The greatest honor comes to any brother with his elevation to the Oriental Chair of a Masonic Lodge. Few Wardens but look forward with mingled pleasure and anxiety to that day when in their hands will be placed the gavel of authority. He who early prepares to be a Master in more than name only arrives in the seat of authority with some confidence.
The wise Warden does not wait until elected Master to become familiar with the official books of his jurisdiction; the Proceedings of his Grand Lodge; the book of Masonic law—it has many names, such as Code, Methodical Digest, Ahiman Rezon, Constitution and By-laws, etc.; the Manual in which is printed all that may lawfully be put in type of the ritual and Ceremonies of the degrees, and most especially the by-laws of his own Lodge.
A Master is not only leader of his Lodge, but a member of Grand Lodge, in which august body he represents his Lodge. Familiarity with the Grand Lodge procedure, questions pending, legislation enacted, etc., gives him a perspective and enables him to act with intelligence and understanding. In the Proceedings of most (not all) Grand Lodges is the report of the Committee on Foreign Correspondence, under which apparently misleading title an official reviewer summarizes the activities of other Grand Lodges. The Master who realizes that he is not only an important cog in his own Masonic machine, but an integral part of a world-wide Freemasonry, early grasps the real importance and responsibilities of his position. Study of the Proceedings gives a perspective on the activities of Grand Lodge, with special reference to its charity, whether exercised in Masonic Home, Orphanage, Hospital, Foundation, outside relief or other form.
BOOK OF MASONIC LAW
To be Master of a Lodge is quite different from being president of a club or society. The Master is called upon to decide questions of law and practice which he cannot leave to his brethren; the honor of leadership carries also the responsibility. That his decisions be wise and just, and of such a character as will draw commendation, not condemnation, from Grand Master or District Deputy, he must know the laws of his Jurisdiction, his own powers and limitations. He can obtain this knowledge only from a faithful study of the book of Masonic law.
In some Jurisdictions only the Master may confer the Master Mason's Degree; in many he may empower either his officers, a Past Master, or a well-qualified brother to fill the East during the ceremonies of the three degrees. Never will the Master get the best cooperation in putting on a degree if he himself cannot "do the work." The Master who knows his ritual can lead; he who will not-- or cannot--"learn the work" is in a poor position to criticize faulty performances by others. Hence, an early study is important.
The degrees of Freemasonry are among the beautiful ceremonies of the world. They should be inspiring, uplifting, heartening, lovely to hear. If they fall short of perfection the Master is responsible--aye, even if he has only inefficient helpers, his is the responsibility.
Both Lodge and Master owe service to those elected to receive the degrees. The elected candidate has signed his petition, answered the questions, paid his fees, stood his investigation, come when called, submitted to proper preparation. Now his brethren-to-be are so to induct him into the mysteries that he may desire with all his heart to become "a good and faithful brother among us." He is entitled to a degree which will impress him; he has a right to hear the grand old words so spoken that they will make a deep and lasting impression on his mind. What he sees and hears should convince him of the age, the dignity, the importance, the solemnity of the Ancient Craft.
All this is a Master's work. The wise Warden lets no time go by before preparing himself for those busy days ahead, and regards dignified degrees, well put on, as important both to Lodge and candidates.
Few assets are more valuable to a Master than friends.
In Freemasonry, as in the profane world, the art of making friends is encompassed in one phrase: "to have friends we must be friendly." Millions of men are so at heart; cold of exterior from no better cause than shyness. Many a man wants to extend his hand, wishes to say a cheery word of greeting, desires with all his heart to be "one of the fellows" . . . and does not know how.
Yet it is so simple! For the root of personal shyness is fear of laughter--and laughter, like thunder, has yet to hurt anything living! The shy brother need only assure himself: "I will not be afraid of something which cannot hurt me--I will not think my brethren are more critical of me than I am of them--I will not waste time and strength wanting and not doing, when to say a cheery word and put out my hand needs but a muscular effort!" Friendliness begets friendliness. The brother who is cordial will find hands springing out to meet his; will see smiles begetting smiles: will learn that genuine interest in a brother produces real interest in him.
The Warden who leaves the West for the East interested enough to know all regular attendants by name will enter his year of responsibility with an asset than which there is no greater for the leader of a Lodge.
POWERS OF A MASTER
The Master of a Masonic Lodge has more power than the presiding officer of any secular body. The "rules of order" under which business is conducted in other assemblies apply only partially in a Lodge. The by-laws of a profane organization may enclose a president or chairman as with stone walls, fetter him as with chains; in a Masonic Lodge no by-law which restricts the inherent powers of a Master can be passed, or, if passed, will be sustained by Grand Master or Grand Lodge.
A railroad engine is a potent tool for wise use, but who would ride in a train pulled by a locomotive at the throttle of which was a ten-year-old child. A book of matches may kindle the fire which cooks our food or destroys a forest. A thirty-eight caliber revolver may defend one's country or commit a murder. Power is constructive only when used with knowledge. The Master who does not know his powers cannot use them intelligently. The Master who knows what he may and may not lawfully do will lead with wisdom, discretion and success.
Laws differ in the States of Australia, but certain powers of a Master are universally acknowledged. The Master is responsible only to the Grand Master, the Grand Lodge (or the Deputy of the Grand Master) for his acts; consequently, he must have full authority and, within limits, be the ruler of his Lodge. But while Grand Masters uphold Masters in all lawful exercise of authority, they are quick to frown upon arbitrary rulings.
With one or two exceptions, only the Master may call special communications of his Lodge. In one or two Jurisdictions the Lodge has power to summons the whole membership, but these but prove the rule.
No one but the Master may preside over his Lodge, in his presence (except the Grand Master or his Deputy) unless by his order.
Masters have full control of debate. A Master may propose a motion, second it, put it, close discussion, refuse to put a motion, at his pleasure . . . but let him think carefully before refusing to put any motion.
If the proposer of the motion which the Master refuses to put lays the matter before the Grand Master, the Master must have a good reason or may be convicted of arbitrary use of his power and disciplined.
During the war an enthusiastic Lodge member moved that the Lodge sell all its assets and invest in war Bonds. The Master refused to put the motion. The brother was incensed and complained to the Grand Master. The Master's reason, that such a drastic performance should have the advice of the Finance Committee before Lodge action, the Grand Master thought excellent. In another Lodge a motion to spend a certain sum for charitable relief was made. The Master refused to put the motion. On complaint being made, he stated that he needed the money for entertainment! The Grand Master reprimanded him severely for arbitrary refusal to permit the Lodge to spend its own money on its own Masonic business. Good reasons for refusing to put a motion may be: that there is not time enough to discuss it, when a degree is scheduled with candidate duly notified and in waiting; that the motion will disturb the peace and harmony of the Lodge; that the matter requires the study of a committee before being brought before the Lodge, etc.
No appeal lies from a Master's decision, either to the Lodge, to a committee, or to any Past Master. Some Masters are weak, and afraid they cannot sustain an unpopular ruling. These have been known to allow some brother to "appeal to the Lodge" and have then abided by what the Lodge decided.
This is subversive of the dignity of the Master's station. It is not John Smith in the Chair who is thus over-ruled--it is the Master. He is a good Master who insists on all respect being paid the dignity of the office. The brother with the gavel is not only John Smith, but Worshipful (1) Master. To permit interference with the ancient usages and customs which surround the Master's Chair decreases reverence for tradition.
No motion to "lay on the table," "to postpone, to adjourn," "to close"; for "unanimous consent for a brother to speak," (1) "Worchyp," old English for "greatly respect." for "the previous question" should ever be entertained, much less put. It is only for the Master to say whether this subject is to be discussed now or later. The Lodge is opened and closed at his pleasure (except that he must not do business at a Stated Communication at an hour earlier than that stated in the by-laws; some by-laws in some Jurisdictions provide a stated time f or a Stated Communication to be opened; in such the Master should not open before that specified time).
