Three is the magic number!

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Brothers,

It's June, the last month before we go dark for two months. So maybe I should write three months worth of letter. Better yet: one letter about the number three.

Three is the magic number and comes up quite a bit in ritual. In the Fellowcraft degree alone there are many sightings of three. The three steps allude to the three degrees in Freemasonry and the three principal officers. Three are the original Greek columns: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Three are the most revered of the five senses: hearing, seeing, and feeling. A solid is a figure of three dimensions, namely: length, breadth, and thickness. There are the three wages of the Fellowcraft: the corn of nourishment, the wine of refreshment, and the oil of joy--which denote plenty, happiness, and peace.

But the three most meaningful to me are the jewels of a Fellowcraft:

"...which are an attentive ear, an instructive tongue and a faithful breast, because the attentive ear receives the sound from the instructive tongue and the mysteries of Masonry are safely lodged in the repository of faithful breasts."

The attentive ear is important because there is so much to learn. You may have heard me say I'll be tired of living when I'm tired of learning. Though my ADD can make the attentive part difficult ... I lost my train of thought. Listening is a valuable skill that doesn't always come easily. Wisdom can be in knowing when to listen and to whom you listen. It's something I'm constantly working on, suppressing that urge to interject half cocked into any conversation.

Listening isn't the only way to learn though. Some even say to master something you have to teach it.  Every Regular Communication we try to have an education coordinated by our excellent LEO Paul Uslan (that's Lodge Education Officer, not his zodiac symbol). That's an example of the instructive tongue expanding your horizons. We all accumulate knowledge along our journeys, Masonic or not, and that knowledge is valuable and should be shared. Passing on our knowledge can help us solidify our own understanding, and in explaining we can find new insight. I highly encourage you to reach out to Brother Paul and sign up to do a Lodge Education on any subject you find interesting.

Lastly the faithful breast, where we symbolically lodge and literally hold dear the mysteries of Masonry. Determining what knowledge is worth keeping, sharing, or even disregarding is another example of wisdom. Being faithful to the truth is one of the highest ideals of civilization and as Freemasons we are taught to cherish this as much as our secrets and obligations.

INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE: Don't forget, this Wednesday at 9:00am we're meeting by State Street just south of Williams to march in the Ann Arbor 4th of July Parade! Stay tuned for exact details, all Masons from all over are welcome to march with us!

Have a great summer! We'll see you at the July 15 picnic and then in the fall, and don't forget to grow your chili peppers all summer for the great chili cook off 3rd Wednesday of September!

Sincerely And Fraternally, 

Steven Moazami
Worshipful Master

UPCOMING EVENTS - See  our Calendar for details
July 4 - Ann Arbor 4th of July Parade | On State, just south of William 9:00am
July 5 -  Brotherhood of Literature | WB Pal Bunten's house
July 15 -  Masonic Family Picnic | Gallup Park
July 25 -  Master's Table Dinner | Smokehouse 52 BBQ,  Saline
Aug 2  -  Brotherhood of Literature  | TBA
Aug 22 -  Grotto Master Mason Night and Master's Table Dinner | Zal Gaz Grotto

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We are the Craft!

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Brethren, 

I would like to register a complaint. In my March Master's letter we established that March was in like a lion but out like a lamb. However March came out swinging and didn't let up well into April. Finally Spring was sprung but much too late for my preference. Really just went right from Winter into Summer. Whichever Mason was in charge of the weather machine last month really let us down. Contact your BGP and let us file charges. 

Speaking of charges, let's talk about the EA one. (Dad-joke segue!)

We have all been charged in the EA degree when we were new Masons, but I'd like to review them through the lens of us as old, crusty Masons. There are 6 paragraphs for us to examine. I won't include the text here so you'll have to follow along with your book at home. Better yet, come to the EA degree this month and think about the charge as it's delivered, not just to the EA, but to yourself as well.

