Category: Master’s Blog

February, 2018

February, 2018

Greetings fellow Brethren and friends.

Acalanes Fellowship Lodge is already in full speed ahead. We held our first degree of the year on Tuesday January 23rd for Mr. Reynold Barzaga Dandan who was elected to receive the 1st degree of Masonry in our lodge at the January Stated Meeting. The degree began at 6:30pm, and it was wonderful to watch our core of excellent ritualists perform the first degree of the year and welcome our newest member to our lodge and fraternity.

I am looking forward to seeing you all at our annual Crab Feed at the Lafayette Community center on Saturday 27th. We have an exciting lineup of exciting silent auction of donated items. This event is the largest fundraiser for the year! I am also excited to report that Job’s Daughters and the Order of the Eastern Star are going to be serving our guests and we will be taking up a collection for them that night.  

Our Junior Warden Adam Hanin will be making a presentation at our upcoming February Stated Meeting on how to use this RSVP system for our lodge. Once you all see how easy it is to use I’m confident you will all want to embrace this new RSVP technology. As in the past, anyone who wants to send in check or cash payments for this and future events, please direct them only to our lodge Secretary Fred Lezak at our lodge PO Box 1, Lafayette CA 94549 and indicate in the check memo what the payment is for.

Our upcoming February Stated Meeting will take place on Tuesday, February 6th and I look forward to seeing you all then. Finally, please save the date of Tuesday, February 27th for our first monthly lodge potluck and social night.

January, 2018

January, 2018

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow Brethren for giving me the honor and privilege of serving again as Master of Acalanes Fellowship Lodge #480 in 2018! The theme of my year will be “Why we Gather.”

I want to emphasise this theme so that my fellow brethren and their loved ones will better understand why it is so important that we as men devote so much of our time to our gentle craft. To begin with, we as Masons share a common bond in the experience we received in our initiation into the Fraternity.

During our first degree, we are taught about the three great lights of Masonry which are the holy writings, the compass and the square. These tools are constant daily reminders to all Masons. The holy writings are given to us by God as the rule and guide of our faith. The square and compass are Masonic tools that remind us to keep our actions and behaviors in check toward all mankind.

Each Mason is then presented with a lambskin apron which is an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason. The Lambskin apron is more ancient than the Golden Fleece or the Roman Eagle and more honorable than anything of value or distinction we ever will receive in life.

We then receive instruction on the importance of time management using a twenty-four- inch gauge as a guide. Masonry teaches us that to keep a healthy balance in life, we must divide our time into three parts. One part for service to God and a distressed worthy brother, a part for work and a part for rest and our families.

The next teaching is about the importance of the Common Gavel. In society, the Common Gavel is seen more as a form of authority. But we as Masons are taught that the Common Gavel is used for breaking apart our old ways and continually building a new and better self internally.

Masons gather together not to be seen by the outside world as a secret society whose only mission is to gain wealth and political power. Nothing could be further from the truth! We gather together to focus on our Brothers internal heart and soul. To take good men and make them better through a series of three ritual degrees and ongoing mentoring and fellowship. We gather because our Masonic Community gives us the armor we need as we travel through life’s times of joy and times of sorrow. That someday we will join God in his celestial lodge above (forever). We are a support network of friends and brothers who strive to live out the three principal tenets of Masonry which are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

To live as Mason, one must have a strong support network in place that can whisper words of encouragement and council whether we want to hear it or not. Knowledge of temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice are key elements of our teachings. The reason this is so important is that what we do as Masons in our daily lives at work, at home and at refreshment are a reflection on our lodge and Fraternity so we must continually strive to improve ourselves.

I ask again, why do we gather? Masons gather because we as human beings have an internal need for community. The bond we share in Masonry makes us not only friends but Fraternal brothers. Have you not seen or experienced two complete strangers meet and then find that they share the Masonic bond of Masonry and become instant friends? A man that can trusted to be on the level and share similar values and ethics. I personally experience this in my daily life and it’s a wonderful thing to know that no matter where I go I will ALWAYS have a friend and brother who will be there for me when I need him.

Another reason why we gather is that God who is all seeing and all- knowing desires it to be so. I have been placed in this lodge for a reason and have been called to do so. While Masonry is not a religion, and should never be used as a replacement for one, we as Masons are implored to supplement the teachings of the holy writings with the Masonic ritual we teach and implement the lessons through life. I cannot express how many times I have been sitting in a church and heard a sermon on portions of our Masonic ritual and had that revelation moment. It is a beautiful thing when a Mason receives new light supported by biblical scripture written well over 2,000 years ago.

Finally, why we gather is because Masonry is as relevant to us today as it was to our three founding Grand Masters Solomon, King of Israel, Hiram, King of Tyre and Hiram Abiff, the Widow’s son from the tribe of Naphtali.

