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From the Archives: Witness Account of the 1871 Lodge Fire

From the Archives is a recurring series that highlights Alexandria-Washington Lodge’s archives and museum. Visitors are welcome to visit the museum during the memorial’s operating hours.

Written by Chris Ruli, Archives Committee

In the early morning of May 19, 1871, the townspeople of Alexandria awoke to the sounds of alarms. A fire erupted inside the city hall, which also served as a lodge space and museum operated by Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 (AW22). The lodge’s members quickly arrived at the scene to help suppress the conflagration, which had spread to most of the building and threatened to destroy the entire lodge hall and museum – home to one of the earliest museums in the United States. They worked quickly to secure hundreds of priceless relics and documents on Freemasonry, politics, science, art, and popular culture. Although they were able to save a significant number of items, including the lodge’s proceedings and much of the Washingtoniana – the collection of memorabilia associated with George Washington, much of the museum’s natural science and art collection was lost. 

Six days later, on May 25, members assembled in a temporary lodge space to discuss their future. In lieu of the standard minutes usually recorded, the lodge’s secretary drafted a powerful recollection of the fire, written in compelling prose.The following is a full reproduction of his remarks, which provides readers with an emotional account of the May 19 fire and the lodge’s attempt to rescue their history from total destruction.

In sorrow the Craft assembled this Thursday evening (May 25th) in the hall of Andrew Jackson Lodge No. 120 owing to the destruction of their own time-honored hall by fire on the early morn. of May 19, 1871.

At an hour when nature’s calm repose gave a seeming safety,

To all the works of genius and skill that man had proudly built,

And lingering night her quiet vigils kept,

While the workmen in life’s busy scenes found refreshing rest,

And made slumbers’ soothing hours.


Fire’s dread alarm upon the midnight air was borne, 

Awakening, ere the time for rest expired, 

By nature’s laws allowed the slumbering craft who hurrying to the scene, 

Beheld with grief the mad carnival of rain the Fire King had made, 


Hope for a season, bright promise, gave for the safety of the temple, 

Bound to their hearts by a thousand ties, 

Whose very walls when danger threatened most, 

Bore silent witness to many a pleasant scene, 


But alas! In vain, 

Apprentice and fellow craft with master masons, 

In mighty efforts vied, their hall, to save!


For soon the towering spire, which for years, 

Had like a faithful guardian stood in proud majesty at the temple porch,

Sounding its own death knell at the hour of one, 

From its brazen thatch gave taken by its mighty fall, 


That the unchecked demon gathering new strength from the harm it had made, 

With ere long enwrap beneath its fiery arms all within their reach, 

Near and near still it’s heated breath, porch and temple approached, 

Which soon in burning shrouds helpless victims lay, 


With madly darking flames, 

The only lights for sepulcher, 

Which high to heaven ascends, 

As if in mockery of the feeble efforts of the craft to avert their doom,


Soon the blackened walls, like grim specters remained, 

Sad monuments of the joys and pleasures, 

The Craft had known within their honored hall,

Whose falled altars, the new born day, a silent language gave,


That in gloomy ancients words of sorrow spoke, 

To the heart of every brother that lingered there, 

As if loth to leave the mournful scene, 

Where once with kindred spirits they had happy been.


One ray of comfort they cherished then in that hour of gloom, 

The safety of all they prized beyond the temple they had lost, 

Whose value association gave, 

And whose loss the wealth of India could ne’er replace,


The charter, that bore the immortal name that was not “born to die,” 

The chair in which our first illustrious master sat, 

Crowned by a diadem of glory woven by a nation’s love, 

And letters of fraternal council by him to our fathers sent, 


Portraits of the honored dead, 

That adorned the temple walls, 

And objects held most dear,

were from destruction’s grasp,

By anxious daring brothers saved. 

To serve again as mementos of the past,

Valued once but two fold cherished now,

That they are linked in memory’s chain,

With objects forever lost. 


