Brother Pete Normand,JR on the Traditional Lodge Model

Discussion in 'General Freemasonry Discussion' started by jwhoff, Dec 28, 2011.

  1. jwhoff

    jwhoff Premium Member

    2,591
    142
    83
    Fellow members of the Scottish Rite Research Society,

    Received this very day the Volume 19, 2011 Heredom from the Society. Among the papers presented is one by Brother Pierre G. "Pete" Normand, Jr. 33rd degree. The paper actually starts on page 209 though it is listed as 207 in the Contents section.

    Brother Normand sheds much light on the Traditional Observance (TO) lodge concept we are all discussing of late. As usual Brother Normand's writing is impeccable and most informative. He actually lists lodges across the country, including those here in Texas. For the brothers in the Houston area who may not know, Doric Lodge No. 420 is on the list.

    He points out the void filled by such lodges for newer masons who, eager to learn more, become disillusioned with the lack of education provided in most of our blue lodges. He too breaches the oft-discussed quality vs. numbers topic. Again, it is an informative and thought provoking read for us all.

    We are truly blessed to have Brother Normand among the learned brethren of the Houston Scottish Rite.


    Those of you who are not members of the Research Society are missing a blessing.
     
  2. Ashton Lawson

    Ashton Lawson Premium Member

    207
    7
    18
    Just got my copy today, and I look forward to reading Bro. Pete's article. He once kept me on the phone for nearly 3 straight hours discussing PHA recognition, and I've liked him ever since. I've bumped into him a few times since at various events, and he is always the center of an engaged conversation where anyone listening can learn something.

    Can't wait!
     
  3. tomasball

    tomasball Premium Member

    476
    23
    38
    I wish we had a category on this board devoted to discussing "Best Traditional Practices." I realize that this movement isn't everyone's cup of tea, as evidenced by the number of brothers who post screams of agony when the subject of wearing neckties to lodge comes up, but perhaps there are a few of us here who could benefit from an ongoing comparison of notes on this subject.
     
  4. tomasball

    tomasball Premium Member

    476
    23
    38
    Here are the fundamental precepts currently promoted by the Masonic Restoration Foundation, which can be found on their website, and which Bro. Normand quotes in his article:

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that the fraternity is, above all else, an initiatic order whose main purpose is to teach good men to subdue their passions, become masters over themselves, and grow in life to be better men.

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that only those who are duly and truly prepared are eligible to be admitted as members. In keeping with the Masonic statement “to make good men better,” a man should only be initiated into a lodge if he is already good and capable of being made better. Determining the qualifications of men in seeking admission is an essential aspect of upholding the integrity of our ancient institution.

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that its ceremonies should be conducted with the utmost reverence and solemnity. Masonic ritual ceremonies should always be performed in a solemn and dignified manner. All efforts pertaining to the presentation of the degrees of Craft Freemasonry should be focused on the candidate, providing each with the most profound and transformative initiatic experience possible.

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that every Mason should be desirous to learn and apt to teach. Sufficient time between degrees should be given to each candidate so as to enhance his self transformation through personal intellectual study, reflection and contemplation. It is incumbent on every lodge to be aware of the progressive nature of its teaching curriculum, and to provide its candidates with a ritual coach and the mentorship of well informed brethren.

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that each candidate should demonstrate his proficiency in learning at each individual stage or degree before he can be advanced to the next stage. Traditionally, Masonic learning includes a demonstration of the candidate’s understanding of the journey from darkness to light, ignorance to knowledge; and his insight into the uses and applications of Masonic symbols, allegories and myths introduced by the ritual ceremonies. The aspirant should be able to articulate to his lodge brethren some positive changes in his character and demeanor as he advances in his understanding and proficiency. Every newly raised Master Mason should feel that he has grown intellectually and spiritually by his Masonic experience.

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that members of Masonic Lodges should be actively engaged in Freemasonry. Historically, attendance at Masonic meetings and functions was mandatory, with fines paid for absences not excused by the lodge. Active participation in the business and purposes of Masonry by a large majority of those who belong is essential to the growth and vitality of a lodge, and in carrying out its role in improving society.

