Below are the official remarks of Peter W. Brusoe as prepared for the records of the 2018 Grand Chapter Session.
Thank you companions for your trust and confidence in me as we undertake the next year of Royal Arch Masonry together. Bernard of Chartes famously said that we are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants. I am a very short man standing on the shoulder of so many giants!
I need to express my gratitude to so many people for getting me where I am today. The first, to my family.
My parents, Mary Reyers Brusoe and Peter J. Brusoe. They have supported me in everything that I have ever done, enthusiastically and with gusto. Mom and Dad were PTA presidents, band booster presidents, teachers, encouragers. Mom would always say “Be Better than Good enough.” When I wanted to move away from New York to come down to DC they were incredibly supportive. Growing up with mom and dad as examples of how to live was a doctoral course on loving one another, supporting one another and caring for one another.
My brothers Josh and Reyers have also been super supportive and helpful. My brother Josh has a wicked sense of humor and he can make you laugh at anything, from nacho cheese to laughing at yourself. My brother Reyers has always been the one to offer a countervailing viewpoint that has helped me to focus my own thinking. And he’s the Eagle Scout in the family.
My Grandparents, Stella and Kennard Brusoe, Madeline and William F. Reyers, Sr. were amazing people. Grandma Brusoe always had a smile, a great apple pie, and a killer Scrabble game. Grandpa Brusoe was a man who could do anything, would tackle anything and help with anything. He made something nice for my sister, I don’t remember what it was, but I was jealous. The next week he came by with a plane for me. It was sweet and it was kind. Nanny Reyers, an amazing and kind woman, meeting us at the Jersey shore, playing cards with us, and just enjoying time with her. She was a kind and generous lady. I never knew Pop pop Reyers, but I grew up hearing stories about hard work, love of family, a resilient spirit, and him being a kind man. A thief stole Pop pop Reyers masonic ring, so the one piece of masonic remembrance we have is his Gran Lodge of Pennsylvania blood donor card. Like clockwork he gave blood to help the less fortunate.
I would not be a Mason today if not for the Order of DeMolay. My friend Patrick Filiberto said to me at my 8th grade party “Hey join this group called DeMolay.”
And I said “No.”
And then mom followed up with “I don’t know much about DeMolay, but your grandfather was a Mason and he was nicest man I ever knew so they have to be good people.”
And I said “no.”
The chapter met on a Friday night. The chapter moved to Thursday and I was in. A snowy December 27, in 1997 in Utica NY I joined St. Andrew’s Chapter. Attending LTC Region I and meeting friends I have to this day made this a great organization to join. I figured I would just do it until I went off to college, needless to say I stuck with it and did a bit more with it than just a High School thing, leading the Great State of New York as their State Master Councilor and presiding over the 37th International DeMolay Congress.
DeMolay has helped to shape the way that I look at the fraternal world. Listening to the advice and counsel of Dad Clizbe, the Dads Simpson, the Dads Pelhams, Dad Hazard, Dad Burke, Dad Kita, Dad Pence, Dad Sardone, Dad Alvarado, Mom Romano, Mom Piston, Dad Berry, Dad Walenta, Dad Menard, the Dad Rowes, Dad Labagh, Dad Freedman Dad Smith, and Dad Noble have helped me along in my DeMoly and Masonic career. The list would go on for a very long time if I listed every DeMolay advisor who has helped to shape my thinking. My DeMolay brothers to this day have been helpful guideposts and have helped to keep me humble, kept my puns in control, and refreshed my joy and sense of brotherhood. The young men, and women, that I work with today be it at MATOC or KeyMan or ODLE help to ground me in what we as a society must be. For the Order of DeMolay I will forever be thankful.