And soon we hope shall severe again,

That temple to adorn, 

Which willing hearts and active hands,

Shall build a glorious Phoenix, 


Magnificent in design, 

A fit monument to keep,

Alive the Glorious of the past,

That filled the fallen temple,

From whose ashes it shall arise.

Due to the building’s importance in local business and civic affairs, lodge members joined the town’s council and merchants to fundraise and immediately rebuild the hall. Adolf Cluss, a prominent local architect and Freemason, was selected to lead the project and rebuilt the edifice exactly as it stood before the incident with few notable exceptions. Cluss reinforced the hall’s interior with steel beams and stone to make it fireproof and worked with AW22 to build an expanded museum and lodge room. Alexandria-Washington occupied this space until 1947 when it moved over to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.


From the Archives: Alexandria-Lodge 22 Plans George Washington’s Funeral

From the Archives is a recurring series that highlights Alexandria-Washington’s archives and museum. Visitors are welcome to visit the museum during the memorial’s operating hours.

Written by Chris Ruli and Aaron Habibipour

December 16 marks the 223rd anniversary of Alexandria Lodge’s meeting to announce the death of George Washington and plan for his funeral service. The lodge’s museum and archives is fortunate enough to have the original meeting minutes from the occasion.

Dr. Elisha Dick, the lodge’s Master, called for an Emergency meeting “for the purpose of taking into consideration and adopting certain measures relative to the burial of our late worthy Brother General George Washington.” Thirty-eight members of the lodge attended the meeting along with two visitors – Charles Lesebre of Fredericksburg Lodge 4 of Virginia, Washington’s mother lodge, and James Bacon of Philadelphia Lodge 7, Pennsylvania. In fact, the meeting became so noteworthy that the lodge’s secretary David Wilson Scott, embedded a note directly onto the center of the page for future reference: “Funeral Lodge called for the burial of Gen. G. Washington, 1st Master of this lodge No. 22.

Dick opened the meeting and “delivered a suitable address to the brethren on the occasion.” They then proceeded to discuss funeral arrangements with Alexandria Brooke Lodge 47, the other Masonic lodge that met in Alexandria at the time.

“No. 47 being convened on the occasion a committee  consisting of Bros Peterkin and Neale were appointed  to wait on them and inform them that No 22 were ready to receive their committee and jointly with them to adopt such measures as might appear most proper for carrying into effect the purposes for which our lodges were convened – a committee from lodge no 47 consisting of bro’s Jones and Bouge came in and agreed with lodge no 22 upon the manner in which the funeral should be conducted and then withdrew.”

The lodge then discussed plans for their upcoming St. John’s Day, which traditionally served as the lodge’s installation of officers. “Ordered that Bro’s Deneale, Ramsay, and Jamisson be appointed a committee to wait on Bro Davis and request him to deliver a discourse on St John’s Day and in case he should be engaged to preach a funeral sermon they are requested to wait on Bro Maffitt and request him to deliver a discourse on that day.”  

Dick then ordered that Peter Colton “wait on the Federal City Lodge and invite them to join in the funeral procession on Wednesday at Mount Vernon  at 12 O’clock if fair or on Thursday at the same hour and that the lodge pay him his expenses for going to and returning from the city.” The lodge referenced here is Federal Lodge 1 of the District of Columbia, then originally chartered as Federal Lodge 15 of Maryland, which participated in the US Capitol cornerstone ceremony together with Alexandria-Lodge and George Washington in September 1793.

The minutes conclude with orders that the deacons prepare the lodge’s equipment and “furnish spermaceti candles” for the funeral ceremony. Alexander McCormick, Federal Lodge’s Master, held one of the candles during the ceremony and kept it as his personal memento. The candle is now on display in the GWMNM’s Washington museum. The Secretary was also ordered to “take the case in which the [lodge’s] charter is deposited and have it repaired and new guilted in time for the procession the expense of which the lodge will pay.” The lodge concluded their business that night around 9 o’clock and gathered two days later at Mount Vernon to perform their solemn duty in Masonic tradition.