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that Masons come together to seek fellowship and fraternity in a common pursuit of virtue and moral improvement. This has historically best been accomplished in small and intimate gatherings of fraternal association. Lodges should be large enough to be efficient, but small enough for all the brethren of the lodge to closely know each other. Fraternal ties must always be stronger than social ties. Masonic relationships are expected to be forged between members in the same way a brother grows close to a sibling.

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that, through the exercise of genuine brotherly love, men become better enabled to regard humankind as one family. Charity, being the chief of all social virtues, encumbers Masons to aid, support and protect each other, relieve the distress and misfortune of family members, and consciously contribute to the betterment of society at large.

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that Lodges should make regular time for feasting, communal dining, and embracing the social enjoyment of their members. Holding an Agape or Festive Board after meetings has long been a traditional element of Masonic evenings. Table Lodges and Feasts of St. John offer opportunities to observe this important Masonic tradition with the larger Masonic community. The fellowship of men is best embraced in the convivial environs of sociability.

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that its formal and tyled assemblies should be dedicated to the attainment of a deeper knowledge and understanding of Freemasonry by all members. To this end, the presentation of lectures, poetry, music; discussions of the arts, philosophy, and history; and the interpretation of symbols, allegories and myths of Masonic ritual all play an important role in furthering the aims and growth of a Masonic lodge and its members. Each tyled meeting should be devoted, at least in part, to the realization of this profound purpose.

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that only the ablest among us should serve in an office of Masonry. Serving in a Masonic office is a privilege and not a right. Officers of Masonic lodges should be elected and appointed based solely on their merit. Officers who are invited to progress in the offices of Masonry should be able to demonstrate their qualifications to lead and execute the duties of their office.

    It is a tradition of Freemasonry that the Master of a Masonic Lodge must be well versed in Masonic teachings and traditions; be a proven leader of men; possess a character worthy of respect; and be the kind of man who cultivates in all his undertakings the tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

    Above all, the most important tradition of a Freemason is self improvement. The improvement of the individual is the most fundamental aspect of improving society. Thus, the most important tradition of Freemasonry is societal improvement made manifest through the best efforts and examples of its members.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
  5. Ecossais

    Ecossais Registered User

    47
    1
    0
    Brother JWHOFF, in his post above, stated that Brother Pete Normand, in his article in Heredom Vol. 19, "sheds much light on the Traditional Observance (TO) Lodge concept," and goes on to say: "He actually lists lodges across the country, including those here in Texas. For the brothers in the Houston area who may not know, Doric Lodge No. 420 is on the list."

    HOWEVER, if you actually read Brother Normand's article in Heredom Vol. 19, you will find that the article, titled "A Return to the Traditional Lodge Model," is not just about "Traditional Observance lodges," but is about the entire traditional lodge movement, beginning with John Hilliard's Independent Royal Arch Lodge No. 2, in New York, and Normand's "Traditional Best Practices lodge," St. Alban's No. 1455, in College Station, created in 1992, long before the "TO" label was invented.

    In that article, under the heading "The European Concept Model," there is a list of lodges who, although they may meet many of the standards of the Traditional Observance model, are not TO lodges. On THAT list is where you will find Doric Lodge No. 420 of Houston, and Robert Burns Lodge No. 127 of Round Rock. In other words, they are not on the TO lodge list, but on the other list.

    However, after visiting both Doric Lodge and Robert Burns Lodge in Round Rock, I would challenge the idea that either of these lodges are Best Traditional Practices lodges OR European Concept lodges. The members of these lodges may wear tuxedos to lodge, and they may eat at a restaurant after meetings, but the similarities to the Best Traditional Practices model stop right there. They do not tile their lodges. The Tiler sits on the inside of the lodge room.

    There is little uniformity of dress at these lodges. At one meeting of Robert Burns Lodge, I saw the WM in a white dinner jacket, while the SW wore a long black frock coat and a string tie, while the JW was in a kilt with a BPC jacket. The Tiler always wears a polka-dot bowtie. At a recent meeting of Doric Lodge in Houston, the senior PM present wore a colored bow tie, instead of "black tie."

