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Friday, December 09, 2016

NC's St. John's No. 3's Historic Building


The Brethren of New Bern, North Carolina's historic St. John's Lodge No. 3, founded in 1772, have announced that the ownership of their 1801 original temple building has come back into their hands, officially, for the first time in over a century. They are again in control of their own destiny (with all of the rewards - and challenges - that entails).


From their Facebook page on Thursday:
For the first time in more than 100 years, St. John's Lodge No. 3, New Bern, now owns its original 1801 lodge building in its entirety. St. John's Lodge sold its building to the Scottish Rite in 1914 retaining ownership of its historic lodge room only. Now, after complex negotiations, the Scottish Rite has returned to St. John's Lodge, by quit claim deed, its original lodge building, plus the now-abandoned Scottish Rite Temple seen on the left, as well as an adjacent parking lot. This is an exciting (and frightening) time for St. John's Lodge No. 3. We choose, however, to move forward with hope and confidence as we begin to rehabilitate these buildings and make them living, useful spaces again. The support and prayers of all the Brethren across North Carolina are earnestly solicited. SO MOTE IT BE!

A comparison of the old and new photos above of their magnificent lodge room shows it remains very much as it was in its earlier days. Congratulations to these brethren as they move forward in their endeavors. Treasure's like theirs are rare indeed and I wish them great success.

H/T Will Moore

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Indiana Landmarks Foundation Tour a Great Success!

Photo by Randy Spaulding

On Thursday evening, Jim Dillman, myself, our Museum intern from IUPUI Rebecca Jacobs, and PGM Mike Brumback (seen above) manned the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana exhibits at tonight's open house for the Indiana Landmarks Foundation. Ultimately, some 250 folks (almost all non-Masons) got to tour the Indianapolis Masonic Temple (née Indiana Freemasons' Hall). The whole building was open from top to bottom, giving our city and state's residents an opportunity to freely roam our historic Temple building, hear a restored pipe organ (one of six in the building), peek in lodge and York Rite rooms, and explore the museum. 


One of the major draws for architectural enthusiasts was the Knights Templar Red Cross Room on the 7th Floor of the Temple. The decor is unique in the building, being adorned in an "Egyptian" motif. Above the entrance to the room is a small balcony which was originally used by a small choir or soloist. There is also a special vent designed to allow the organ on the balcony in the adjacent Raper Commandery No. 1's Asylum to be used for musical accompaniment in that room as well. 

The Red Cross room is used by the Commandery for the conferral of the Order of the Red Cross, and for the meetings of Imhotep Council No. 434, of the Allied Masonic Degrees.

The Grand Lodge Hall auditorium as it appears today.

Great job by ALL of the volunteers and the Temple Association for all of the very hard work involved in organizing and pulling off this event. There were guides on every floor, and the folks coming through were uniformly impressed and awed by the building. They, too, were extremely appreciative of being permitted free reign to roam at will and to discover our hidden gem. Time after time, we all heard "I've driven past a thousand times and never dreamed what was inside..."

I was told that things got off to a slow start, because so many people walked into the auditorium first and became so awestruck by it, they were reluctant to move on without some gentle arm-twisting. Originally the home of the annual communication for the Grand Lodge of Indiana up until 1962, the auditorium has languished, largely unused and undiscovered by the outside world (and even many Masons), for well over 50 years. This hidden 600-seat gem has the opportunity to host local theatre productions, public speeches and concerts, and so much more. So, it's not out of the ordinary for local people to be stunned that it even exists.

The dedicated board of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Association (IMTA) is shoveling coal as fast as they can to preserve, protect, and restore the whole building. Perhaps some visionaries in the Indiana Landmarks Foundation now see the tremendous, untapped resources that so many of us have been trying to save for over a decade. And perhaps someone from within their ranks will come forward and help us to find creative solutions in financing, loans, grants, or donations, as well as innovative, revenue-generating rethinking of some of the least used rooms. 


We all know that we are just an elevator failure away from losing the whole building, and like so many others, once gone, our Grand Lodge's voting members and trustees and officers will doubtless never again have the vision they had in 1909 to replace it. Many of them have aging building problems of their own, much less give a tinker's damn about Indianapolis'. 