The record of the December 16th meeting provides valuable insights into the preparations made by Alexandria-Washington Lodge and other local lodges to prepare for Washington’s funeral. Due to the nature of their business, the meeting became one of most well attended and brethren seemed eager to lend their support or assistance in planning. This not only speaks to Washington’s legacy as a public figure but as a trusty and loyal brother.


From the Archives: AW22’s First Bylaws

From the Archives is a recurring series that highlights Alexandria-Washington’s archives and museum. Visitors are welcome to visit the museum during the memorial’s operating hours.

Alexandria-Washington Lodge, No. 22’s archives contain over 4,000 items related to the history of Freemasonry in Alexandria, Virginia, George Washington, and American history. One of the most important items in our collection is the lodge’s meeting ledgers, which begin in February 1783, during the lodge’s formation, and span well into the twenty-first century. The first set of rules governing the lodge, or bylaws, appears in the earliest meeting ledger. Let’s take a brief look back at the lodge’s first set of rules to better understand how early members conducted their activities and engaged with other Freemasons during this early period of American history.

In early 1783, Freemasons from Alexandria petitioned the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania for a charter to establish a lodge in their town. Their request was granted on February 3 of that same year and they received a charter to work as Alexandria Lodge No. 39. To form a new lodge the members were required to draft up a set of bylaws, which were written into the secretary’s meeting ledger for reference. The bylaws contained twenty-one numbered articles that outlined lodge governance, fees, and membership duties. As the document’s preamble notes, the bylaws were intended “to prevent feuds, controversies, and illegal debates, and to promote the harmony and good order of the lodge.”

Bylaws Preamble

Bylaws Preamble

The first two articles determined the lodge’s meeting date and time. Members met “regularly on the Friday after the third Monday” each month. Evening meetings began promptly at 7 o’clock between March and September and 6 from October and February to account for daylight savings. Meetings are now scheduled for the second Thursday of each month.

Article three detailed the tiler’s duties. In addition to his responsibilities while a lodge is in session, the tiler distributed meeting notices and other correspondence around town. This duty often entrusted him with sensitive and important information concerning lodge affairs. While not explicitly mentioned in the bylaws, tilers often maintained the lodge’s meeting room, prepared refreshments, and ensured the space had enough firewood for winter meetings. Today, most of our communications are performed electronically through email, social media, and membership databases.

Article four required members to attend all meetings unless they provided an acceptable excuse. Common excuses included illness and travel. Members were fined 1 shilling, about $4-$5, for each unexcused absence, which the secretary tracked in his ledger. Members were required to pay any outstanding debts prior to each St John’s day in June and December. Fines were eventually phased out by the early nineteenth century.

Article seven prohibited members from “raising angry disputes” with each other. Fines increased in severity after multiple offenses. The first offense resulted in a vocal reprimand by the master and the second resulted in a 5 shilling fine. The fine doubled to ten shillings for the third instance and the offender was “solemnly excluded” from the meeting for the night and would only be admitted again after a formal apology. Similar fines were levied for inappropriate language (article eight) and improper dress (article nine).

Article eleven covered fees and regular payments owed to the lodge. Each member was required to pay 1 shilling each month towards the lodge’s operations, which they referred to in the bylaws as “the Fund.” The Secretary collected all monies during each meeting and transferred over to the Treasurer for his deposit. Prior to the Coinage Act of 1793, which officially designated the dollar as the national currency, states issued their own currency along with foreign currencies that remained in circulation. Therefore, the lodge’s affairs were often conducted in British and colonial state issued pounds, shillings, and dollars. Today, masons can remit their annual dues payment through electronic means, which do not require their attendance to meetings.

Article 11 Describes Fees Owed to the Lodge.

