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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Scottish Rite Leadership Conference Reports from Minneapolis

I asked the Brothers who attended the Conference to write up short reports about their experience. I will add them as (if) I receive them.
Kurt Hoffmann reports:

What an awesome weekend in Minneapolis. We started the Scottish Rite Leadership Conference with an introduction from Ron Seale, Sovereign Grand Commander for the Scottish Rite of the Southern Jurisdiction. He’s an excellent, and down to earth speaker. After the usual Masonic introductions, he spoke of how the Scottish Rite must be able to adapt with the times.

Following him was an excellent presentation on the four different generations in Masonry today, and how each is unique. The weekend continued with classes introducing the Master Craftsman program. This is an excellent opportunity for Scottish Rite Masons to expand their knowledge and understanding of the Rite. It’s also affordable at $35. I quickly signed up, and have nearly completed my first exam for it. It consists of 6 exams, in an open-book format, with the book included. The book is worth well over the $35, and the knowledge is priceless! We also learned about Valley structures, leadership development and mentoring, Valley finances, and much more. Dean Albin led an especially moving presentation on Membership. He shared the stories of a number of brothers who had been dropped from the rolls for non-payment of dues, and his conversations with them, including a wounded soldier from Iraq. His stories couldn't help fill my heart with pride for our fraternity, and brought tears to my eyes. The presentations are available online at:

Bro. Jeremy Davis and I were invited to represent the Des Moines Valley as Scottish Rite Fellows. Our main duty is to assist our Valley in implementing the Strategic Plan of the Scottish Rite. The Fellows program is designed for new Scottish Rite Masons to serve a two-year term as kind of an idea man for their Valley. As a Fellow, we work closely with our state SGIG, his personal representative in our Valley, the Secretary/Recorder for our Valley, and the Valley’s leadership. We’re charged with helping come up with, and present ideas that would improve our Valley. We also participate in an on-line forum for all of the Fellows throughout the jurisdiction in sharing ideas and what does/doesn’t work. It’s a tremendous opportunity for newer Scottish Rite Masons to assist our Valley in preparing for the future. I was very honored by the invitation, and hope that I can help improve my Valley while respecting the traditions it has. Bro. Seale asked us in closed-door sessions to answer some very tough questions, including, 'if you could encapsulate Masonry and the Scottish Rite in one word, what word would that be?'. He demanded an answer from each one of us, and my word was 'caliber'. To me, Masonry is about:

The caliber of men

The caliber of morals

The caliber of fellowship

The caliber of history

The caliber of trust

More information about the Scottish Rite Fellows program is available at:

I met a number of brothers, including a special guest of Ron Seale from the Northern Jurisdiction. Rich is an excellent Brother from New Hampshire, and I look forward to seeing our two jurisdictions work closely together in the years to come.

The closing gathering on Saturday afternoon was quite moving. Bro. Seale led an awe inspiring, and tear-jerking reminder of the importance of our obligations in Masonry, and the opportunities we have in the Scottish Rite. He asked each of us to reflect upon, and remember our Raising to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason. It was truly touching, and a memorable experience.

All in all, it was reinforced what the Scottish Rite and Masonry is all about, Friendship and fellowship.

Wade Sheeler reports:

I very much enjoyed the Scottish Rite Leadership Conference held this weekend in Minneapolis. Grand Commander Seale was there and his friendly and warm manner made everyone feel very welcome. From the Des Moines Valley we had the following in attendance: Shane Harshbarger, Kurt Hoffmann, Jeremy Davis, Don Driscoll, Billy Joe & Bryce Hildreth. I think there were seven of us in attendance all together.

I was impressed with the Fellows discussion, which Grand Commander Seale hosted for our new Scottish Rite brothers. Kurt and Jeremy attended those sessions. These were designed for the new members to discuss with the Grand Commander their thoughts and impressions on the Rite. The Grand Commander's efforts to reach out to our new and younger brothers for their thoughts and ideas impressed me.