In conclusion, Acalanes Fellowship Lodge will continue to be known as “The Friendly Lodge”. Our home away from home. During this Masonic year our home continues to be your home as well. In 2018, we will continue to strive for degree excellence but will create more opportunities for all Masons and their families to better understand our gentle craft through social and Masonic education events, fundraisers and community service projects. I look forward to working with you all and wish you a very happy and prosperous 2018!

December, 2017

December, 2017

Isabella’s penitence,
Thomas Wheatley’s treasure trove,
Threads with which Kind Providence,
Robe of bounty for us wove

These phrases, from my School song, resonate in my mind to illustrate how the history of our ancient institutions is the warp and weft of the cloth by which our modern institutions are clad. The warp is the timeline of history as it gathers the weft of the shuttle passing through the loom. Masonry is no stranger to this process.

Our heritage is the accumulation of wisdom through the ages. Our sacred rituals are gathered from more ancient rituals as man has explored his relationship with his maker. Our principle tenets, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth are the distillation of all that is essential to a Just Society, and so we are the custodians of a treasure we must pass on to future generations.

The Masonic founders of this Nation enshrined these principles in its Declaration of Independence and in its Constitution. Masons led the way to universal education, one of the mainstays of the Nation’s greatness. So now we have an obligation to pay attention to the lessons that Masonry provides and, through Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice restore civility to our society and renewed strength to the Nation’s and the World’s Institutions.

As we move toward the end of the three hundredth anniversary of the first Grand Lodge, think of all the moving lines of Lodge Officers who have maintained and grown our Institution, reaching across Time and Space to us, our line of officers, all the Brethren of our Lodge and their Families. Ponder on the great responsibilities we have inherited in guiding the future. Kind Providence has indeed blessed us and we in turn we are privileged to use our blessings to the betterment of this world.

November, 2017

November, 2017

This has been a Masonic year that in many ways is similar to every other. We cut down the trees threatening our Lodge. Someone crashed into the Lodge and we are working our way through repairs. We are working with a Neighbor to replace the fence between our properties. We held a moving Memorial Service in the Lodge for Jack Chudley. The City of Lafayette is again considering traffic management developments that would require removal of the Lodge (we have a good team on this). We had a visitation to Mendocino Lodge 179 and a great BBQ on the Tunzi Ranch. Crab Feed and Luau. And we are again trying to get 5 year plans for the Lodge and for the Hall off the ground. These are all things typical of what happens in the annual cycle of keeping a lodge in being.

We have had five entered apprentice degrees, two FC degrees and two MM degrees. We have been approached by over 20 men interested in Masonry, three of whom have joined us and 10 of whom we are working with. We have established a policy that the first line signer of a prospect will be the person’s coach. Experience at other lodges indicates that this encourages careful thought when bringing in a new member and develops members more likely to contribute because of the commitment made right at the start. We are building better Builders, taking good men and making them better.

As the year approaches its end we look forward to a tour of the Nike base on the Marin headlands conducted by Brother Kreutzinger on November 11th, who will also tell us about how the SF Bay has been defended from the earliest days of written history. Finally, Installation of Officers is just over a month away (December 9th, 5:30 sharp) and we have a Sweethearts Luncheon on December 16th at 11:30am. We look forward to seeing you in Lodge.

October, 2017

October, 2017

I never cease to wonder at how multi-dimensional is our ancient, gentle craft. On Tuesday September 19 we had the distinct privilege of passing Scott Zimmerman to Fellow Craft Mason. Scott belongs to Antioch Lodge which, as you all know, has had significant problems with its Lodge Building. There were brothers from four lodges present and three lodges participated in the ceremony. Your degree team acquitted itself well in this always moving ceremony.

When we consider the science and engineering reflected in the degree and consider that the ritual is over 300 years old it reflects what a cutting edge organization the craft has been through its development. And even now, the geometry we celebrate is foundational to many modern capabilities including: Finite Element Analysis; Computational Fluid Dynamics; Cosmology; and so much more.

We trace our Masonic roots back way before the first formal Grand Lodge 300 years ago. And as we review the Regius Document of 1390 we see reference to Masonry coming to England with the Phoenicians who last traded with England three centuries BC, buying tin to support the Bronze Age.

And so we move to the future as we prepare for yet another peaceful transfer of power at our annual installation – an example of political grace that the whole world can learn from. We are indeed blessed to be Masons.

October’s Stated Meeting Dinner and Happy Hour is focused on Oktoberfest and the Stated Meeting is Advanced Stations. November sees our election of Officers while in December our Junior Warden will talk to us after dinner about protecting ourselves on the internet. Finally on December 9th we will hold our installation and the new officers will celebrate with a Sweethearts lunch at Lodge on December 16th. The Lodge looks healthy, though as ever we struggle to fill the line without imposing on Past Masters, a tradition I hope we will maintain. And looking even further ahead, 2021 is our 100th Anniversary. You can be sure we will be in full party mode for that!