New membership is covered in article sixteen. Petitions required a single member to propose a candidate for membership. The lodge assigned two other members to “make inquiry into the merits, character, and circumstances of the candidate and report the succeeding lodge night.” Furthermore, the proposer paid the petition fee. “The brother who proposes (the candidate) shall at the same time deposit one dollar of his money (along with the petition) to ensure (the candidate’s) attendance.” This ensured that both the proposing member and candidate were serious with their intentions and financially invested in the process. Once approved, the candidate paid his initiation fee and the tiler received the petition fee – perhaps as regular payment for his duties in and outside of lodge. The candidate’s fee was returned if the lodge rejected his candidacy. The bylaws also note that if the lodge elected the candidate for membership but he later declined to proceed, the tiler would keep the dollar from the proposing brother. Today, candidates pay the petition and degree conferral fees.

Candidates paid four pounds and sixteen shillings to receive the three degrees of Freemasonry, which equates to around $835.00 in 2022, adjusted for inflation. That said, early salaries were much lower than today. A Virginia school teacher, for example, garnered around sixty to seventy pounds each year. If he sought membership to the lodge, he would spend 6-7 percent of his annual income for his initiation. Most citizens were self-employed and many worked as farmers, which garnered less than sixty pounds each year. Thus, the lodge’s membership was effectively composed of men from Alexandria’s upper-middle to upper class

Article 16 Covered the Petition Process.

Other articles covered lodge voting procedures, committee membership, and duties related to the Grand Lodge. The document ends with a list of signatures by the lodge’s earliest members, who by custom signed the book to affirm that they abide by the lodge’s rules. Articles were regularly updated, dropped, and added throughout the lodge’s history to adapt to changes in the fraternity, society, and the economy.

What do the first bylaws tell us about Alexandria lodge and Freemasonry? First, the lodge’s membership mostly consisted of upper-middle to upper class Alexandrians. Second, they took their membership seriously and imposed

fees and penalties for those who violated their obligations. Members were expected to attend each meeting, dress appropriately, and find ways to resolve conflict without devolving into anger or slander. Third, proposing a new candidate for membership required a financial commitment from the proposing brother. This ensured that both parties were serious about who would join the lodge. Fourth, members were obligated to invest into the lodge regularly, to ensure the lodge had funds to cover its expenses and distribute charity to deserving brethren and their families. These founding rules and principles enabled the lodge to proposer well into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Brother Chris Ruli is a masonic researcher and historian who focuses on the history of Freemasonry. He is a member of Alexandria-Washington Lodge 22, Virginia and Federal Lodge 1 of Washington, D.C.


Warden’s Night

by David Bella, Senior Warden

From an early age, George Washington recognized the importance of the American South and American West. He knew that they were new frontiers with unlimited possibilities.  

At the age of sixteen, he was invited to survey the western Virginia lands owned by Thomas, Lord Fairfax. This first exposure sparked a lifelong intertwinement with the lands that lay to Washington’s west. Washington’s first fame came from his ill fated attempt to push the French out of the Ohio River Valley at the age of twenty-one. Upon his return, the detailed notes he took in his journal were published in several newspapers which made him a household name in the colonies as well as in political circles in England. At the time of his death, he owned over forty thousand acres in the outer western edges of European settler influence. 

Washington also had significant experience with the American South. He was a southerner by birth. The only foreign country he visited was a journey south to Barbados in hopes of curing his brother’s tuberculosis. Washington marched into southern Virginia to defeat the British at Yorktown in 1781. And in 1791 he visited the southern states as our first President, going as far south as Savannah before heading back to Philadelphia. 

Wardens’ Night is upon us: it is a time for the lodge to get to know their Wardens a little better. I am so honored and flattered to be asked by Worshipful Deni to sit in the East and I know that Brother Allen is equally honored and flattered to sit in the West at our wonderful lodge. In our conversations throughout the years, a dominant theme has always been our reverence for our dearest brother, George Washington, and the legacy he has given to our lodge.  

