uncle Bob, we are all your family now. We will take this spirit you showed us and move it on to others whenever we get the chance. This will be our way to show our appreciation for your kindness. Kkeep that spirit moving!”    ~ Denis & Shirley Spanek

“To the people of Gander and especially the wonderful men and women at the Masonic Lodge: Words can never express our gratitude for your caring giving and tireless effort you gave the passengers of TWA flight 819. Though difficult, you gave us faith in mankind and comforted us. We never heard a complaint. Instead it was “what can we do.” And, Gander made so many people that had never met before, a family. Thanks to all, and God bless you.”  ~ Dan and Stephanie Williams

“Best regards to the caring people of Newfoundland who dropped everything to take care of the stranded passengers. If only the rest of the world were so good-hearted, we would not be experiencing such unspeakable tragedies. Special thanks to Ness Skinner and all those associated with the Masonic Lodge. I would also like to acknowledge Jack and Karen Bechard and the many co-passengers and crew on TWA flight 819 who took special care of my 10 year old daughter and her grandfather (my father). Largely because of the way you doted over her, my daughter enjoyed her stay in Gander as much as her week in Paris. (Her mother and I are wondering how we are going to compete with the fact that she walked off the plane with an industrial-size trash bag full of toys.) You will all, forever, be in our thoughts and prayers.”  ~ Alex’s dad

“Our heartfelt thanks to all the wonderful people of Gander, for going “above and beyond” caring, love, and hospitality! TWA Flight 819 from Paris to St. Louis were taken in and housed at the Gander/Airways Masonic Lodge for three days. The volunteers there cooked, arranged for showers and laundry, and made us feel like family. When we left on September 14th, we were family! Thank you cannot begin to express our feelings of gratitude. You will never be forgotten, but fondly remembered as “family and friends”! ~ Jerry & Mieka Gerard: Tampa, Florida

“To all of the wonderful people of Gander, You turned a disaster into a triumph. My husband and I were coming back from a two week trip to Paris. The experiences we had in Gander, particularly at the Masonic Lodge gave us hope for the future of our troubled world. I am infused with “Gander Generosity and Goodness” and have tried to treat everyone I encounter with the same spirit that you all showed to us. On a funny note, we shared with everyone at home about what happened in your wonderful town. Thank you again for opening your homes and hearts to us. And hello to everyone on TWA Flight 819. “     ~ Paul and Julie Bishop

5 Points of Fellowship and Social Media

I was enjoying the recent edition of the Washington Masonic Tribune, in particular an article written by VW Doug Stamper, Deputy of the Grand Master in District No. 7. I offer it here for your consideration.

Reverend G Oliver speaks of the 5 points of fellowship in the 19th Century before the GL of England in his lecture before reunification, “Assisting a brother in his distress, supporting him in his virtuous undertakings, praying for his welfare, keeping inviolate his secrets and vindicating his reputation as well in his absence as in his presence.”  These were symbolized by Hand, Foot, Knee, Breast and Back.  (online reference)

I am reminded of these points when considering the context of social media and the craft. Brothers, one cannot set aside these lessons when engaging in “dialog” online. I placed quotes around dialog because what is happening is a series of single duplex monologs where all civility is cast aside. We all understand that we do not waste time in lodge on the topics of politics and religion, nor do we suffer it to be done by others. Why then do we apply a separate set of rules when posting online? Does your friend group not include your brothers? Why is it acceptable to publicly excoriate another’s character because of a difference in opinion? The deliberate contradiction is tearing at the fabric of our craft.

Social Media is not a place to spend time if you want to change someone’s mind, nor is it conducive to a well-screen-shot-2015-03-21-at-2-32-06-pmreasoned debate. Rather, it is a place where tribal warfare is supported by memes someone fabricated in Photoshop, or by some unsupported statistics posted in some critic’s twitter feed. We are better than this. The prominent social media platforms are all designed to surround you with opinions that match your own – further entrenching you in the “correctness” of your position. Careful attention must be paid to fact checking any curated set of facts that suddenly appear on your feed. We can do better than this.

Further, if your online presence includes a public display of your membership in Freemasonry (non-anonymous presence), then you need to elevate your dialog to a higher level. Every character, syllable, word, or sentence reflects the good-bad-ugly on our fraternity. Are we not the men who “… is one whom the burdened heart may pour out its sorrow, to whom distress may prefer its suit, whose hand is guided by justice, and whose heart is expanded by benevolence?” I find it disappointing when witnessing the interactions between my brothers and hope we can all pause a moment to reconsider more than just being right. Empathy and attention to the bigger picture will lead you back to our principal virtues on which this great fraternity is founded.

