What is the one simplest contribution a Mason in the officer line up of a lodge could make to improve his lodge?
Make the commitment to learn your part of the ritual and deliver it well.
The Importance of The Work
Freemasonry is inseparably dependent on its ceremonies and ritual, also known sometimes simply as “the work”, and this makes it very unfortunate when it’s significance is overlooked, as it often is. The work has deep importance to many aspects of the craft and the following examples only touch on its relevance:
- It represents our history
- It binds us as brothers and men through shared experience
- It is our primary tool for delivering basic Masonic education
- It is used to open and close lodges
- It provides opportunities for student-mentor relationships
As you can see, the work influences every element of Freemasonry in some way.
It is also worth pointing out that the ceremonies and ritual are a group experience, almost like a play. Everyone has a part and, while some parts may be bigger or smaller than others, each brother contributes to the overall Masonic experience by contributing his own part to the work.
But what happens when everyone doesn’t know the part they have to play?
Chaos In The Quarries
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel a bit in recent months and visit some local lodges that I don’t usually get to attend. I’ve attended the stated meetings at one lodge in particular, which shall remain nameless, twice and my experiences there have impacted me enough to write about the very topic you are now reading.
Unfortunately, they were not good experiences.
Both nights I attended several of the officers struggled to remember their lines or messed them up completely. What takes an unfortunate situation and makes it terrible was the fact that the most unprepared officer present was the Worshipful Master himself.
The Worshipful master should rule his lodge through example and govern it with authority. Unfortunately, he did not know many of his lines to open or close the lodge and when decisions had to be made he shrank down in his chair and avoided eye contact until somebody else stepped up to make the decisions for him.
At this point, I’d tell you to put yourself in my shoes and imagine the growing frustration in the room but we’ve all been there at some point.
How many meetings like this would you expect a new Mason to sit through before he decided his time would be spent more productively elsewhere?
A Simple Solution
Brothers, I don’t mention this example to cast shame on any lodges or fellow masons but I am using it to impart an important lesson:
Know your role.
If you know that it’s a strong possibility that you may have a position the next year then it’s your duty to yourself and your lodge to begin learning the role associated with that office. Learn it before you are voted or appointed into an office, not after the fact!
Senior deacon should know how to open and close as a Junior Warden before he is voted in. Likewise, the Junior Warden should begin learning the Senior Warden’s parts before elections roll around again. As a Senior Warden all of his focus should go towards learning how to conduct the rituals and ceremonies as Worshipful Master.
I’ll repeat this again: do these things and know your role before it is expected of you.
As a lodge, you also have the responsibility of requiring brothers that want to advance through the progressive line to demonstrate their proficiency in the work that will be expected of them in their new office.
If a brother isn’t knowledgable in the office that he wants then he doesn’t need to be put into that office. If he hasn’t learned the ritual yet then why would you expect him to do so now?
If you end up with some offices that don’t have anybody ready to replace them then that’s ok too as long as the brother that’s already in said office is willing to remain. I would suggest that there is even a benefit to keeping brothers in leadership positions for extended periods of time so long as they are willing.
In closing, I know this post may come across as negative to some but this isn’t the intent.
I strongly believe that we have to take ourselves seriously if we want to be taken seriously. The rituals and ceremonies of Freemasonry are the mediums through which the majority of the Masonic experience is delivered to its members. Let’s raise the bar on our expectations of the work and make the commitment to demand high-quality ritual from ourselves and our brothers.