Brother Allen and I both have significant ties to the cardinal directions we represent. I was born in Wasington state, our Western most lower forty-eight state. He was born in Alabama. We both hail from a state west of Virginia, growing up on opposite ends of Jackson County, Mississippi, which is one of the southernmost counties in the Deep South.   

I would like to thank the Worshipful Master for allowing the officers to “move up” at Wardens’ Night, and I’ll speak for brother Allen and the other officers in saying that we are all looking forward to seeing you on the third.

A Call to Charity: Preparing the Lodge for February 2023 and Beyond

By Wor. Nikola N. Nikolov, PM, Foundation Board Chairman

In this blog, our Senior Warden Bro. David Bella, has presented a strong argument for your participation in Lodge and supporting our efforts for 2023. I echo his sentiment. Alexandria – Washington Lodge has a storied past, which presents us with a unique platform to represent Craft Freemasonry to the world. To adequately execute the plans laid forth for the Memorial’s Cornerstone Centennial Celebration and update our educational/museum exhibits in the Lodge Room and Replica Lodge Room, funds are required. The Foundation was established specifically to support the Lodge in telling the story of Freemasonry and the story of Washington as a Freemason. We are in the process of working with the Archives Committee and Officers to determine how much updates to the Lodge and Replica Lodge will cost. Initial estimates are about $60,000. This is a great deal of money, but it is not insurmountable. You can assist in raising these funds through the support of the Foundation.

Since launching the Foundation, nearly $50,000 have been raised. Thank you to everyone who has already demonstrated their support for the Lodge and Foundation thus far. To ensure the financial health of the Foundation, and to support 2023 activities and beyond, we need to double this amount through our Cornerstone Campaign. I challenge each of you to consider how much you might be able to invest in the Lodge’s future. Consider becoming a Charter Member of the Foundation with a $1,000 contribution. Some brothers question why we need to raise this money, especially when the Lodge accounts are not insignificant. The answer is twofold. First, to continue to offer strong programming and high-quality meals at each of our Stated Communications, support Lodge participation in the District Masters and Wardens Association, attendance at Grand Lodge, and participation in the Committee on Work’s Reid J. Simmons Masonic Ritual Academy – among other activities – we need to leave the Lodge accounts as intact as possible. Annually, the Lodge withdraws about three percent of its invested funds to support these activities. Taking a significant chunk from those funds will reduce our annual draw and diminish our capacity for regular activities. Continue reading

Call to Service: Preparing the Lodge for February 2023 and Beyond

By Bro. David Bella, Senior Warden

Two hundred and forty years ago, six Alexandrians – Robert Adam, Michael Ryan, William Hunter Sr., John Allison, Peter Dow, and Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick – submitted a petition to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania requesting a warrant to operate a Masonic Lodge in Alexandria. The combined imaginative talent of those six men could never foretell what lay in store for their town’s first lodge.

The lodge they founded has hosted Presidents, dignitaries, and Grand Masters from countless jurisdictions. It has laid nationally significant cornerstones such as the United States Capitol Building, the Smithsonian Institution, and Library of Congress to name a few. It has led important funeral services. It has practiced incalculable charity in the community which has positively impacted generations of Alexandrians. It has been a leader in the international masonic community. And perhaps, most importantly, it has created life-long friendships among its members. There is no denying the lodge they created has blossomed into a truly unique and special institution. Looking around the lodge and at our historical records, I am always struck by the astonishing quality of our members. I believe that the “specialness” of the lodge is in direct parallel to the greatness of our members. Over one hundred years ago, one of the most exceptional generations of our membership banded together to set in motion the construction of the most architecturally impressive masonic structure ever conceived: an august monument to our lodge’s most august member. Continue reading

Freemasonry: A Modern Community Institution

By Bro. David Bella, Senior Warden

I watched HBO’s, The Wire, for the first time in 2018. What I loved about the show was its ability to depict the realism of our society. What made the show special was its ability to accurately depict the experiences of the forgotten in our society and demonstrate how their lives affect the larger society. I remember thinking that it was remarkable how the show tied the drug dealer’s experience on the corner to the politician having to decide between tough policy choices at city hall.

