In keeping with our Grand Masters Theme again this year “RAISING THE BAR” I am going to speak briefly this evening on the performance of our Ritual and the need to do so as prescribed in the Book of the Work.
The Grand Master has expressed his concerns on both the Quality of the Performance of the Ritual as well as the fact that some Lodges have adopted certain habits that do not follow the Ritual as intended.
First I will touch on the Quality Aspect. Believe me no one expects Academy Award Winning Performances. But having said that please keep in mind that if we take a little extra time to practice, and to at all times give it with Enthusiasm, Conviction and most of all Sincerity, our efforts will go a long way to making the evening a very memorable and pleasant experience for the Candidate.
I have heard it said, Sadly more than once that it doesn’t really matter, as the Candidate doesn’t really understand what is happening to him anyway. Personaly I believe there is nothing further from the truth.
Even though the Candidate may be a little overwhelmed at what is happening and may not remember the Degree word for word, he can most assuredly sense the Sincerity & Enthusiasm with which the ritual is performed, as well as the lack thereof. Also think of the Candidate when he is out and about visiting other Lodges and sees what he has just been put through done with meaning and conviction , think what is going through his mind and how you would feel. If we can not convey this feeling to our Candidates how can we expect them to do so in the future.
These young men came to Masonry seeking something to help fulfill a part of their Life. And it is our Duty and Obligation to do everything in our power to provide what they are looking for with the Skill and positive attitude to encourage them to continue a long Masonic Career, and to pass the same on to the next generation of Masons.
We must not think of the extra effort and practice as a chore, but as a privilege to share with our Candidates the meaning and spirit of Masonry as it was intended for us all.
Next I would like to touch on the need to Perform and Teach the Ritual as prescribed in the Book of the Work and not to deviate.
We all know that when we take a prescribed way of doing things and make changes as we see fit, even if they are subtle ones we begin to loose the meaning of what was initially intended. In other words it gets diluted. And over time the true meaning of the work will be lost forever.
The Ritual we perform is written in the Book of the Work for all Masons in this Jurisdiction and was done so for a reason. So that we have uniformity in the work. So that it holds the same meaning as intended for all Masons, our selves, our predecessors as well as our successors.
Our Ritual has truly stood the test of time. It has survived for Century’s because very little has changed, and then only after careful study and consideration so as not to change the intent. Just because we have done something for a long time, or have seen it done somewhere else, does not mean it is right or OK.
If at any time you find yourself or your Lodge deviating from the book, take time to reflect on your journey so far through Masonry, remember when you were newly initiated and we were taught through the book of Constitution what we owe to the Craft as well as what we owe to our Lodges in the Bylaws given to us. Remember that during Installation we all perambulated in front of the Master, saluted and said “I OBEY YOU” and to every Master during the Reading of the Ancient Charges each and every one of us gave our UNQUALIFIED ASSENT to several Questions including # 10 & 11 which read.
You promise to Pay Homage to the Grand Master for the time being. And to his officers when duly installed and STICTLY TO CONFORM to every Edict of the Grand Lodge.
You Admit that it is not in the power of any Man or Body of Men to make innovation in the body of Masonry.
Therefore Brethren by way of the book of Constitution and the Oaths we Freely took upon ourselves we swore not to deviate from the Work and to Obey the Grand Master. I hope that those promises hold true the same meaning for you as they have for me.
I urge you to take a little more time, Put forth a little more effort to Perform our Ritual Correctly and with the Enthusiasm and Sincerity it truly Deserves. To secure the intent of the Work and the True Masonic way of life. So that future Generations can Experience Masonry as we have and as it was truly intended.