It is for the Master to say who may and who may not speak. He can be responsible for the "peace and harmony" of his Lodge only by controlling its deliberations. But he is also responsible for the Masonic fairness, charity, courtesy and reasonableness of his actions; while his brethren may not appeal to the Lodge for redress for any wrong, real or fancied, they may appeal to Grand Lodge, Grand Master or District Deputy Grand Master. Where an appeal is to be made depends on the law in the particular Grand Jurisdiction; consult the book of Masonic law to ascertain.
The appeal, if sustained, may have serious consequences.
The Master has the sole right of appointing committees.
The Lodge may refer a matter to a committee, but may not name its personnel. Were it otherwise the Lodge might control the Master, not the Master the Lodge. Too much care can hardly be exercised in appointing the personnel of committees and the minor officers. The sapling of today is the tree of tomorrow; the Master whose appointments are made with care, forethought and particular reference to the fitness, by training and education, of certain brethren for certain positions, will see his appointees grow to greater and straighter stature in the years to come.
The Master fills all vacant offices by appointment; if the Senior Warden is absent, the Junior Warden does not, of inherent right, assume the West. The Master sends him there, or puts another brother or Past Master there, at his pleasure. But if the Master is absent, the Senior Warden does, by inherent power, occupy the East for that period; the Junior Warden, in the absence of both Master and Senior Warden.
The Master may not alter the minutes nor may he spend Lodge money without consent of the Lodge. (Note: many Lodges provide a limit in emergency relief to which the Master may go without authority of the Lodge.) The Master may refuse to permit minutes which he believes contain improper-to-be written material to be confirmed; if any brother insists, it is for Grand Master or District Deputy to decide. The Master may decline to put the motion to confirm minutes which he deems incomplete, but he cannot change the account of facts so that they state that which is not so.
The Master controls who may enter and who may leave the Lodge. There is a vast difference here between power and right. The Master has the power to refuse to open the door to any one--member or visitor (except the Grand Master or his Deputy). But he must have excellent reasons or subject himself to discipline. How far the "right of visitation" extends is still a moot point.
Here the local law upon the subject will probably be explicit. In some Jurisdictions the visitor must be admitted (supposing him to be vouched for or passing a proper examination) unless some member objects; in others the matter is left wholly to the Master. The Master would run a risk of complaint should he admit a visitor with whom some member objected to sit.
The Master who is conciliatory, smiling, friendly and peaceable; who refuses to take offense; who does not exercise his great power unless he must; who rules justly, governing with brotherly love, and who believes that the dignity of his office is best upheld by that "harmony" which is the "strength and support of all well-regulated institutions" is wise and successful.
DUTIES OF A MASTER
Numerous and diversified, a catalog might easily be a fear-inspiring document! But with determination to do, and interest in accomplishment, difficulties smooth themselves away and the multiplicity of duties becomes a pleasant experience.
The duties of a Master may be summarized as: duty to the Lodge, duty to the members (including ill, absent and charity cases) and duty to the dead.
The Master's first duty to his Lodge is to lead it to success and prosperity. This requires a combination of diplomat, financier, adviser, councilor, friend, critic--and executive! Some Masters consider scheduling the work, getting out a monthly notice, and conducting the meetings, as "success." But these are but the skeleton; to clothe such a program with flesh the Master must provide entertainment, instruction, inspiration; his monthly notice should be of sufficient interest to attract attention and draw attendance. Successful presiding requires far more than merely answering salutes and putting motions (see Chapter 5).
Variously called "Lodge Notice," "Lodge Bulletin," "Monthly Trestleboard," etc., the Craft too often suffers under a plague of dull reading sent out monthly by Masters who then wonder why attendance is small.
Certain routine matters must, of course, be in all Lodge notices, but to fill up the balance with alleged humor, pointless personal news and trite platitudes is to consign the Lodge notice to the waste basket in advance. Make them interesting, make them snappy, make them say something, and they will be read.
Careful consideration of, and attention to, Lodge finance is a duty too important to discuss with general statements; some thoughts on financial ways and means are developed in Chapter 9.
Masonic entertainment, as opposed to singing, music, vaudeville, motion pictures, lectures on non-Masonic topics, pack the Lodge room whenever fairly tried. The Master must select the entertainment which pleases his Lodge and plan accordingly, or appoint a capable chairman of an entertainment committee to do it for him. Interesting Lodge meetings do not "just happen." Success follows the age-old instruction to Masters-- "first program your work; then work your program." Plans for six months ahead (with sufficient elasticity to permit changes for unexpectedly and happily necessary degree work) are wise. To know that on the first meeting in the year a contest is to be held; on the third, a debate; on the fifth, a Masonic spelling match, will cause many a member to plan to attend who otherwise would remain comfortably at home with the evening paper.
It should be emphasized that the duty of a Master is first to the members of his Lodge; the possibility of much "work" on many candidates should be a secondary consideration.
Few Lodges successfully can compete with picture shows, vaudeville theaters, concert halls or restaurants. A member can see a better program or buy a better meal than his Lodge usually provides. The Master who depends only on amateur, or second rate professional, talent for "entertainment" need not wonder why he has empty benches.
One thing and only one thing a Masonic Lodge can give its members which they can get nowhere else in the world.
That one thing is Masonry.
Give the brethren plenty of Masonry and they won't want expensive and hard-to-get secular entertainment.
No, Worshipful Sir, the author does not-- Oh, most emphatically he does not! --mean dry-as-dust addresses.
Some speakers can fill a hall to suffocation, electrify an audience, make the brethren gasp with the beauty, humor, interest of their talks on Masonry. But how many such has the average Master on his staff? Too many "Masonic speeches" are mere words; few men want to be preached at in Lodge. If a speaker has history, law, symbolism, romance, humor, oddities of Masonry at command-- yes. If all he has is an exhortation to practice brotherly love, better not use him.
But there is a way to sugar-coat Masonic instruction; to combine Masonry and human interest (see Chapter 7).
The Master who provides such "good and wholesome instruction" need never complain of non-attendance.
A Master's paramount duty is to preserve peace and harmony, a matter on which no specific instructions can be given. The majority of Lodges are harmonious, without cliques or factions. Some are sharply divided; in these, criticism is often more fault-finding than constructive. Plain sailing usually follows a sincere effort to steer a middle course. The occupant of the East is Master of the whole Lodge, not just of the group with which his sympathies happen to lie.
Ingrained in Australians is a love of justice and fair play. The Master whose rule is just and fair, whether it favors his own convictions or the opponents of his ideas, will gain respect and support even from those who do not agree with him.
No Master can afford a temper, and should not expect courtesy or consideration from his brethren if he does not show both from the East. Luckily, few men attain the East without long experience which generates appreciation of the honor, and creates a desire to rule justly, fairly, impartially, courteously. The Master's great power increases with lack of asserting. The mailed fist is no less potent that it wears a velvet glove.
Alas, at times the velvet glove must come off. For the sake of the Lodge, a Master should not permit his acts to be questioned, his rulings flouted, his authority set at naught. When necessary, authority should be used fearlessly and firmly. The Grand Lodge is behind and will support such a Master. As a matter of course, a Master will avoid conflicts if it can be done with dignity; if radicals in Lodge must be controlled, Masonic control will be gentlemanly but iron like in firmness.
A Master's duties to his members--including candidates- -are, specifically: to open on time, to plan interesting meetings, to provide dignified degree work, to preserve order and harmony, to promote brotherly love.
Brethren who know the gavel will fall at the specified hour soon get the habit of arriving on time. Those who are morally certain the Master will be late in opening are themselves late. An interested Master will arrive early enough to encourage the Tiler, perhaps to help him arrange the room; to greet by name and handshake every brother.
Similarly, a Lodge meeting should close early, except when a "large evening" of unusual entertainment value is planned. An early closing means much to many brethren who wish to go home to read or retire; those who wish to stay can have an hour of fellow ship after the final gavel falls as well as before. Of such small details is success composed!
Masters of Lodges which pride themselves on beautiful degree work have an easy time. Many Lodges struggle with but indifferent success to attain that beauty, serenity, perfect coordination which makes a degree ideal.
