Greetings from the East,
It is an honor to have been elected and installed as your Worshipful Master of Trenton Cyrus #5 for the 2023 Masonic Year. My journey to the East has been rewarding, challenging, humbling and essential. This journey started long before adulthood. I was born in Jersey City, New Jersey to Ernest and Gloria James. My father journeyed North from South Carolina to find a new life and opportunities. My father is the eldest son of ten siblings. When my grandfather passed away unexpectantly after a long career as a rail-layer with the Virginia railroad company, he left a legacy of continuous learning, hard work, achievement, perseverance, self-reliance and family. The legacy was not based on monetary assets but family, love and diligence. This is what my father brought along as a teenager to the North.
My father worked hard to build a career, life, community, and support his siblings back in the South. He eventually met and married my mother, a born and raised New Jerseyan who shared my father’s dream to build a prosperous family in safety and love. To this point, while my father (unlike his brother who served honorably in the U.S. Army Rangers, stationed in Europe where he became a Mason) never sought nor journeyed up the sublime stairway to become a Master Mason. Nevertheless, his value system, grit, curiosity and goal-oriented focus allowed him to pass on commonsense wisdom, better than yesterday, to me and my brother. Ironically, to this day, even in retirement he routinely connects with his International Teamsters Union shop brothers to stay abreast of new events.
My Brothers, I tell you this because my journey has been influenced by many people and experiences. My father and mother set the value system and environment for success. The community I grew up in provided the cobblestones for the journey. I have been blessed to have encountered many people of different races and nationalities along the way. My gratitude to Sister Mary Thaddeus of Sacred Heart Elementary who preached faith and confidence, Mr. Mathews Principal of McNair Academic High School who instilled in his students the Marine Corp “never say die” attitude, Michael D. Richey (Cyrus #148) my mentor, friend and now passed Masonic Brother and decorated military Vietnam veteran and technical guru, my uncle Sgt. John L. Bolden NJSP, RW Jack Smith, WB John DeSantis and VFW Post 1923 in Weehawken who sponsored my attendance to Boys State New Jersey Class of 1980. In retrospect, the light can come from any direction, be open and accepting.
You see my brothers; the totality of the man is composed of many parts and experiences. It is important that we as Masons, continue to fill our lives with the experiences and people that share our values, that share our experiences and love of the Almighty Architect, family, nation and community. We must guard ourselves against the influences of negative thoughts and influences. This is not to say to become hermits and recluses, but rather to look deeply into a man’s eyes to see the light of the soul, for the opportunity and receptiveness to receive the light. We must watch a man’s actions more than the words. Actions are the measure of the man. Masons are men of action and service.
My Brothers, I reach out to you for your continued assistance and support for our fraternity. We need each of you to continue the history of success that Trenton Cyrus #5 enjoys. This coming year will be filled with events, presentations and fellowship. This is the house that you built through your continued patronage and support.
As you may know, the Grand Lodge has increased the fraternity’s annual assessment and we in turn have increased annual dues. The cost of operating our lodge has increased in parallel with everything else in our society. The value of membership in this fraternity is directly related to your input of resources. I seek to revive and increase the value proposition by planning and executing many of our traditional events.
But this can’t be done alone. I/we welcome and need your active participation in and/or management of events. It has been said “Many hands make the work easier”. I hope to see many brethren that have not recently visited the Lodge return. We are here for you and want to hear your ideas and active participation. We will be holding a New Member Orientation Night for new members in early January, then a Rusty Mason’s Night for our older members, probably in February, as well as other presentations this year. There is so much yet to learn and do.
For now, I will leave you with few quotes from our esteemed brother, serial entrepreneur and hyper-productive Benjamin Franklin:
May you and your family enjoy a happy, warm and safe New Year!