I would like to tie my theme this year of Back to the Future “ Getting back to the Basics of Masonry to preserve the Future of our Craft, in with remarks made by our Grand Master in his address to the newly installed DDGM’s. He stated that the greatest challenge facing the craft today is the lack of understanding of the profound meaning of Masonry. I fully believe that this includes not only the general public but us as Masons ourselves. We tend to stray or move away from the work as intended and when we do this we begin to lose its meaning and over time as with the Genuine secrets they may be lost forever,
During our travels throughout the District and for some throughout this Jurisdiction and for a lucky few to other provinces and countries, we notice many differences in the way the Ritual is performed. Some of these differences may be subtle while others may vary greatly. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that the Central Tenets of Masonry should never alter. Our Grand Master has stressed the importance of compliance with the book of the work and uniformity.
So Brethren this evening I will start at the beginning with the duties we owe to our Candidates to insure they have a pleasurable and memorable introduction to the Craft and throughout their entire Masonic Journey.
The first and foremost task of the Lodge officers and Brethren is to make sure every candidate is made to feel welcome, always keep in mind how you felt as you began your journey. From the time he shows interest and signs his application, keep him in the loop of what will take place and when, as well as reassure them that they are about to embark on a most incredible journey that many before them have traveled. From the time they set foot into the lodge we must ensure that a seasoned Mason remains with them at all times, introduces them to the members and visitors, not only on that first night, but through out every degree and until he feels completely comfortable and at ease, not only in his home lodge but also through out his travels.
All to often we tend to take for granted and forget our candidates needs after they are initiated. Remember they are the future and life blood of Masonry, we need to be with them and reassure them every step of the way.
This leads us to the next step as our Duties as sponsors.
As we all know it takes two Master Masons in good standing to recommend an applicant. We should all take heart and realize that our duties have not ended there. We need to be prepared to answer the applicants questions, advise them of the procedures and time frame of the application process. Inform him of the fees and dues structure, why they are applied and what they are used for. And most importantly remain in constant contact with him throughout his degrees. Also it is our duty as a sponsor to Mentor our Candidates to ensure that he is properly prepared for advancement. Remember that making sure our candidates are confident and prepared not only reflects well on the lodge, but that pride that the candidate feels while being congratulated sincerely on a job well done, gives him that added confidence and encouragement that he is now ready and is eager to take on greater tasks in the future. Naturally this will cause him to speak highly to his friends of the rewarding experiences he has had in Masonry. This in turn will peak the interest of his friends to seek admission to our Mysteries and Privileges as well, and this Brethren insures the future of our Fraternity.
Most of us have witnessed over the years that when these practices are followed we see not only a very active Lodge that is brimming with work and applicants. But a Lodge that operates with confidence and Harmony. This is a goal that is very attainable and something we should all strive to achieve.
On the other hand when we fail to encourage, teach and impress our Candidates, their interest begins to Wane, membership goes into decline and eventually yet another Lodge experiences difficulties and finally falls into Darkness.
Therefore Brethren the only way for us to ensure the continued longevity of the Fraternity we all profess to Love and Admire, is to take pride, teach correctly, with enthusiasm and sincerity, and to make sure our candidates are not only ready but willing to take the Reins and lead the next generation.
So Brethren for the Good of Masonry in General let us all strive to make a positive advancement in our Masonic Knowledge and daily lives and take time to share with and encourage our Candidates at every opportunity.
Thank you Brethren for your time and attention
Brethren: there is one thing more I would like to share with you tonight. When I came across this message I thought of how this applies to each and every Mason and fully believe that we should take this message to heart in all we do in Lodge.
It is entitled:
BE THE CANDIDATE
Brethren there is a danger line in every Masons Life.
That is the point at which we cease to be the Candidate.
It is when we become the audience of Masonry instead of remaining the participant.
It is the point at which we lose the viewpoint of the Candidate and no longer seek a New Light.
We must witness the conferring of every degree through the eyes of one who has just knocked at the door of Masonry,
And every word spoken to the Candidate should strike a responsive note with us.
It is in this way only can one hope to be progressive in Masonry, and to catch again and again the inspiration that he received when he was really the Candidate.
Any Mason who truly seeks Light will find something new in Masonry every time a degree is conferred.
