March 13, 2018 at 9:29 PM #1502Daniel GiacomelliKeymaster
I hope you take a few moments to read this. This will not be a rehash of upcoming events as you all have your Notice either email or paper. This is simply an expression of an opinion. An opinion as this month marks my 33rd Anniversary of being “Brought to the Light of Freemasonry” by my Father as 3 generations of my family looked on with pride. A lot has transpired since that March evening in 1985 and I have certainly been witness to many highs and lows in my Fraternal experience. With your indulgence, Brethren, let me share some thoughts on where I believe we need to be headed as a Lodge and as a Fraternity..
We have struggled for a bit of time with trying to figure out how do we re-energize our Lodge, get members out to meetings, make us vibrant and relevant… I hear many say “How do we get back to being the Premier Lodge”. I guess I’m as guilty as any PM of uttering the phrase.. “back when I was…”. Shoot me if you ever hear me saying that again! The other phrase I hear and cringe every time I hear it is.. “we used to have…” Brethren, we used to be a lot of things and perhaps those things were good in that time and place. We HAVE now.. we just need to figure out the best way of utilizing what we’ve got.
Our Lodge today, more so than ever I feel, is multi- generational, diverse in background and intellectually very hungry. I’ve been doing some research on what makes a great Lodge and I stumbled across an essay written by a multi PM named Frederic Milliken who was once from a very traditional background in the GL of Massachusetts and ultimately transferred to a Prince Hall Lodge in far less grand surroundings which is where he finally found his answer to how to rejuvenate our Fraternity.
Through the years he established, in his view, the 5 Lodge Models for rejuvenation. The first 4 he found to be disasters.. albeit he created great things for his Lodge environment and programming, but made little to no impact on bringing any excitement back or rejuvenating Lodge attendance. You can certainly read his essay located at phoenixmasonry.org, but I can highlight the first 4 models as:
1. Amenities Oriented
2. Event Oriented
3. Ritual Oriented
4. Charity Oriented
The 5th model is one of Masonic knowledge and I’d like to quote the following from his essay as to me it makes sense..
“By the time I had switched to Prince Hall Freemasonry I had been through the first four Models with no success. I despaired for the future of Freemasonry. And what I initially saw at my Prince Hall Lodge did not lead me to think that I had found the answer.
We meet in a small rented one room building also used by a church. The Lodge has little Masonic furniture and what it does have is old and in need of repair. The air conditioning works when it feels like it. As I participated in the Prince Hall degrees I was surprised. The degrees are conducted in a much more informal manner than I was accustomed to. The Lodge did not conduct a weekly or monthly practice. It did not do anything special together as a Lodge in acting out its Masonry other than social functions.
Absolute heresy, I thought. This goes against everything I had been taught as a Mason. Ritual has to be memorized and delivered to perfection. Lodge buildings need to be stately affairs appropriately decorated and furnished. Masons needed to be knowledgeable! WAIT, wait just one cotton pickin’ minute! The Prince Hall Masons of my Lodge are at least twice as knowledgeable about Freemasonry as their counterparts in mainstream AF & AM Freemasonry. How could that be?
My eyes were really opened when I sat through the questioning of the Entered Apprenitices, Fellowcrafts and newly raised Master Masons in open Lodge. It’s all your fault Deputy Grand Master Michael Anderson! Yup, you are to blame. Your teaching standards and questioning of the candidates caused a light bulb to go off! I finally figured it out – what really makes a successful Lodge. It’s understanding the symbolism, the mysteries of Freemasonry and how that intertwines with the living of one’s life, with one’s religion, work, relationships with other people, with God – it’s tying it altogether. And I witnessed that and my own ignorance. After I couldn’t answer a number of questions myself I began to see things in a different light.
This style of operating caused me to pause and reflect. Our last set of interviews netted us many applicants to take the degrees. The Brothers seem tight like one big family. There are some really good social functions. It doesn’t matter that the building could be better. The Lodge is not a building. It doesn’t matter that the Lodge is not well endowed. Money doesn’t buy a successful Lodge nor create that special bonding. It doesn’t matter that the degrees are informal and detailed explanation is offered in a teacher’s own words. Form doesn’t matter, substance does. What matters is that the Lodge is practicing Freemasonry and understanding it and that this knowledge, this practice from a deep understanding of it all has so inspired and so affected all who work at really doing Freemasonry that it has set their souls on fire. These men armed with this knowledge are born again Masons and what they possess is not able to be provided, bought or commanded. The greatness of Freemasonry is not in its lavishness, not in its strict adherence to form, not in its pomp and circumstance, not in the perfect articulation of its ritual, not in its events or social functions or charitable works but in taking it all in, assimilating it, understanding it, making it a part of you and then realizing how awesome, how profound and how life changing this process can be.
This Model is the one that makes a successful Lodge. Let me expound on that some more.
The knowledge of who you are and exactly what that means and how it affects you is vital to the pride, enthusiasm and workings of an organization. When an individual is part of a group that feeds on the interaction of its philosophy it creates an aura of appeal and a group identity that cannot be artificially created. The camaraderie comes as a result of the knowledge – the light – and is not an equal partner in the process. The camaraderie does not create the thirst for knowledge; the thirst for knowledge creates the camaraderie. The perks and amenities flow from the light and the camaraderie, as a result of them not the other way around.
When the light of your raising makes you born again into a new life, and what Masonry has imparted is so awesome and earth shaking that it has transformed you into something so wonderful that you will never forget it – well then such a group, a Lodge will never die. It will always grow and be successful. But when a Lodge downplays the importance of the Light and the education to sustain it and turns the Lodge into a social Lodge or a Service Club, then the Lodge no longer has the real transforming power to sustain success.”
Thank you for indulging me to express an opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we toss out hundreds of years of tradition and force ourselves to meet in non-climate controlled one rooms and not promote ritual. I do believe we need to become more enlightened with our teachings and not just be a social club that brags about our charitable contributions. There is much deeper knowledge to be had and I for one, with my 33 years of tenure, do NOT have it, but I intend to change that.
Hope to see you all on Wednesday when we have the first of what will be many good educational programs. I asked Br. Fletcher how many are signed up for dinner and he told me “16”. Brethren- we can do better than that! Nuff said!
James T. Clancy, P.M., Secretary
St. Alban Lodge No. 529
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