First things first, the charge congratulates us on being accepted into such an ancient and honorable institution. No doubt this was intended to reassure any newly initiated brothers who may be shaken or nervous that what they just experienced was indeed a worthwhile thing. For us as established Masons it's a great reminder of all the fraternity offers below the surface and of the parade of better-men-than-we who proceeded us in Freemasonry. 

Second we are reminded of the 3 great duties: to God, your neighbor, and yourself. I believe this is to instruct the newly made brother that Freemasonry is not to be placed ahead of our normal responsibilities, a call back to the assurance made prior to the obligation. As a Master Mason this reminds me why I strive to be better than I am. 

Third we are admonished to be good and peaceful citizens. Similar to the 3 great duties, the newly made brother is being told not to place Freemasonry above the state, to be cheerful in our conformity and not countenance disloyalty or rebellion. I was curious if this was added in response to the events below the Mason-Dixon Line, but it seems it very much predates it. In fact James Anderson's "Charges of a Free-Mason" from 1723 state:

"So that if a Brother should be a Rebel against the State he is not to be countenanc’d in his Rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy Man; and, if convicted of no other Crime though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political Jealousy to the Government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains indefeasible."

Though it is interesting if your only crime was Rebellion, the Lodge will stand by you, our current charge doesn't mention this. In the early days of speculative Freemasonry, as local politicians and noblemen began to join, I can see this charge helping to assuage fears of secret societies overthrowing the governing bodies of the day. As a Master Mason I take this paragraph of the charge to mean not just the face value of prohibiting rebellion, but that we should strive to make positive change from within. (Here is a link to his Constitutions of the Free-Masons if you're interested)

Fourth we are reminded that we represent the craft. I think this is critical for Master Masons not to forget, especially in this day and age of social media. Whenever we engage non Masons in public or online, like it or not the craft will be judged by our words and actions. This is why I don't have the square and compasses on my car. We don't want the general public judging all of Freemasonry based on my ever-so-slightly aggressive driving. It also reminds us to be fair when dealing with our Brothers and the public, to not be biased towards our Brothers at the expense of our and Freemasonry's integrity.

Fifth we are told that masonry shouldn't interfere with our vocation, but are encouraged to study it in our leisure time. As Master Masons this reminds us that we get out of it what we put into it. And we're also warned not to argue with those who seek to ridicule the institution. Again in the age of social media, you are even more likely to run into these sorts of ignorant folk, and getting into the weeds with them on twitters or facebooks doesn't further the cause of Freemasonry.

Lastly, we are reminded that we shouldn't recommend anyone to the craft who couldn't live up to these charges. This is important, even in these days of declining membership, that we have standards that we hold ourselves and our brothers to.

Brothers I hope this reminder encourages you to re-examine the charges through your own lens for your own betterment as a man and a Mason.

Sincerely And Fraternally, 

Steven Moazami
Worshipful Master

UPCOMING EVENTS - See  our Calendar for details
May 16 -  Special Communication [EA] | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
May 19 -  Past Master Brunch - All masons & significant others invited!! | Get Tickets
May 23 -  Master's Table Dinner | Haabs Restaurant, Ypsilanti
May 30 -  Mentor Training - All MMs encouraged to attend! | Zal Gaz Grotto Club
June 6  -  Regular Communication | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
June 16 -  Special Communication [FC]|  Detroit Masonic Temple
June 23 -  Table Lodge | Zal Gaz Grotto Club
 

You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks...

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Brethren,

I'm turning 45 this month. At age 44 I decided I was going to learn to snap with my left hand before I turned 45. Mission accomplished. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Next I decided I was finally going to solve a Rubik's cube. After some 30+ years of not being able to figure it out on my own, I cheated and learned some algorithms from YouTube. Same place where I learned to tie a bow tie, same place I learned to stabilize the temperature of my Kamado grill. I so enjoy learning new things that I believe I'll know when I'm done living when I'm done learning things.

In the Fellowcraft lecture, no where is Youtube mentioned. But the seven liberal arts and sciences are introduced, and in the charge we are admonished that:

"The study of the liberal arts, that valuable branch of education which tends so effectually to polish and adorn the mind, is earnestly recommended to your consideration"

The liberal arts are the disciplines essential for a free (liberalis) person to master, as deemed by those old dudes of classic antiquity. To be an effective and productive citizen you had to have to had a solid grasp of the Trivium: grammar, logic, rhetoric; and the Quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.