I finished the show again a few weeks ago and came away from this viewing with an even greater appreciation of the show because I was able to understand that it was really about how individuals are confined to the institutions they belong to. Each season highlights dysfunctional institutions-the drug trade in season one, the dying stevedores union in season two, the Baltimore political machine in season three, the public school system in season four and the local newspaper in season five. Each institution is uniquely different, but all fall prey to similar problems-individual egos, societal pressures, changing environments, corruption, and most importantly systematic limitations. I think the most important lesson of the show is that just because an institution is set up to serve a specific purpose, it might fall short if not watched carefully. It got me thinking about an institution that I belong to: Freemasonry.

Masonry has been an American institution before America became America. It has hierarchies, norms, goals, and principles just like any other institution. It also has its problems, such as: dwindling membership, poor retention, political infighting, poorly managed programs, etc. How do we become less dysfunctional and more effective at accomplishing our goal of making good men better? In the following paragraphs I lay out several systematic changes that I believe could improve our performance.

How do you become a Master Mason? By being a Fellowcraft first.

Master Masons don’t become Master Masons by simply going through a Master Masons degree. There is a process of educating, coaching, question answering, motivating, supporting, and showing up that is required by another individual to move a brother through the degrees. If our job is to make masons, isn’t mentoring how we do it?

At the finality of the Master Mason degree, each brother is given the Presentation Volume-a book that lays out Virginia Freemasonry’s history, degree work, ceremonies, and mentoring. Before looking at the graph below, rank those categories in ascending order based on how many pages you think the book dedicates to each section.

Mentoring is the second largest category at almost thirty percent. Obviously, the craft thinks that mentoring is important enough to dedicate almost a third of its seminal text to mentoring new members. But outside of pages in a text, what is the craft systematically doing to foster good mentorship? I would venture to guess that we are not dedicating anywhere near thirty percent of our efforts to bettering our mentoring abilities.

We have lodges dedicated to our history. Schools on degree work and ceremonies. I propose we have at least one statewide mentoring summit every year, similar to what college fraternities are increasingly doing. The summit should focus on three areas: mentoring new masons, mentoring as a lodge officer, and mentoring as a past master. Each of these areas would have unique methods, techniques, and programs but would all concretely contribute to mentoring good men and making them better. I also believe that it would be a wonderful selling point for potential members because it would be a tangible event that would signal that the craft places an emphasis on mentoring and development while also equipping experienced masons with a wonderful leadership skill.

I believe that an increased focus on mentorship would result in better member retention; it would deliver a higher quality product to men going through the degrees which would result in better retention and more involvement. This increased buy-in would ward off some of our problems: more member involvement would result in not only more vibrant lodges, it would also result in high quality members.

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”-Warren Bennis

The District Deputy Grand Master (DDGM) role is designed to be an impactful part of our organization. He is responsible for communicating the Grand Master’s message and theme to each masonic district. A regular mason may be lucky to see the Grand Master once or twice a year. A District Deputy, however, is able to interface more frequently with local masons throughout the year because of his proximity to the membership. Unfortunately, I believe that due to the fact that their terms are limited to one year, DDGMs are largely symbolic in nature and have little systemic impact on local lodges and districts.

I believe that the DDGM role should be a three year progressive line that starts with the District Education Officer position, followed by the District Membership Officer position, and culminates in being appointed as the District Deputy Grand Master. Incoming Grand Senior Wardens would make the appointments instead of waiting until they become the incoming Grand Master.