But no Lodge need be without dignity in its work. Many brethren possess no sense of drama; some workers can but speak their parts like parrots. The Master who can inspire his workers with an ideal, so that they are willing to rehearse; who is willing to step out of the picture whenever he can to let some able Past Master shine in the work he can do best; who is wise enough to intrigue into minor parts some brethren from the benches; he can stage a degree which, whatever it may lack in beauty, will at least be dignified and smooth running. This he owes not only to his members, but to his candidates. Whether he is taking part, or watching his fellow officers do the work, no Master worthy the name will permit levity or talking while a degree is being put on.
No ceremony of any kind can be well done without rehearsals. The wise Master calls rehearsals for degrees and makes them so interesting his officers like them. But the responsibility is the Master's; it is not advisable to ask officers if they "want to" rehearse or "will rehearse" but to say "There will be a rehearsal" and expect officers to come. Most officers will be as proud of the results as most Masters.
How does a Master promote brotherly love? A question impossible to answer except in general terms. But much may be done by a "glad hand" committee of members or Past Masters. The enthusiastic Master who wants happy meetings, and call inspire a committee with the same feeling, will soon see a difference in the smiles of the brethren. We are simple-minded animals, we humans; it does not take much to please us! We respond easily to suggestion, and Masons especially are usually easy to please. Give us a cordial word of greeting; see that we know by name the brother sitting next us; ask us to sit with a visitor to play host to him; suggest that we say a word to old Dr. Brown, who is so deaf he can't even hear himself talk, but who has been in that same seat since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary, and we respond as men always do respond to leadership.
One of the delightful surprises--and they are many-- which the East provides, is the quick response of brethren to any attempt to make them feel at home, or secure their help to make others enjoy their evening.
Brotherly love is not a tangible commodity. We cannot touch it or weigh it, smell it or taste it. Yet it is a reality; it can be created, it can be fostered, it can be made a dynamic power. The Master who has it for his Lodge and his brethren will find that Lodge and brethren give it back to him. The Master too worried over the cares of his office to express friendliness need never wonder why his Lodge seems so cold to his efforts.
As has before been written, to have friends we must be friendly.
Problems presented by the ill, the absentees, the charity cases, are so different in city and small town Lodges that only the fundamentals, the same for all Lodges, may here be considered.
Freemasonry has a standing in the community, and the general public respects it. Respect and standing are predicated largely on the few points of contact which the profane world has with Freemasonry. One of these is the attention given to the ill.
What is too often properly called the "Sick Committee" --which should be a healthy Committee for the Sick--is frequently the reliance of a Master who thinks thus to eliminate from his busy days a duty not always pleasant. As such committees do not always function, the Master is well advised who insists on weekly reports.
At the end of the year he will be better satisfied if he has personally called on every brother reported ill.
This is not always possible in a big city and a Lodge with a membership in four figures; it is possible in most Lodges. Only the Master who has devoted his spare Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and many evenings to calling on the ill knows how it redounds to the credit of his Lodge. The sometimes pitiful surprise, the invariable pleasure, and the often lasting joy given by an unexpected fraternal visit are Master's Wages, pressed down and running over. The Master who has the fraternal care of his ill heavily upon his mind and often practiced will join the ranks of Past Masters well beloved.
One tried and proved plan is to call for volunteers for the Committee for the Sick, with the assurance that no member need make more than one visit per month. If the Master has twelve committee members, and four brethren ill, to each committee member he assigns a sick brother, with instructions to call at two day intervals. If he also calls, the ill brother receives four visits in eight days. Such diversifying imposes a burden on no one, yet assures the Lodge that the ill are properly comforted.
A certain Master appointed six young and enthusiastic members as a Committee on Attendance. The Master divided the Lodge roster into six parts (this Lodge has a membership of three hundred, two hundred and forty-nine of whom are resident), crossing off the regular attendants. He instructed his committee to call up, go to see, or write a letter to, every man on his list, advising of the next Lodge function, and asking assistance.
He had difficulty in seating the crowd which responded.
The Master of a large Lodge, with many brethren out of town, made it his business to write four letters during the year to every absent brother. These letters were individually typed, and all personally signed (this Master was a work horse!). The response to the first letter was interesting, to the second encouraging, to the third enthusiastic and to the fourth amazing. Many brethren said they had never heard from a Master before. Half a dozen had been considering demitting to join Lodges in their then locations, but changed their minds because of the touch with the Mother Lodge. Absent members wrote letters of greeting, of homesickness, of appreciation; one brother sent a beautiful gavel as a token of thanks for the brotherly attention. All, apparently, were highly gratified that the Master had remembered them. The Master quoted briefly from many letters in his Lodge Bulletins, that all might recall the absent. One unexpected result of this publication was the bringing together in large cities of several brethren of this Lodge, who did not know any fellow Lodge members were in the same municipality.
Every Lodge is--and should be--a law unto itself in its methods of charity and relief. Some have special charity funds; others have a Committee on Relief; others leave such cases in the hands of the Master; still others want to act in stated meetings on every case. The essential thing from the Masonic standpoint is speed. No charity call should be put off; if a Lodge has "called off" for the hot months (common practice in many Jurisdictions) it is obvious that a widow who has lost her job and needs food cannot wait for the Lodge to decide whether to spend five or ten dollars for flour and eggs! The Master may decide or call a special communication to consider the case. Whatever he does should be done as soon as possible.
Freemasonry is NOT a relief society, and no brother, or his dependents, is promised charity by the lodge. But Masons are charitable, and he belongs to a poor Lodge indeed who goes hungry or shelter less while his Lodge is in funds. Here, as in the profane world, "he gives twice who gives quickly." It is not here presumed to give advice to Lodges; the statement which follows is merely the result of nation-wide experience. Lodges which loan money to their members usually get in difficulties. Relief as an outright appropriation rather than a loan is in the end far more satisfactory to a Lodge. A generously inclined Lodge, which might be willing to "loan" a brother a hundred dollars, may hesitate to "give" more than twenty-five. Many Grand Lodges frown decidedly on a Lodge acting as a private bank.
Whatever the attitude of Grand Lodge, the Master's position will be sound if he personally investigates relief calls, and then so guides Lodge action that the Lodge does not suffer, while the brother receives the aid he needs.
In almost every Lodge is to be found the overly sympathetic brother who sees only the immediate present. With mistaken but sincere zeal he wants to spend all Lodge funds on relief. He thinks it "wasteful" to spend Lodge money on a "big feed" or "an entertainment" when "hungry mouths need food and the widowed and the fatherless have no homes. "Such pathetic appeals not infrequently move other brethren to action which saner counsels would prevent.
A Lodge is not held together with steel bands, but by the silken ties of brotherhood, woven of interest, friendliness, good times, wholesome fraternal intercourse. A Lodge which spends all its money on charity and none on fraternal meetings will soon have no money to spend on anything. During the war battleships needed oil. Had the railroads given all their oil to the navy, the trains which had to carry the oil to sea ports could not have moved. The same principle applies here; relief must be proportioned to treasury, and a fair allocation made to all legitimate Lodge expenses.
Two important public contacts with the Fraternity are at cornerstone laying’s and funerals. Many a brother has never seen a cornerstone laying, but to all Lodges and to all brethren comes at times the sad duty of laying away the mortal remains of a brother of the Mystic Tie, under the Sprig of Acacia of immortal hope.
It is important to the family that the Master conduct an inspiring service; because of the many who thus see Freemasonry on public view, it is of interest to Lodge and Master that the ceremonies be dignified.
As words read from a book are never so impressive as those spoken from the heart, the Master who takes the small trouble to learn the funeral services "by heart" just as he learns the work of a degree, embraces an opportunity to help the families of his departed brethren, and impress the general public with the solemnity of Masonic ideals.
If the ceremony has not been committed to memory it will be easier performed if it is read and reread, so that in public there is no hesitation over a difficult word, no misplaced emphasis, no halting delivery.
In Lodges so fortunate as to have little or no calls for funerals, it is wise to rehearse the funeral exercises at least once, preferably early in the year; the call may come at any time. The dignity and beauty of Masonry, in one of its few points of public contact, is the better exemplified after such preparation.