It really bums me out that I don't know more of each art. I've always admired the "Renaissance Men" -- the Leonardo Da Vincis and the Isaac Newtons.

In classical antiquity though, there was only so much discovered, so much depth of knowledge. There was room to push understanding in every direction. Even later on during the Renaissance when the idea of the 7 liberal arts were adopted from the old dudes of antiquity, one could learn a solid understanding and expertise in multiple disciplines and be a true Renaissance Man. And from there they naturally found their way into our Fellowcraft Lecture.

Can we still learn them all?

Nowadays math is full of Fermat's Last Theorems, astronomy is full of quantum tunnelings, geometry is full of pseudoholomorphic curves, and philosophy is rife with abstract thought that makes my head spin (Existential phenomenology anyone?). A single person mastering so much knowledge is impractical.

This surprisingly, is liberating to me (pun intended). There is so much to learn that you just have to take your time and pace yourself because you're never going to know everything. But you can have a lot of fun learning as much as you can along the way. There are many opportunities to learn, to breach the barriers of your personal unknowns and learn from the experts who stand on the shoulders of all those who came before them, who can trace their knowledge back to antiquity.

So while snapping and solving Rubik's cubes are trivial skills not at all essential in modern life, they're things I never thought I'd learn and I did. Little victories in the little time we have in our busy lives. They're symbolic of my own personal forward motion in learning. Now to find time to get through the stack of books in my back log.

I hope you make it to lodge soon, every business meeting we have an education, another great opportunity for learning.

Sincerely And Fraternally, 

Steven Moazami
Worshipful Master

UPCOMING EVENTS - See  our Calendar for details
Apr 4  -  Regular Communication | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Apr 18 -  Special Communication [EA]| Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Apr 25 -  Happy Hour - Significant others invited!! | Null Taphouse, Dexter

"In Like a Lion", and on to a Safe Harbor

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Brethren,

In like a Lion, as they say, March is upon us. Smashing snow and viruses into our lives like a lion smashing into its prey.

The lateness of getting this letter to you is a byproduct of how hard this month has hit my family. How to weather this storm--in fact weathering storms is a recurring challenge in my life.

How can Freemasonry help me weather the storm?

On the subject of storms there is this very brief mention in the Master Mason lecture:

"THE ANCHOR AND ARK are emblems of a well-grounded hope and a well spent life. They are emblematic of that Divine ark which safely bears us over this tempestuous sea of troubles, and that anchor which shall safely moor us in a peaceful harbor, where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary shall find rest."

The juxtaposition of a "well-grounded hope" with the nautical "Anchor and Ark" is funny to me because the best way to avoid a storm at sea, of course, is to stay aground to begin with. We know though life is more complicated than that and you'll not get anywhere in life if you never set to sea, metaphorically. So we shall find ourselves on a "tempestuous sea of troubles" erelong.

"A well spent life" sounds to me like a totality, through that lens the "sea of troubles" is life and the "peaceful harbor" is death. The wording "sea of troubles" no doubt alludes to Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquy: 

"To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles"

Another reference to this same speech is in the Fellowcraft lecture. As Hamlet hesitates over avenging his father (spoiler alert) he eloquently ponders the meaning of life and death. It's small wonder that little echos of his profound words have found their way into our lectures. This connection to Hamlet's thoughts on life and death further reinforces my feeling that the lecture's reference to the Anchor and Ark is about the total of one's life journey through this tempestuous existence we call life.

And what is "that Divine ark"? The only divine sea-faring ark that I'm aware of is that of Noah. And that only made one trip, over one storm, again, seeming to allude to the duration of one's life. Unless "that Divine ark" refers to the Ark of the Covenant, which would be quite the mixed metaphor, and of little practical use to bear one over even a calm sea.