I was so impressed with the caliber of mentors in DeMolay that the Masons gave me that in DeMolay that petitioning Lodge was a no brainer. On my 21st Birthday, I went to my grad seminar on interest groups, had dinner with my parents, and then went to Empire Chapter of DeMolay that night and turned in my petition to RW Br. Bob Walenta. I was then privileged to join what I would argue is the best lodge in the Grand Lodge of New York, Master’s Lodge #5. It was an excellent fraternal experience. While I don’t make it back for many meetings, the seriousness of the ritual, their commitment to the community and the example they have set. From Masonic music nights, sponsoring a youth baseball team, to amazing lectures by RW Br. Peter Kermani.
Moving down to DC for Grad work, I didn’t affiliate with a Lodge. I was going to move back to NY. The brotherhood and friends I found at Singleton Lodge #7 changed that, and I joined the Grand Lodge of DC. Why Singleton #7? Simple. That was W. Br. Kurt Hamrock’s Lodge and they sponsored DeMolay. MEC Jim Mitchell, REC Rick Chandler and MEC Fred Gore said to me “You really should join Royal Arch.” A car trip with EC Randy Thomas and MEC Jim Mitchell at 5AM to Delaware I found myself exalted and then thrown into the work. Fun fact, the past 12 days is the first time in 10 years I have not been a chapter officer.
I have had many mentors and people in this Grand Chapter who have guided me to where I am today. We are here today because of the extraordinary leadership of men named Gore, Warner, Bussler, Fuller, Mitchell, Palmer, Loudermilk, Trelaine, Foly, Taylor,Nicol, Fahed, Grainger, Iversen, Applebee, and so many others.
The lesson that we continually hear in our degrees is that collaboration is the only way to accomplish both small and great things. King Solomon’s Temple was built through the labor of thousands of our ancient brothers. They worked together, they strived together and they dreamed together. The result is they built an edifice whose fame transcends the generations. Our ancient brothers had a clearly defined vision:
Build the temple!
This past January at our High Priest, King and Scribe town hall we talked about what our mission should be: Build the Temple! In our hearts we need to, Build the Temple! In our minds, we need to Build the temple, In our Chapters and in our communities we need to build the temple. Our every action we need to build the temple!
To make this actionable we developed a vision statement:
Royal Arch Masonry will be the place where brothers from different masonic backgrounds can come together to enjoy comradeship, learn leadership and planning skills, experience meaningful and well-presented rituals, and have a positive impact on their blue lodges and local communities.
Neither Rome, nor King Solomon’s Temple were built in a day. Neither will this Grand Chapter. However, thanks to the exceptional teamwork and collaboration by the past Grand High Priests, each year we get closer. Everything that we do this year will go back to that vision.
Our theme this year is “We are Brothers F.I.R.S.T.”
This is a key catchphrase for all of us to know, to hear and to live. No matter what our station in life or masonic office we may hold, we are all equal and we are all brothers. First is also an acronym, this is DC after all, for Fraternal, Imaginative, Ritualists, Servant Leaders and Thoughtful.
We are Brothers who are Fraternal:
Our goal is to make every companion feel welcome and accepted in his chapter. We must also let bygones be bygones. Simon Peter asked Jesus of Nazareth “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22). The same must be true for all of us. I was talking to a companion who shared how another brother did something to offend him in the 1990s. He is still hanging on to that to this day. Let it go.
If we are holding a grudge, let go of that grudge. Reach out to that companion you have not seen, welcome them back to your chapter.
I will ask this now publicly, for those who I may have hurt or offended, forgive me and pray for me. We are all fallible humans. One of my favorite hymns speaks of Companions on a journey, it states “We have been gifted with each other, and we are called to act with justice, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God.” Let us do that in Royal Arch and in our lives. Lets truly be companions on a journey.
In the theme of being fraternal, several companions have approached me with concerns about our opening prayers in chapters as excluding non-Christians. Some have even suggested that we are being anti-Semitic, or anti-Muslim. Let me state publicly, that was never the intention of our founders and certainly not the intention of this grand chapter. In our Chapters we teach no religious creed, your religious opinions are your own. I am, therefore, advising all Chapter High Priests to please use your discretion on reciting the Our Father as the opening prayer, if you think the harmony and peace of your chapter can be better maintained by selecting a non-denominational prayer that is more in line with Freemasonry Universal do so. Perhaps even silent prayer. This is not to marginalize the beauty of the Our Father, but rather to ensure that the most beautiful thing of all, companions praying together, may happen. This directive is a short term fix, but we want to make sure the long term fix is a solid one. I am also hereby directing the Chair of our Works and lectures committee to report back to this Grand Chapter with a long term solution.