The Brethren who built these magnificent and commodious places didn't ask us to build bigger or better than they left for us. They scrimped and saved and personally donated money they couldn't always afford in order to construct a true Temple worthy of its name. They did the hard work for us. They just expected us to at least be good custodians and protectors of what they left us. Maybe this tour tonight was a first, tiny baby step that might eventually lead to bigger, better, and more audacious plans. 

I pray it is.

Brother Terry Branstad Named Next Ambassador to China


Iowa's Governor, Terry Branstad, is president-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Ambassador to China. Reportedly, this is strongly related to his 30-year relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He is also a Mason in the Grand Lodge of Iowa AF&AM.
Well, Brother Branstad's Masonic membership made it into the New York Times Wednesday evening (via the Associated Press). And it came, refreshingly, with no veiled allegations of anything untoward or even spooky.

From US Envoy Nominee Branstad Member of Masons, Banned in China:

If Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad becomes the next U.S. Ambassador to China, he may want to leave any Masonic symbols at home.  
That's because the Freemasons group that Branstad belongs to has been banned in mainland China for decades.  
The only masonic lodges that exist in China today are in Taiwan. All the other chapters were eliminated after the communist revolution there in 1949. 
"Freemasons believe in freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of action, and I don't think that's what the communist Chinese government is about," said Tim Anderson, who is deputy grand secretary of the Grand Masonic Lodge of Iowa. 
Masonic groups usually run into trouble in Communist countries because of their secret meetings, said Brent Morris, who wrote "The Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry." [sic] It doesn't help that Freemasonry was brought to China by the British when they were colonizing the area. 
"You've got a dual-edged problem: part of it is the residue of colonialism and part of it is the meeting in private," said Morris, who is a Master Mason himself. He wrote his book partly to debunk conspiracy theories about the group that were highlighted in "The Da Vinci Code" book and movie. 
Branstad accepted President-elect Donald Trump's job offer Wednesday, but he'll have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before taking the post.
The Iowa Lodge said Branstad is listed as a member of a chapter in Des Moines. His spokesman Ben Hammes declined to discuss Branstad's membership in the Masons. 
Branstad accepted the position days after Trump caused a diplomatic stir by speaking to Taiwan's president on the phone. 
[snip] 
Don't expect other Masons to discuss Branstad's appointment at their next meeting because politics and religion are divisive topics that aren't supposed to be discussed, said Simon LaPlace, executive secretary of the Masonic Service Association of North America. 
Masonic groups focus on helping members improve themselves, and many chapters also undertake community service projects. Women are not allowed to join although they are permitted to join affiliated groups. LaPlace said each chapter and state organization varies. 
"Masonry flourishes in those countries where freedom and individual rights are permitted," LaPlace said. "That's why in a lot of totalitarian countries, masonry is not permitted."

Brother Branstad's Masonic membership is certainly no secret, and he quite openly became a Scottish Rite member in the Valley of Des Moines in 2012 (longtime Iowa Senator, Illus. Brother Chuck Grassley, 33° was also in attendance at that event, seen below). He was also  named a Knight Commander of the Court of Honor (KCCH) in 2015. Heck, that's even on his Wikipedia page.




It's just a bit depressing to consider that, even twenty ago, such a story would never have made the news. Masonic membership was not seen as something remarkable enough to write about in the press until the last couple of decades, and this story is popping up all around the world tonight because of the AP's global reach. But Branstad's membership seems to just be a curiosity. 

For the bulk of history (in the U.S., anyway), we were long regarded as something noble and admirable to be associated with. Then for a time, we became dark and sinister. Now, we've acquired the worst of all possible perceptions. 

Now, we're just quaint.

All of that notwithstanding, congratulations to both Brother Terry and Mrs. Christine Branstad. Having personally known a U.S. ambassador to an Asian nation and his wife, I wish them all the best for what will undoubtedly be an exciting chapter in their lives, filled with both challenges and rewards.

H/T to Simon LaPlace

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Max Carpenter, PGM and Longtime PGS of Indiana, Passes Away

Richard J. Elman, Grand Secretary for the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM has passed along a bit of sad news for us here. Max L. Carpenter, Grand Master of Indiana 1992-1993 and longtime Grand Secretary between 1993 and 2010 died this morning at his home.  He was 81.