So then, if this part of the lecture is referring to a (or the) storm of a lifetime, how then do we weather the little storms between the little calms in our lives?

There must be harbors of momentary peace where we can find momentary rest, before reaching that final harbor. We must have a well-grounded hope that we'll find many harbors of peace along a well-spent life.

I'm sure most of these will be personal ones along our journeys, as each man's voyage differs and we travel through our own tempests. We just need to hold out that hope that we'll spot that calm refuge when we most need it. But I think we can agree that among Masons, the Lodge is one such harbor we share. Our Lodge is a place where we weary brothers may come together and rest and recharge, to take refuge from the tempests and troubles of life, to take up our working tools and work upon ourselves in the sanctuary of our brotherhood.

So my brothers, I shall weather the storms in my life by remembering the lessons of the Anchor and the Ark, looking out for safe harbors, and possibly re-reading Hamlet.

Sincerely And Fraternally, 

Steven Moazami
Worshipful Master

UPCOMING EVENTS - See  our Calendar for details

Mar 21 - Special Communication [EA]| Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Mar 28 - Master's Table Dinner | Location Metzger's German Restaurant
Apr 4  -  Regular Communication | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Apr 18 -  Special Communication [EA]| Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Apr 25 -  Happy Hour - Significant others invited!! | Null Taphouse, Dexter

WINNER: Thomas Hathaway Takes the Gold at Regional Ritual Contest!

 Jackson Lodge #17 hosted the Region 6 Ritual Competition this last Saturday, Febuary 17.

Our Brother Thomas Hathaway won the MM competition and WB Eugene Chapel (Parma #183) won the PM competition!  We wish them both good luck when they move on to the State competition to be held in April!

 Pictured, from left: RWGL Thomas Braun of Cedar Lodge #60, Sam Mogg of East Lansing #480,  Thomas Hathaway of Ann Arbor #262 , Russell Chapel standing in for brother Eugene Chapel, both of Parma #183, Mike Bohnet of Cement City #435, Jim Rutherford of Howell #38, Frank Peters, Region 6 RGL of Webberville #485.

Pictured, from left: RWGL Thomas Braun of Cedar Lodge #60, Sam Mogg of East Lansing #480, Thomas Hathaway of Ann Arbor #262, Russell Chapel standing in for brother Eugene Chapel, both of Parma #183, Mike Bohnet of Cement City #435, Jim Rutherford of Howell #38, Frank Peters, Region 6 RGL of Webberville #485.

The Long and the Short of it.

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Brothers,

Last Master's letter I wrote about the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. Now I'd like to talk about February, the longest month in the year.
"Wait," you might say, "February is the shortest month of the year." Well brother, measured by days, agreed. But after all the fun and excitement of the holidays and the New Year, and before all the glimpses and anticipation for Spring provided by March, sandwiched in the middle is February. I can see why Valentine's Day was put smack in the middle of February's 28 days, but its just not enough to make the month move.
So for me, these are the longest 28 days of the year when cabin fever sets in. Is there a Masonic symbol for cabin fever? Is that the hidden meaning of the dot within the circle?
Symbol or no, the thing February teaches me is patience, and to keep the eye on the long game. So to help me make it through this February, let's consider the 4 Cardinal Virtues.
TEMPERANCE is that due restraint upon our affections and passions which renders the body tame and governable, and frees the mind from the allurements of vice."
Temperance (possibly aided by a wee nip of whisky) will help me keep my mind sharp and clear to focus on keeping life going and on track.
FORTITUDE is that noble and steady purpose of mind, whereby we are enabled to undergo any pain, peril, or danger, when prudentially deemed expedient."
Fortitude (possibly aided by old fashioned vitamin D) will help me keep my body going through the cold and dark, moving past life's obstacles with resolve.
PRUDENCE teaches us to regulate our lives and actions agreeably to the dictate of reason, and is that habit by which we wisely judge, and prudentially determine, on all things relative to our present, as well as our future happiness."
Prudence (definitely aided by my wife) will help me navigate the winter with wisdom, knowing to pick my battles and keep my sights on the light of Spring.
JUSTICE is that standard, or boundary of right, which enables us to render to every man his just due, without distinction."
And finally Justice (aided by some self-reflection) reminds me that just as we all suffer through this winter, so too do I carry my share. I accept my just due, and suffer not alone.
Brothers, It's a long short month and we have quite a bit of work to do. So please join me in brotherhood and Freemasonry and let's barrel through the rest of winter

