[Square & Compasses]

Letter of the month: July 2000

From: "John Estep" <jestep@redshift.com>
To: <masonry-ask@mit.edu>
Subject: Masonry
Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2000 11:17:16 -0700

I do have a question for you, but first I'd like to give you a little of my background.

First, I am an inactive mason in the sense that I haven't attended a lodge meeting in probably 35 years. However, I keep my dues current and occasionally send contributions and try to live my life according to the values and teachings of masonry. My Blue Lodge is Rialto # 306, which is in about the third consolidation of lodges in Southern California. It was originally Ashlar Lodge # 306 in Colton, California. I have never been an officer in the lodge, but was a coach for friends I was instrumental in bringing into the lodge (around 1963). (I was in the military and transferred shortly thereafter.) Additionally, I am a 32 degree Mason, Scottish Rite of Free Masonry, Valley of Omaha, Orient of Nebraska (since about 1965).

I joined Masonry because I felt it was a fraternity made up of upright citizens who were of good character and who were morally trying to do the right thing for their families, their friend and their communities, as well as for their country. I have never been disappointed in this respect. Someday I have desires of becoming active again. As an excuse, I am involved in so many other things, many of which are community orientated, that this has not been my highest priority.

I have one concern with masonry and that is that I have felt in the past that too many members tend to consider it a religion and take it as their only practicing religion. I think this is fostered by the fraternity by its rituals including masonic funerals and such titles as "Worshipful Master", etc. I cannot see the functional value of masonic funerals in this day and time, nor implying that "any" of our brethren are worthy of being "worshipful". I know that individuals who come into masonry with a solid religious background are not susceptible to this misconception, but others may be. There is no salvation in masonry, but there is good works and service. As you can guess, I'm conservative by persuasion, a college professor among other avocations. I'd be interested to have your thoughts on this subject.

Sincerely, John Estep (jestep@redshift.com or johnestep32@yahoo.com)=20


To: "John Estep" <jestep@redshift.com>
Subject: Re: Masonry 
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 03:29:08 -0400

dear Bro. Estep,

Thanks for writing. Let's start with the easy question. The title "worshipful" has absolutely nothing to do with a person being "worshipped" if that is your concern. It is an old title long in use in England, and it was always clearly understood to mean "respected" or "honorable". If your concern is that no one is ever worthy of another's respect, then I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, but if your understanding was that the word meant "someone deserving of religious worship", then rest assured that was never the meaning of the word.

If anything, it might mean the compliment of that, that is, someone who is respected or honored because he gives worship to God, someone who is "full of worship" and prayer to his Creator. Again, not a term that would seem to inspire objection.

Next, regarding the Masonic funeral service: here in Massachusetts I have never seen the service performed on its own, but always as a respectful prelude to the family's religious service. And it seems to serve a good purpose in 1) showing the family just how many of the deceased's brothers thought enough of him to attend and offer their comfort, and 2) the service itself, the version we use at least, is relatively brief, but quite often is quite meaningful to the family and non-Masonic friends, speaking simply and eloquently of God, Friendship, and our Hope of Immortality.

If some of our members are not attending a church, or seeing Masonry as a substitute, well, that's their choice, and though they may be missing out of something important, it isn't likely that without Masonry they would be any better as participants in their particular sect or denomination. In many cases, the lessons of Masonry serve to "prepare the earth" slowly for many years, and eventually, a seed might take hold. In the meantime, those men as still getting practical lessons in living the golden rule, which can't be a bad thing.

Again, thank you for writing. The best thing about my website is that I get to hear from Masons from all around the country, and the world, writing with all kinds of information, outlooks, and questions.


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