    Decorum, one of the hallmarks of the Traditional Best Practices, European Concept, and Traditional Observance models is noticeably absent from the meetings of these two lodges, which take on the same "Committee of the Whole" discussions that most other lodges fall into.

    In summary, none of this is to criticize these two lodges. They are who they choose to be, and they are what they are the most comfortable being. I am simply pointing out that Normand's inclusion of these two lodges in a list of "Traditional Best Practices" or European Concept lodges was probably more a case of wishful thinking on his part, than anything else.
     
  6. jwhoff

    jwhoff Premium Member

    2,591
    142
    83
    Thanks Brother Ecossais for the further clarifications.
     
  7. SSG_Morrison

    SSG_Morrison Registered User

    36
    2
    0
    There is another forum site started and ran by some brothers in Colorado that started a pure TO lodge.
    www.thesanctumsanctorum.com
     
  8. Blake Bowden

    Blake Bowden Administrator Staff Member

    5,679
    984
    113
    TSS is a great site as well, I'm actually the Co-Admin there ;)
     
  9. chrmc

    chrmc Registered User

    677
    304
    63
    Any chance there is an electronic copy of this article anywhere that could be shared?
     
  10. Michael Hatley

    Michael Hatley Premium Member

    461
    45
    28
    I was lucky enough to attend a lecture at St. Alban's this last weekend, where Brother Normand acted as master of ceremonies (perhaps unofficially, not sure of the officer structure), and afterwards he provided fellowship for us within his home. I admire him. He was one of the lecturers when I became 32nd, and among his other duties he is one of Texas Masonry's main diplomats to other GLs. The genuine article this man.

    The whole model is interesting to me for one reason - gravitas.

    And our lodge has a number of things going for it that put a conversion to TO on the possibility list. Location, amenities within the building, a clean slate of sorts, and so forth. And so I am investigating the concept closely.

    The thing I want most is to plant a banner for younger masons in the Houston area. We are spread out to kingdom come. In some lodges we are central. In others we are on the periphery. But we are dispersed. I think that should we gather into one place, under one roof, that we could create the sort of energy that builds and grows, and can help arrest some of the challenging trends facing us all as Texas Masons. I think many of us are searching for the same things which is why this model appeals to us.

    But my fear is this "Traditional Observance" model may come at things from sub-optimal directions in some cases, and that there might be some better ways to approach things.

    Let me give you fellas one example. The tuxedos.

    Now, I own a tuxedo, and I enjoy having an excuse to wear it. I just feel comfortable in black tie, simple as that. But many men do not either own a tuxedo nor do they care to. And I worry that this is, in the end, not the best way to provide the gravitas we seek.

    I think there may be others.

    What reduces gravitas in our ritual, in our stated meetings, and so forth? Wrangling over the bills. Debates about fund raisers. Lack of stimulating content, and more things that I am sure come to mind.

    But these things can be addressed by doing business every other stated meeting and that sort of thing.

    I remain unconvinced that it is lack of exclusivity, brethren, which is at the root of the matter.

    And no, I do not think that is the goal of TO necessarily - but lets return to the attire for a moment.

    As I understand it (and I may be well mistaken), the white gloves worn by our brethren in other nations is worn in part to symbolize being on the level. An attorney's well manicured hands cannot be distinguished from the calloused hands of the plumber, roofer, or other tradesmen. I think that sort of symbolism has purpose, it rings deeply correct, to me.

    So I can't help think, rather than tuxedos, why not do something simple, like have 50 simple robes available for every attendee of the lodge. With one swift stroke we take a man's attire out of the equation. We normalize everyone. We put the (relatively small) investment onto the shoulders of the lodge, making it a group project rather than an individual one, which is tiring if not impossible logistically as there will always be holdouts.

    And it immediately makes every meeting a "robed" meeting. Every degree a "robed" degree. Coupled with simple things like turning down the lights, use of candles, music, and worthwhile content, you've got a far more compelling experience than before without having to be troubled with the drawbacks of exclusivity.