Max was well-known both in and out of our state, and I believe he served as head of the Conference of Grand Secretaries for several years (anyone who knows more correct information, please do let me know, as I'm away from my desk at the moment). 

Tentative arrangements are for the calling on Friday and funeral on Sunday. 

In the meantime, please keep his wife Penny and their family in your thoughts and devotions.

His column is broken, and his Brethren mourn.





UPDATE 12/7/16:

The arrangements for Max have been finalized and announced. While he and Penny lived many years in Muncie, his services will be held in his hometown of Spencer, Indiana, southwest of Indianapolis:
West, Parrish & Pedigo Funeral Home Inc
105 N Montgomery St, Spencer, IN 47460


Friday, December 9
Calling from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Masonic Funeral Service at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 10
Funeral Service at 1:00 p.m. with interment to follow.

Online condolences may be expressed to his family at the funeral home's website HERE.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Levant Preceptory News


Levant Preceptory will hold a meeting and practice session this coming Saturday, December 10th at 3:00PM in the Asylum of Raper Commandery No. 1, located on the 7th floor of Indiana Freemasons Hall at 525 N. Illinois Street, Indianapolis, IN.

This is in preparation for our presentation of the Order of the Temple at Angola Lodge in Angola, Indiana on January 28th, 2017 for the Grand Master's York Rite Class.

While this meeting is principally for our existing members, any regular, recognized Masonic Knight Templar from Indiana or surrounding states who may be interested in joining our informal degree team is encouraged to contact our new Director of Work, Sir Knight Carson Smith




We operate under the Charter of Raper Commandery No. 1 by authority of the Grand Commandery of Indiana and the Grand Encampment of the United States. We are dedicated to excellence in the performance of the ritual and tactics for the conferral of the Order of Temple, in a manner that will have the greatest and most lasting emotional impact upon the candidate. 

We have no dues or formal structure. Our fellow knights are, however, required to provide their own period equipment, which is available from several online resources. We can provide that supply information for you upon request.


UPDATE

If you are planning to attend the Grand Master's York Rite Class in Angola, Indiana in January, here  is the schedule for the day's events:


Saturday, January 28, 2017
Grand Master’s York Rite Class

08:00 AM Registration and Coffee
09:00 AM Royal Arch Degree
10:45 AM Royal Master Degree
11:30 AM Select Master Degree
12:00 PM Lunch 
  1:00 PM Order of the Red Cross 
  1:45 PM Order of Malta (Short Form)
  2:30 PM Order of the Temple

Angola Masonic Lodge
35 S. Public Square
Angola, IN 46703-1926

Driving Directions

Contact
Mike Anderson  

Friday, December 02, 2016

House of the Temple In Lego


Illus. Brent Morris passed along the news that the Scottish Rite SJ's Washington DC headquarters, the House of the Temple, has now been immortalized as a Lego project. Designed and constructed by a hobbyist known online as "Plandscape88," it is being featured on the official Lego Ideas website.


Given the obvious limitations of the medium, there is a remarkable amount of detail on the model, right down to a removable roof to display the sooper-secret Temple Room. Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol fans finally get to sort of see the room without the bother of having to actually travel to DC and tour the place in person.


If you have a minute, sign up for a log-in account on the Lego page and hit the "support" voting button over on the right side. If 10,000 folks vote in favor of it, the project will officially be made available as a kit by the Lego folks. Hurry up, though. According to the page, those 10,000 likes must come in before the end of January 2017. As of 2:30PM today, there are just 70.

Indianapolis Masonic Temple & Indiana Historic Landmarks Fdn. Tour Thursday 12/8


Members of the Indiana Landmarks Foundation will tour the historic Indianapolis Masonic Temple next Thursday, December 8th, from 5PM - 7PM. The tour is being held as part of their annual Holiday Open House program.

UPDATE: Please note that earlier I mistakenly posted that this event is open to the public. It is NOT. You must be a member of the Indiana Landmarks Foundation to participate.