Sincerely & Fraternally
Kent C. James
My time in the East sitting in the Oriental Chair is ending. I thought I would share this portion of my Masonic Journey. Additionally, a coming event, the New Member Orientation Night, scheduled for December 2nd next month (details forthcoming by email) being organized by RW Ric Fernandez, Br. Rick Smith and Br. Preston Hall. They will be bringing together all the Masons raised in the last 5 years, causing me to think about my Masonic travels.
After I was raised (June 2014), I, like many of us, was unsure of what was expected of me. I had pledged my allegiance to the oldest and greatest fraternity in existence, one that encircles the globe and whose influence for good is never ending by going through all three degrees and swearing oaths and obligations at our sacred altar.
The particular reason that you chose to become a member of this grand and noble order is known only to yourself. It might have been the prompting of idle curiosity. That being true, you should now be well satisfied. It might have been for social aspirations. That being true, you have now been accorded the opportunity to acquaint yourself with many interesting and intelligent gentlemen. It may have been because a relative or close friend is a Mason and expressed a desire that you should join the fraternity and follow in their footsteps. One reason I joined is because my grandfather was a Mason; another was my curiosity. Lastly, a fellow brother whom I worked with, WB Dave LaBaw, was a recently raised mason when I petitioned.
Whatever the reason that led you to Freemasonry, there are two great questions that still confront you. Will you be worth anything or nothing to Freemasonry and, will Freemasonry be worth anything or nothing to you? The answers lie within you yourself, for if you apply to your own life the lessons that you have received in the three degrees, it will make you a better citizen, a better father, a better son, and a fonder husband. For the first two years in masonry, I was still looking for direction. Though work and home life certainly played a part in my sporadic attendance at events and meetings, I know recognize it as a a hollow excuse: I used it as a crutch. As with any other endeavor, to do something you have to be willing to put the effort. My reasons may not align with yours and that’s alright for my journey will differ from yours.
Remembering and adhering to the rituals and protocols can be daunting without a fellow brother/mentor to keep you on your path as a new Mason. Eventually, after some encouragement, from WB LaBaw I took a chair starting with the Junior Master of Ceremonies. Getting involved was the key to my success. I got past the unknown by getting involved, going to rehearsals, helping with events, and being involved in ritual work.
Since then, my journey has been rewarding, giving me purpose both at home and within the lodge. You get in return what you put in not just in Freemasonry but in life as well. So, to all my new brothers who may feel at a loss in your journey, simply reach out and talk to a fellow brother. Come to a meeting or rehearsal soon you’ll be coming to another. Getting involved in an event is a great way to bond and generate the urge to do the next. We are fortunate to be in a supportive and engaging lodge. The brothers have many stories of their journeys; how and why they became Masons and I thank you all!
As Worshipful Master of Trenton Cyrus #5 it has certainly been rewarding and you, my brethren, have been my greatest support. I leave you with this verse from the Canadian Charge that WB Tom Wilson has done a few times this year for a newly raised Master Mason:
These are your Vows, be they your cares.
And may such light be given,
In answer to your earnest prayer,
That you may ever do and dare
All that God's gracious Laws enjoin,
So that, when shades of night decline,
You may be found in Heaven.
On yonder Book these Oaths WE took,
And will we break them? Never!
But stand by this, and this, and this?
Forever and forever!
WM Nick Lamson
I enjoy reading other trestle boards from other lodges around the country to see how they compile their boards. They are all different but, at their core do the one important thing which is to get the message out.
The trestle board or tracing board was used in ancient times during degrees and has been a central tool for Masonic teachings, but the form of the trestle board has changed throughout time. In ancient times the need for secrecy was larger, misinformation about Freemasonry required its members to pay close attention to what, and how, Masonic "teachings" were given. For this reason, the trestle board, with the several objects and symbols, were drawn in sand from memory. No written copies were available. In former times, it was the duty of the Tyler to literally draw the trestle board in the sand inside the Lodge, or other meeting place, at the beginning of each meeting. In effect, not only was the Tyler responsible for literally tiling the Lodge, but also, by drawing the trestle board, to enable the brethren to commence their work - something most of us would today identify as being the responsibility of the Worshipful Master.