Lastly Brethren, if one researches The Royal Society, the early predecessor to Freemasonry, you see the origins of the prohibition of discussions on politics and religion. Dago Rodriguez, PM and Editor of the Fraternal Review wrote of The Royal Society, “Take no one’s word.” This is to say that one ought to do their homework regarding facts of the matter in a search for Truth.  And, he writes, “Truth is the goal to knowledge, and tolerance is the pathway.”

Note: Doug wanted to make sure that I credit Br. Robert Mullis for inspiring the first paragraph; and Joe MacIntyre for sharing the piece that inspired the last paragraph

That’s how winning is done!


Disappointment is a huge aspect of any journey, and it appears more often than desired. It is important, however, not to allow any disappointment that will happen throughout life to become consuming. Feeling sorry for oneself will only inhibit the achievement of true happiness. Life is too short to dwell on outcomes that cannot be changed.

I recently completed my tenure as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Washington, truly a most rewarding and life affirming experience. Nonetheless it was an experience that got started with the disappointment of not being elected as Junior Grand Warden. My path to the Grand East may have been derailed if I succumbed to this disappointment. Instead, I remembered that the best remedy in dealing with disappointment is to acknowledge and work through the emotion it evokes. It is normal, human to feel upset or angry. Rather than wallow in self-pity, we need to recognize that this is a part of life and although this will happen time and time again, each time it does, we only become stronger and more resilient. Put another way, without disappointment and the lessons it offers, how does one ever learn to grow as a person?

The lecture of the 12th Degree of the Scottish Rite deals with the dignity of human nature (a lesson originally taught in the Third Degree of Masonry) and the vast powers of the human soul. Contemplation and knowledge leads to the object of a Mason’s everlasting search, wisdom. Wisdom is the greatest gift of disappointment. “Never was a human being sunk so low that he had not, by God’s gift, the power to rise. Every man as the power and should use it, to make all situations and trials to promote his virtues and happiness…’

Of course this means that one must be willing to listen and learn when wisdom is presented. It is well to remember that “wisdom is a gift from God and should be preferred over riches (or favorable election results)”. After the results of the election, one of my mentors came to me to offer his comfort and to share some wisdom. This allowed me to refocus my energies and do the things that I believed were necessary to create a more favorable result in the future. Life being what it is disappointment would come my way once more, but it brought with it additional wisdom and a reminder that we while we may live our lives we are not necessarily in control of our lives.

“in the long run, the mind will be happy, just in proportion to its fidelity and wisdom.” Happily, I would be elected on my third attempt enriched by the wisdom received through the disappointments along the way.

We Have a Role to Play

In my “spare time” I have been tackling the Master Craftsman Program offered by the Scottish Rite. Each lesson requires an essay or series of essays. Thought I might share one.


In Charles Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol”, these words are spoken by the Ghost of Christmas Present: “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it. Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.”

Ignorance is best defined as lack of knowledge or unwillingness to learn. This stifling of learning is a dangerous mindset that can inhibit an individual from discovering truth and restricts personal development. This is best illustrated in the 9th and 10th Degrees by the cave which is a symbol of the imprisonment of the human soul and intellect by ignorance, superstition, deceit, and fraud. Also by the ruffian’s lamp feebly lighting the cave representing the pale light that despotism substitutes for the brilliant light of truth. In his “Six Mistakes of Man”, the Roman philosopher Cicero noted as one of those mistakes “the fact people stop learning and do not continue to hone their minds”.

So what role should Freemasonry play in dispelling ignorance?

I submit that Freemasonry has at best an indirect role in this task. To quote Right Worshipful Thomas Jackson, Past Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania:

“It is not the responsibility of Freemasonry to change the world. It is the responsibility of Freemasonry to change the man through the making of good men better. It is then the Freemason’s responsibility to change the world.” Put another way, it is the individual Freemason that must work to dispel what the 9th and 10th Degrees describe as “the principal enemy of human freedom”. The Freemason’s tools in doing so are the lessons of Freemasonry.

In the 9th and 10th Degree, the candidate is instructed to exemplify the lessons of the degrees by dedicating himself to instructing and enlightening the people, thus freeing them from superstitious fears and subservience. This is best symbolized by the apron of an Elu of the Nine which bears a star symbolizing Light, Knowledge, and Toleration; and a candle burning in the darkness (I take that to be the lessons of Freemasonry) dispelling ignorance.