Egyptian-themed Red Cross Room

Also known as Indiana Freemasons Hall, the temple was designed by Preston C. Rubush and Edgar O. Hunter, the architects responsible for other famed Indianapolis landmarks between 1905 and 1938, such as the Circle and Indiana Theaters (both still in use today), the Columbia Club, the Indiana School for the Deaf, and the former City Hall.

Not mentioned in the event listing is that the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana will also be open for the evening on the 5th floor, displaying artifacts and telling the story of the fraternity in Indiana since its beginnings in 1818.

The open house is free for members of Indiana Landmarks. R.S.V.P. at indyhoh16.eventbrite.com

For more details, visit the event website HERE.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

GM of New York Issues Post-Election Message


In the wake of the recent U.S. presidential election, emotions have been running extraordinarily high, and unfortunately, many Freemasons have been unable to subdue their passions, most especially on social media outlets and in public. Sadly, Brother has been turned against Brother, and some public exchanges have been truly unfortunate, indeed.

The Grand Master of New York, MW Jeffrey M. Williamson, has felt the need to remind his members that, among other things, Freemasons by our very definition, are expected to have "a high level of thought and discourse," and "to work diligently, live creditably and act honorably by all men.”

The Reverend James Anderson in his first Constitutions was writing about religious acceptance, but most Masons over the years have applied the sentiment of his opening Charge to all potentially contentious matters between Brethren: 
"...leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish’d; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must else have remain’d at a perpetual Distance."
The GM's entire message is above. Click the image to enlarge and please read it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Oklahoma Edict on Arkansas Lapses: Amity Restored

The edict issued on October 31, 2016 by the now immediate Past Grand Master of Oklahoma suspending Masonic amity with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas has turned out to be short lived. The assembled voting members at the MW Grand Lodge of AF&AM of Oklahoma's annual communication last weekend, November 11-12,  failed to affirm PGM Dudley "Ridge" Smith's Decision No. 3, and so it has been rescinded with the election of MW Richard Allison as their new Grand Master.

Regular, recognized Masons in those jurisdictions may again inter-visit.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Custom Book Restoration and Conservation

If you are anything like me, you trawl the web, Ebay, Abebooks, and other sites constantly on the lookout for that rare volume of Masonic writing, or just one more you don't already own. I'll say right up front that I despise ebooks as a format for actually reading. Alice owns two versions of Kindles, a Nook, and a Surface, and I never use them. Even Google Books, despite being the sole online repository of numerous rare books long out of print, drives me crazy to actually sit in front of the screen for hours to go through a helpful or interesting tome. Please don't pass along the usual pap about "carrying a whole library in one device," because I'm not doing it. Our house has 84 linear feet of bookcases, all filled, and every room, with the exception of one bathroom, has a bookcase in it.

Over on Facebook, Illus. Art de Hoyos gave a shoutout to a small company that many Freemasons might find beneficial, most especially us book collecting obsessives. Brother Joseph Adams down in Texas is the proprietor of Eidolon House, and specializes in the hand crafted processes of fine book binding, rare book conservation and restoration, and other associated services.

On the website, he explains the difference between conservation and restoration: "Conservation aims to stop any current deterioration of the book, as well as limit further damage. Restoration aims to bringing the book back to its original state and strength as far as archival methods will allow."


Art posted a couple of examples of Brother Adams' work done for books in his collection (above), but the site includes numerous images of other projects, as well (John also raises Angora rabbits on the side). He seems to especially interest people with old, rare, or just sentimental Bibles and other religious or inspirational works. 

One slightly different option to a total rebinding is the creation of a leather or cloth slipcase or enclosure (right) that is beautifully decorated on the outside, even though it might just be for a rare or sentimental paperback inside.

Other Masons chimed in on Art's post about work John has done for them, their lodge, or library, so he comes very highly regarded and well recommended. 


Monday, November 07, 2016

Paris To Change Name of Former Templar Location


The Paris Templar Enclos as it appeared in 1795

I received a link to to a French Change.org petition today. It seems that some central planning genius in Paris has decided to rename the city's Square du Temple after Elie Wiesel to memorialize the Nobel Prize-winning author, activist, and Auschwitz survivor.

