Category Archive: President’s Messages

President’s Message, Issue 28

The program for The Quarry Project II is almost complete and I’m pleased to be able to share many more details about the conference with our members and subscribers. The conference will be held in Indianapolis September 18-20. As noted in my previous column, this year’s event will all be under one roof. The Hilton Indianapolis Hotel and Suites in downtown Indianapolis will host all TQP events. It is conveniently located just west of Monument Circle in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The Circle Center Mall has over 100 stores and is located just across the street from the hotel. There are dozens of restaurants and entertainment venues within easy walking distance.

We have assembled an impressive list of presenters from within and without the Masonic fraternity who will offer instruction and guidance on a variety of topics associated with the three different program tracks. I’d like to share some of the highlights with you. Please note that the programs are not completely etched in stone and remain tentative.

The research, writing, and editing track sponsored by The Masonic Society will feature keynote speaker David Hackett, PhD, who will present on academic research by the non-academic. Topics to be addressed in the breakout sessions include how to obtain original source materials, how to use an academic library, communicating your research, Masonic blogging, on-demand printing, and publishing options. One session will be devoted to the newly-released Quarry Project Style Guide, a project that was initiated at the first TQP in 2013. The first edition of the style guide has been released and is published on the TQP website. Several Masonic publishers have already agreed to adopt the style quide. The goal of this project is to establish some consistency in Masonic writing. A round table featuring editors of prominent national Masonic publications will discuss a topic related to publishing and public relations.

The library/museum track sponsored by the Masonic Library and Museum Association is not completed at this time, but the keynote address will be delivered by Helge Bjørn Horrisland, who will present on recovering Masonic history. Breakout session presentations will include library collection development, cataloging your library collection, using your museum collection in exhibitions, photographing and numbering your collection, connecting your audience to your collection, collection policies, and a case study on building a museum from the ground up. A round table discussion regarding procurement and use of college interns will also be part of this track.

Additional presentations

The public relations track sponsored by the Masonic Information Center (part of the Masonic Service Association) will feature keynote speaker Scott Monty, a former Ford Motor Company executive. The topic of his presentation is not available as this goes to print. The breakout session topics include use of social media, awareness via Masonic philanthropy, public relations and marketing, advertising and media campaigns, history of the MIC, and a look at Masonic public relations from outside the fraternity.

After Sunday’s keynote address, a panel featuring the steering committee members will review the event, answer questions, solicit comments from attendees, and discuss the future of The Quarry Project.

The speaker at the Saturday evening banquet will be John Bizzack, who will address the perils and consequences of poorly conducted research.

We are very excited about adding the public relations track sponsored by the Masonic Information Center to The Quarry Project. Although this may extend somewhat beyond the stated mission of The Masonic Society, we are always interested in contributing to the education of the craft and in being of service the fraternity at large. Communication within Freemasonry at both the local and grand lodge level has not always been our greatest strength. Public awareness and media relations have become increasingly important and we have not always put our best foot forward. This is a great opportunity to hear from people who have managed communications effectively at every level.

The Masonic Society and Masonic Library and Museum tracks are open to anyone, Freemason or not, with an interest in Masonic writing, research, editing, and preservation. The public relations track breakout sessions will only be open to Freemasons from jurisdictions in good standing with the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America. A valid dues card will be required for admission to those breakout sessions.

Please share this information with anyone you know who may be interested in attending. This conference is intended to be almost entirely instructional in nature. New and aspiring researchers and museum curators and librarians without formal training will profit tremendously from the information presented. It also gives attendees the opportunity to network and establish connections with experts in various aspects of writing, research, and preservation.

We particularly want to get information about TQP into the hands of the various lodges of research around the U.S. and Canada and we will be sending letters to as many of them as we can find addresses for. These letters don’t always end up in the right hands, so if you belong to a lodge of research, please share this information with your fellow members. Encouraging them to become members of The Masonic Society wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Go to The Quarry Project website at to find information on registration, accommodations, and the latest information on the programs.