    Anyway, thats just one example of the things that come to mind where I'm not sure the TO model is perfect. And the robes are really just a brainstorm, and I have several along those lines (perhaps equally poor!). But I am keen to learn more about TO. To learn how we can implement at least the spirit of the thing.

    I think about the only way you'll get a "perfect" TO lodge, in the sense that it meets with the approval of the Masonic Restoration Foundation and whatever body has the authority to anoint a lodge as "officially" TO, is to form a lodge from scratch. Maybe there will be rare exceptions. Memorial may wind up going that route, even. But it would be, even with all of our advantages, a heavy lift. And I think that more often than not, men will have to come together to form an entirely new lodge to have it conform to TO in all official ways. It is just logistics, if you look at it from an implementation standpoint. And that, in this time where many lodges ought really to be merging and joining forces rather than becoming even more dispersed troubles me.

    I think there is a better way.

    I wish I could get some of you to come visit me at Memorial 1298. Get a whiteboard out, and discuss ideas, both what is working, what could work, and what could be done. Ideas, the energy to implement them, willingness to break the mold and a common passion to go deeper into this particular rabbit hole. We would appreciate your input, and it would be very timely.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2013
  11. Bro. Stewart P.M.

    Bro. Stewart P.M. Lead Moderator Emeritus Staff Member

    2,443
    463
    103
    Over achiever!
     
  12. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

    3,053
    1,917
    183
    My smaller Lodge, Cerrillos XIX, slowly made some changes over the last five years. One WM made jackets and ties the rule. It was met with some resistance, but when it became clear that ties were the majority, people stopped complaining and started wearing them. This rule stayed on through the next two WMs, with one raising the bar by wearing a dinner jacket and black tie, or a black suit and bow-tie. This set several other Brethren to wearing black suits regularly. During this time, our dues also went up by nearly 700%, and we continued having our educational presentations, something we were already known for.
    The present WM, who is on his second consecutive year, made black suits and a black necktie the law for Officers, and dark suits for the Craft. He also required white gloves for the Officers. Our Sister Lodge, who's building we get to use, has started wearing black suits and white gloves at our joint Installation in December. They are more relaxed for Communications, though.

    Have these small changes affected the Lodge? Undeniably. There is a sense of pride that, while existing in the member's hearts, wasn't completely obvious. Brothers want to be involved these days. They are bringing in interesting speakers of topics both Masonic and mundane, and they are researching topics to present themselves. They are curious about new ideas, which is never a bad thing. They want to be respected for their Ritual Work, and not have to depend on assistance from another Lodge.

    It took a few years of steady chiseling, and a half-dozen Freemasons who wanted something different, something more, but it's becoming a better, stronger Lodge.
     
  13. jwhoff

    jwhoff Premium Member

    2,591
    142
    83
    Interesting points brother. What week, evening and time are your stated meetings?
     
  14. jwhoff

    jwhoff Premium Member

    2,591
    142
    83

    Agreed. It tires me, so. After all, they coined a term after me ... Slacker ... some years back.
     
  15. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

    3,053
    1,917
    183
    Cerrillos meets the Second Wednesday, dinner at 6:30pm, Lodge opens at 7:30.
    Montezuma meets on the First Monday, same times.
    Both meet in the Montezuma building, next to the Big Pink Castle.
     
  16. Michael Hatley

    Michael Hatley Premium Member

    461
    45
    28
    The slow implementation, in an existing lodge, has to be about the only way I'd think.

    The thing that concerns me is losing the good parts about the casual aspect. Relax. Stand around a BBQ pit in the run up. That sort of thing doesn't lack value.

    So for me, dark suits for stated (officers), dress up to black tie or something else interesting for degrees (members of the degree team) and perhaps four table lodges a year seems like a way to go and then see.

    But there is a pool table in our building. Practice nights and other such stuff I just feel like overdressing would get in the way of fellowship rather than increase it. And turn off some members too. Time and place sort of thing, and balancing both aspects maybe.

