By Stephen A. Balke
General Grand Recorder, Cryptic Masons International

Stephen A. Balke
Stephen A. Balke
General Grand Recorder, Cryptic Masons International

I hope everyone has had a great month and is enjoying the turn of season! The first of September marks the one-year anniversary of my time in this role as your General Grand Recorder. WOW, have I learned a lot! Many thanks to everyone who has had patience when I have stubbed my toe, those MANY Companions who are doing SO MUCH for General Grand Council in bringing our systems and projects online, and especially to the Trustees, who continue to work together and with me to bring us to be a continuously better organization!

Just nine days ago, we also hit the mark of JUST one year to the Triennial Assembly! My hope is to see you all in Louisville, Kentucky from September 24th-29th of 2020! We are going to have a GREAT TIME!

While I have been visiting with Companions throughout several jurisdictions, I have been reminded in several ways that we can do one thing to help our great organizations: convey the existing process and expectation! Many people have brought situations to my attention (especially in leadership) where they have been reminded in the most tender manner – after they do something, but before they are aware that there was another way. I start out my report with this for two reasons:

  1. We all need to keep this in mind and try to help those who we give responsibilities to by communicating the existing processes and desired results
  2. This is the exact tack the General Grand Council has taken – though our efforts have been taking time, we are establishing systems of documentation, work and communication so that what we are doing will not need to be reinvented.
Screenshot of new website
New Website


Launch: 10/8/2019 – The new website has been designed for easier access, central data updates, and visual appeal. We will launch the site next Tuesday, and most services will be available, however, there are places where we will be “turning things on” as they become available. Our overall goal is to have all of the information available by the end of the calendar year (these are some programmatically intensive functions that take a while). Most of what you are used to seeing will be available.


Launch: 10/8/2019 – Much like the general website, the Marketplace is still going to be under testing, however, many of our “single” and “public” items will be available for order. Enhanced functionality for Grand Recorders and Constituent Recorders will still be under testing, as well as “process paths” – ordering awards for Grand Sessions and the like. Again we plan to have all of that tested and working by the end of this calendar year.

On both the website and the marketplace – BIG shout out to Jason L. of Taiwan, and Will Highsmith of North Carolina! Others are coming on board as they are able, and we appreciate it, but if you are technically proficient and are able to fit us in to your schedule, we still need folks (look for a jobs board to come soon)!

Annual Returns

Several people have had some issues with annual returns, and please accept my apology. The form has been emailed to most, but has not been available because we have been earnestly trying to get the new website up. A long overdue “THANK YOU” to RIC Dennis Newman, Grand Recorder of Nebraska, for getting the fillable form together for me! They are available on the website under: RESOURCES – FORMS. If you are having trouble logging in, please do not hesitate to call me!

If you have not had time to get your returns in, please take the time now. We are reconciling our books for the year and preparing for the Triennial.

The Journey

Las Cruces, NM

This month started out with an in-state (mostly) visit to Las Cruces. The General Grand Master invited Cryptic Masons and Grand Masters from Mexico to have a meeting to discuss plans for Cryptic Masonry in Mexico. Then it grew to include a Cryptic Festival! In addition, the Grand York Rite Bodies of New Mexico gave a presentation on York Rite in general and had a picnic (grill). If you haven’t read it, the article on the event is here.

What an outstanding time and a wonderful experience to share fraternal camaraderie, watch degrees in another language, and get so much accomplished!

Albany, NY

What a warm welcome and an outstanding experience at the Northeast Conference. Many kudos to Right Puissant Companion Chuck McCullom for all of his work! The conference was well organized, inclusive, and VERY informative! There is a LOT going on in the Northeast, and a lot of Cryptic Masons who are sharing their worthwhile experiences and journey. It was nice to see a balanced schedule that included something for everyone!

First Responder Presentation
First Presentation in New Mexico

First Responder Awards

It was my great pleasure and honor to recognize three people with the medal on September 16th as they arrived on September 12th. This was even better because two of the three were a part of bringing it to be in the first place. Special thanks goes to Companion, Sir Knight and Eminent Commander Kevin Fitzwater for allowing us to take some of the time from his Commandery meeting. Companion Christopher A. Larsen II, Most Illustrious Grand Master for New Mexico, Companion James D. Lamb, Principal Conductor of the Work, Hiram Council No. 1, NM, and Companion Nicholas Brittenham, a member of Hiram Council were the first three in New Mexico to receive the award. Our largest York Rite Bodies in Albuquerque also gave a favorable response and liked the idea of sharing this opportunity with our Lodges.

First Responder Award: “The Rest of the Story…”

After Illustrious Companion Art Patrick (MS) mentioned the idea to me, I had a good friend, Brother, and Companion over who has been a Hot Shot, Firefighter & EMT for years and asked him what he thought. Companion Nicholas Brittenham told me what a great idea it would be to have a dinner at Lodge and recognize people who do this. I took this to the Trustees and the idea and parameters became a “good start” – now what’s it going to look like? Companion James Lamb, law enforcement in the Air Force, and also a retired Captain for the Santa Fe Police Department started putting designs together. My daughter, Ashley, took the designs and made it a medal. Our Deputy General Grand Master, Monty Glover asked why all of our awards are round, so it became a triangle. Then it went to Right Puissant Companion John Bridegroom, who refined the artwork and then included what can only be referred to as a “master stroke”, the inclusion of the angels.

South Central Conference

Welcome to Little Rock, Arkansas! That statement has new meaning to me! Right Puissant Companion John Logan (OK) and Right Illustrious Companion Dick Browning, Grand Recorder for Arkansas, sure made this Companion feel welcomed and taken care of for the conference! Read more in Companion John’s Article “South Central Conference Recap” – what an informative and great time. Thank you, Most Illustrious Companion Rodney Middleton, for taking some pictures when I was otherwise occupied!

PS – If you ever get offered a steak at the Grotto in Little Rock, it’s well worth it. Thank you, Companion Paul, for the invite, and a GREAT meal and introduction to Grotto.

Wrapping Up

We are in the BUSY BUSY time – we have a lot of conferences going on AND we have a lot of work being done. If we need to do something for you, PLEASE reach out; if you have an idea, work, or a paper to share, PLEASE send it in; if you just want to talk to a bunch of wonderful Companions, please meet with us at the conferences! This is getting fun and we intend that it will just keep getting better!

Referenced and Related Articles
Las Cruces: Consejo Internacional 2019
The First First Responder Award
South Central Recap

First Responder Qualifications


First Responder Award Presentation

First Responder Award Presentation
First Responder Award Presentation



Decryption - All Articles

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