Best wishes to all of you for a safe, healthy, and enjoyable summer. I look forward to seeing many of you in Indianapolis in September.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

President’s Message, Issue 27

The Masonic Society, the Masonic Library and Museum Association, and the Masonic Information Center, a branch of the Masonic Service Association, are pleased to announce that Phase II of The Quarry Project will be held September 18-20, 2015 in Indianapolis, IN. The conference will be held in a downtown Indianapolis hotel. As this goes to print, we are ready to sign a contract with a hotel and the registration page will be up by the time you receive this issue of the magazine.

The Quarry Project is a continuing effort designed to promote Masonic research and preservation by providing instruction and guidance to Masonic writers, researchers, and editors both within and without the fraternity and also to Masonic librarians and museum curators on the display, preservation, and cataloging of Masonic archives. Phase II will feature a third track on Masonic public relations sponsored by the Masonic Information Center, an arm of the Masonic Service Association. The public relations track will address topics such as effective use of social media, publications, and best practices.

The format for Phase II will remain basically the same with a few tweaks based on feedback from Phase I attendees. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will begin with a general session featuring a keynote speaker. Attendees will then break out to the instructional sessions of their choice on Friday and Saturday with both days adjourning at approximately 5:00 P.M. Lunch on Friday and Saturday will be included in the registration fee. A banquet will be held on Saturday evening. Sunday will feature a roundtable discussion immediately after the morning keynote address and the conference will adjourn by noon.

We invite anyone, Freemason or not, with an interest in these topics to attend the conference. The programs are currently being developed and will be made available as soon as they are complete. Further information will be released as it becomes available. Registration will be begin on March 1, 2015. The Quarry Project website is .

In conjunction with The Quarry Project, The Masonic Library and Museum Association will hold their annual meeting prior to this event on Thursday, September 17. Please contact the MLMA for further details on their meeting. Their website is located at .

One of the presentations offered during Phase I of The Quarry Project addressed a proposed style sheet for Masonic organizations and publications who have never adopted one. The response to the proposal was positive. Kenneth Davis, a member of the TMS Board of Directors, and Brent Morris, Editor of the Scottish Rite Journal, have completed the first draft of the style sheet, which was introduced at Masonic Week 2015. The style sheet is now available on The Quarry Project website, which is linked above. We are encouraging the organizations and editors of Masonic publications to officially adopt the style sheet. A list of adoptees will available on the website as well. We wish to thank all of those who contributed to the style sheet with your comments and recommendations.

The Annual Meeting of The Masonic Society was held on Friday, January 30 at Masonic Week in Reston, VA. Approximately fifty-five guests enjoyed a very nice evening of food and fellowship. M. Wor. Bro. Michael Halleran, Editor of The Journal of The Masonic Society and current Grand Master of Kansas, gave an informative presentation on changes implemented in his jurisdiction during his year in the Grand East. As usual, we were pleased to welcome dozens of visitors to our hospitality suite. It is always a pleasure to renew acquaintances with so many TMS members and friends that we only see at this event. We also enjoy meeting many first-time attendees.

Masonic Week 2016 will move to an area known as Crystal City in Arlington, VA. This location is near Reagan National Airport. There are plenty of restaurants and shopping venues nearby. This location will also offer quicker and easier access to Washington, D.C. for those who wish to sightsee. My understanding is that there will be significant program changes next year that spread the various events out over the course of the week and also allow more time for other activities. We look forward to seeing you there next year.

We are constantly looking for ways to grow The Masonic Society as well as to enhance the value of membership in TMS. At the Board of Directors meeting during Masonic Week, we discussed a variety of topics. One of the principal areas of discussion concerned how we will deliver The Journal of the Masonic Society. More and more publications are going strictly digital. We do not anticipate that happening anytime in the near future, but we do have to consider the increasing costs that accompany a high quality paper magazine and increased postage, particularly overseas. One of the major concerns associated with going digital is protecting our material. We will be investigating one potential solution to that problem in the near future. We have yet to reach a consensus on precisely how to proceed, but it is unquestionable that a digital version of The Journal of The Masonic Society will be available in the not too distant future for those who prefer to receive their magazine in that format.

We want TMS to be more than just a magazine and, as such, we are looking at various methods of providing content above and beyond what you get in The Journal. This would include video and podcasts. We will be consulting with professionals in the field in order to determine the best path forward. As always, I welcome any comments or suggestions you may have concerning the future of the organization. Please send them to .