Some stories I have found conflict: the petition says its new name will be 'Square Elie Wiesel,' while Le Parisien says it will be hybridized into 'Square du Temple-Elie Wiesel.' So, I'm a little confused. That article says it has already been renamed, so it may be that no public input was allowed, and petitions to stop it are already meaningless.


Patrick Marguerit, Socialist Party mayor of the 3rd Arrondissement, made the official announcement last Thursday. Apparently, the Paris Council made the decision September 12th in a vote that was not unanimous, and it has angered many of the citizens of the city, especially those who reside in the area. 

So, I read it and signed it, for whatever good it might accomplish. These Change.org petitions rarely prevent any political steamrollering anywhere. I’m certainly all in for a Parisian location or monument to memorialize Wiesel. I was introduced to his works in high school, beginning with Night, and his books have humanized and personalized the unfathomable horrors of the Holocaust in a way that few other authors could ever equal, because he lived it. His books have been read by millions all over the world, and continue to impact new readers today. As they should. They should remain in circulation for as long as words can appear in print, and then repeated by rote if we ever descend into a world like Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. (In an age of speech codes, safe spaces, and trigger warnings, such a notion no longer seems unthinkable, I'm afraid.)


But Paris planners could certainly have chosen somewhere other than this particular location that occupies such an important place in history. Wiesel lived in Paris after the war, but I haven't been able to figure out whether he lived on or near Square du Temple. He is largely regarded today as an American author. 

Unfortunately, if you go poking around too much on Parisian websites, the controversy over the renaming gets wrapped up in French anti-semitism, with the usual shrieks of Zionist conspiracies to obliterate Christian sites. Such is the territory of certain types who inhabit the web.


There is literally nothing physical left in this area today to even hint that the Templars had such an enormous presence in the city besides its name and nearby Metro station. Even the sole remnants of the Templar's 13th century Great Tower - its doors - were moved to Chateau Vincennes two centuries ago. 

Here is a rough translation attempt of the wording of the petition:

NO to the renaming of the Square du Temple Square Elie Wiesel!
Without consulting the residents, the mayor of the third arrondissement, Pierre Aidenbaum, expressed the wish to give it the name of Elie Wiesel at Temple Square. 
This decision, if implemented, would erase the memory of the Enclos du Temple (Enclosure of the Temple) from the twelfth century and whose fortified tower appears on a seal dated 1290.  
The fortified enclosure was the [headquarters] of the Knights Templar in France in connection with the Temple in Jerusalem. 
After its dissolution in 1312, the order gave way to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (Order of Malta) . L'Enclos survived and remained a vibrant free city with its many artisans. The activity of costume jewelery still very present today remains a living testimony.  
Economically and religiously vibrant, the Yard was behind its walls [was home to] famous people like Rousseau and Beranger. Mozart played there before the nobility. 

(Model of the enclosure time in the eighteenth century https://goo.gl/gQRddb )
[During] the  Revolution with the imprisonment of the royal family in 1792 and the death of little Louis XVII in the tower, which was destroyed in 1809, [followed by] the Paris Commune and the Premiere International [an international organization of left wing political groups and labor unions] in 1871, the area of the Temple was the Parisian field where political movements mingled with force, and often tragically.   
The Second World War did not spare the neighborhood; a monument recalls the names of 85 small Jewish children deported and exterminated in Auschwitz with their family from 1942 to 1944.    
The palace of the Grand Prior no longer exists but its garden is still there. Since 1857 it bears the name of the square of the Temple built by Alphand. 
If affixing the name of Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize [winner], died July 2, 2016, should not seem to be criticism in itself, as can be reserved for a [different] Parisian site, however, it is particularly questionable want to wish erase the memory of the Temple. 
The people of the 3rd love the Square du Temple. This is a lively place and very popular with people of all ages! All have their say on what is the heart of their district!  
NO to the arbitrary decision of the name change!   No to the oblivion of the memory of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris! The Square du Temple should bear this name, a name that marks the true historical heritage of the capital.