I particularly enjoyed the session that Dean Albin (the membership development director at the Supreme Council) presented. Bro. Albin told stories about some of our Scottish Rite brethren. One story he related was about a brother who had gone through the degrees in Oklahoma and was then sent over to Iraq. During his stay in Iraq he was wounded when a bomb exploded under his Humvee. He suffered some injuries to his brain. He was eventually sent back to Walter Reed Army Hospital in D.C. (which is located not far from the House of the Temple). This brother came down to the House of the Temple one day to visit. He, unfortunately, had been suspended for N.P.D. by his valley (they had lost track of him). Bro. Albin related how they got him reinstated. Freemasonry meant so much to this brother that he had a square and compass tattoo on his chest (which was shown in one of the pictures of him in his hospital bed).

Freemasonry really is all about relationships and reaching out to one another in our daily lives. M.W. Bro. Bob Conley PGM from Michigan gave two excellent presentations on the mentoring process. I have come to the conclusion that we really don't do a very job of mentoring individuals in our fraternity...that is why we are seeing a climbing suspension rate for nonpayment of dues. We need to be doing what Masonry is all about...reaching out and being brothers to one another!

Masonic education was strongly pushed at this conference. The Supreme Council has come out with the Master Craftsman program, which is a series of five open book, multiple-choice exams which a brother can complete. This program used the Scottish Rite Ritual (Monitor and Guide), which was written by Bro. Arturo de Hoyas of the Supreme Council. I bought the course and the book. I have my first "quiz" almost completed and will be sending it back into the Supreme Council this week. I think this is an excellent Masonic education tool (hopefully our Grand Lodge might consider this in the future)!

All in all it was a fun and enjoyable weekend...Masonic fellowship at it's best.


Justa Mason said...

The obsolete steam engine is an ideal choice as the logo of the conference. I'm sure the Scottish Rite doesn't want to be seen as obsolete or, even worse, lacking in value.

Fraternal organisations lack in value when you cheapen the degrees. And nothing cheapens them more than doing a whole bunch of them in a weekend and/or reading them poorly out of a book.

Freemasonry educates by degrees, not open book exams. Confer the degrees in full. Educate by discussing and debating their contents at meetings of the concordant body to get people thinking about their meaning; just as any Lodge should do with its ritual.

Justa 32°

Exploding Light Bulb said...

There were many of us 'younger guys' (basically those of use that aren't old enough for AARP yet), that talked quite a bit about the degrees. Many of us agree that Valleys need to put on more degrees.

To that end, the three of us that rode together talked about how would we logistically do this. We proposed that we could do it over the course of three weekend in the Spring (One in February, one in March, and the last in April), or over 4 Saturdays in a relatively similar manner.

Another Frater from another Valley told us that their degree masters talk to the class about their degree in full costume with the apron, jewel, and cordon of the degree they just performed. The whole idea is to spark conversation about the degree. I thought that it was a great idea.

However, it's ultimately up to the Trustees and the Personal Representative to implement any of these ideas.

The way I look at it, we can either be a part of the problem,and just whine about the problems; or we can be a part of the solution and make suggestions for improvement.

Abu Doub said...

I'm here in Davenport, where I'm "Chair of the Education Committee" (I don't know if there's anyone else on the committee), and I didn't even know some of these resources existed -- at least not as already organized programs & presentations. I had already been trying to promote the Monitor, Forms & Ceremonies..., and the Candidate's Notebook, and now - just by accident - I found your link (from a Valley right here in Iowa) to the Supreme Council Leadership Conference presentations recommending the use of ALL these books!

I'm also trying to form a Chapter of the KSA here, particularly as a vehicle for SR Education. One of our main problems is the widespread nature of our Valley (including a whole buncha guys in Iowa City who are members of YOUR Valley, instead of Davenport :-). With the KSA, we hope to bring SR Education meetings TO the membership, rather than trying to get them to Davenport.

But again, finding that Supreme Council was already promoting programs - almost word for word, line for line, that I had put together from scratch is simultaneously reaasuring and frustrating; reassuring in that I find that I seem to be doing the right thing, frustrating in that I didn't know it 'til now!