During later periods, meetings often took place in taverns, and chalk and charcoal were used to draw the trestle board on the wooden floor. This way should the need arise, the trestle board could immediately be erased without a trace. Indeed, as taverns were public, it was standard practice to erase the trestle board at the end of all functions, and it was the duty of the youngest member of the degree in which the meeting was held, to see to it that all traces were erased. It is for this reason that mops, and pails were often listed in a Lodge's standard inventory. The tedious job of having to draw the trestle board before every meeting with chalk and charcoal later gave way in the 18th century to permanent wooden, or cloth trestle boards being fixed to the floor through tape and nails. This was probably because the need for secrecy lessened during this period, and many lodges had obtained a more permanent location to meet than the local tavern. It was also better for the tavern operator, or owner, for despite all the cleaning, chalk and charcoal probably still left some nasty stains.
In former times, a lodge usually had only one wooden trestle board, showing the symbols for all three degrees in one board. These permanent boards eventually were replaced by tracing boards, one for each degree, which were generally smaller, more durable, and illustrated the same points when taken together. With three trestle boards, all the important and relevant symbols of each degree could be included in detail - as they are generally done so today.
The newsletter that is sent out to all members of our lodge is also referred to as the Trestle Board and it is used to provide our members with information about events happening in and around our lodge.
Hiram Abif, masons are taught, is the Master Builder and the Architect of the Temple of Solomon. Each day he would draw his Master architect's measurements and symbols on his trestle board to instruct his Master Masons of the work that was to be accomplished.
Hiram Abif's tracing board is believed to have been made of wood, covered with a coating of wax. At the end of the day, he would simply scrape off the wax and pour a new layer of hot wax onto the board to ready it for the next day's work.
We have come a long way from the days of Hiram Abif’s wooden trestle board and being well into the digital age are able to make the trestle board a beautiful functional tool. They are a great deal of work and as a Worshipful Master as with ritual can be mastered by the end of his tenor.
“No matter what happens… no matter how far you seem to be away from where you want to be, never stop believing that you will somehow make it. Have an unrelenting belief that things will work out. That the long road has a purpose. That the things that you desire may not happen today. But they will happen. Continue to persist and persevere.”
WM Nick Lamson
Trenton Cyrus #5
What does Fortitude have to do with Freemasonry? It is usually not a trait that will typically come to mind when one considers Freemasonry, especially those folks with little or no firsthand knowledge or experience of the craft. I look at it as one of the cardinal virtues like diligence, prudence, and temperance. We hear those virtues spoken at every closing of lodge. I also look at fortitude as, yet another cardinal virtue and it is also an important Masonic value.
Fortitude is important for Masons because of the obstacles that we Masons face. Whether its goals not being met, or setbacks in our Lodge, threats from anti-Mason rhetoric, disputes between Brethren. It could even be just the struggle of memorizing ritual and fortitude is needed to overcome these setbacks or struggles.
Fortitude, therefore, is that quality of character which gives a person strength to withstand temptation and to bear all suffering in silence. Fortitude is a virtue, for it permits one to do his duty undisturbed by evil distractions. It is in great measure a frame of mind to regulate one’s words and deeds with courage and with determination. It is both a positive and a negative quality in that it creates courage to do what is right and creates strength or character to withstand intemperance. Above all else, it also creates the mental attitude to bear one’s burden bravely when all other remedies fail.
“The longer I live the more I think of the quality of fortitude … men who fall, pick themselves up and stumble on, fall again, and are trying to get back up when they die.”
Being strong does not mean that we never stumble or fall. In fact, we are surely going to stumble and fall. I have many times and still do, and I realize that I am human and imperfect. Being strong means that we learn from our mistakes, pick ourselves up and carry on until the problem or obstacle is overcome. Setbacks happen all the time in life we all have a story to tell,I’m sure. Loss of a job, friends, or family pass away, misunderstandings occur in relationships and threaten the relationship. I can go on and on with anecdotes and as such we get tired before the job is done and are tempted to call it quits.