But he must be the Candidate. He must have the freshness of mind, the eager seeking for Light, that was his when he first entered Masonry.
If we look upon the degrees of Masonry in an impersonal way, and consider the ceremonies only as cold repetitions, then we can gain nothing from them.
If we attain a small spiritual insight and refuse to grow in vision and wisdom then even that First Light becomes extinguished. We cease to grow when we no longer seek the source that inspired us at the beginning.
Forever we must have an open mind, the courage, the desire to advance, the longing for More Light,
All that we had when we first offered ourselves as Candidates for the Mysteries of Freemasonry.
Forever and ever we must be the Candidate.
I encourage all the Brethren to keep this in mind while performing the Ritual and while teaching and leading our Candidates through their degrees and throughout their Masonic Journey.
Remembrance day is again upon us, when our thoughts turn to those brave Canadian Hero’s that have given are giving of them selves so we can enjoy the way of life we have today.
This true story was forwarded to me via email a while ago and it is something I think most of us take for granted every day.
Back in September, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies teacher at Robinson High School, did something not to be forgotten.
On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal, and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.
When the first period kids entered the room the discovered that there were no desks.
Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?
She replied, You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.
They thought, “ Well , maybe it’s our grades.’
No, she said
Maybe it’s our behavior
She told them No it’s not even your behavior.
And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom.
By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms. Cothern’s classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.
The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.
At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.
Twenty Seven War Veterans, all in uniform, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they stood alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks have been earned.
Martha said, You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These Heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you, Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It’s your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education.
Don’t ever forget it.
Brethren to often we forget, We are here tonight for the same reasons, we are able to gather together as Brothers, practice our beliefs in the Craft and share in some of the finest fellowship in this great Fraternity because of these Heroes.
So Brethren every time we gather as Masons and every time we enjoy the daily freedoms we all to often take for granted let us never forget why we are able to do so, and at every opportunity let us take the time to thank those who have provide this freedom for us.
All gave some, Some gave all
Thank you Brethren for you time and attention.
The theme I have chosen this year is Back to the Future, or getting back to the basics in order for us to secure Masonry for the Future.
During my visits to date this year I have spoken about performing Ritual as intended & written. About the need to practice so we can perform the Work with Sincerity and Enthusiasm. As our Grand master frequently reminds us that for the Work to be given convincingly from the Heart it must be learned by Heart. Not only for ourselves but for the benefit of our candidates. For if we fail to impress them there may be no future.
I have spoken of the duties we owe to our candidates both as Sponsors and Mentors. And always to keep in mind how we felt when we first began our journey, Our need for mentorship, our need for knowledge , our need to fit in and be accepted. Remember the better we are able to look after, guide & teach our candidates the brighter the future of our Fraternity.
Tonight I would like to speak about our Lodge officers. Not just their positions but the importance of their duties and obligations in the well running of the Lodge. All to often today we place a Brother into a chair because we need to have it filled to look good. Have we taken the time to make sure that Brother is prepared for and knowledgeable of the duties required. Do we take the time to explain what will be expected of him apart from the charge at the time they are invested.
As well sometimes we tend to recycle Brethren in the chairs for the same reason, just to fill the spot. In most cases we assume that because they have either filled that chair before or because they have been around for a long time they should know what to do.
I have seen more than once throughout my travels both within and outside of the District, many Lodges who perform the written Ritual well. You can see the results of many hours spent memorizing to give meaning and depth to what they are reciting. But again all to often this becomes diminished due to uncertainty in the floor work or confusion on what their duties actually are, as well as how and when to act on them.
Brethren, When was the last time during a practice we went over or practiced what each officers roll is and how to perform their respective duties, not only during the work but for the entire evening from the time we enter the Lodge until the final hand shake and wish of a safe journey home.