The first time Alice and I went to Paris after I became a Mason, like every good John Robinson reader, I eagerly sought out any site that had anything to do with the Order. We visited the tiny park on the Ile aux Juifs as soon as we got to town, and saw the plaques marking the death of Jacques de Molay (the one over the steps placed by the DeMolays and the other official one by the city). The next day, it rained all afternoon, but we hiked up the Rue du Temple to the Square, and I desperately searched for some remnant, some fragmented wall, some old archway, or even just a chunk of foundation stone in the park. But Napoleon did his job and erased every bit of it.

Interestingly, as was pointed out in one article I saw, Elie Wiesel himself wrote, "A man without a past is poorer than a man without a future." If the Council is wedded to the location for some reason, then just name the park there after Wiesel (although, even that is troublesome, as it was the Templar Grand Prior's own garden). But not the square. Don't erase history. 

If you are so inclined, click here to sign the petition. 

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Reporter Has Kittens Over GL of Victoria, Australia Hiring Female CEO

The Weekend Herald Sun in Melbourne, Australia featured a lengthy article on Friday about the Grand Lodge of Victoria (Freemasons Victoria) breaking with longstanding tradition, throwing in the towel, and hiring a woman as their new Chief Executive to run the business and public image side of the fraternity.

It's difficult sometimes to tell with a news article whether the reporter intentionally added needless, ignorant and insulting swipes to the story herself, or if some sneering editor inserted their own after the piece was submitted. That's especially true with anti-Masonic insults. I've come to just expect them in the UK papers with stories about the fraternity, but it seems like a recent development in Australia. 

Unfortunately, smart-assed, snarky news writers seem to be the big thing in the mainstream press now, in some desperate attempt to remain "entertaining" enough to snag enough eyeballs to justify their ad rates.

From The Woman Set To Save Freemasonry by Susie O'Brien:


Freemasonry is an ancient worldwide secular society of men with its antecedents in medieval stonemasons’ guilds. 
It has a long and distinguished history in Australia, starting with botanist Joseph Banks on board the Endeavour in 1770. 
Until the 1970s, just about all Australian prime ministers were Freemasons. Other well-known members included cricketer Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Robert Menzies, Graham Kennedy and the inventors of the Freddo Frog and Vegemite.However, these glory days are well and truly gone. 
In the 1960s the Freemasons had 110,000 members in Australia; now there are only 9500 [sic - see my note at the bottom]. The organisation is losing 700 members annually — an unsustainable 8 per cent loss per annum. 
It’s no wonder this men’s-only club is undergoing the biggest overhaul in its Australian history. 
There is simply no choice. With declining revenues, memberships and relevance, the Freemasons must modernise or slowly die. 
In a startling move, the person Freemasons Victoria has chosen to oversee this monumental task is a woman; its first female CEO, Jane Sydenham-Clarke. 
Engaging, razor-sharp and dressed in chic black, Sydenham-Clarke has built an impressive reputation turning around struggling organisations. Or, as she calls it, undertaking “change-management journeys”. 
This is one woman who likes a challenge. 
[snip] 
Sydenham-Clarke is more inclined to address the gender issue head-on. 
“I want to state the obvious. I am not a man,” she told a room of curious Freemasons in September. “But I am daughter of a very proud Freemason.” 
It was just nine days after taking her post, and Sydenham-Clarke was addressing a Freemasons business lunch in a distinguished mahogany-lined room at the Rendezvous Hotel. It was almost certainly the first time anyone at such a gathering had thrown around such un-Masonic terms as “robust in the digital space” and “building brand architecture”. 
“We’ll be moving with the times,” she told the lunch. This involves “getting the product right” and working out “what success looks like”. 
“Today’s young man is well-educated, they have a family and they’re time-poor, so we need to ensure we are relevant to their lives,” she said later.Given the average age of a Freemason is 67, this emphasis on engaging younger members is no mean feat. 
Five weeks later, after a frantic whirlwind of meetings, events and research, Sydenham-Clarke admits the Freemasons is like a “parallel universe”.But it’s one she’s clearly happy to inhabit. 
It’s fair to say that in her previous positions she didn’t get escorted to her car after a meeting by a swordsman decked out in ceremonial garb. 
It’s telling that this ancient organisation has turned to a woman to rescue it — a woman it won’t admit as a member. 
This doesn’t appear to be an issue for Sydenham-Clarke. She is adamant the Freemasons can bring about renewal and rejuvenation without admitting females as members.
[snip]
A tour of the new Box Hill Lodge, led by Freemasons Peter Atkin and Richard Elkington, is both enlightening and baffling. 
It is a nondescript office-style building on Maroondah Highway, but inside it contains two plush meeting places redolent with ceremonial artefacts and centuries-old traditions. The meeting rooms are grand and rectangular, with wooden seats facing inward towards a rectangular chequerboard carpet. 
Ancient symbols of Masonry abound. These include the rough and smooth stones representing the journey from ignorance to knowledge and the compass and square representing lessons in conduct. 
A letter G is suspended over the central carpet, and three grand wooden thrones dominate one end of the room. There are also wooden cupboards containing symbols of the three degrees of Freemasonry teachings and ritual processes: the shaping tools, the managing tools and the recording tools. 
Once a month Freemason members from surrounding lodges meet there. They come to meetings in dinner suits, wearing different sheepskin aprons according to their rank and experience. 
Atkin says the sheepskin is highly significant because it “reminds us that despite how high up you get, you remember who you were when you first came through the door”. 
A sign in the Box Hill Lodge cloakroom for a prostate cancer support group symbolises the age range of the cohort. 
Atkin says he was initiated to the Freemasons 46 years ago. 
“I’m a young guy,” he chuckles. 
This is what passes as a joke in Freemason circles. 
It’s hard not to be impressed by the passion and respect both Atkin and Elkington feel for this somewhat strange set of rituals. But at the same time, it’s all a bit odd. 
Where else do grown men discuss the Grand Architect of the Universe? Wear ceremonial aprons? Stand around talking about installation of the Sunshine Wisdom Lodge or the Lodge of the Golden Fleece? 
And that doesn’t even include the secret bits they don’t talk about: the rumoured rolled-up trouser leg on initiation, the secret handshake involving... 
There it is, right on cue: the rubber stamped "rolled-up trouser leg" trademark of the Anglo-influenced press. Never mind. You get the picture. But honestly - was there some compelling reason to take special schoolgirl glee in the middle of an otherwise fairly respectful piece to go out of the way to toss off completely unnecessary and uncalled for insulting wisecracks, and even childishly dish up what she thinks is the "secret handshake"? 