It is one of the privileges of a Master Mason to be laid to rest by his brethren. To perform this last duty well is to be brotherly; to offer what small comfort may come from a noble service, nobly rendered, is to succeed in making brotherhood manifest.
Important duties of a Master, in addition to these specified, include: To obey, enforce, defend, the Ancient Landmarks, the laws, rules, edicts of Grand Lodge and Grand Master, and the by-laws of his Lodge.
To enforce and defend the prerogatives that belong to his office; never to permit any brother to encroach upon these, no matter what feeling of personal modesty may dictate to the contrary. The Master has a duty to those who follow him to hand down the office with its dignity and its rights, its privileges and its responsibilities, unchanged.
To preserve order in his Lodge at all times; it is disagreeable to call a brother to order, but it is unthinkable that any brother be allowed to interfere with the solemnities of a degree.
To see that his officers learn, and perform, their work in a proper manner. The Master is responsible; it is the Master's part to demand and receive enthusiastic cooperation from his officers.
To train all his officers, and familiarize even the minor ones with Lodge affairs. A weekly meeting of all officers, at lunch or some officer's home in the evening, is a splendid way of getting opportunities to " talk things over." Where this is not practical, a half hour officers' meeting before or after a Lodge meeting is a means of providing unity of effort and ideals in conduct of Lodge affairs.
To preserve the secrecy of the ballot. This, not only that the statutory mandates be observed, but to lose no chance of impressing members with the importance of this bulwark of the Fraternity. In some Jurisdictions Lodges have a by-law regarding the secrecy of the ballot, which itself makes its reading mandatory after any unfavorable ballot. For the benefit of those in whose Lodges is no such by-law, one is quoted herewith: "No one shall inspect the ballot of any petitioner for the degrees or for membership except the Master and Wardens. No member shall make known to another the manner in which he intends to cast or has cast his ballot. No member shall question another respecting the manner in which he intends to vote or has voted, and in case a petitioner is rejected, no member or visiting brother shall inquire into or by any means whatever attempt to discover who opposed his election, under penalty, if a member, of such punishment as the Lodge shall determine; if a visitor, of his never more being admitted to the Lodge. That none present may remain ignorant of this by-law, the Master shall cause it to be read immediately after the rejection of a petitioner."
MASONIC LAW FOR A MASTER
It is the business of every Master to see that his Lodge abides by the laws, resolutions and edicts of his Grand Lodge, its own bylaws, and maintains and supports the Landmarks and "ancient usages and customs of the Fraternity."
The laws of Masonry, like the laws of nations, are both unwritten--the "common law"--and written. The written laws, based on the "General Regulations" and the "Old Charges," are the Constitution and by-laws of Grand Lodge, its resolutions and edicts, and Lodge by-laws.
The Ancient Landmarks are written in some Jurisdictions; in others they are a part of the unwritten law.
In a foreign Jurisdiction a Mason is amenable to its laws as well as to those of his own, just as an Australian residing abroad is amenable to the laws of the nation in which he lives, while also expected to obey the laws of his own nation; for instance, an Australian residing abroad is not exempt from the Australian income tax laws. Neither is a Mason from New South Wales exempt from the laws of the Grand Lodge of that state, merely because he happens to sojourn in Victoria.
The "General Regulations" set forth in "Anderson's Constitutions of 1723" were adopted shortly after the formation in 1717 of the Mother Grand Lodge in England.
The work was first published under date of 1723
Unquestionably it embodied the laws of Masonry as they were known to the members of the four old Lodges which formed the first Grand Lodge, and hence have the respectability of an antiquity much greater than their printed life of two hundred and seventy years.
In general, the "Old Charges" are concerned with the individual brother and his relations to his Lodge and his brethren; the "General Regulations," with the conduct of the Craft as a whole. The "General Regulations" permit their own alteration by Grand Lodge--the "Old Charges" do not.
Law in Masonry is so much more a matter of the heart than of the head, so much more concerned with setting forth conduct than in assessing penalties, that, thoroughly to comprehend it, a Master must be willing to revise his ideas of law as created by the enactment’s of legislatures.
Many civil laws are provided with measures of enforcement and penalties for infringement. Masonic law knows but four penalties: reprimand, definite suspension, indefinite suspension, and expulsion. These Masonic penalties for serious infractions of Masonic law may be ordered after a Masonic trial and a verdict of guilty, but mercy is much more a part of Masonic than of civil law. Infractions of Masonic law resulting in trial and punishment are rare, compared to the number of Masons, the vast majority of whom are so willing to obey the laws that "enforcement" is seldom required.
There is no universality in Masonic law in all Jurisdictions. Different latitudes, different characters of people, different ideas, have all left their marks upon all our Grand Lodges and their enactments. In the majority of essentials, they are one; in some particulars, they hold divergent views. A large majority of Grand Lodges in the Australia adhere to the spirit of the "Old Charges," and--so far as modern conditions permit--to the sense of the "General Regulations." It is, therefore, of real importance that a Master desiring to understand the laws by which his Lodge is governed, and the legal standards by which Grand Lodge measures its "laws, regulations and edicts," should read both the "Old Charges" and the "General Regulations of 1723." When he reaches the last (thirty-ninth) of the "General Regulations," he will read: "Every Annual Grand Lodge has an inherent Power and Authority to make new Regulations, or to alter these, for the real benefit of this Ancient Fraternity; provided always that the old Landmarks be carefully preserved," etc.
The "old landmarks" or the "Ancient Landmarks" as customarily called, are those foundations of the law of Masonry which are not subject to change. Had the Grand Lodge which first adopted these "General Regulations" formulated the "Ancient Landmarks" it would have saved much confusion in subsequent Grand Lodges. Apparently, however, the unwritten law of Masonry--the common law-- was so well understood and practiced that it was then not thought necessary to codify it.
A great body of unwritten law which Masons customarily observe--"Ancient usages and customs "--are not specified in print. But the Landmarks have been reduced to print and made a part of the written law in many Jurisdictions. Mackey's list of twenty-five Landmarks has been adopted as official in many American Masonic Jurisdictions; others have condensed his list into a lesser number, still keeping all his points; a few Jurisdictions have a greater number of landmarks, including some not specified in Mackey's list. Those Jurisdictions which do not include a printed list of the Ancient Landmarks in their written law, usually follow and practice them as a part of their unwritten law. In a few instances, some of the Landmarks as listed by Mackey are not recognized as such; for instance, Mackey's Eighth Landmark, the inherent right of a Grand Master to "make Masons at sight" was specifically abrogated by an early Grand Lodge in California. In general, however, whether written or unwritten, Grand Lodges adhere to the spirit of all of Mackey's list.
The Landmarks may be regarded as bearing the same relation to Masonic law in general, including the "Old Charges" and the "General Regulations," as the provisions of Magna Charta bear to modern constitutional law. Just as Magna Charta specified some of the inherent rights of men which all laws of all governments should respect, so the Landmarks crystallize the inherent characteristics of Masonry-- those fundamentals which make Freemasonry, and without which it would be something else.
With these as a foundation, the "Old Charges" for precedent, the first "General Regulations" for organic law, Grand Lodges write their Constitutions and by-laws and particular Lodges write their by-laws, which are usually subject to approval by Grand Lodge, a Grand Lodge Committee, or the Grand Master. Grand Masters. ad interim, formulate edicts and make decisions; often these are later incorporated by Grand Lodge into the written law of the Jurisdiction. All of these together, except where they conflict (as some of the early "General Regulations" necessarily conflict with later enactments made to supersede them) form the legal structure of Freemasonry, to understand which is a duty all Masters should be eager to perform.
Undeniably it is much looser than the similar body of law for the government of a nation. If a Master interpreted Masonic law wholly by the letter--as is necessarily the case in civil law--the government of his Lodge might often be as loose as Freemasonry's statutes. But as a matter of fact, the Craft is well governed. Its "ancient usages and customs" so soon win their way into the hearts of new brethren that there is a great resistance to any attempt to change the old order, unless necessity shows that it is inescapable.
Masons much prefer to whisper good counsel to an erring brother, then to subject him to Masonic trial.
