General Grand Recorder's Update: July 2019
Steve Balke
General Grand Recorder

GGR Balke
Stephen Balke
General Grand Recorder

Good Morning Companions,

The past few months has indeed been interesting (hectic), but there are as many opportunities as there are challenges (aren’t they the same thing?). In spite of loss of internet to the office, transition issues (for me), and competing priorities and visitations, I am happy to report that, though there are “catchup” items, we are actually accomplishing things – as well as adapting and optimizing our internal processes to improve in the long term.


There are many projects going on that are optimizing communication and data, in spite of the challenges we have encountered. One of the opportunities that is available is that I am working in both this office and the Technology Committee – it also has it’s disadvantages. Over the course of this year, we had a few objectives that are more complex than may be seen at face value – here are the “end user” points and a status update on progress.

Data Centralization and Backup

  1. Files on the Server – Done – We have adopted a cloud platform that keeps our central files in several locations and syncs them when added, edited or deleted.
  2. Database Migration – In Progress – We are migrating a desktop database to the cloud so that it makes the information necessary to people when they need it without manual work at the time.


  1. Internal Communications – Done – We have the systems in place and have been meeting regularly within the office (and with committees) using online meeting platforms.
  2. Grand/Constituent Councils – In Progress – We have been meeting individually as issues arise, but our intention is to “get in front” by hosting regular meetings for each Region. These are planned to start before the end of this Cryptic Year.


  1. Internal Operations – Underway – Mapping and documenting all of the processes of the General Grand Council is an on-going effort. We are taking them one at a time, and implementing the backdrop structures to support them (forms, reports, and process documents).
  2. Strategic Planning – Underway – We are working with the Strategic Planning Committee to map current functionalities to desired paths forward.


  1. Centralized Inventory and Fulfillment – Underway – We are in the process of testing a cloud based platform that funnels all sales and payments into one data-driven system and exports to the financial application.
  2. (Part of Strategic Planning) – Underway – We are analyzing how we do business, optimizing expenses and ensuring that we are using GAAP standards to our accounting.

While much of this is not as quick to be implemented as we would like, the aspects of it that are currently in place have started to produce results. In the technology article, we’ll go over the new store, but the old store was instrumental in showing proof of concept that central inventory will be a continued benefit.

As to the issues with some orders, they are being straightened out. If you have not received something ordered, PLEASE contact me so we can get it done. Between internet down and one issue with a set of desktop files, we lost some tracking info for our processes – these issues have been resolved and we are working toward standard fulfillment and better timelines. We are also creating toolkits for constituents to make ordering and payment easier… again, more to be said in the technology article!


Due to the many issues that have come up in the office, my visitations to California, Montana and the Southeast Conference were reassigned. Though I wish I were there to be a part of some great men taking on some new responsibilities and good fraternal experiences, we are working diligently on some projects that need to be addressed.

That said, I have been able to spend some time with Companions over the last few months. While I agree with RPC Monty that these articles shouldn’t be “Travel Logs”, one of the great opportunities of these positions is that we can share what people are doing in different places.

James Barr
James Barr
Order of the Secret Vault

I was given a warm welcome for my first visit to South Carolina for Grand Sessions and met many Cryptic Masons who are working hard for the Craft. One thing I learned of particular interest is that there are groups of young Cryptic Masons who are being encouraged to explore esoteric/ritual conversations – and this is providing growth in and of the Craft. This seems to show that they are “hearing” and providing what new members are seeking. Congratulations to MIC James Barr, our latest South Carolina Companion of the Secret Vault! Congratulations to MIC Tom Corbin and the Grand Council officers for 2019-20.

West Coast Easter Observance
Knight Templar West Coast Easter Observance

The West Coast Easter Observance was an excellent event – congratulations on a successful first year for Denver, Colorado! It will be there for this Triennium, and I believe those Sir Knights have it well in hand. Our celebration of the Resurrection included ALL of the Masonic Bodies in Colorado, making unity and inclusiveness an extension of the message. These regional/national events also provide a great respite and opportunity for relaxed (but focused) conversations for the travelers in our Craft.

