The 22nd District is where Hiram’s Edge was born, so its no surprise that its the first district in the Masonic jurisdiction of Massachusetts to embrace the program for all six of its lodges. This endeavor, which I have termed the D-22 Tech Project, was actually conceived four years ago, though I didn’t know it at the time.
In July of 2014, as a newly elected first-term Master of Charles W. Moore Lodge in Fitchburg, I built this website: https://charleswmooremasons.com/. If you visit that site today and compare it to some of the others I’ve done recently, you can see it was very much a first cut, but modifications are coming soon to upgrade it.
I served two years as Master of Charles W. Moore Lodge and learned that ritual is only a small part of the job. I had some experience with finance from my time as a small business owner, so that part came together fairly quickly, but I struggled at times with personality conflicts and my own ego, a potential pitfall for all Masters.
On January 3rd, 2016, my life and my motivation for being a Freemason changed forever. My wife and I were woken up at 2:00 AM by my oldest son (also a Mason) who told us calmly, “The house is on fire. We need to get out.”
I can tell you, if you haven’t been through it, there are few feelings more devastating than standing by helplessly as a spectator, watching everything you own go up in smoke. My whole family, including our two cats, got out safely, but we lost everything.
To Relieve the Distressed is a Duty Incumbent on All Men …
My brothers in the 22nd District, unsolicited, came together to ensure my family was taken care of. Our lodge secretary appealed to Grand Lodge for assistance from the Brotherhood Fund and the Scottish Rite helped us from the Almoners Fund, but it was the “passing the hat” that meant the most to me. Brothers I had clashed with in business meetings reached out their hands and supported me in what was my darkest hour. This humbling experience changed me profoundly.
A few months later, RW Wilfred “Buddy” Ducharme, District Deputy Grand Master of the 22nd District, who was instrumental in the relief efforts, asked me if I would consider doing another year as Master at a struggling lodge in Gardner – Saint Paul Lodge. I spoke with the boss (my wife) and she told me unequivocally, “It’s time for us to give back what was so freely given to us.” I agreed to do it.
Giving Back by Passing on Our Knowledge and Understanding
I affiliated with Saint Paul Lodge and was elected Master in May of 2016. I’m currently in my second term, my fourth consecutive as a Worshipful Master, and I love my job. Our lodge is thriving and we’re no longer in danger of closing, mainly due to a new approach in the way we grow, manage, and retain our membership. Technology is a big factor in that.
That first year at Saint Paul Lodge was the point in my Masonic journey that I discovered how to give back to the fraternity that had given me so much. I’d been building WordPress websites and writing content for fifteen years. Two of the six lodges in our District now had websites designed by me. Why not build a network? It was time to apply my knowledge to bring the 22nd District into the future.
Hiram’s Edge and the Search for Technological “Light”
I bought the domain for Hiram’s Edge in September of 2016 and really had no idea what to do with it. I knew I could use it for something Masonic and I liked the sound of the name, but it took me six months to come up with an idea. I published my first post “Freemasonry in the 21st Century” in May of 2017.
Conceived as an online series of classes to teach officers in the 22nd District how to build and manage their web presence, the program is now being viewed in over a dozen states and multiple foreign countries. There is a thirst for knowledge in this area, and Hiram’s Edge has been providing a technological “light” that is sorely needed.
The 22nd District Technology Project – Our Model
One of my first actions as Master of Saint Paul Lodge was, of course, to build a website. You can see it here: https://saintpaullodge.com/. I had already built a website for Charles W. Moore Lodge and a third lodge, Artisan Lodge in Winchendon, has a WordPress website that just needs a few cosmetic updates and some fresh content.
- Two of the three remaining lodges in the 22nd District have older websites that don’t have blogs or calendars. They also don’t support dynamic content, which we’ll be adding in Phase 2 of the D-22 Tech Project.
- The sixth lodge in the district does not have a website. Our team will build one for them this year.
- The 22nd District does have a new WordPress website. You can view it here: https://massmasons22nd.org/
During the summer of 2017 I had multiple conversations with our DDGM, RW Craig Claflin, about our district web presence and how to improve it. In January of 2018, as a newly appointed “22nd District Technologist”, I developed the following action plan:
- Create or upgrade a WordPress Website for each lodge in the district
- Create a public Facebook page and private Facebook group for each lodge
- Activate WordPress social media “sharing” to enable auto-posting
- Utilize RSS widgets to connect lodge sites to District site
- Write some content that contains geo targeted keywords
- Form a team of seven (one from each lodge + District Technologist)
The key to success for all of this is the Technology Team. The most common problem I saw during the evaluation phase for this project is that many websites have been built, maintained for a little while, then dropped when the brother moves on. With a team of brothers working together, it’s unlikely that will ever happen.
Each brother selected for the D-22 Tech Team has shown either an affinity for technology or shows up at every district event. The beauty of WordPress is that you don’t need technical expertise to use it, but to populate sites with content we need men to cover events and take notes and pictures for content creation.
Phase 2 of the project, which will begin in September of 2018, will involve the creation of dynamic content, implementing paid marketing programs such as Facebook Boost, and Google Remarketing. To launch Phase 2, we will first need to have a “money” conversation with each lodge and establish a District marketing budget.
Hiram’s Edge and the Lodge of Instruction
When you do something positive for your community and have a selfless motivation for doing it, others take notice. I was recently contacted by our Junior Grand Warden, RW Michael Jarzebek, about utilizing some of the material I’ve covered in Hiram’s Edge as part of this year’s LOI modules. Expect to see more on that as the year goes on.