    Interested to hear other success stories.
     
  17. Mac

    Mac Moderator Premium Member

    542
    25
    18
    Tangentially related: What do you guys think about meeting, at most, ONCE a month for a stated meeting? Does anyone else feel like hearing the minutes and paying the bills twice a month is too much?
     
  18. Ecossais

    Ecossais Registered User

    47
    1
    0
    Brother Hatley: You spilled a lot of ink over your personal issue with tuxedos. However, the purpose of tuxedos is to have the members of the lodge meet "on the level." No one is showing off their $500 Ranger belt buckle, or their $750 lizard-skin cowboy boots. Tuxedos help to prevent the introduction of invidious distinctions within the lodge. Dressing for lodge is a very old and revered tradition in Freemasonry that has been embraced from coast to coast by the more traditional lodges. They may "dress" in a dark suit and tie, or they may dress in tuxedos and black tie, or in white tie and tails.

    The fact that there are "many men" who "do not either own a tuxedo" nor care to, is not the concern of traditional lodges. Those who see the value in belonging, participating and contributing to traditional lodges will buy a tuxedo and wear it. Rest assured that there are many Masons who do not see the value of it, nor do they see the value of eating off anything better than a paper plate, or paying more that one dollar for dinner, or sitting through a 20-minute lecture on Masonic symbolism, much less driving 90 miles to hear an good Masonic speaker.

    These same men will be content to wear blue jeans to lodge, eat a meager meal, listen to a half-hour reading of the minutes, argue at length over how many light bulbs the lodge should purchase, and then gather for a discussion of football in the lodge dining room. And, if that is what Freemasonry is to them, then God bless them. I'm glad that they are content.

    But, for many young Masons today (and many older Masons, as well), that is NOT Freemasonry, and they want what Traditional Observance lodges, or Traditional Best Practices lodges, have to offer.

    One of John Mauk Hilliard's Seven Points of Traditional Freemasonry is "Commitment," a very real commitment to the success of the lodge by both officers and members. If a man is not willing to buy and wear a simple black polyester tuxedo when he goes to lodge, then he doesn't really want to commit himself.

    When I bought a tuxedo a few years ago, I paid $199 for jacket and pants, shirt, studs and cufflinks, cummerbund and bowtie. Heck, I have sport coats that cost more than that, and I've seen men wear cowboy boots that cost three times that much.

    If you have a personal aversion to tuxedos, that's okay. There are plenty (plenty!) of lodges out there that will let you wear cargo pants and a t-shirt to lodge. Don't feel badly that there are a few lodges wearing tuxedos. That's their thing.

    If you can create a lodge with "gravitas" while still dressing in casual attire, then go for it. But, don't focus all your energy on those that choose to dress up a bit.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2013
  19. chrmc

    chrmc Registered User

    677
    304
    63
    Ecossais. I do not presume to speak for brother Hatley, but I think you missed the point he was trying to make.
    As I read it the elegance of dress is to achieve two things. Firstly to show a certain reverence towards the craft and the work we are engaged in, and secondly to ensure brethren met on the level by having a uniform mode of dress. But who says that form has to be a tuxedo? In essence a black suit and tie, or a graduation robe would work just as well.

    My personal opinion on dresscode and the TO aspect is that I think we often put to much emphasis on that as well as the meals.
    If a lodge changes nothing else, but everyone wearing tuxedos and eating prime rib at every meeting, did they truly change anything?
    I'd much rather start seeing the TO discussions center around how to give candidates additional light, building a good mentor program, ritual excellence and perpetuating more brotherhood. That's where the real money is in my book.

    It's been a time since "Laudable Pursuit" was written by the Knights of the North, but I think it would be great if we could start seeing some of the ideals in there spread further.
     
  20. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

    3,053
    1,917
    183
    Oh, we're casual at picnics and outings, not to worry. Some scary chicken-legs in shorts at the horseshoe pit...

    And to be clear, neither of my Lodges is TO/EC. We just decided to raise the bar a bit.
     

Share My Freemasonry