In that same spirit of being fraternal, I am creating a special advisory committee on inclusive practices. I will ask each Chapter High Priest to recommend the name of two companions to serve on this committee. This committee will be advisory in nature and they will review practice, policy and procedure and report back. I have asked Reverend Companion Quardricos Driskell to chair this committee.
In keeping with the theme of Brothers First, I want to thank the companions of Mt. Vernon-Singleton Chapter #3 for the loan of it. It is a plain white apron, like that which was presented to me so many years ago in the Ten Eyeck Room at the Albany Masonic Temple. I have selected to wear it as my Grand High Priest apron to remind myself that I am here to serve the members of this chapter.
We are brothers who are Imaginative
We need to be imaginative about the solutions to the challenges that we face. Keith Klein, a DeMolay mentor of mine, always says “if you do what you have always done, you’ll get what you always got, and deserve it.” What worked in the 1950s or even the 1990s may not work together. I want to applaud the companions of Washington Potomac chapter for their use of a “cluster” model in Georgetown. We have seen this work in other jurisdictions and I pledge my support to them. Mt. Vernon #3 and William R. Singleton #4 realized they had a problem. Working together they combined forces and are doing imaginative things. The companions of Marvin Fowler are taking a hard look at their processes and rules and have come up with a good solution.
Too often we say “can’t” when really we mean “won’t.” But lets make those “Won’ts” into wills.
We are Brothers Who are Ritualists
When our lodge brother comes to the door seeking further light in the Royal Arch Degrees we need to make sure that he is receiving it. Aren’t our blue lodge brothers worthy of great degree work? We are blessed with exceptional ritualists in this Grand Jurisdiction. The powerful presentation that EC Nicky Sampogna does, or the work of EC Jon Bouma, or MEC Ken Fuller or MEC Harold Grainger. They do work worthy of the best actors. Others, well, I do a mean junior overseer. All of us need to step up to the plate and tackle ritual and make sure our ritual is done well. If you’re doing an overseer role, or a Junior deacon role, be the best you can be. If you know a ton of ritual, we could always use help on the charges.
We also need to make sure our chapter ritual is sufficient. A companion said to me “REC Brusoe, I hate when you guys yell at us for not doing the ritual well.” For the record, I have never yelled at anyone for the quality of their ritual. We are all working on raising the level, and no one will yell at you about the state of your ritual. If someone does, come to me.
We are Brothers who are Servant leaders
I hear that sometimes people get into leadership positions and they feel entitled, or they’re too good to do work. Only masons far far away from here have this problem, I know no one here in DC does. Like our ancient brothers who wrought in the ruins, no task or labor is beneath any member of this grand chapter.
I recently was at the VA Hospital with William R. Singleton Hope Lebanon Lodge #7. We were joined by Judy and MW Br. Dick Fletcher. Judy helped us to go get the residents. What did Past Grand Master Fletcher do? He was vacuuming and making sure the veterans had a great place to worship. I was at Columbia Chapter on Monday, what was everyone doing? Helping to clean up. We need to show we can lead when we are able to serve others.
We are Brothers who are thoughtful.
We become so busy as Masons worrying about the next degree, or the next program, or the next event that we forget why we are here. We forget about what makes life so amazing. Let us be thoughtful. Thoughtful of the people around us, thoughtful of our widows, our orphans. A little bit of love goes a long way.
George Washington famously said “Well done is better than well said.” I now move to doing the well done and talk about how we will maintain and grow this grand chapter.
Maintaining the Temple:
Being a presiding officer of any body is a lot like an ice berg, most of it is unseen, but that unseen part supports the visible part and if you don’t mind the unseen part it could wreck your boat.