Lets start this evening with the Stewards
Their duties begin with the introduction of visitors as well as seeing to their comfort. Can anyone remember the last time you were greeted by a Steward when you arrived. This may have gone by the wayside because those of us who have been around for a while have become familiar with each other, but what about visitors from outside our District or even our newer Brethren making their first visit. A greeting from the Steward and introduction to the Master officers and Brethren of your Lodge would go a long way in making your guests feel welcome and comfortable.
Depending on the Bylaws of your Lodge many other duties may be assigned to the Steward. In most cases they assist in the arrangement of refreshment and fellowship after the Lodge, under the direction of the Junior Warden. The Stewards should know how the Lodge is to be prepared in each degree, this should also include making sure the correct apron is placed at the Senior Wardens Chair.
The Stewards are also very important to the hour of fellowship after Lodge has closed. They are responsible to see that the visitors & Brethren are seated in a timely fashion and look after any special requests. Think of how much smoother things will run when we know these tasks will be taken care of automatically, because our Stewards were trained, practiced and know What, When and Why these tasks or duties are required.
When this happens the Master no longer needs to micro manage every aspect of the evening, when everyone is in tune to what needs to be done. Think of how pleasurable and impressive things will be when you look at your officers and instead of asking, Did You, Will You, or Should You, he just nods and says all taken care of.
This not only makes the Masters evening more relaxed, but think of how impressed your visitors will be. When they feel welcome, happy and suitably impressed, it will not take long for that message to spread, and before you know it your Lodge begins to fill for every meeting. And Brethren we all know that a well run Lodge is a Busy, Happy and Productive Lodge.
So Brethren, I not only encourage, but challenge each and every Lodge to not only practice the Ritual at every opportunity, but take the time to Educate, train, encourage and practice with your officers, both elected and appointed as to the duties expected, and required of them.
I am more than confident that you will be extremely pleased at the positive results from the additional effort spent with educating and training your Lodge Officers.
I have over the past 5 official visits geared my remarks to getting back to the basics, so we are uniform in our Work, teach the same meaning, so we all understand and learn correctly. In order for our Brethren in the future to be able to enjoy the benefits and comradery of Masonry that we enjoy today, and as our predecessors have done for centuries.
As a majority of the Lodges in Brant are getting ready for elections and Installations over the next couple of months, I would like to touch on one particular area, regarding the readiness of the Master-Elect.
The information for this topic I have obtained from the books, Towards the Square, Meeting the Challenge but mostly from my own personal experiences.
In all fairness to the Masters-Elect are they fully ready to assume the Great responsibility they are about to undertake. The book of constitution states in section 251 that no Brother shall be installed as Worshipful Master unless the examining Board reports that he is familiar with the Duties of a Master.
He is to know how to open and close in all 3 degrees as well as know the work in all 3 degrees. This becomes very evident by how many times the letters W.M. show up in the book of the work. It also states at the beginning of the Ceremony of Installation and Investiture that in order to pass this examination given by three Installed Masters that the Master Elect is to be familiar with the book of Constitution, the portions that relate to the Duties of Master, which are sections 173 tot 383. By the Master making himself familiar with these sections of the Constitution he will be better prepared to give an answer or render a decision with little or no hesitation on matters that may arise his Lodge.
Yes in most cases we have a fairly long journey on the road to becoming Worshipful Master of our Lodge, and yes there should be plenty of time for a Brother to prepare and ready himself for this high position. But Brethren, how many of our Wardens have been instructed on what to study and what duties will actually be required of them in order for them to prepare for what will most likely be the biggest step in their Masonic Career. Or do we just simply assume they should know and leave them on their own?
I have stated in earlier remarks this year about the duties we owe to our Candidates. On the need for Mentoring them to ensure a smooth transition to the next degree, in order to lessen the stress and make sure that transition is meaningful and pleasant. The feeling of pride achieved in knowing your ready for that next step, and looking forward to the challenge and excitement of that journey.