Sincerely And Fraternally, 

Steven Moazami
Worshipful Master

UPCOMING EVENTS - See  our Calendar for details
Feb 7 -  Regular Communication | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Feb 21 - Special Communication [MM]| Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Feb 28 - Master's Table Dinner | Location TBA
Mar 3  - Past Master Roast and Award Dinner
Mar 7 -  Regular Communication | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall

New Year, New Light...

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Well Brothers,

A new year is upon us. The bad news is, you're a year older. The good news is, you've made it halfway through my master's letters, you're over the hump!

I've always thought it's weird that the New Year begins in January, in the midwinter. To me Spring, symbolic of rebirth, is far more suited. Though I may be biased as the first day of Spring is the New Year in the land of my birth.

Lately though I've been thinking about the Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year, when Fairbanks in Alaska gets less than 4 hours of daylight. Every day after the solstice is longer. And up until the Summer Solstice, every day is a little longer than the day that preceded.

So while Winter itself symbolizes the waning years of life, the Winter Solstice is in effect a renewal of life and hope, as each day brings more and more light.

Likewise while Summer symbolizes the prime of life, beginning on the longest day of the year, so too is it the beginning of the decline, each day being shorter than the last.

I find these juxtapositions fascinating. At the very start of Winter, there is hope in every day's new light. At the very start of Summer, there is an urgency to take advantage of as much light as you can, as it is fleeting.

When I think in this way, starting the year in Winter does make sense. Start from the darkest point and move towards the light. Let's get a fresh start together and with light added to the coming light, continue our work towards illuminating our lives as men and Masons.

We had a very eventful 2017, here's to your 2018 being as healthy and prosperous as possible!

Sincerely And Fraternally, 

Steven Moazami
Worshipful Master

UPCOMING EVENTS - See  our Calendar for details
Jan 11 -  MM Degree Rehearsal | Saline Masonic Temple
Jan 17 - Special Communication [MM]| Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Jan 24 - Festive Board: Burns Dinner | Zal Gaz Grotto Club RSVP NOW!
Jan 31 -  Ritual Club [EA] | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Feb 7 -  Regular Communication | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall

Building on a Firm Foundation

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Brethren,

So it has come to this. The last Master's letter and last Regular Communication of 2017. Where has the year gone? Bittersweet that it comes to an end. We've had fun, we've done some good work, and something more important.
This past weekend WB Art, Steward Eric Bettner and I were consolidating the 159 and 262 storage lockers. As we moved boxes and pictures we made rediscovery after rediscovery. Found member records from 1923, which recorded the $20 per degree they paid as they joined. ($285 dollars per degree in today's money). Found picture after picture of newly installed officer lines. Found newsletters of their exploits. So much history and we barely scratched the surface, as we had to keep reminding ourselves that we were there to move history, not learn it.
2017 is about to join those many many years in the books. Everything we do extends what they have done. We are the continuance of what they started. I hope that we've done them proud.
According to the EA Lecture:

"Prudence teaches us to regulate our lives and actions agreeably to the dictates of reason, and is that habit by which we wisely judge and prudentially determine all things relative to our present and future happiness."

It talks about our future happiness, our own personal happiness, that we can influence with prudence.
But this makes me wonder if all these Masons of yesteryear, how much thought did they give to the future happiness that Art, Eric, and I experienced rediscovering their stories?
Which leads to the "something important" I alluded to in the beginning. We're adding to the foundation of Ann Arbor Freemasonry for all the years to come.
In 2017 we've accomplished much. Some historic - like the merging of 159 and 262, some not as historic - such as surviving the hottest Tigers game I've ever experienced, but all of it amazing and filled with brotherhood. What we do in 2018 will build off of what we have done this year. And I hope we continue to build something wonderful that will bring future happiness to unknown brothers to come.
I want to once again thank everyone for all their hard work and support in making 2017 what it was, and I look forward to working with you all to make 2018 even better. 