We live in a world that seems to become more dangerous and divided every day. Wherever you live, please pray for your country’s leaders as well as for those in uniform protecting our freedom. As Freemasons, we can remain proud of our long history of friendship and brotherly love and especially our record of tolerance, which we find so lacking in the profane world. Thank the Grand Architect for the opportunity to be part of the world’s greatest fraternity.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

President’s Message, Issue 25

In my fourteen years as a freemason, I’ve spent countless hours in lodgerooms, bars, restaurants, parking lots, and on internet discussion forums debating any Masonic topic you can imagine. One topic has prevailed over all others. You’ve probably already guessed it. Yes, it’s standards of dress for lodge and, no, that’s not the subject of this column per se. The discussion of that topic is, however, representative of so many other Masonic discussions concerning food, proficiency, how to wear your ring, and other unregulated lodge customs and practices.

These discussions are predictable, boring, often contentious, and generally unproductive. Think about the last time you participated in a discussion on one of those topics. How many minds were changed? How much advancement in Masonic knowledge was gained on either side of the argument? Was this a good use of your time? For most of us, the answers to these questions will be zero, none, and probably not.

I’ve come to a few conclusions in regard to all of these various unregulated lodge practices that might be worth your consideration. It doesn’t matter whether a lodge likes pickled pigs’ feet or pheasant under glass, whether you dress in t-shirts and blue jeans or white tie and tails, or whether your proficiency requires simply knowing the signs, grips, and words or a twenty-page research paper. If you belong to a functioning, generally contented lodge of brethren of high moral character, who remain true to their obligation and exemplify the tenets of brotherly love, relief, and truth, you’re doing the real work of freemasonry. Don’t succumb to the wishes of others who would impose standards that are not realistic for your lodge. If, however, your lodge is experiencing serious problems, perhaps you need to contemplate making some changes and seek the counsel of brethren who belong to a flourishing lodge. If you feel like a fish out of water in your lodge, find another one or start up a new lodge. In some jurisdictions, it takes as few as ten brethren to start a new lodge.

For those of you who tend to offer unsolicited advice that is neither wanted nor needed under the guise of raising the bar, remember that we are a fraternity of men of every country, sect, and opinion. There are many paths to Masonic light. Celebrate not only the diversity of race, creed, and religion that we pride ourselves on, but also the diversity of customs and practices that make visiting and conversing with other brethren so enjoyable. When you encounter something that is not your particular cup of tea, but is not contrary to Masonic tenets and philosophy, exercise your freedom to ignore it.

It is always appropriate to remain vigilant in defense of our rules and to protect the reputation of the fraternity. It is our obligation to assist a brother purposefully seeking to improve his Masonic experience. At a time when our numbers are dwindling and our influence waning, we should take every opportunity to support and encourage our brethren instead of searching for ways to divide us.

One of the more common complaints I hear is that most freemasons don’t read much about the fraternity and I find that to be a valid complaint. I think it is important for a brother to have at least some knowledge of our history, philosophy, and symbols beyond what is offered in our rituals and lectures, as much of that is allegorical. Allegory- the Hiramic Legend, for example- is used to impart moral lessons and not to inform. Freemasonry has a rich history that goes largely ignored by many freemasons.

Not everyone has the time or inclination to conduct an in-depth study of Freemasonry. Although there are excellent books like Chris Hodapp’s Freemasonry for Dummies or Brent Morris’s TheComplete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry that provide a cursory look at Masonic history and are written in a style that won’t induce slumber, many freemasons are loathe to pick up a book.

The Journal of the Masonic Society is a perfect alternative for a brother who might not invest the time necessary to read a book, but might take fifteen or twenty minutes once every month or two to read a 2500-word article on some aspect of Masonic history or philosophy. The Masonic Society will always cater to the more serious minded students of freemasonry, but we can also benefit the brother who is a more casual observer of the fraternity and perhaps even inspire him to pick up a book or two. Please share the benefits of membership in The Masonic Society with all of your brethren and help broaden the path to further light in freemasonry.