The Fraternity in this nation deals yearly with very large sums of money. The Craft erects and maintains numbers of expensive Temples, and Homes for the helpless Mason and his dependents. The Institution disburses a large amount of charity. The majority of its executives serve long and arduous apprenticeship.
These very practical matters are all conducted in accord with a more or less loosely woven body of law-- and yet the Fraternity as a whole can take great pride in the undoubted fact that it is orderly, well governed, almost completely law abiding, and very reluctant to make any newer laws for itself than are absolutely necessary.
He is a capable Master who recalls the answer to the classic question: "Where were you first prepared to be made a Mason?" and delves enthusiastically into the sources of Masonic law of his Jurisdiction, that he may rule wisely, decide justly and lead his Lodge with real authority.
MASTERS SHOULD KNOW
Specifically, the Master must familiarize himself with Grand Lodge Law upon applications, amendments, ballots and balloting, burial, candidates (residence, qualifications, physical perfection, etc.), charges, correspondence with other Lodges, degrees, demits.
dispensations (especially as to when they are necessary), dual membership (if authorized by Grand Lodge or not authorized by that body), dues, education, elections, examinations, finances, installation, jurisdiction, membership, minutes, motions (when not in order), objections to candidates, offenses. petitions, processions, proxies, rejection, returns of Lodges, special communications, summons, Sunday observances, trials, visits and visitors, votes and voting (when paper ballot required; when majority; when two thirds and when unanimous needed, etc.), waiver of jurisdiction.
Learning all this is not easy, but being a good Master is not supposed to be easy. To have been elected Master presupposes a willingness to labor, and here is labor and plenty of it.
Some Masters never look at the law, to their shame be it said! Grand Master after Grand Master reports decisions in his annual message, plaintively adding: "If Masters would only look up the law in the books provided, ninety percent of the questions need not have been asked." Not to know the law may plunge the Lodge into real difficulties; knowing the law is like knowing the currents and the channels; the mariner who knows does not run his ship on the rocks.
While study of the book of Masonic law of his Jurisdiction will satisfy almost all need for knowledge, the Master who will read a good volume on Masonic law and practice will have a much clearer vision of his problems (see book list at end of this volume).
THE ART OF PRESIDING
"Preside--to sit in authority over others." (Standard Dictionary.) The first principle of successful presiding is to use authority without any one being conscious of it! The presiding officer elected by a secular organization is amenable to its dictates, and may be removed by the electorate; an appeal may be taken from his decision to the body over which he presides; generally, he is supposed to conduct its meetings according to the rules of order (usually Robert's).
None of this is true for the Master of a Lodge. While elected, he is not controlled by the dictates of his Lodge; he can only be removed by Grand Master or Deputy under authority of the Grand Master; no appeal to the Lodge may be taken from his awards; "rules of order," while followed in general, are actually the Master's will and pleasure.
MOTIONS OUT OF ORDER
In any secular body a motion to adjourn, for the previous question, to lay on the table, to refer to a committee of the whole, are always in order; in a Masonic Lodge, never. Only the Master can decide these questions, and even a Master should never permit the Lodge to resolve itself into a committee of the whole, since a committee presupposes a Chairman, and a Chairman is the servant, not the ruler, of the Committee.
With the usual business of Lodge: confirming of minutes, accepting petitions, ordering a ballot, putting motions to expend, etc., Masters have little trouble. It is when difficult questions arise; hard fought battles to raise dues; revision of by-laws; putting standing resolutions on the books; accepting and confirming a report which reflects on some officer, etc., that the Master must temper justice with mercy, and authority with discretion.
That rule is usually wise which avoids heated debates.
When debaters become so personal as to forget brotherly acts in the warmth of partisanship, a Master is justified in closing debate for the time, to act on the question when cooler moments arrive. A Master may always call from labor to refreshment, to permit "cooling off." If he does this with a smile, and some remark about his own need for a little reflection, he will offend no one.
The Masonic gavel in the hands of a Master is all powerful. Brethren must--and with practically no exceptions always do-- obey its mandate. Grand Lodge frowns upon the brother who flouts the authority of Master; a brother not willing to cease speaking when "rapped down," or who insists on speaking when not recognized, is subject to Masonic trial and punishment.
Because of the power of the gavel the good Master uses it sparingly; he will never "rap down" a brother if it is possible to avoid it. If a brother insists on doing something illegal, the Master must, of course. But there is a vast difference in the way this is done by different Masters.
A certain Past Master was offended at the adverse report of a committee on investigation of a petitioner.
Securing recognition, he began: "I think we should disregard this Committee report unless we know why the committee reported unfavorably; I demand their reasons.
. . . " The Master could have brought his gavel down with a bang and said: "Brother Past Master, you are out of order; a Past Master ought to know better!" What he did do was bring his gavel down with enough decision to be heard, then said: "Brother Past Master, I regret exceedingly to rule out of order one of my illustrious and learned predecessors. But my understanding of Masonic law is that the reasons for reporting unfavorably by a committee are as sacred as the ballot. I am sorry --" This seems almost too simple to chronicle, and yet it is just this difference between the hard and fast exercise of undoubted power which men are apt to resent, and the patient brotherly courtesy which Masons appreciate, which marks the successful from the disliked presiding officer.
A "GOOD SPORT"
A finance committee brought in a report which severely criticized a Master's administration, practically accusing him of running wild with the Lodge finances.
Shocked but game, without a word of defense he put the question as to the disposition of the report. Brother after brother arose to discuss the report, to delete this and strike out that, to remove that offending phrase and to soften this one. After some ten minutes' debate, one brother, a loyal partisan of the Master, moved rejection of the whole report and appointment of a new finance committee. "I am sorry not to entertain that motion," the Master said with a smile. "I think the committee has rendered a fine report. I do not refer to their opinions, but to the hours of labor and the results in this excellent financial statement. I would be ungrateful indeed if I discharged this committee, or failed to express our appreciation of its efforts." The Lodge applauded vigorously, and the result was the acceptance of the financial part of the report, with all criticism stricken out. Most important, the members of the committee, sincere and honorable gentlemen, felt that the Master had been just; thus any schism was avoided, the Master was protected, the Lodge satisfied and the committee content.
One wrong word, and a first class Lodge quarrel might have started!
SNAP AND SPEED
Some men think like a lightning flash and others think slowly. Even the slow thinker can speed up his business meetings by having previously written notes before him.
The Masters who depend on their Secretaries to tell them what to do next are legion--what would some of us do without those hard worked and loyal officials! But the Master who lets the Secretary do it all rarely has the respect or veneration of his members.
LET THEM TALK
A good Master remembers that he is Master of all the Lodge--not just those members with whom he is in sympathy. He knows that what is unimportant to him may be vital to some other brother. The member who insists on a bowling match or a golf game with a sister Lodge may feel it just as important as the Master's plans for a Masonic evening --let him talk about it! Of course, there is a limit to all things, and a scheduled degree should not be delayed so as to keep the few faithful up half the night, sending the rest home without seeing it. But, within reason, the Master who encourages his members to speak, who calls on Brothers Smith and Jones for a few remarks about some question, will have a more unified and interested Lodge than he who is anxious to shut off debate.
They are as different in different Lodges as chalk is from cheese. Some Lodges extend no special welcomes; in others a word of greeting to all visitors is customary, especially those vouched for by a committee after an examination. In some Lodges the Past Masters are known only by their jewels; in others the Master calls on each by name, says a pleasant word and offers him the pretty courtesy of a "seat in the East." Now and then a Master is so anxious to be courteous that he offers the "seat in the East" to every visitor, which rather destroys its value as a mark of special consideration for those who have borne the heat and burden of the day. (The reader, of course, will take this with a grain of salt, remembering it is a Past Master who writes this book!) One small error many a Master makes with only politeness in his mind; especially when he extends a welcome.
It is emphatically the Master's business to insist upon profound respect for his office. Many a modest man refrains from correcting a wrong Lodge action in the mistaken idea that brethren will think he is "high hat." A brother may be plain John Smith, but when John Smith is Master, he should receive the respect which that office demands.