Brethren, are we not still Candidates, even after we achieve the sublime degree of a Master Mason? While advancing through the offices of the Lodge do we not require further education, coaching, Yes Brethren in other words Mentoring. As with our newly admitted Candidates, continuous Mentoring is required for us to move on to the next level successfully with pride and confidence. Do we not owe it to our Elected officers the benefit of Mentoring as well? We must not simply be placed into the chair for convenience, we need to have the skill set and desire to advance. All to often as with our Candidates we fail to give them the tools and assistance to motivate them for advancement.
The evening we hold elections, 3 installed Masters are elected to examine the Master Elect. This committy must have the skill and knowledge required to give this examination. My question then becomes, should their duties end after the examination. Would it not be prudent to have them assume the same duties to Guide, Teach and Mentor the Senior Warden, so he to is ready for that transition to the Chair of King Solomon. Both for his benefit and for that of the well running of the Lodge.
Think how smoothly not only installation will go when the Master Elect is fully ready to assume those duties, with no reluctance, no hesitation no regret. Imagine how well the Lodge will operate when a Master is prepared for almost every circumstance. This knowledge and confidence can not help but radiate throughout the Lodge and help encourage all that are willing to put forth a little effort to be able to experience those great memories and rewards on the journey to the East.
Brethren, my remarks this evening were in no way meant to point fingers, condemn any ones ways, practices or reasons. But on the contrary, they are made from the heart in hopes that by spending a little extra time in Mentoring our Masters-Elect, in making sure they are ready and have the confidence in order to assume this new role, so that it becomes more of a pleasant and positive experience rather than wondering what did I just get myself into.
I chose this topic tonight because elections bring back many fond as well as somewhat scary memories for me. On my journey thus far in Masonry I have had that deer caught in the headlight look more often than I cared to. I know that with a little more preparation on my part, and a little more Mentoring, from the seasoned veterans of my Lodge, my Journey to the East would not have been just a little less stressful.
Brethren my wish for the Lodges of Brant is not only Longevity, but to experience the pride in knowing that the Future Masters of our Lodges have benefitted from the assistance of caring and knowledgeable Mentors and that they have a true desire to become the next leaders of our Lodges, Our District, Our Jurisdiction and even our Community’s.
Tonight I would like to share with you some very interesting information that came to my attention at the D.D.GM. Midterm meeting early in January. This meeting was very well attended with 41 of the 44 Grand Masters representatives in attendance. We had the opportunity to discuss informally each others experiences, highlights, expectations as well as what concerned us, during the breaks and in our discussion groups.
I have to admit I was somewhat surprised at how similar our District is to the many others both in our successes and areas of concern. We learned that Masonry in this Jurisdiction is experiencing positive growth, with more applicants coming in that we are loosing to death and demit. In Brant alone we have introduced more than 30 new men into the Secrets and Mysteries of this great Fraternity and 1387 in this jurisdiction. Lodges are becoming more active in their community’s and as a result are gaining better public acceptance for what we do.
Brethren these are only a few of the many positive steps we as Masons are taking, and should be extremely proud of what we are accomplishing. But, yes there it is again there always is a “BUT” following good news. Even though we are making great strides in promoting and growing our Craft, we still have some areas of concern that we need to work on. The one area I would like to touch on tonight is retention.
I have heard over my short time in Masonry many discussions, and yes I to have taken part in some myself, on
What does Grand Lodge do for Us?
Do they really ever listen to our concerns?
Do the actually read our reports?
How do they Help?
Well I am very pleased to report that after my Midterm meeting I am able to inform you that contrary to what many believe,
They actually do Listen.
They do care, and yes they want to help.
This became evident to me after receiving the agenda for our meeting well in advance. We were also asked to gather some information from our perspective Districts.
How many initiations have we had in the past year?
How many living Past Masters do we have in our Districts?
How many of those Past Masters remain active in their Lodges?
Along with this request for information we were posed 4 questions that would be discussed in our breakout groups, with the answers to be shared later by all. These questions were.
Question # 1
What are the characteristics of a “Best Lodge “ in the District?
Question # 2
How does one best integrate communication and encourage our new members?