Arizona Ish Sodi
Arizona Ish Sodi Conferral

For the second time, I was able to participate in the Ish Sodi and Super Excellent Master Festival held annually by Arizona. This event is the culmination of an outstanding program that addresses many of the “hot-buttons” that we always discuss – membership – fraternity – preservation. We came together to celebrate several Companions’ intentional completion of work over the last year, we saw some great degree work that is not always as available as we would like, and there was time planned to share and catchup with Companions we haven’t recently seen. It was also my honor to Invest my Companion and good friend IC Kerry Owen as a Companion of the Secret Vault. Congratulations MIC Joe Zito for a great event!

J Hamilton and TJ Robertson
Grand Master J Hamilton and Ambassador T.J. Robertson

Utah’s Grand Sessions were an adventure for Michele and me – our tire blew on the way up there and this became one of those stories – how Masonry is a different world. On a Thursday night at 9:00pm, MIC T.J. Robertson, Ambassador to Utah, arranged for the problem to go away. New tire, professionally installed, back on the road in half an hour, in the middle of Southern Utah. WOW.

If you’re looking to find a jurisdiction where the “Masonic Family Unity” is exposed, this is a good example. Utah makes the most of its' “small numbers” by showing how all FOUR York Rite Bodies can work together. MWGM Jeff Hamilton, PGC, GK, DGM was in attendance (and in uniform!) and led an underlying discussion of unity and its impact of overcoming obstacles – with examples of “wins”, projects, and plans. The relationship is “Interdependent”, however, as MIC Marty Martineau, Jr. spent much of his time team building within the Grand Council for the ensuing year. Every organization has challenges, but this provides a fertile ground for success!

MIC Michael Busby, Order of the Secret Vault
MIC Michael Busby, Order of the Secret Vault

MIC Michael Busby was honored by the College of Preservation of Utah, and it was my honor to be a part of his Investiture. Congratulations to MIGM Marty Martineau, Jr., RIC David J. Reed (new Grand Recorder), and the officers of the Grand Council of Utah for 2019-20!

One last thought on travel is when its not feasible. While I was able to see MIC David Bickel of North Dakota at the Easter Observance, much of our recent communication has been over the phone. The same is true for the recently appointed Grand Recorder, RIC Benny Rogohos. Like many other jurisdictions, the work needs to continue without personal contact. In their case, they are doing A LOT of work for now and future – planning, references, resources, dissemination. In Maine, RIC Tom Emery received a package intended for Florida and called – situation resolved. These are just two of many examples from “behind the scenes” of things that happen. Technology is also giving us opportunities to expand our abilities and create more opportunities.

Yesterday, we had a Trustees meeting that spanned the country using Zoom. On Wednesday of last week (Thursday for him) I spoke with Companion J. L. out of Tai Pei about work with Technology over Skype. Our new Editor for the Decryption, Companion Will Highsmith, and me communicate regularly via Zoom. Finally, we were able to meet with 10 Companions across Latin America using Zoom just a month ago. Even within many jurisdictions (such as New Mexico), travel to meetings in our fast paced society is an encumbrance to those in our Craft who are still working. If this is an obstacle to your communication, I encourage you to look into and These are useful as tools for business, committee work, and in a pinch when you are unable to be there – and free (though some plans have costs associated).

Additional Pictures

IC Kerry Oweny, Order of the Secret Vault
IC Kerry Owen, Order of the Secret Vault
South Carolina Grand Council Officers
South Carolina Grand Council Officers

MIC Michael Busby, Order of the Secret Vault
MIC Michael Busby, Order of the Secret Vault
J Baum, Order of the Secret Vault
J Baum, Order of the Secret Vault
MIC David Bickel at West Coast Easter Observance
MIC David Bickel at Knight Templar West Coast Easter Observance

Leadership at West Coast Easter Observance
Leadership at Knight Templar West Coast Easter Observance
West Coast Easter Observance Family Dinner
Knight Templar West Coast Easter Observance Family Dinner

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