September, 2017

September, 2017

So the dog days of summer, the rising of the dog star Sirius with the Sun, were this year enhanced with a solar eclipse, a couple of pool parties and a visitation to the historic lodge of Mendocino where our Past Master’s team of ritualists exemplified the second degree.

The Mendocino Lodge was built by the first Master of the Lodge, who placed on its roof a carving he made from a huge redwood stump. The carving depicts a scene central to the Masonic Third Degree. After the visitation, we took the opportunity to have a pretty special barbeque at a pretty special place. The Tunzi Ranch has, since 1946, been in the hands of four generations of the Tunzi family (with Frank, the Fifth Generation, arriving just 6 weeks ago). Larry the current owner and third generation, helped his father build the Masonic location, complete with outdoor lodge for degrees (particularly Royal Arch) and complemented with a cookhouse, hot showers and all modern conveniences. The BBQ pit is huge and fueled by wild Madrone wood that burns down to magnificent ashes. Twenty five attended the BBQ, including six of the Tunzi family. Four of us camped overnight at the Ranch while others found accommodation in nearby Fort Bragg.

Coming up, on August 31, Orinda is hosting an open house where Tony Cimmarra, AGL of Division III, will perform the Lodge “walkabout” ritual. This meeting is open to all, Masons and Non-Masons, where you will learn the meaning behind many of the features and appurtenances of the Lodge. Dinner is at 6:30 (email me for reservations by COB Monday before). Ceremony is at 7:30

This Stated Meeting (September 5th) features our oft delayed official visit of our Worshipful Inspector who will present Brother Gerald Patchen with his 50 year pin and certificate. Come join us in the Reception of a Grand Lodge Officer and the Presentation of the Flag. The October Stated Meeting will be Advanced Stations

And lastly, on September 30th, Island City Lodge is hosting a day of Masonic Education led by Worshipful Kenneth Nagy of San Diego, followed by the celebrated Island City Festive Board. If you are interested, email me for details.

August, 2017

August, 2017

The July Stated Meeting Luau went off very well, the whole responsibility for which had landed on the shoulders of our Senior Deacon. It was great to see so many attend, all having a great time. The musicians, dancers and the fire dancer were judged to be a great success, but as we have noted on the past two occasions, holding the event at a Stated Meeting is just a bit trying for the officers and organizers. So don’t be surprised if the next one is held on a Saturday, maybe starting at 5 instead of 6, but with perhaps an hour more entertainment. That might also encourage a larger attendance (we had nearly 50 and it is clear that we can easily accommodate 100).

Coming up we have the next Stated Meeting on August 1 when we will put on a slide show of our favorite bits of the UK trip. On August 12 we will be presenting the Hiram Award to Otis Simonson. The event starts at 4:30 pm with dinner to follow. On August 19 we have our visitation to Mendocino Lodge where our Past Master’s team will Pass Bother Zhao to the degree of Fellow Craft. Come join us for a great weekend. There will be camping Friday through Sunday and BBQ Saturday late afternoon at Tunzi Ranch (Comptche).  Hotels in Fort Bragg are reasonably priced. My personal favorite is the Harbor Lite.

And finally, the thoughts I passed to the Master at Ethelfleda Lodge after exemplifying the California Second Degree:

“Though Freemasonry seems to be shrinking due to the pressure of our “go-go” society, we have an ever more urgent duty to illuminate Truth and Morality to the world. It is my considered opinion that we must be selective in who we make Masons and inculcate them with a sense of belonging to a very exclusive fraternity to which their attention must be directed. This exclusivity in fact generates a greater wish to belong and a greater wish to be seen to belong. However, we must also take care that Masonry does not become an obstacle between Mason and Family, but a reinforcement of those bonds of family so essential to stabilizing this ever more unstable world. It is my belief that it is this personal outreach into the world and our communities that we must encourage. And demonstrate our commitment to our ideals by walking uprightly in our several stations before God and man.”

July, 2017

July, 2017

As I sit writing this in a Hotel Room in London, this is truly “From the East”.  

Our group of 8 Masons and 3 Non-Masons had a very impressive trip, visiting Ireland Scotland and England. We were privileged to visit Killwinning Lodge 0 which has continuous records of Speculative Masonry going back to 1642 and intermittent records as early as 1580. Records before that may well turn up in the Moscow archives. Killwinning Lodge 0 has chartered lodges over the years and as such qualifies as a Grand Lodge which seems to undermine the claim of the Grand Lodge of England being the first Grand Lodge. PM Vick Vickers is currently assembling all of our photographs into a single archive while Brother John Minagro is developing a trip diary. Both the photo archive and the diary will be made available through links from the Lodge Website. In addition, we will present the highlights of the trip during the August Stated Meeting Dinner.