Then there's this a little farther down:
Change is definitely afoot, but there’s a long way to go. Sydenham-Clarke will have her work cut out. 
First the Freemasons need to get over the public perception that their organisation is little more than a bunch of old men keeping ancient secrets, exchanging secret handshakes and riding goats at initiation ceremonies.Reynolds is keen to make one thing very clear — there are no goats.“I haven’t seen one yet,” he says. 
Given he joined the organisation at 24, and has been a Freemason for close to 40 years, he probably knows. 
Secret rituals? Yes. 
Handshakes? Yes. 
Goats? No. 
Good to get that cleared up. 
Sydenham-Clarke also wants to move the agenda on from handshakes and farmyard animals...
Yuk. Yuk. Yuk.

Feel free to read the whole thing if you feel some morbid compulsion. Sadly, this is what passes for "journalism" now, and we need to be aware of it before we go nosing around for publicity. It's certainly been all over the mainstream press in England since the 1990s, and it has apparently been transplanted to Australia now. 

If so, I'm afraid Ms. Sydenham-Clarke's mission to build Freemasonry's brand architecture in Victoria may be an arduous uphill battle.

NOTE: Reporterette O'Brien obviously wasn't taking careful notes and makes things appear more dire than the truth. She asserts early in the piece that there are just 9,500 Masons in Australia today, down from a height of 110,000. While it is certainly down substantially from its greatest post-WWII numbers these days, the most recently compiled Australian numbers actually show there to be 36,907 Masons nationwide. (That number does not include lodges operating under charters of the three Home GLs of England, Ireland, and Scotland. And if you want to unofficially toss New Zealand in just because they're so close, that adds another 7,900.)

From Grand Lodge figures reported in late 2015:

NSW 12,000
Queensland  7,400
South AU and Northern Territory 2,507
Victoria  10,200
Western AU  3,600
Tasmania  1,200