Question # 3
How does the new member achieve a sense of belonging and ownership in his newly found environment?
How does one adequately train the Lodge Line officers in his duties and responsibilities?
There were many varied and similar answers from each group. And after we had all given our answers the Grand Master stood and gave us the reasons for the questions asked, They were all in response to the information that we provided from our individual Districts. That even though we are experiencing growth, a trend is forming, we are having problems retaining members. Especially with Past Masters of which the average across the Jurisdiction is that only about 52% remain active after their year in the East.
The biggest reason we seem to loose our Past Masters is they become bored, they have put many years of hard work and effort to attaining the Rank of Master and then suddenly there is nothing, they no longer feel they are having a positive influence and have little to offer their Lodge after their term as Master, and begin to fade away.
The second area we are experiencing retention problems is after our newer members have been Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason. Yes sometimes it is due to changing work or family situations. But I firmly believe the biggest reason we loose these men is that we as the supposedly long term or seasoned Veterans of Masonry are not providing them with what they require, what they need to want to be part of this Fraternity, to keep that desire for knowledge fresh and alive, we are not continuing to make them feel special and a part of our World. All to soon after we have Raised our Brother we tend either them aside, or push them to move on. We spend less time with them as we move on and focus our attention on the next initiate. They are no longer in the limelight, they do not feel as special any more .
This brings us back to the questions our Grand Master put to us and so aptly pointed out the similarity and patterns to the answers we provided.
First and foremost was the need to focus our efforts on the newer Brethren, to keep them informed, interested, active well past their degrees, give them a reason to want to belong and grow.
The second was to make use of an outstanding resource every Lodge has. Experienced and enthusiastic Past Masters and Mentoring programs.
Yes the answers were simple and right before our eyes and with very little effort so easy to implement.
Why are we not drawing on the great resource that each and every Lodge possesses? The knowledge and skills attained after serving the many years as a line officer that it takes to attain the Rank of Past Master, and joining that with another area we as Masons have done so well over the centuries, Yes Mentoring.
Imagine what we could accomplish if instead of just leaving it up to the sponsors, that we actually paired an experienced Past Master with an applicant or newly initiated candidate, From the information we gather at the investigation stage we can pair them with a Past Master who may share many similar interests even outside of the Lodge. And not only through his 3 degrees, but to continue to share a bond of Friendship and guidance throughout his Masonic Journey.
Think of the many possibilities this presents, and the numerous benefits that we can and will be rewarded with.
Our Fraternity will not only be able to sustain it’s self, but our numbers will continue to grow. We will retain a greater percentage of our more experienced Brethren, because they will have that renewed energy from continuing to be an asset to their Lodge, they will have something meaningful to contribute as well as the overwhelming pride of seeing a young Mason Grow, Flourish and accomplish many great things not only in Masonry but surely in his personal life as well. All because a Past Master took a little time not to just Mentor the work but to Befriend, Teach and Guide a young man through the stages of his Masonic Journey. And yes this young man will intern feel that same sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, pride and will be compelled to make sure our future Brethren are able to enjoy that same remarkable experience he has had the privilege to enjoy.
Again my Brethren, Just think with a little effort, imagine the possibilities.
Thank you for your time and attention.
This evening I would like to continue from where I left off on the last official visit to Scotland 193 in February.
As I mentioned that night at the D.D.G.M. midterms held in January that we were placed into 4 groups and each posed a question, the answers we provided to these questions were compiled by Grand Lodge and sent back to us to share with the Brethren in hopes that you can apply some of the findings to help realize some of the areas of concern and provide some ideas to help improve and secure our future.
Some of the answers are very direct and to the point, but they are in no way meant to criticize or point fingers, but are simply a reality that we need to learn from, take to heart and work towards to secure continued growth and retention of our membership.
I will touch on the answers of the first 2 questions this evening.
Group 1 was asked the question. What are the characteristics of a “Best Lodge in the District? Their response was broken down into 6 priorities.
