I began my Masonic journey 20 years ago. It is hard to believe that so much time has past. I find myself reflecting back on it quite a bit of late. I am discovering that the Mason I am now is not the Mason I was then. In fact, I have commented on more than one occasion that if my 21 year old self could talk to my 41 year old self, it would probably beat the hell out of me.
Part of that shift, I think has been in my perception of what the Craft is and isn't - or what it is and what it is supposed to be. I am constantly struggling with the Masonry in which I was raised versus the Masonry which I have studied.
This is my sixth term as Master. As I prepared for my two-year term, I began as I did the last time I served in the East - started thinking about who would sit in a chair, what activities we were going to engage in, dinners before meetings, ad nauseum. Then one afternoon while working on my trestle board, it hit me. During the opening of Lodge in my jurisdiction we are reminded of the duty of the Master - "to set the Craft at work and giving them proper instruction for their labor." It was quite an epiphany. I had spent so much time worrying about dinners and movie nights that I completely forgot about one of the fundamental and paramount duties listed in my job description - to ensure the proper education of the Lodge under my care. So I began in earnest to begin to educate myself so that I may in turn begin to pass that information on to my Brothers. In doing so, I fell upon the website for the Masonic Restoration Foundation. For me it was another door opening.
You see, for many years the mantra in my Lodge was the bewailing of a lack of membership. "We need more members," the Past Masters would cry. Then, the predictable round of harrumph of everyone agreeing - which would then turn into a long list of "I can remember when..." Then we would adjourn for coffee and go home. Lather, rinse, repeat.
What the MRF did for me was to begin to see a big more of a bigger picture. I was feeling like the little Dutch boy trying to plug all the holes in the dike. We have a membership shortage, we have a money shortage, we have a morale problem, etc. For me, the issue was finding something fundamental - a starting point which would serve as a foundation for the rest. The MRF pointed out that it should begin with education. Denis Chornenky of the MRF stated the following:
"Much of our dilemma rises from the fact that too many men that join are not properly educated about the fraternity. Rather than coming to an understanding of the Craft based on diligent study and thinking, new candidates tend to form their opinions based on the behavior of fellow Masons, who are themselves too often poorly educated about the fraternity's history and philosophy. A disproportionately small number of serious and scholarly men within the organization have led to a general decline over the last several decades."
It stands to reason that if we are not educated about the philosophy and principles of our Craft, then we cannot express it, much less teach it to those who follow. Taking that a step further, if we cannot express it, nor teach it, then the organization's purpose becomes obscured and eventually the organization will change to become something different. For me - that was the light going on. If we can increase our understanding of what the Craft is, we can not only embody it, but pass it forward. This brings Light into the Lodge, jump starting our personal pride and sense of purpose. It creates a reason for Brothers to some to Lodge and for men to want to seek out our company and to join us.
I am not really sure what will come of this blog. What I do know is that the last year and a half has seen some real positive growth in our Lodge. We are educating, we are initiating and we are improving. What I hope to do is share some of what we are learning and hopefully being a part of a resurgence of the Craft as a whole, and perhaps to continue learning as part of the process.
3 months ago