The brother who makes the wrong salute should be smilingly corrected--but he should not go unchallenged.
The brother so careless of his manners as to salute may be privately admonished, but he should hear from the East. The brother who crosses between Altar and East should learn that brethren do not use the space between Master and Great lights for a passageway because, as the Great Lights are in the Master's charge, he is entitled to keep them always in view. The brother who speaks out of turn, the brother who tries to leave the room during a ballot, the brother who forgets a proper salute when addressing the East--all should receive some word of friendly counsel. Whether it be done before the Lodge, or by sending a message by the Senior Deacon, is for the Master to decide. His brethren in the end will think the more of him if he passes his high station to his successor with its dignity unimpaired.
Nothing succeeds in the East like a smile. Two Masters reigned in sister Lodges at the same time; one a brilliant lawyer, smart as a steel trap, wit like a rapier. . . and cold and austere as a lump of ice. The other Master was a railroad conductor; he had not one tenth the education wit or brilliance of the lawyer, but he knew the gentle art of making friends. Whatever pleasant he had to do, he did as if he liked to do it-- with a smile. Whatever unpleasant was his task he did as if it pained him, but with a smile. The railroad brother's Lodge was crowded and the brilliant lawyer's all but empty, most of the year.
Smiles, alas, cannot be made to order. Set smiles, machine smiles, mere facial contortions won't work.
Effective smiles come from a smiling heart. By all of which it may be seen that the art of presiding successfully has its foundation in sympathy and understanding, and its cornerstone in good nature and tolerance. With these a Master can hardly fail to be a beloved presiding officer.
It is only three steps from the Lodge floor to the Master's platform--but what high steps! The brother presiding for the first time in a Masonic Lodge who says he is not nervous is fooling himself, but no one else.
But there is no need to continue to be nervous. In a traffic jam the motorist can always stop--the worst he will get is a lot of horns tooted at him, and perhaps a "bawling out" by the policeman. In a parliamentary jam the Master can always stop to look up the law or precedent, or call to refreshment while he consults someone; he will hear neither horns nor bawlings out.
Go slowly; consult the agenda; depend on the Secretary for help; use the gavel sparingly; smile . . . and presiding becomes a pleasure and a Master a joy to his brethren.
ENTERTAINMENT AND ATTENDANCE
The Master whose entertainment program is strictly Masonic has to send to the basement for extra chairs for most of his meetings.
Most Masters find the attendance problem vexatious; especially is this true in a Lodge in which the members have to some extent lost interest. But attendance, in itself, is of no value if nothing is given those who attend. Ten thousand Masons may stand before a world series score board, but receive no Masonic light.
Attendance is not an end, but a means. Any Lodge room can be packed by advertising to exhibit a pair of Siamese twins, or a tattooed man from Borneo, but merely "packing them in" is of no Masonic value. It is when the Master packs his Lodge room with brethren eager for Masonic entertainment, which conceals instruction and information beneath a covering of pleasure and amusement, that attendance is important.
On the average, an attendance of twenty percent of the membership is looked upon as a "good" turnout. Yet there are Lodges which have a much greater number at almost every communication.
The way to arouse interest is to do something different from what is normally done in Lodge. A Lodge overburdened with degree work can increase attendance by holding special meetings for social and fraternal purposes. A Lodge in which a speaker from another Lodge--and better, another Grand Jurisdiction--is seldom heard may increase its attendance by making such addresses a feature. A Lodge in which Masonic education is unknown may increase attendance by putting on an educational program.
If a speaker is secured from another Lodge or Jurisdiction, particular consideration should be given his comfort. Such entertainers usually sacrifice time and energy for their brethren; Masonic hospitality should see that everything possible is done for their comfort. Particularly if a speaker is brought from a distance with a promise to pay his expenses, should the check for those necessary expenditures be given to him promptly.
EXTRA LODGE ACTIVITIES
All Masters meet, in one way or another, proposals that the Lodge do this or that, support this or that, take part in this or that. And it is often difficult to decide where the line should be drawn between what a Lodge may do, and what its individual members may do.
Two safe tests to apply to any such proposal which involves Lodge activities are these; will acceptance of the invitation cause a difference of opinion among members which may disrupt the harmony of the Lodge? Will it be a precedent which may cause embarrassment in the future? If either question may be answered in the affirmative, the wise Master will avoid Lodge participation.
The Master is faced at the start with two conflicting principles; the more of his own members he can persuade to take part in entertainment, the more interest he can arouse among them and their friends; the more he goes outside the Lodge for amusement, the more he is apt to interest all its members, most of whom have heard the home talent before.
Any program of entertainment or instruction is best put in the hands of a competent chairman of a committee.
Give him plenty of assistance, and then let him run it without interference. Some Masters appoint a chairman and then attempt to do all his work, or dictate how it should be done. A chairman should be a willing worker, and in sympathy with the Master's ideas, but unless he has ideas and initiative of his own, he is not qualified to be a chairman; if he has ideas and initiative, he is not properly used unless allowed to employ them.
A small committee is better than a large one; if the plans are elaborate, the committee may divide itself into sub-committees with sub-chairmen, who may call to their assistance all the help they need. But a large central committee is difficult to handle; too many ideas and conflicting desires prevent success. An entertainment committee of three, or five at the most, is sufficiently large.
Masonic dignity and honors are not the first requisite in an entertainment committee chairman. The senior Past Master has not necessarily the most original mind; the Senior Warden may be an excellent officer and a prospective Master of charm and ability, without being constituted by nature to be a good chairman. Use the brains and enthusiasm of the younger members. It is easy to gain the cooperation of the older members, and of those the Lodge has honored, by asking them to give way to the young and untried that these may show their quality.
A few plans which have been tried and proved successful in increasing attendance.
A SURPRISE MEETING
Advertise to the membership that a surprise awaits them. Tell them there will be "something doing" which they have never seen before. Then arrange with a capable committee to exemplify a dozen or more matters of law and behavior. Have a new brother deliberately cross the room between Altar and East. Call him down for it. Have a Past Master explain why this is not good Masonic usage. During a ballot have a brother enter the room by way of the West Gate. Declare the ballot illegal and take it over again. Have a Past Master explain why it is illegal. Let some brother move that the Lodge adjourn. Have someone else explain that parliamentary procedure which governs most assemblages cannot apply in a Masonic Lodge because of the powers and prerogatives of the Master, at whose pleasure alone the Lodge convenes and is closed. Get a debate started on something, anything, and have a brother appeal from the decision of the Master to the Lodge. Rule him out of order, and explain that the only appeal lies to the Grand Master, and why. Have some brother give the wrong salute on entering or leaving; correct him, and have someone make a short talk on the reasons for the salute and how the brother may always know by an examination of the Great Lights upon what degree the Lodge is open. Think up half a dozen more matters in which the customs, the etiquette or the law of Masonry may be violated, and have an explanation and an answer ready for each one. The interest of such a practical demonstration is surprising.
A MASONIC EXPERIENCE MEETING
In any Lodge some brethren have had some pleasant, different, unusual experience of Masonry. One has had to borrow money in strange city, and did it through Masonic connection. Another has discovered a Masonic impostor. A third has made a pleasant friend in another city through mutual Masonry. A fourth has found interest in the manners, customs and usages of Masonry in a sister Grand Jurisdiction. Another has seen a funeral service in another Jurisdiction, quite different from his own. Get a committee to ascertain the names of half a dozen such brethren, and persuade them to give their experiences. Advertise it in the Lodge circular and see the increase in attendance.
A LODGE DEBATE
Choose some interesting Masonic subject, on which opinion is divided, appoint two teams of debaters, of two brethren each, and stage a contest to run not over forty minutes. A is given eight minutes for the affirmative, B eight minutes for the negative, followed by C with eight minutes for rebuttal and D, eight minutes for rebuttal. Each is then allowed two minutes to close. The decision is to rest on the vote of the Lodge. A few suggested topics are: "Resolved, that Masonry would be more effective if all Lodges were limited in size"; "Resolved, that perpetual jurisdiction over rejected candidates is unjust"; "Resolved, that a Master's powers should be limitable by a Lodge," etc.