This would have four benefits. One, it gives each potential DDGM important training and forces them to focus on two of our most important focus areas. It would create a consistency of purpose among all DDGMs by forcing each to incorporate  education and membership into their goals as DDGM. Two, it would enable the brother who occupies the office of Grand Senior Warden and then Deputy Grand Master to evaluate how effective their subordinate would be as a DDGM. Is their potential pick doing a good job? Is he conducting good programs and making an impact on his local lodges? If not, the Grand Officer has time to make a change. Three, it removes the assumption that the DDGM office is a ceremonial one. To get the esteemed job of DDGM,  a potential brother would have to roll up his sleeves and earn it by conducting programs and adding value to his district’s lodges. Finally, it gives the brethren of the district time to get to know the eventual DDGM. Only incredibly active masons in the district know next year’s DDGM if the pick is from outside of their own lodge. A three year commitment would allow the eventual DDGM to get to know the brethren of the district and vice versa.

This structural change would ensure that we are driving toward better education and membership services and remove the ceremonial nature of the DDGM office. I believe that this would result in better prepared masonic leaders.

“What’s measured, improves”-Peter Drucker

Is lodge x better than lodge y? Maybe, but how would we prove it? We use the Hillman award and the District Deputy’s Official Visit Checklist to evaluate lodge health, but the data collected in these forums never gets collected and aggregated to glean insight. Maybe someone in Richmond does all sorts of analysis that us normal masons don’t get to see, but I doubt it. I recommend the Grand Lodge come up with a set of simple metrics that are used to measure lodge health and publish the rankings at Grand Annual Communications.

I believe that three metrics should be steadfast year to year, and two metrics should be introduced by the new Grand Master based on his priorities. The three core metrics should be yearly membership increase, dollar per member, and how many of the three lectures can be given by a lodge member. This would enable masonic leadership to be able to measure membership health, financial health, and ritual health.

  • Membership increase can be calculated by:



  • $ per member can be calculated by:


  • How many of the three lectures can be given by a lodge member? The answer could either be none of the three, one of three, two of three, or three of three.


Ignoring the two Grand Master measures, suppose we have this data:

To weigh each measure equally, we must normalize the data by doing a simple calculation where Zi=(Xi-min(X)) / (max(X)-min(X))

We are now able to see that Lodge A is the healthiest of the three lodges and that Lodge B is struggling in comparison to the other two. What an easy, insightful approach that requires only  four data points. This approach could easily expand if the Grand Master wanted to add his own measures.

OK, now that we have this data, what do we do about it? I think individual lodges deserve to know how well they are performing in relation to their neighbors. Publishing the list allows for public praise…..and public admonishment. Who in the world wants to be the Master of a lodge that is at the bottom of the list? And if you were, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to get out of the basement? This data would also allow the Grand Lodge to put resources toward getting those lodges off the bottom of the list through various means like sending Grand Lodge Membership Committee Members to those lodges for improvement seminars or asking accomplished masons in the area to start helping build the lodge back up.

Going back to The Wire, one of the things that is shown is that all institutions “juke the stats” so we need to be vigilant about unintended consequences of using metrics to assess performance. Though they can be misleading, “stats” are imperative to continuous improvement and diagnosing institutional problems. We must implement some tracking mechanism to diagnose and measure our progress , because without measures we will never know if we are getting better or worse. The simple measures I highlighted above should be used as building blocks by the Grand Lodge to assess lodge health, learn from high performing lodges, and assist struggling lodges to rebound.

I’ll conclude by saying that I believe Masonry is still a relevant institution that has a critical role to play in our community. With slight tweaks like the ones I presented above to our historic craft, I believe we could reverse the negative trends I highlighted.

But as I learned from The Wire, if institutions do not ask tough questions and refuse to take bold action in order to live up to their founding principles, they tend to sink into mediocrity, or worse

At the time of writing, David Bella serves as the Senior Warden of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 where he is a Life Member in Perpetuity. He is involved in various local appendant bodies and takes great pride in being a member of the Alexandria community. The views outlined in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 or the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge,  A.F. &A.M. of the Commonwealth of Virginia.