1.) Leadership of the Worshipful Master
It is imperative that the WM plan for his year. If he simply occupies the Chair, then he is doing nothing more than keeping it warm. He must plan and prepare before he is elected and installed and, to use a phrase so often used in business, he must plan his work and work his plan. He must provide meetings with substance and not simply confer degrees. If there is no substance, then there is no reason for the Brethren to attend. Through planning, preparation and offering meetings of substance, a best Lodge will have good attendance.
2.) Leadership of the Past Masters
A best Lodge will have Past Masters who are committed to mentoring the W.M. as well as the younger Brethren in the Lodge. These P.M’s will provide good council to the Brethren and will NOT be negative or stand up in Lodge and berate the brethren because they are not doing things “ LIKE WE USED TO DO “ Committed P.M.’s will take younger Brethren under their wing and foster their growth as Masons, which can be accomplished through general guidance of protocol, etiquette, ritual and decorum. They will encourage the younger Brethren to begin to challenge themselves in learning Ritual and not “ HOG” the work for themselves. Conversely, such committed P.M.’s need to feel needed and wanted and must be able to contribute rather than take a complete back seat to “ The Next Generation.”
3.) Good Education
A Best Lodge is not a Degree Mill. Education must be an integral part of the program and can take the form of basic How’s and Why’s of the work to much more esoteric studies. Education may be the focus of the evening or it can be as little as a few minutes while the candidate is resuming his personal comforts or during the W.M.’s closing remarks. Regardless, offering good education is a key characteristic of a best Lodge. Some times we need to take a break from continuous Ritual work to give the Brethren a rest as well as educate our younger and newer Brethren to assist them in their daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.
4.) Visitation / Visability
So often we pay lip service when proffering a toast to the visitors since we may not be good visitors ourselves. A best Lodge truly takes the opportunity to visit within and without the District. It is not sufficient for the W.M. to travel alone. He must encourage his officers to join him, even on a rotating basis, in order to gain visibility and to learn. Visitation affords the Mason the opportunity to take away those aspects of other Lodges he wishes to emulate and those he does not. Seeing how it is done in one’s own Lodge does not provide the Mason a reason to grow, learn and experience life outside his Lodge.
5.) Financial Soundness
A Best Lodge is financially sound, but simply having an impressive financial statement does not make a lodge a best one. Nonetheless, it is imperative for lodges to address their costs and ensure that dues cover those costs. A best lodge practices sound financial management, but that does not mean frugality should reign supreme. Many of our Brethren are members of various and sundry professional associations to which they pay dear sums to belong. If something is offered for free or very little cost, then there is no value attached to it. Masons must truly express their value for their Masonic affiliation . Far to many Lodges are giving away membership and their Brethren do not respect the value of it. That does not mean that Lodges should suddenly increase dues many-fold but there should be good management in ensuring that dues become commensurate, over time, with the value that a Masons sees in his Lodge.
6.) Community Awareness / Service
A best Lodge does not hide from the community nor does it operate in a vacuum. The Brethren of a best Lodge enjoy a social aspect to their Masonry that transcends the monthly meeting. This may take the form of a monthly breakfast and “yak” session, a dinner after rehearsal or events planned around the involvement of families. Masons need to create bonds with their Brethren outside the four walls of Lodge, The Brethren of a best Lodge continue to maintain relationships with the families and widows of Brethren who have passed to the Grand Lodge above. Many Lodges are becoming more active and visible in their communities, and slowly dispelling the myths and concerns the public has had for many years. This is very evident from the increase in applications throughout the entire Jurisdiction.
In summary, there are many aspects that characterize a best Lodge and we believe these six areas encompass them and point out how a Lodge can become a “Best Lodge” in the District. It does not occur overnight; it requires hard work and commitment. Men who see that the Brethren of a best Lodge are enjoying their Masonry will be more inclined to seek out membership than in a Lodge where the brethren are a dysfunctional group of members who may meet only once in every month.