As members of this great fraternity, we are fortunate to be surrounded by brethren that we trust enough that when they whisper good counsel, we know that it is intended to draw us out more fully, not to shut us down even partially. This, of course, assumes that the individual Freemason is willing to receive such good counsel, to be willing to learn.

It is well to remember that eradicating ignorance completely from one’s life is an impossible task, much like becoming a perfect ashlar; but working to eliminate ignorance by investing time and effort in learning and developing can truly benefit an individual long term. Hence, Freemasonry calls upon its Freemasons “to labor to instruct, inform, and enlighten the people when called upon to do so”.

It’s a Time of Wonder


For me, the Christmas season really begins when I hear Andy Williams singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, There are two key reasons why I feel this way: One, the Andy Williams Christmas specials were an important part of my childhood. Two, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Masonically speaking, it is the height of the installation season. This is our opportunity as brethren to give thanks to the outgoing Master for all of his hard work, to give best wishes to his successor, and to pledge the support of the Brethren to the new ‘team’. I recall my installation as Master of Frank S. Land Lodge No. 313 as a joyous occasion. The energy in the room was electric. I could feel that no one wanted me to fail. No doubt, others who have made the journey to East feel the same way. What’s not wonderful about that?

This is also a time of religious and moral reflection that inspire many people to reach out to those who are in need. Though Freemasonry is not a charity in the truest sense of the word, charity is an inseparable part of Freemasonry. It is my belief that you cannot be a Freemason if you are not charitable. Being charitable is one way that you can Be the Difference and add to the wonder of the season.

Most importantly, it is a time when those of us of faith – whatever that faith may be – celebrate then the traditions of our faith. For me and my family, that celebration is Christmas. The story of the birth of Christ as related in the Book of Luke, Chapter 2, (most eloquently recited by Linus Van Pelt, is what makes this time of year most wonderful.

I also enjoy the secular traditions of the season – shopping, decorating the house, looking at neighborhood light displays, holiday specials, preparing the meal, and the look of joy on a loved one’s face when a present is opened. Lest I forget, I still visit Santa and get my picture taken.

As I wrap up my Christmas message, I share these words from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”:

How can they talk about Santa Claus when there is so much unhappiness in the world? Poor, misguided folks. They missed the whole point. Lot’s of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give: of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.

A Very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and the Best of the Holiday Season to one and all – God Bless Us, Everyone!

You Got to Walk the Talk, Every Day, Every Way


The Six Steps to Initiation was adopted by our Grand Lodge as a means of improving membership retention. The idea is to take a closer look at the man who is interested in our Fraternity at the start of it all to ensure that he is truly a good fit not only for the fraternity, but also for your lodge. This enhanced vetting process also allows the interested man to make the same determination for himself. That’s right, inasmuch as we are taking a serious look at him, he is taking a serious look at us.

Recently, I was privileged to attend the raising of two of our newest Master Masons, Byron Creuger and Carl Hennings. Brother Byron is an employee of Washington Masonic Charities. Byron, a non-Mason at the time, was hired two years ago to serve as Director of Outreach Services. In that period of time he has had the opportunity to meet with many brethren, to learn of their passion for the work we do as Freemasons, and to see firsthand the sincerity of their intentions. Over those two years he formed a positive opinion of Freemasonry and decided to become not just a friend, but a brother in our work.

Brother Carl’s route to his degrees was a familial road. Carl is the grandson of Past Grand Master MW Al Jorgensen. As a member of Edward James DeMolay, and throughout his DeMolay journey, Carl saw up close & personal men who were true to the ideals of the Craft. To be sure, legacy influenced his decision to petition for membership; but there can be no doubt that watching Freemasons – if I may borrow a quote from a Past Grand Master – walk the talk solidified his choice.

As I stated earlier inasmuch as we are taking a serious look at every man who knocks at our door, they are also taking a serious look at us. Have you ever wondered about the men who we thought would make fine brothers, but never asked for a petition? Do you suppose that maybe, just maybe, they looked at us and found us wanting? The ideals that we profess as Freemasons cannot be turned on when it is convenient. We must, to borrow a phrase from another Past Grand Master, practice them every day in every way.

We can create the greatest retention program our fraternity has ever seen, but it will do little good if what the potential members sees is in conflict with our words. It is well to remember that for Freemasonry to Be the Difference in a potential brother’s life we must walk our talk every day in every way. Yes, that may seem hard, but maybe that’s why Freemasonry is called work.