The picture accompanying this article was taken at Monolithos Lodge, the second lodge at which we exemplified the California Second Degree with our Grand Secretary taking the role of Junior Steward. I think we and Orinda Lodge can be very proud of both exemplifications. The Monolithos Lodge Brethren were intrigued by the Masters Hat which is not used in English Lodges. Perhaps we might be emulated?

It is a sign of the current strength of our Lodge that while five of us were in the UK the Lodge was also able to Initiate Bother Jason Harding. Welcome Brother Harding. I am sure you will absorb and make good use of the lessons of Masonry.

In my absence our Senior Deacon has led the work on our third annual Luau to be held on July 11 in conjunction with the July Stated Meeting which is moved from July 4 to July 11 at 5 pm. Finally, note we shall be visiting Mendocino Lodge on August 19 for the Past Masters Visitation when Brother Leon Zhao will be passed to Fellow Craft. We are planning a Barbeque at the Tunzi Ranch in Comptche, where camping will also be available.

June, 2017

June, 2017

Two Lodge Degree Teams had the privilege of Raising Brothers John Minagro and Jonathan Groetsch to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason on Saturday May 20th and Tuesday May 23rd respectively. Both degrees were impressive, notable for the steady pacing, the excellent floor work and frankly the judicious use of drama appropriate to the subject. They were both nights to remember, kudos to the teams who knew their work and were proud to get it right. I would also like to give a shout out to David Kreutzinger for his lively talk at the last Stated Meeting about lodges in Italy, Croatia and on Cruise ships.

We now look forward to our trip to the UK where we will roll off the ‘plane into a vat of Guinness, sober up on a high speed ferry to Scotland, pay homage to the Mother Lodge and Rosslyn Chapel and drift down to England to demonstrate the Second Degree to Ethelfleda Lodge on the Solstice and the first degree at Monolithos Lodge the next night where we will be joined by our Grand Secretary and PM who will be our Junior Steward for the evening. The finale of the trip will be joining many Masons in Weston Park to celebrate the 300th anniversary on the night of the feast of St. John the Baptist. Fireworks included!

Planning is advancing for the Lodge retreat and visitation to Mendocino Lodge August 19, where Brother Leon Zhao will be passed to the degree of Fellow Craft. We will be having a BBQ at the Tunzi Ranch in Comptche under the Redwoods, courtesy of Larry Tunzi of Mendocino Lodge. Some of us may also camp at the Ranch.

And finally allow me to acknowledge the generosity of so many of you who raised over $2,000 for Raise a Reader; and who got together to buy the first rate sound system and other degree items that have greatly improved the experience in all our rituals. Thank you Brothers!

May, 2017

May, 2017

It has been a busy month and a busy year for the lodge and the pace looks like it will continue.  Having initiated four Entered Apprentices and raised one brother, we will be passing a brother to Fellow Craft on April 25th and are planning on raising two brothers to the sublime degree of Master Mason on May 20th and 23rd. As announced last month we have selected Otis Simonson as our Hiram Award awardee. In order to accommodate some of Otis’s Guests, the Hiram Award Celebration has been moved to August 12th from the May 13th date previously announced.

The continuous improvement we have seen in our lodge over recent years has many fathers, but a consistent pressure has come from Grand Lodge through the Masters and Wardens and Secretary and Treasurers’ retreats held early in the year. After several years of M&W retreats beating the somewhat introspective drum of “relevance”, this year saw a move to the more positive theme of “engagement”. In truth we, in Acalanes Fellowship, have recognized this as the true issue for a number of years and it is no coincidence that we are “the friendly lodge” for this is our engagement between brothers. Our focus on improving the quality of our brotherhood through excellent Stated Meeting Dinners, strong friendships outside of the lodge, a whole host of coffee mornings between different groups all underpin this progress.  

We have come away from the latest M&W retreat with a toolkit of methods to improve engagement which I hope we will have time to make a start on this year. Our Secretary and Treasurer came from their retreat with reinforced tools for efficient management, notably Intacct (now fully implemented both in the Lodge and Hall Association) for managing finances. In addition, Grand Lodge has implemented an improved management of investigations through IMember,  reducing the Secretary’s and Master’s burdens.

Grand Lodge is encouraging the formation of new lodges, (there were 12 opened  last year) explicitly noting that lodges in California are too large to properly engage all their members. It was pointed out that Anderson’s constitutions of 1723 state that “No Master shall take on an apprentice except he shall have work for him”. Masonry in California (population 36 million) was compared with Masonry in Metropolitan London (population 8 million). Both Grand Lodges have the same number of members (55,000). California has fewer than 400 lodges, whereas London has over 1500. Just a thought to ponder as we move into the next century of Masonry.

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