Group 2 was posed the following question. How does one best integrate, communicate & encourage our new members? Their response is as follows.
1.) Utilize new technology
The information age has come a long way over the years. There are many forms of instant communication and we no longer have to utilize only mail and phone. We have email service, social networking with face book and texting that are available for almost instantaneous information and answers. Many Districts and individual Lodges make use of Websites to keep everyone abreast of what is happening and apprise them of upcoming events and functions. When we use these tools we must be certain to have a dedicated individual who keeps things current and interesting or we begin to lose the interest of it’s followers. That being said, even though the information highway is an excellent tool, we must also never forget the personal touch, nothing beats face to face contact and a firm and friendly handshake to convey ones intentions and feelings.
We hear continuously about the use of Mentors and Mentorship programs and how useful they are. Although this is true in every aspect we must also remember that not everyone is a good Mentor, we need to choose wisely, take time to match the mentor and candidate or officer with someone who shares similar interests, personalities and skill sets, not just in the craft but outside interests as well. We must also remember that a Mentor is not just a coach in teaching Ritual, it should be a life time commitment, a friendship and bond of fellowship to be shared throughout the entire Masonic Journey. We must also realize that sponsors are not Mentors by default. Utilize our abundant supply of P.M’s and their knowledge which is not only an asset to our candidates and officers but keeps our more seasoned Masons active and feeling they are contributing to the successful running of the Lodge. We must also take the time to involve our newer members in Visitation, to give them a perspective outside of our own lodge, get them involved in some of the Lodges committee’s, have them learn small portions of the Ritual and encourage as well as congratulate them on their progress and continued improvement.
3.) Involve family in Masonic activity.
Start a tradition in your Lodge which includes the wives and children of our members, host regular breakfasts, lunch socials. Arrange outings and Ladies evenings , Christmas socials, and always make sure we include the widows who would greatly appreciate being included and remembered. We have to give our newer members a reason to want to stay and grow within the craft and carry on our traditions for years to come.
4.) Masonic Education
Masonic Education should be included at least in part at every meeting, be it a portion of the evening set aside for education, during Ritual when the candidate leaves to assume his personal comforts or at the conclusion of the meeting and even in the banquette room to take a few minutes to enlighten the Brethren. Far to often with today’s steady influx of membership and the amount of degree work we need to do, we tend to forget our responsibility of daily advancement in Masonic Education, and when this is presented in an interesting manner or format, everyone present will be appreciative and benefit from the effort.
5.) Anteroom / Banquet hall discussions
In order to keep the interest and encourage our newer Brethren we should try to keep in mind that the hour of refreshment after Lodge is a time for friendship, fellowship and Brotherly love. This is not the time to air our differences, discuss petty issues, quarrels or piques. Far to often discussions turn to who made mistakes, they did this wrong, or they should have known better, or we would never have done it that way. Consider what kind of message this is sending to our candidates. We do not want to teach them it is OK to criticize our Brethren to point out errors and belittle someone, We want them to be encouraged by the respect, friendships and fellowship that our roots are based on. It is only when we can convey that feeling, will they be comfortable and encouraged to offer assistance and mentorship in the future instead of criticism. Make our newer members the center of attention after Lodge as well as during their degree, don’t forget them after the work of the evening is over, remember that by encouragement, mentorship and making them feel like they are a contributing factor to the success and future of our Lodges, will we be able to secure the future of the Craft.
You may have noticed that many of the answers to the 2 completely different questions discussed this evening are very similar in nature. It becomes apparent that in almost every topic of concern, the areas we need to concentrate on to improve are also similar, and in my humble opinion it boils down to Leadership, Mentorship, Fellowship, Education and most importantly Respect.
Brethren, it is my hope that by sharing this information with you tonight, you will have a little better understanding of some of the issues we as Masons face in today’s society. Not only in Brant but in Masonry throughout the world. And that there are tools and information available that will allow us to get back on track and begin reshaping and preserving our place in the future.
Thank you for your time and attention.
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