It should be explained that these subjects are debated purely for the information such discussion may bring out, with no thought of attempting by Lodge action to alter existing law or practice. A Lodge debate may be humorous in character: "Resolved, that business should not interfere with golf"; "Resolved, that the Worshipful Master should pay the Lodge a salary for his privilege"; etc. If debaters are ready speakers, such simple entertainment can be made very effective and interesting.
PAST MASTERS NIGHT
Fill the chairs with the Past Masters, in order of seniority, for the conferring of a degree. If no candidate is available, and there is no local regulation against the practice, use a dummy candidate from among the members, or have the degree conferred on the oldest Past Master. Officers who have borne the heat and burden of the day are usually proud of the opportunity again to get into harness, and the membership is usually interested in the performance.
"TELL US WHAT YOU THINK"
Have ten brethren, each with an idea, give four-minute talks on what the Lodge needs This does not mean a new hall, or new equipment, or more money, but what it requires to be better, more alive, more interesting.
Such a discussion will bring out many ideas. Throw the meeting open to the membership as soon as the arranged speakers have finished; often the unprepared speech will be the most illuminating of the evening.
THE QUESTION BOX
Put a small box with a slot in it in the Lodge, and invite the brethren to submit questions regarding anything Masonic; assure them that as many of the questions as possible will be answered the next meeting. See that half a dozen brethren, instructed in advance, drop questions in the box. As the Master will probably get a number for which he has not arranged, he can have prepared half a dozen answers to the questions he has inspired and these answers delivered to the Lodge in five-minute addresses. Questions and answers both, of course, can be obtained from books. Some questions interesting to most Masons are: How old is Masonry, and how do we know its age? What are the ten most Masonic verses in the Bible, not including those quotations from the Great Light used in the ritual? Who was William Morgan and what happened in the Morgan affair? In wearing a Masonic ring, should the points of the compass point towards the wearer or towards his fingertips, and why? What is the origin of the Masonic use of the word "profane," meaning one not a member, and why is he so called? England permits dual membership. What Australian Grand Jurisdictions permit it and what are some of the arguments for and against it? What and where is the oldest Lodge in the world, in the Australia, in this State?
THE SONGS OF MASONRY
Good Masonic poetry is scarce. But there is enough to furnish a pleasant and interesting hour of instruction and entertainment. Pick out half a dozen of the best known Masonic poems, and half a dozen brethren who will memorize them, and prepare a little talk upon them. Let each brother recite the poem of his choice, and then comment upon its significance. Good poems for an evening of this kind are Kipling's "The Palace" and "Mother Lodge," Burns's "Masonic Farewell," Goethe's "Mason Lodge," Leigh Hunt's "Abou Ben Adhem," Carruth's "Each in His Own Tongue," Burns's "On the Apron," Meredith's "Ebony Staff of Solomon," Bowman's "Voice of America," Malloch's "Father's Lodge" and Nesbit's "I Sat in Lodge with You."
It is often possible to awaken interest in a Lodge by the formation of a social club, a dramatic club, a study club, all good ways to increase attendance.
A little "stunt" which always holds the attention of the members is having some part of the Masonic ritual-- it may be the charge to a candidate in one of the degrees, a section from the Middle Chamber lecture, or perhaps the prayer from the third degree-- committed to memory by half a dozen brethren. These brethren then deliver the same work to show how different the appeal may be, as done in different ways. The parts selected should be short. If the brethren are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the evening, a prize may be put up for the most effective rendition, the decision, of course, to rest with the Lodge. The vote on the best rendition should be by paper ballot.
But do not do this unless the brethren have been previously consulted and are willing to enter into the spirit of the little contest.
In a Lodge which has much work and much business, the Master will add to the interest and the attendance if he runs the meeting with dispatch. The dragging business meeting, with a great deal of "hot air" from well-meaning brethren who really have little to say, is often sufficiently bore some to keep members away. It is not suggested that the Master shut off debate arbitrarily, or rap any brother down. But it is perfectly possible to run the first part of the business meeting snappily, have a prepared speech or so, very short and interesting, and then have a couple of "planted" brethren comment on the shortness and the snappiness. The round hand of applause which such comments usually draw will keep the prolix and the long-winded off their feet!
It adds to the interest and, therefore, to the attendance, if the Master always has something to tell his Lodge. "Give them good and wholesome instruction" means what it says. A five-minute talk by the Master upon some matter of interest to Masons generally will prove an interesting feature. The Master must be careful not to "talk the interest to death." Nor should he ever be witty at the expense of his members unless it is that kindly wit which compliments at the same time it brings a smile.
It means work for the Master to get up some ten little addresses during his year, but Masters expect to work--or else they are much surprised brethren when they get in the East! Source material for such talks is the copy of the Proceedings of Grand Lodge, which contains much of interest to all members. A clever Master will have no difficulty in finding in this volume enough topics for many five-minute talks.
An idea which produces results is the sending of letters to brethren on their Masonic birthdays reminding them "On such and such a date you were raised to the Sublime Degree. Our nearest meeting to your anniversary is such and such a date. Will you not come to Lodge that night, to join the other brethren whose Masonic birthday is the same, and give us the pleasure of offering you our good wishes?" The same is true of real birthdays, especially those of the older members.
Man is incurably curious; his desire to know and to understand is the mainspring of invention, discovery, civilization, progress; the driving force which leads men to learn.
Masters can make use of this desire to know to make better Masons of the brethren.
A "sugar-coated" Masonic educational meeting is interesting, intriguing, alive, vital, satisfying a great curiosity. Lodges which have tried the educational experiments here listed usually repeat them, and almost invariably the repetition is to a "packed house."
DISSECTING A DEGREE
Especially recommended for Lodges which have little work to do is the dissection and explanation of the first section of any degree. A dummy candidate is initiated, and the ceremony interrupted at each stage by some brother who offers a little explanation of the symbolism of the part of the degree under discussion; entry, circumambulation, rite of destitution, the antiquity of the apron, origin of the Lesser Lights, etc. Such dissection and exposition require some little study by those who take part, but giving each brother who offers an interruption only one subject minimizes the work of preparation and increases the variety by having many take part.
Inquiry should first be made of the District Inspector, or the Grand Master; in some Jurisdictions the practice of using a dummy candidate has been frowned upon, as derogatory to the dignity of our ceremonies. When it is explained that the purpose of the idea is educational, however, it is probable that no difficulty will be experienced in obtaining enthusiastic cooperation from those in authority.
"YOU MUST--YOU MUST NOT!"
The average Lodge member knows little about Masonic law. The very term "Jurisprudence" seems repellent. Yet Masonic law is intensely interesting, and may be made to appear so to the Lodge by any brother who will devote a little time and attention to developing a talk on those parts of our legal system which most intimately touch the brethren. Masonic law is vastly different from civil law; most Masonic law is a matter of "thou shalt" rather than "thou shalt not." A few salient points chosen for their interest to the average Mason, and explained, first as to their origin, and second as to their use or necessity, will interest any Lodge. It is not an arduous task for a clever brother to arrange such a talk; he may use any good book on Jurisprudence as a foundation, Mackey or Pound for choice, as both are complete and concise.
The more brethren take part in an educational meeting, the greater the enjoyment. No scheme for an educational meeting yet developed exceeds the Lodge contest in this respect, since it gives every one an opportunity to participate.
The educational contest is conducted by a Master of Ceremonies asking a series of questions, carefully prepared in advance, the correct answers to which can be given in one or two words, a date, a name. Supplied with paper and pencils, the brethren write and number their answers to the questions, as they are asked. Then they exchange papers, the correct answers are read, and the brethren mark the replies "right" or "wrong" according to the facts. The winners, of course, are those who have the greatest number, next greatest number and third greatest number answered correctly.
Interest in such a contest is increased by offering prizes. These may be very inexpensive; a good Masonic book, a subscription to a Masonic magazine, a Masonic lapel pin are all appreciated.
