The Chaplain is a minor officer in a Lodge of Freemasons, but his role is to lead the Lodge in prayer before work begins at every meeting. Because Freemasonry is NOT a religion, but it IS religious, it is natural that the Chaplain often provides Masonic education at Lodge meetings. Hence, my monthly Chaplain’s message in our newsletter (called a Trestleboard, which would have been the daily work order listing for constructing King Solomon’s Temple) is often a reflection or offshoot of some Masonic Education presented to the Lodge.
Having served over a decade as the Chaplain of Mad River Lodge, I began to worry that I was repeating myself. So, I have tried to collate my Chaplain’s messages and stash them here so I can run through them to avoid repetition and perhaps a find a topic when I need one that can be an extension of a previous message.
My Chaplain’s messages are available year by year on the pages below:
Mad River Lodge #77- Chaplain 2005- present)
Past Master, Mad River Lodge, 1992-93
Scottish Rite (AASR, NMJ): 33rd degree, Drama Director for Valley of Central Vermont, Commander in Chief for Vermont Consistory, chef for Festive Board for Couples
Why the Chaplain?
I was baptized at the Morgan Park Congregational Church in Chicago, where my grandmother served many years as treasurer and my great grandfather donated the stained glass windows during construction. (His father literally built many of the State capital buildings across the country, the Denver Mint, and the Chicago Water Tower.) I was raised and confirmed in the Hampshire Colony Congregational Church of Princeton, Illinois, attending Sunday School, Youth Group, and singing as a youth in the adult choir. Princeton was the proud location of 19 churches, and a Midwestern sense of religious diversity. For several summers I attended Camp Saint Claret, operated by the Claretian order and learned the Latin version of the Catholic mass and the music of the Catholic folk mass from daily attendance. I had a formative sophomore year at St Bede Academy (Benedictine), as one of only a few Protestant students there.
My first college experiences, while still in public high school, were at the Catholic-rooted Aurora College, and St Dominic College.
I was an usher and tour guide at the ecumenical Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago from 1970 to 1974. At Chicago, I took a few courses at the Divinity School there, but mostly related to psychology rather than theology. I studied Philosophy of Religion with Robert B Tapp. I studied New Testament in 1972 with Northern Illinois University, on the island of Patmos (Greece) where John wrote the Book of Revelations. By virtue of five years living with a Conservative Jewish partner, I learned a great deal about Judaism.
I have been a member of the Waitsfield United Church of Christ since 1987, serving on the Board, editing the newsletter for ten years, and singing in the choir. I have performed dozens of mostly outside weddings and civil unions as a Justice of the Peace and as a minister of the Universal Life Church (and the blessing of the Vermont UCC). My fee is $2.00.
I taught briefly at the now-closed Trinity College in Burlington and then for 15 years at St Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut, both Catholic colleges. My field, psychology, has its roots deep in religion, something oft forgotten in the 21st century.
As a member of the Freemasons, including a 33rd degree in Scottish Rite, I have been involved in the Old Testament dramas presented there, as well as other aspects of spirituality explored in the Lodge of Perfection, Council of Jerusalem, Rose Croix, and Consistory degrees. I have played roles ranging from Solomon’s evil tax collector and Moses’ errant son, to a World War II Army rabbi.
For many years, my family and I spend a week each summer at the Chautauqua Institute. Among many speakers over the years ranging from mullahs to Peter Gomes, I spent one week listening to and reading (former priest) John Dominic Crossan on the historic Jesus. I participate in my wife’s family’s Jewish holiday celebrations every year. Recently I have struggled to read the Koran in English, having enjoyed its rhythms and tones in spoken Arabic. This was aided by Muslim students at St Joseph College who learned of my interest.
In my youth, peace activist Father Daniel Berrigan (author of No Bars To Manhood, brother of Father Phillip Berrigan who was imprisoned for his anti-war activities) was a major influence. I struggled agnostically with my rejection as a “Christian” by Catholic classmates. I heard Berrigan speak and lead an impromptu baptism during the Q and A. I realized that protesting and preventing warfare is a battle, to be waged nonviolently, but with sacrifice.
My three favorite sacred texts are the story of Sarah denying that she laughed at God, the 82nd Psalm where God tells the other gods that he will outlast them and demand justice, and the story in the Koran of King Solomon’s death unnoticed by his workmen and Jinn. Jesus turning water into wine as the uninvited guest at a wedding , for his first specific miracle, is a close fourth. The translation of Chuang Tsu, the student of Lao Tsu (founder of Taoism), by Thomas Merton has recently aided my meditation and sense of wonder, which has broadened my ability to reinterpret my traditional reading of Judeo-Christian texts. The lectures of Bart Ehrman on the history of the New Testament have helped me immensely to understand my intellectual and spiritual confusion since childhood.
When Biblical scholar and author John Dominic Crossan was asked on Friday, after his fifth daily one-hour lecture and Q&A at the Chautauqua Institute, to name his favorite passage in Scripture, he cited his own translation (!) of Psalm 82- “The Lord God was sitting at the banquet table with the other gods, and He said to them, When you are all dust, I will be the Lord God and justice will rain down upon the Earth.” At least that’s what I remember him saying.
Following the command to keep the Sabbath holy, I try to devote time on Sunday afternoon to spiritual study of some kind.
I tried to summon a demon once. And I have regretted it ever since.