Monday, February 11, 2008

We all shine on: Sister Kelly

My thanks to Sister Kelly for giving us the following, our 15th installment of "This is who I am."

Last night I took part in a special Masonic gathering hosted by a Grand Orient of France lodge working here in the U.S. The intent of the meeting was to strengthen fraternal ties in our local Masonic community, and in attendance were representatives of the Women's Grand Lodge of Belgium, the American Federation of Le Droit Humain, and the George Washington Union. Our entire agenda that evening was dedicated to reading and discussing architecture (papers) contributed by the participating lodges. These papers ranged in subject from initiatic continuity, to the decline of the American empire, to "remembrance duty": the obligations of nations to remember wrongdoings.

I sat among fifty Masons from diverse backgrounds, bound by our ideals, all listening to the presenters intently and commenting on the work with that distinctive Masonic thoughtfulness and insight that I've come to cherish. The energy created by this level of concentration, underpinned as it was by our mutual respect and fraternal love, was palpable, and powerful.

About half of the Masons present were women. There was no mention of the GAOTU. For these reasons I expect that some people reading this will say that this was not a Masonic meeting at all. My purpose is not to convince those people that it was, but to provide Taper readers with a snapshot of what's going on in the so-called Irregular world.

This is my world, and this forms a large part of who I am.

I cannot give you much in the way of typical biographical information, because the Masonic tradition I come out of encourages discretion. I am an American, however, and have that American impulse toward openness and self-revelation. I would love to tell you all about myself, but by exposing myself in this public forum, I would run the risk of outing my brothers and sisters by association.

All I'll say for now is that I'm an artist and a writer, and that my husband is a Mason as well. I can speak more freely about my Masonic biography.

I am a member of Le Droit Humain. This is a co-masonic organization (meaning men and women working together on equal footing) that is more than 100 years old. I was initiated in 1998. Our degree requirements center around producing architecture, and as is traditional for us, I spent a full year in each of the first two degrees, writing and studying, before being raised to the 3rd degree in 2000.

Last month my brothers and sisters installed me in the East as WM. I am honored by their trust — and still reeling under my new responsibilities. Each office holds its lessons, but this one is definitely going to change my life. I know I have gifts to offer my Lodge, but I also know that serving as master will force me to confront my weaknesses head on. This is frightening, but exhilarating too.

A question that keeps my wheels turning now that my view is due West, is how to inspire my brothers and sisters to bring their best to Lodge. Because we are a small Lodge, and because our working style demands not just attention to ritual, but also constant contribution in terms of architecture, discussion, and service to the lodge, every member must participate whole-heartedly. No one can be a bench sitter. Complicating this, our demographics skew young: we have no time-blessed retirees in our lodge to pick up the slack. All of my brothers and sisters balance the obligations of Freemasonry with their busy careers and home lives.

Sometimes I feel like our Lodge is a lab. In it Freemasonry does not exist as a "love it or leave it" proposition. Our members are constantly questioning, "What is this thing called Freemasonry? Why do we do it? Is it worth it?" This does not mean that we are re-inventing Masonry to suit our whims, but it does mean that nothing is taken for granted.

To give you an example, a few years ago, during a period of intense questioning, each of us presented architecture titled, "Why the %$&* am I a Freemason?" The answers were as individual as the writer, but one common theme emerged from all of them: love. Our love for one another.

That's a strong base to build on, but my challenge is to create agendas which will inspire them, and keep them coming to lodge — not out of obligation, but out of passion.

I have these questions for Taperites: How do we keep this bright flame of the18th century relevant in 2008? How does a craft so subtle a craft, compete with the more flashy, "me" oriented forms of philosophy popular today? How do we balance tradition with our revolutionary spirit? I would be delighted to talk about these ideas in the comments, or privately at lodgeunification at

Note on the illustration: As I can't send you a picture of myself in my snazzy new apron, I'm sending you all a valentine. Made it myself! Other candy slogans I considered: "square 4 U", "3 kisses", "luv my L:." and "pleg'd my heart".

— Sister Kelly

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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  1. Congrats Sis Kelly!

    Never stop asking questions.

    We all need to look for our commonalities rather than focus on are differences to achieve harmony and balance!


  2. Sister Kelly,
    How do you rock, let me count the ways!

    Fraternally and most sincerely,

  3. Awesome news Sister Kelly! Your words are proof that the eternal chain of union between Masons is very real.

    I wish I could have been there for the fellowship.

  4. Gee, thanks you guys! Now I know why you all are some of my favorite Taper posters! (wink)

  5. "I have these questions for Taperites: How do we keep this bright flame of the18th century relevant in 2008?"

    Hello sister Kelly,

    It is refreshing to see some questions. One thing with this question is to ask if this 18th century flame even more relevant than it was then? Certainly, the errors in Masonry past and present happened only when Masonry worked to fit into the society of its time rather than into the structure it creates.

    In the attempts to fit into the society around it, individuals in Masonry have supported racism. In attempts to fit into the society around it, the Grand Orient of France eliminated the GAOTU.

    Our modern problem is to be careful to not fall into the idea that we must become relevant to society. Society is what fails the relevancy litmus, not Freemasonry. If we work and guide our actions by the tools we are given, we will always be relevant.

    I do not question the paths of others. I do not accept it out-of-hand when others challenge my path. If our great forebearers 'fit' into the historical context of their time, they would not be great. If Voltaire were strictly a product of his time we would not have heard from him.

    We know, that at least until society catches up with us, we will be relevant. We have some things to fix, that is for certain. That is exactly what makes us different than society. It has problems to fix, but it does not strive for improvement. Do not make the mistake of thinking we are behind society. Do not think of society at all. Think how you can be true to yourself and we'll always be ahead, unfortunately.

  6. Brother Francois, thank you for engaging with my quesions. Like you, I believe that the tools and symbols of FM are universal and timeless.

    But I also believe these tools can be locked inside a box, and kept from people who could make good use of them. Or worse, they could be degraded or forgotten.

    You speak of Masonry's great mistakes coming through it trying to adapt to societal trends. I do agree with you that this is wrong--witness the Nascar thing.

    But you were talking about bigger things than that, citing what you identified as mistakes made around race and non-dogmatism, two subjects that are more likely to catch fire here than most anything else, with the question of women in FM coming in somewhere behind.

    And it seems to me that these hot button questions being debated by thoughtful regular Masons today--and what you are speaking of-- are not so much about Freemasonry falling victim to passing societal trends, but rather about confronting a basic and very necessary question: who gets to use the tools?

    From where I stand--in my version of reality, if you will--that question is already answered.

    For that reason, I actually did not mean to invoke any of those hot topics with my questions. I was just trying to figure out how to run the best lodge meeting I can.

    But I agree with you most heartily when you say "If we work and guide our actions by the tools we are given, we will always be relevant."

    May we always work to our highest ideals.

    Peace to you, Brother.


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