The questions should not be complex; answers should be facts, not opinions. For instance, "In what Lodge was George Washington raised?" "Who is Grand Master in this State?" "How old is this Lodge?" "How many Lodges in our Grand Lodge?" are all questions needing but a word or two to answer with facts. Such questions as "Do you think Masonry is a religion?" should not be included, since any answer must be an opinion, not a fact.
In giving out the correct answers, a clever Master of Ceremonies will offer some "good and wholesome instruction" of Masonic value; for instance, if the question be "How many landmarks are recognized in this Jurisdiction?" and the correct answer is "Twenty five," the Master of Ceremonies may explain that some Jurisdictions have less, others more; that many Jurisdictions have adopted Mackey's list, while others have condensed Mackey's twenty-five into a less number, which nevertheless contains all of Mackey's points, and so on.
In any Lodge entertainment, whether purely amusement or Masonically instructive, arrange the program to reach a climax; when it culminates, close the evening. If the program includes a principal speaker, have him come last. After he has spoken, do not call on half a dozen brethren to talk about the speaker and his address.
Nothing makes a fine talk fall flatter than far less able speakers giving short resumes of what has been said and telling the Lodge how good it was. Past Master John Smith and Brother Henry Robinson are good men and true, beloved of the brethren, listened to with respect, but unless they are orators of high caliber, their supplementary remarks on a thought-provoking address usually throw a cold wet blanket which is very chilling to enthusiasm! The old adage for speakers: "Stand up, speak up, shut up!" may well be applied here; when a program is ended, consider it finished! Far better that the brethren go home wishing the evening had been longer, than with the feeling "I'm glad that's over!"
Any Master may largely increase interest in his meetings by departing from the custom of previous Masters, doing what they did not do! This does not mean a criticism of previous Masters; what they did may also have been interesting and different. The new is always interesting; that which is interesting usually stimulates attendance. With good reason, depart from the usual order of business; it is a Master's privilege. Have some brother, the more obscure the better, who has done something, anything, escorted to the Altar, and thank him, congratulate him or comment on his work; the more unexpected this is, the more interesting to the membership. Extend a special welcome to the oldest Past Master, or most beloved brother. If the Lodge has no regularly appointed chaplain, or if he is absent, call on some brother to take over the simple duties of Lodge chaplain. Encourage debate; ask for comments on any question which comes up on which no one voluntarily has anything to offer; the more members get on their feet the greater interest there is in the meeting, always providing they are not long-winded about it.
"SET THE CRAFT TO LABOR"
The enthusiastic Master usually heads an enthusiastic Lodge.
No one can inculcate enthusiasm in others if he does not possess it. But many a Master is enthusiastic over his Masonry, his Lodge and its activities, who does not know the few parlor tricks of the East which inspire others.
It is trite but true: men like to work when they don't have to! The Master who puts many brethren to work at something- -just what is not important--will have enthusiastic meetings.
Brethren may be interested in dozens of activities. A glad hand committee, not only for visitors but to greet every member as he comes in, is always an asset. Rival committees--perhaps as many as six--may be asked to provide entertainment, each for one meeting. A prize may be given the committee staging the most popular evening. (Note: different Lodges have different methods. In a Lodge which must count pennies, the Master may offer the prize personally. Suitable prizes are: an evening at the theater for all the members of the committee; a Masonic book for each member of the committee; a Masonic button for each member.) Very successful are large committees to call on delinquent members; committees to call on the stay-at-home brethren with personal invitations to attend; sojourners' committees, to call on brethren of foreign Lodges temporarily within the jurisdiction of the Lodge; committees on the sick; rival degree teams for each degree. A Master may thus put a hundred brethren to work, often with amazing results in the new interest brethren take in Lodge when they have definite tasks.
The laborer is worthy of his hire. The only pay a committeeman can receive is Master's Wages. Pay them, pay them generously, pay them often. Make them stand up, tell the Lodge what good workers they have been, thank them. In especially meritorious cases have the brother-to-be-thanked conducted to the Altar, and speak to him there. In the Middle Chamber the workmen received their wages in corn, wine and oil. Do not leave all the oil in the oil fields! A little poured from the East is good Masonic diplomacy.
Most Grand Jurisdictions have some pet project--a Home, a Hospital, an Orphanage, a Charity Foundation, a library--all excellent pegs on which to hang garments of enthusiasm. Get some brother who can talk to visit the institution and tell the Lodge about it. Organize a bus pilgrimage to the Home, at special rates, advertise it well, make a ladies' picnic of it if the Lodge likes to bring its better halves along. Find a successful graduate of the Home School and ask him to tell the Lodge about it. Has the Home a band? Organize a "Concert Committee" to raise funds to bring it to Lodge; invite the neighboring Lodges. Probabilities are the Lodge room won't be big enough.
Many Lodges have a sister Lodge, in their own or a neighboring Jurisdiction, with which we tie of union are unusually close.
Annual visits between such Lodges result in large attendance and fraternal evenings. If no such sister Lodge is tied to a Master's by special bonds, hunt up one and start the ball rolling by inviting that Lodge to visit yours. Pick the newest Lodge, the oldest Lodge, the most historic Lodge, the biggest Lodge, the smallest Lodge; a Lodge with a Master who has your name; a Lodge with the same name as yours--anything will do for an excuse.
If the rules of Grand Lodge permit, ask a sister Lodge in another Jurisdiction to put on a degree. Before sending such an invitation be sure your Grand Lodge looks with favor on such interchange of work; consult District Deputy, Grand Secretary or Grand Master.
Has your State some nearby historic place, marker, monument, park, house, battlefield? Organize a visit of your Lodge. Especially is this worthwhile if there is a Masonic significance to the place visited. A journey can always be hooked up with Masonry, since all such have some associations with great men who were Masons.
Masons are not "men with pins on their coats." Masonry is a vital force in the lives of many; one touch on the right key and Masonic enthusiasm simply pours out of members.
A brother was injured and a blood transfusion necessary. The Master of his Lodge learned it on the night of a third degree. It was his custom to make a little talk before each ceremony on one of its significance’s. An opportunist, the Master junked his prepared speech and spoke for five minutes on the Five Points--then called for volunteers for the blood transfusion.
Fifteen brethren rose to clamor for the chance to show their Five Points meant something to them.
The Master of a small country Lodge, poor in finances, had a pressing relief case; a brother had lost his home by storm. He had told the Lodge about it.
The Treasurer arose to say: "But we have no money, Worshipful Master." "Who said anything about money?" retorted the Master.
"I want volunteers with tools, who will give each a day's work, two days, whatever you can spare. We can't buy Brother Jones a new home, but we are sorry sons of pioneers if we can 't build one!" Thirty-four men rebuilt Brother Jones's home for him, and then pleaded with the Master for "another happy time and good day's outing like that!"
Give the brethren a chance to do something, anything, no matter how small or unimportant. A brother convinced that he is helping is enthusiastic. One Master appointed a young brother as assistant to an old, feeble and forgetful Tiler--who was much beloved. The young assistant did no more than bring out the aprons, sort out and put away the officers' jewels, but he was company for the old man for the half hour before and after the meeting. At the end of the year, thanking the lad, the Master said: "Doubtless you'll be glad that a new Master will give your thankless job to someone else." "Glad? I'll be all broken up if he doesn't reappoint me!" was the answer. The boy had never missed a meeting and now that he has the habit, probably never will.
A certain old Past Master came only once or twice a year. It was said that "Brother Smith was a very active Master and now that he has nothing to do, feels lost in Lodge." "I'll give him something to do!" determined the new Master, then offered the old Past Master the Chaplaincy of the Lodge. The old Past Master protested that he was too old; the Lodge had a minister (who could seldom attend); he had not done any work for years . . . the Master overrode him. The Past Master took the position, and the storm does not blow that can keep him away from his Lodge. Flagging enthusiasm was aroused by a small job, with something constructive to do.
Will there be a "big night"? Appoint half a dozen assistant stewards to lug in chairs and benches. Is there a "big feed" for some special occasion? Plenty of brethren will gladly give up that evening in Lodge to help prepare the tables and serve.