Sincerely And Fraternally, 

Steven Moazami
Worshipful Master

UPCOMING EVENTS - See  our Calendar for details
Dec 6 -  Regular Communication | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Dec 16 - Installation of Officers for 2018 | Zal Gaz Grotto Club
Jan 3 -  Regular Communication | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
 

Thanksgiving - Thankful for SafeHouse Center!

 Pictured are Bob Hospadaruk PM, Garry Lewis, Deb Kern - Giving & Events Manager at SafeHouse, Steve Moazami WM, and Art Davidge PM

Pictured are Bob Hospadaruk PM, Garry Lewis, Deb Kern - Giving & Events Manager at SafeHouse, Steve Moazami WM, and Art Davidge PM

Friends and Brothers, we are overjoyed to be able to support the work of SafeHouse Center this year.  Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge #262, with the help of the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation and most importantly our community friends and business partners raised $5500.00 during our "Freemasons for SafeHouse" event last November 11.  

We are so thankful for SafeHouse Center being here in our town – providing support for those impacted by domestic violence or sexual assault.  They provide free and confidential services for any person victimized that lives or works in Washtenaw County.  SafeHouse services include emergency shelter for those in danger of being hurt or killed, counseling, legal advocacy, support groups, and especially, HOPE.

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How We Use Our Time

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Brethren,

At the November Regular communication our Education Officer Paul Uslan presented an amazing paper he wrote on Freemasonry and how we can make it more valuable for new members and more attractive to potential new members. One thing he reminded us is that learning the applications of ritual through mindful exploration of the craft isn't easy or automatic, and we need to make the time do it.

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...which we are taught to divide into three equal parts...

Our Entered Apprentice ritual has a lessons on the subject of time, the first that comes to mind is one of the working tools of an Entered Apprentice--the 24 inch gauge:

"It being divided into twenty-four equal parts is emblematic of the twenty-four hours of the day which we are taught to divide into three equal parts, whereby we find a portion for the service of God and a distressed Worthy Brother, a portion for our usual vocations and a portion for refreshment and sleep."

The third portion is the critical time when we recharge our batteries, without proper rest and energy we can hardly do a good job with the other two portions.

The second portion is the critical time when through our labors we produce the resources necessary to sustain ourselves and families, and frees us to engage in the first portion.

The first portion, for the service of God and a distressed Worthy Brother, is also critical for many reasons. Foremost in my mind is that it would encompass that Masonic ideal that I have wrote about before: Charity. It reminds us that Charity isn't something you do once in a big bang at the end of the year, it's something we should be thinking about and working on every day. As men and Masons we should be living each day with Charity in our hearts, being ready to give as our cable tow allows.

That said, come give to charity in one big bang at our year-end charity event  this Saturday November 11! It's for a great cause and will help make a difference in our community. As WB Secretary says, invite your rich friends and let’s party for SafeHouse Center.

I never addressed which portion is the time we work on ourselves, growing our understanding of ritual and expanding our minds as Masons. Is it as part of our refreshment? Does it count as part of our usual vocation? Could we ourselves be a distressed worthy brother in the context of needing to expand our knowledge and understanding of ritual? I leave that to you my brother.

Sincerely And Fraternally, 

Steven Moazami
Worshipful Master

UPCOMING EVENTS - See  our Calendar for details
Nov 11 -  Memorial Service for WB Bob Murphy | 11:00am Details Here
Nov 11-  Free Mason Party for SafeHouse | Zal Gaz Grotto Club
Nov 15 - Special Meeting | Purpose and Place TBA
Nov 29 - Lodge of Sorrow Memorial Service | Zal Gaz Grotto Club
Dec 6 -  Regular Communication | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Dec 16 - Installation of Officers for 2018 | Zal Gaz Grotto Club