Time to build?

Freemasons of today are familiar with the names of many men who wore the apron of a craftsman and whose names history recalls for other accomplishments. Washington, Lafayette, Irving Berlin and a host of others have been compiled in list after list of men whom we are proud to call brother. However, there are many names that are omitted from such lists and it is a shame that few Masons of today are conversant with their accomplishments.

One such name is George L. Schoonover and it is to this name that I dedicate this inaugural edition of Masonic Magazine. Who was Schoonover you ask?

M. W. Brother George L. Schoonover was, at one time, the Grand Master of Masons in Iowa, but it is not this role in our fraternity, for which his name should be remembered. In 1913, Brother Schoonover was a Mason who was impressed with the fact that there existed, among America’s then three million members, a large number of men whom were truly students of Masonry. These eager brethren truly were filled with a desire to know what the craft was all about.

As a result of this, Brother Schoonover created a national organization to assist these students. That society was called the National Masonic Research Society and was made up of individual Masons from all over the United States, but also other countries. The Masonic fraternity has not seen the likes of anything like the NMRS.

For an annual membership of $2.50, the member would receive answers to any Masonic question he could ask, advice on avenues of research, assistance in forming Masonic study clubs and best of all, 12 issues of the greatest Masonic publication to ever see print.

That publication was called, “The Builder” and ran from January of 1915 until May of 1930, when the Great Depression forced the society to cease publication. Over its 185 issue run, “The Builder” would provide some of the greatest Masonic research ever crafted. Many articles ran over several issues and were book length features. Articles ranging from Masonic history to detailed pieces on Masonic symbolism were common to this great periodical.

One can not help but wonder what the face of Masonic education would be like today had the economic times that wiped it out not occurred. For any brother who has read an old copy of Brother Schoonover’s publication and compared it with the publications put out by many Grand Lodges today, the realization of how far we have slid in educating our members is all too apparent.

Fortunately however, the many brilliant articles that filled 15 years of “The Builder” are available today thanks to dedicated Masons like Brother Dave Lettelier of Phoenixmasonry.org who has, in his online museum, nearly ever copy ever published in digital format. Many of the articles from “The Builder” are also arranged as part of MasonicDictionary.com, a new website dedicated to providing easy to access information for modern day students of Freemasonry.

But is the time right to start “Building” again? Brother Schoonover started the NMRS and “The Builder” because he saw the new Masons joining the craft were eager for knowledge. What of today? As much as we ring our hands over membership, there is plenty of evidence to show that the generation of Masons joining the craft today is looking for knowledge. Sadly there seems to be little of it.

Where is this generations Mackey, Newton, Gould, Haywood, Ward or Wilmshurst? Where is this generations, “The Builder?” Today we are lucky to have the Masonic Service Association of North America’s Short Talk Bulletins. However, this publication, in recent years, has seen a decline in the number of bulletins on symbolism and an increase on pieces on the famous Masons previously mentioned. This is not the fault of the MSANA, for they publish what they are given. Sadly the Mason of today seems to have no more time to research our craft than he does to attend lodge. This must change and those of us who are able to change it must do so.

The time is now to educate our newest members. The time is now to start “Building” again. If this publication can be a small contribution towards that effort than the effort of bringing it to press will have been worthwhile.

As a closing word and a bit of trivia, M. W. Brother Schoonover, who started the NMRS and “The Builder” is also considered the founder of the MSA, now called the MSANA. Isn’t it odd that so great a Mason is remembered by so few? I hope this editorial will in some part set this right. Perhaps someone ought to do a Famous Mason article on Brother Schoonover.

From: http://masonicmagazine.com


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April 2010
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