As a grand chapter we need to make sure our fundamentals are strong.
You helped do that today by voting the $3 assessment for our investments and passing a budget that spends only 80% of our allocation. I know this is a sacrifice. It is a shared sacrifice for all of us. My friend and DeMolay brother Chris LaBaw likes to say that society grows strong when old men plant trees whose shade they will never enjoy. We have taken steps to ensure that royal arch masonry will survive for another generation
Another DeMolay advisor told me that when you are handling your brothers money that is sacred because they have put their trust in you.
It is time for us to keep that sacred trust
In that spirit I am today announcing several actions.
We need transparency of our monies. I am appointing an auditor of the grand chapter, MEC Jim Mitchell. Jim enjoys my full trust and confidence and it will be in his purview to examine all books of the grand Secretary and grand treasurer. This is routine business that has not been done for years and needs to be done as a matter of course. MEC Mitchell will report back his findings and make recommendations.
We need an investment policy statement. This will be a public document that all companions will have access to. I am asking the grand trustees to prepare this by 4/30. I would also ask that they establish a policy and procedures manual for grand trustees by 8/30.
During the merger talks with Mt. Vernon Chapter we discovered that the Grand Chapter lacked current bylaws for that chapter. We need to ensure that we have the most recent set of bylaws for all chapters. I am asking the bylaws committee to keep and collect the most recent set of bylaws of the chapters and review them for compliance.
We need to protect the grand chapter. I am concerned about our current insurance coverage. I am asking our grand treasurer to review and assess our insurance needs and to collect insurance information for all of our chapters, and explore an umbrella policy.
We need to make sure our books are in order. We will work with the Grand Secretary’s office to make sure we have the proceedings properly recorded.
Several of you have come to me with concerns about dues cards. We will work on that as well.
Building The Temple:
As we work to maintain what we have, we need to also build a new. We have scheduled our spring degree festival to occur on April 2, 2018 at 7:30 at Singleton for the Mark and Past Master Degree. On April 9, 2018 at 7:30 at Columbia for the Most Excellent Master Degree, on April 25, 2018 for the Royal Arch degree at Mt. Vernon at 7:30PM. I am today issuing dispensations to allow you to vote on petitions and to call the meetings you need to be able to process petitions.
We are hosting the multi-jurisdictional this year on 9/29. That will be a fully day affair and we are working with the council and the shrine to provide a full and robust masonic experience.
We are maintaining current programs like our Grand Chapter Day of Service on June 23.
Yet, we are adding more things. In July, we are doing a York Rite Data the Ball Park, this will be a great chance for us to bring friends out, have fun, and enjoy each others’ company. We are doing a Grand Chapter Food drive in July, we are doing a coat drive in November. This will help us to live our masonic values and virutes.
Historically, King Solomon partnered with Hiram King of Tyre. We too need to partner with others to be successful. I am creating a special advisory board today to provide guidance to the Grand Council on how we interact with other masonic groups, including personal envoys from this grand chapter to masonic groups.
We are also going to change how we are diplomatically interacting with other grand chapters. REC David Robling brought it to my attention that this Grand Chapter has failed to act on the request of the Grand Chapter of the Great State of New York on their Grand Representative for over two years. Effective today, I am accepting the recommendation of the Grand Chapter of New York and appointing MEC W. Bruce Renner as our Grand Representative in the Great State of New York.
I say this to you our companions in this room and to our companions across the river in Arlington VA to Arlington TX, form Albany, NY to Albany, OR from Israel to Australia and everywhere in between, the Grand Chapter of DC wants to interact and work with you. We will be reaching out to every Grand Chapter to discuss our current status of representation and how we can better communicate and partner. A new age of Royal Arch diplomacy is upon us.
I started my speech today by citing my friend Pat Filiberto who asked me to join DeMolay. We had a favorite film back then, and I close now with a thought from Bill S. Preston, My companions, “Be excellent to each other.”
God Bless You,
God Bless Our Fraternity
And God Bless America