For those who regularly attend the annual meeting of The Masonic Society during Masonic Week, please note that next year’s event has been moved up a couple of weeks to January 28-February 1. The event will once again be held at the Hyatt Hotel in Reston, VA. The Masonic Society meeting and banquet is traditionally held on Friday night, which would be Friday, January 30. Registration information should become available in late October or early November. We will keep you up to date via the website and our Facebook page. Discussion at the 2014 meeting indicated that Masonic Week would once again be changing locations in 2016.

The officers and directors of The Masonic Society are actively discussing whether to sponsor the next phase of The Quarry Project. As most of you know, TQP was created to provide instruction for both novice and experienced Masonic researchers and preservationists. Phase I was held last September in Alexandria, VA at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial and was an unqualified success. The conference was co-sponsored by the Masonic Library and Museum Association and the GWMNM. An announcement on Phase II will be made sometime in October 2015. To learn more about TQP, visit the website at .

It is with regret that I inform you that Bro. Gord Vokes has submitted his resignation as a member director of The Masonic Society. Many of you know Bro. Gord from his frequent postings on the TMS discussion forum. Bro. Gord has fulfilled his duties as director honorably and his contributions to TMS are greatly appreciated. He has graciously agreed to stay on until a replacement is appointed. Thank you, Bro. Gord, for your service to TMS.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

President’s Message, Issue 24

In my initial President’s Message, I provided a list of objectives that I hoped to accomplish during my term in office. One of those objectives was to communicate with the membership to determine how we might be of better service to you. As previously noted, we want to be more than just a magazine. We believe we took a big step in that direction by co-sponsoring The Quarry Project. We have held mid-year meetings in Indianapolis, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, and Philadelphia. All of those meetings featured several speakers and a banquet. We have been contributing sponsors to a few different Masonic workshops and symposiums.

I would like to hear ideas from you, our members, on how we might improve on or expand our mission to promote Masonic research. I would also be interested in any comments you have about The Journal of The Masonic Society. We considered including a questionnaire in a forthcoming issue of the journal. It occurred to me that I have been a recipient of a number of these types of surveys and I have yet to fill out and return the first one. I also get a steady stream of online requests asking me to fill out one kind of survey or another and I always decline. I doubt if most of you are more inclined to fill out and mail a survey than I am. As such, I think the best way to accomplish this is to simply ask those of you who have suggestions or thoughts about the job we’re doing to send them directly to me. Please send them to . You may also send them via U.S. Mail to The Masonic Society, 1427 W. 86th Street, Ste. 248, Indianapolis, IN 46260-2103. Make sure that you address them to my attention. I pledge to read and respond to every one in as timely a manner as my schedule allows.

Since we last published, the Editor of The Journal of The Masonic Society, Michael Halleran, has assumed the title of Most Worshipful Brother, owing to his election as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kansas back in March. We congratulate MW Bro. Michael and send along our best wishes to him as he leads the brethren of Kansas for the next year. They could not have chosen a more dedicated, capable, or worthy brother.

M.W. Bro. Michael has also marked his one-year anniversary as Editor of The Journal. He has done a stellar job with the magazine and has been a true pleasure to work with. This will be a challenging year for him as he fulfills his other duties as a husband and father, practicing attorney, and Grand Master of Kansas. Please remember Michael in your devotions and ask the Grand Architect to grant him good health, safe travel, and the strength necessary to keep up with his busy schedule.

W. Bro. John Bridegroom has likewise celebrated his one-year anniversary as Art Director of The Journal. John is responsible for the layout and photography and is a most talented graphic artist. He has done artwork for many different Masonic organizations all over the country. I think you’ll agree that The Journal is as aesthetically pleasing as any periodical published anywhere. John is also a very busy freemason. He was just elected to serve as Grand Conductor of Council for the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Indiana. He has also been appointed as the new Public Relations Director for the Grand Lodge of Indiana and chairs the committee that oversees The Indiana Freemason, the official publication of the Grand Lodge of Indiana.