So, what do we do to overcome this notion of quitting? We push on to be the best we have to offer and strive to be the best we can be. Find another job if the current one does not suit you. Honor the memories of friends and family who we miss and are gone. Finish your work and feel good and rest easy knowing you completed the task to the best of your ability. Mindset plays a big part in being strong for it can make or break you. I can remember my parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, bosses uttering the words:
“You have the intestinal fortitude to do great things.”
Without fortitude life would be a hard place to navigate. Without it we would pack our bags and give up and live a sad existence. Harsh and extreme maybe but when the tough gets going the going gets tough. Before sitting down to write out my Master’s Voice, I sometimes struggle to come up with a topic. I choose to write about what I have learned from Masonry ritual, stories from Brothers, experiences I have had in my 53 Years of life. I’ve had many great experiences and equally bad ones. Fortitude had helped me get through them all, we each have our struggles and setbacks in life no story is the same.
I leave you with this a quote from the Little Engine That Could; fortitude in a nutshell:
As it neared the top of the grade, which had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly. However, it kept saying, "I—think—I—can, I—think—I—can." It reached the top by drawing on bravery and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself by saying, "I thought I could, I thought I could."
WM Nick Lamson
Trenton Cyrus #5
One of the favorite movies that I watch time and time again is “The Outlaw Josey Wales” starring Clint Eastwood. I recently saw it again and I was struck by a quote spoken by Chief Dan George to Josey Wales: He says “Endeavor to Persevere!”. The context is that Josey is wronged by a group of Union Soldiers at the end of the Civil War. His vengeance is had through a series of cinematic adventures. Chief Dan stated that Abraham Lincoln had met with him and the five civilized tribes and that the Secretary of the Interior spoke these words to them. A Google search reveals the following:
To do or affect something; make an effort; strive.
We must constantly endeavor if we are to succeed.
To persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in-spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement”
We admire people who look into the eye of adversity, dig in their heels, and persevere, no matter what the odds.
Chief Dan goes on to say that, after much thought, the 5 tribes decided to go to war against the Union and right the wrong of their land being taken away. Much like many things in life we have all faced a moment where these words ring true. We all face different obstacles in life to overcome, many self-made or externally caused. Previously, I would begin to think of all the ways I could correct these issues, quickly becoming overwhelmed with the all the changes I wanted to make; making lists of all the things that could use a makeover in my life such as weight, money, health, mood, improve relationships, friendships, and family.
Masonry has given me a blueprint to negotiate these obstacles thrown into my path. The words from the movie slowly crept back in my head. “Endeavor to Persevere”. I decide to take it one day at a time. Step by step I will tackle each goal with perseverance until I accomplish each goal. I vow to tackle each obstacle with style, persistence, and perseverance.
Patience is essential because there will be unforeseen difficulties: People who irritate you; situations that frustrate you. If you are patient, you will stay focused on the task. You don’t complain, you solve.
“The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.”
The path we choose is not always the easy path to attain the goal desired. There are in my opinion no failures just moments that teach. Einstein said it best, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. So let us not keep doing it the same way and resolve to find another manner to solve our problem. Yes, we will have a set back here and there; we will become discouraged, but with perseverance we will get there. I do believe that positive thought helps align goals.
This worked for me with training Police K9’s no two dogs were alike. Positive reinforcement produced the outcome desired where negative reinforcement produced many problems. So, guess what the negative was thrown out and the positive prevailed. They all responded to different types of training due to their personality and breed. Some were high energy like the Belgian Malinois, and some were more even keeled like the German Shepperd. Both were expected to do a task but, training them to do that specific task was varied greatly through positive reinforcement such as treats, play, and praise.
Stay the course my brothers and Endeavor to Persevere! Have a safe and enjoyable summer with family and friends and I look forward to seeing you in lodge!
WM Nick Lamson
Trenton Cyrus #5