AW22 Past Master Series: Daniel Froggett, PM

Wor. Daniel E. Froggett, Master in 2020, is featured in the latest installment of the AW22 Past Master Series. This documentary project highlights and preserves the sage wisdom and fond memories of the men chosen as servant leaders to their brothers at Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22.
Wor. Froggett currently serves as our Lodge secretary. Thank you for your tireless efforts and the countless hours of hard work you put in for our Lodge!

AW22 Past Master Series: Jim Stone, PM

Worshipful Jim Stone, our Worshipful Master in 1976, is featured in the latest installment of the AW22 Past Master series. This documentary project highlights and preserves the sage wisdom and fond memories of the men chosen as servant leaders to their brothers at Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22. We hope you enjoy hearing his stories as much as we do!

The Brethren of AW22 are always inspired by the leadership he exemplifies and the love and dedication he has for our Lodge. Thank you, Wor. Stone, for demonstrating to us what it means to be a good Mason.

Mental Health: Fulfilling Our Obligation by Aiding a Distressed Brother

By Nelo A. Hamilton, Jr., Junior Warden

As Freemasons, we are taught to aide those in distress, more especially a brother Mason. When imaging someone in distress, we often think of someone with a broken-down car or an individual approaching us on the street to ask for money. It is important, however, to recognize that the signs of distress aren’t always so obvious. As a fraternity, Masonry should cultivate an environment and foster relationships where the Brethren feel that they can be honest and open with one another about their mental health without stigmas or judgement being attached. It should also equip our members with the knowledge and skills to aide a Brother who confides in them.

A study by the Boston School for Mental Health found that 32.8% of adults in the US experienced elevated symptoms of depression in 2021. Additionally, 27.8% of adults in the US reported elevated symptoms of depression in 2020, compared to 8.5% before the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating that depression rates are poised to remain high. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the overall percentage of adults with recent symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5% from August 2020 to February 2021.Considering the challenges we’ve faced as a country and society over the last couple years, including the COVID-19 Pandemic, civil unrest, a contentious election, social isolation, the fact our lives have changed so drastically for such a long period of time and ongoing economic uncertainties, there is little surprise that we would feel some drastic effects on our mental health.

The Worshipful Master’s mission this year is a significant first step in creating an environment where mental health is both normalized and prioritized, especially among men. Speaking openly and honestly about our mental

health is a critical step towards removing the stigma surrounding it. It is incumbent upon our leadership and members to hold honest conversations about depression and anxiety in order to create an environment where a struggling Brother feels comfortable seeking support. Although it may be outside the primary theme of their year, moving forward it is crucial that future Masters of AW22 continue to highlight mental health and establish the Lodge as a support system.

When a Brother reaches out, our first priority should be to listen. This does not mean offering advice or opinions, but instead actively listening to what is being said and offering understanding. According to the Mayo Clinic, listening and understanding can be a powerful healing tool. After that initial conversation, keep an open line of communication and check in often to see how they are doing. Encourage further help and point them towards organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness ( Familiarize yourself with the resources available. As individuals, we must be aware of our own wellbeing while also educating ourselves on how to be there for our Brethren. When we recognize a Brother is exhibiting symptoms of depression or anxiety, be proactive by genuinely asking how they are and lending a listening ear. Remember your obligation.

The harsh reality is that, according to the American Society for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, with 45,979 Americans dying by suicide in 2020 and a staggering 1.2 million attempts. Of these, men died by suicide 3.88 times more than women. Let those numbers sink in for a moment. For some men, the Lodge is their primary – or only – support system; we must be there for one another.

In addition to further promotion of mental health, AW22 will be working to compile a list of helpful resources to be made available for the Brethren on the Lodge’s website. Let’s challenge ourselves to continue having these conversations and equip our Lodge with the working tools necessary to go out of our way to aide our distressed Brethren before it too late.

At the time of writing, Nelo Hamilton serves as the Junior Warden of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 . The views outlined in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 or the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge,  A.F. &A.M. of the Commonwealth of Virginia.