This is a bit personal, but also something that I know will be of great interest to all of you. W. Bro. Chris Hodapp, Editor Emeritus of The Journal of The Masonic Society, continues to fight health issues. Most of you know that Chris underwent successful surgery for cancer a few years ago. He remains cancer free, but is plagued with chronic back pain as a result of the very invasive surgery he underwent. His doctors have had no success at alleviating his pain. Chris takes heavy doses of painkillers, which do little more than take the edge off. The side effects from the medication along with the constant pain affect his ability to concentrate, to travel, to sleep, or do just about any of the things that we take for granted. Ask him how he is doing and he’ll say he is fine. But he’s not. Everything Chris does is a struggle.

The Masonic Society owes a tremendous debt to Chris. It was largely Chris’s name on the magazine that gave immediate credibility to TMS. It was shortly after TMS was founded that his health problems first began. Throughout his diagnosis, treatment, and surgery for a life threatening disease, Chris continued to edit, write, and lay out the magazine with little or no help. He also handled all of the advertising. He did it all for a pittance of a salary. I have no idea how he did it, but he did and I’m eternally grateful to him, as all of you should be. I’m asking all of you to please keep Chris and his wife Alice in your thoughts and prayers as Chris struggles with this chronic pain and the debilitating side effects of the medication.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

President’s Message, Issue #23

One of the most common laments among freemasons suggests that we should be doing a better job of guarding the West Gate, the implication being that we are admitting a steady stream of unworthy men into our fraternity. You can wager with absolute certainty that any discussion of whatever is deemed to ail freemasonry at any particular moment will eventually result in someone insisting that the root of the problem lies in our failure to guard the West Gate. This is immediately followed by a chorus of nodding heads and various exclamations of assent. Honesty compels me, and likely you as well, to confess to pointing a finger at the West Gate to explain away our troubles on more than a few occasions. Let’s examine this old bromide to determine if there is actually any truth in it.

Freemasonry demands that its initiates be of good repute before the world with a strong moral fiber. There are other organizations and fields of endeavor with similar demands. How does freemasonry match up against them? I would say that we are doing much better than the public service and political arena and at least as well as doctors, lawyers, policemen, teachers, and the clergy. Do some men of weak character and low morals slip through the cracks and become freemasons? It happens, but rarely, and they are more often than not found out and expelled. We are a fraternity of mortal men who are as subject to human nature as anyone else. Good men sometimes make bad decisions and when they are freemasons, the cost of their poor judgment is usually their membership cards. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that we are pretty good judges of character.

So who are these allegedly unworthy men that are sneaking through the West Gate? It depends upon who you are asking. Ask one brother and he will tell you that they are bologna sandwich-eating Neanderthals who dress poorly for lodge, cover their lapels with pins, don’t read, cannot comprehend the true lessons of freemasonry, hold fish fries in their lodges, and think the entirety of freemasonry is contained within the ritual. Ask another and he will just as boldly aver that they are snooty, wine-sipping rich guys in tuxedos who read boring books, attend highbrow lectures, eat expensive food, could find Masonic symbolism in a chainsaw, and can’t go more than a minute without expounding upon the wonders of the kaballah and alchemy. One faction bemoans anti-intellectualism and the other screams elitism and the true spirit of brotherhood that we are obligated to extend to every freemason gets lost amid the bickering.

I see this debate, which often devolves into serious arguments, played out on social media, in Masonic discussion forums, and in parking lots after lodge. There is a somewhat humorous element attached to this. If you ask any individual brother, he will swear to Heaven above that he is upholding the tenets, traditions, and requirements of freemasonry and that it’s the other guys who are letting the undesirables pass through the West Gate. It occurs to me that the common ground we should be searching for is easily discovered if each of us thinks back to the time when we first knocked on freemasonry’s door.

Before we were initiated, we were all asked in one form or another if we sought the privileges of freemasonry based on, among other things, a desire for knowledge. The path that leads to knowledge is laid out in the Fellowcraft degree where we learn about the power of the human mind, which, with the aid of our five senses, enables us to seek and store knowledge. We are given a mini-course in architecture because speculative masonry, the building of a spiritual temple, corresponds so closely to operative masonry and the construction of temporal buildings. We are introduced to the liberal arts and sciences because all of the knowledge we attain falls within the realm of one of those arts or sciences. From that point on, freemasonry becomes a very personal journey and we are each entitled to pursue knowledge and further light by following a path that we choose for ourselves.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

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