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Learn how the Scottish Rite, NMJ puts on its virtual degree
program, Thursday Night at the Rite, from host Ill. Brother Jim Dill, 33°.

It’s nearly a wrap on season five of Thursday Night at the Rite, our virtual degree program!

As the Scottish Rite, NMJ’s Senior Director of Support Services who oversees video production, and host of Thursday Night at the Rite, Ill. Brother James Dill, 33°, is deeply involved in creating our virtual degrees. He was kind enough to sit down for a Q&A to discuss Thursday Night at the Rite, how it came to be, and how the Scottish Rite aims to create a meaningful experience with each broadcast.

What inspired you to become a Scottish Rite Mason and how did you go about becoming a member?

The decision to become a Mason was easy because my father and grandfather were Masons. I’m a legacy member, so this fraternity is in my blood.

Two men standing and facing each other having a conversation
Brother Jim Dill (right) speaking with Brother David Fidler, an actor in the 13° and member of the Valley of Fort Wayne.

When I first joined, a kind Brother made me feel like part of the family as soon as I was raised a Master Mason. He quickly encouraged me to continue my journey and talked to me about the Scottish Rite, which I then joined. I’m also a York Rite Mason and a Shriner, but my heart is in the Scottish Rite.

When did Thursday Night at the Rite first come to be?

Thursday Night at the Rite started in April 2020. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brothers weren’t able to meet together in person, so releasing Thursday Night at the Rite at this time was the perfect solution as it allowed Brothers to witness Scottish Rite degrees online.

For context, one of the differences between Scottish Rite and Blue Lodge is the way we present degrees. Rather than doing them as rituals, we do them as elaborate stage plays. Before the pandemic, we had already traveled across the jurisdiction and adapted a handful of these plays as degree videos and had those ready to go, so the program came together naturally. It quickly became very popular, so we went full steam and made Thursday Night at the Rite a recurring program!

While nothing replaces the magic of being with Brothers at in-person Reunions, Thursday Night at the Rite offers a meaningful experience as it allows us to create more opportunities for fellowship and make it easier for new Brethren to join the Scottish Rite.

Brothers often cite the Hollywood-like production value of the degrees as one of their favorite aspects of Thursday Night at the Rite. What is the process of making the degree videos?

As the director of video production, I, along with my partner executive producer Marcus Abbott, 33° are responsible for the degree videos that are being made. We work hard because we’re proud of Scottish Rite Freemasonry and we want the product to reflect that. We want Brothers to feel pride in what they’re watching and for them to know how much we care.

A man with a professional movie camera filming two men dressed in colonial attire
Behind the scenes of the 20°, Master Ad Vitam

For each season, we travel all over the jurisdiction and film each episode at a different Valley. We film their stage production and interview their members for a behind-the-scenes look at how each Valley presents degrees – we want Scottish Rite Masons in Market, Michigan to know what it’s like to be a Scottish Rite Mason in Portland, Maine!

The way we produce degree videos continues to evolve. For the last three films, the 4°,17°, and 20°, Marcus and I worked with a film production company, which has improved the quality.

We’ve also learned in this process how much Brothers want to be involved. As we were out filming Thursday Night at the Rite across the jurisdiction, we held regional auditions for the 20°, and we found Brothers who were amazing actors!

In addition to being the host of TNR and overseeing all videos, you’re also on the Ritual Committee. What is unique about Scottish Rite degree work and what goes into preparing a degree for Thursday Night at the Rite?

The Scottish Rite has 29 degrees that build upon the first three degrees in Freemasonry. In the Southern Jurisdiction, the degrees are more in line with the teachings of Albert Pike. In the Northern Jurisdiction, they’re more modern in origin and aim to help us understand our Core Values. We strive to emphasize our Reverence for God, Devotion to Country, Integrity, Justice, Tolerance, and Service to Humanity in every degree.

Our degrees are ever-changing. I and my Brethren on the Ritual Committee are always modernizing degrees to be more understandable for a newer audience. That means some of the degree presentations we show today during Thursday Night at the Rite are new to everyone, even for Brothers who have been around for a while.

We’re currently deep into updating a degree, which requires a lot of hard work, and a long vetting process to ensure it meets the high standards we and our members expect. We work hard on the degrees, even going on retreats so we can focus, make endless revisions, and hone the messaging.

What is the goal of Thursday Night at the Rite?

Thursday Night at the Rite allows members to easily revisit degrees they love or check off new degrees they haven’t seen, all while connecting with Brothers across the jurisdiction. Before every Thursday Night at the Rite, we also offer Join the Rite Night, where candidates are initiated into our fraternity and immediately become eligible to enjoy all the benefits available to members, which includes that night’s Thursday Night at the Rite presentation.

Whether you are witnessing your first Scottish Rite degree or watching them with your Valley at a watch party, these virtual degrees give new and existing members a chance to dig deeper into the degrees while connecting and bonding with fellow Scottish Rite Masons.

Alt text: Four men, two wearing Western attire, on a movie set with two horses
Brothers from the Valley of Buffalo onset of the 19°, Brothers of the Trail

How have these virtual degrees made it easier for Master Masons to join the Scottish Rite?

To join the Scottish Rite, Brethren have the option to either attend the 4° at an in-person Valley event or online at Join the Rite Night. However, the in-person route can be tricky for men who either don’t live close to a lodge, have a busy schedule, or are unable to travel. Thursday Night at the Rite gives these men the opportunity to take that final step in joining.

What does season six of Thursday Night at the Rite have in store?

The Scottish Rite’s vision statement is that "We will strive to be a fraternity that fulfills our Masonic obligation to care for our members." That includes listening to them so we can understand what type of experience they want and need from our fraternity. So, we’re constantly collecting feedback on how we can improve programs like Thursday Night at the Rite.

Members have been clear that they want more; more opportunities to connect, to witness degrees, and to engage in deeper study and reflection of the degrees. Without giving too much away, I can say that season six will include more interaction, education, and live engagement among members.

Thanks to the amazing feedback and input from our members and the hard work of our team here at the Scottish Rite, I’m confident season six of Thursday Night at the Rite will be the best one yet.

Join the Rite Night and Thursday Night at the Rite are seasonal programs. Stay tuned for our season six announcement!

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