Thursday, July 5, 2018

History of Freemasonry

No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons' guilds during the Middle Ages. The language and symbols used in the fraternity's rituals come from this era. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work. In 1717, four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that point on are more complete.
Within thirty years, the fraternity had spread throughout Europe and the American Colonies. Freemasonry became very popular in colonial America. George Washington was a Mason, Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania, as did Paul Revere and Joseph Warren in Massachusetts. Other well-known Masons involved with the founding of America included John Hancock, John Sullivan, Lafayette, Baron Fredrick von Stuben, Nathanael Greene, and John Paul Jones. Another Mason, Chief Justice John Marshall, shaped the Supreme Court into its present form.
Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy. During the late 1700s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social "safety net". The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew.
Today in North America, the Masonic Fraternity continues this tradition by giving almost $1.5 million each day to causes that range from operating children's hospitals, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Masons and their families at Masonic Homes.
The four million Masons worldwide continue to help men and women face the problems of the 21st century by building bridges of brotherhood and instilling in the hearts of men ideals for a better tomorrow.

This article is from the library of MSA.  I just wanted to share it on this blog.  I might add that the Masonic Fraternity helped finance and start the University of Michigan.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Teacher

Teacher

Today a great brother of this fraternity is being laid to rest, WB Bennie King. I attended his Masonic Memorial last evening, a fitting tribute to one of the cornerstones of Freemasonry in Genesee County and the entire state of Michigan.

During the past few days in discussions with various brothers, everyone referred to Bennie as a great teacher, and that he was. He was not formally trained but had a God given ability to teach the ritual to hundreds of brothers over the years.

A dictionary definition of "teacher" is as follows; a person who helps others to acquire knowledge, competences or values. We should also be aware that teacher appears many times in the Holy Bible, the following is just one example; the student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher Luke 6:40.

Unfortunately I find myself writing too many of these tributes to our brothers who have transitioned to the celestial city where the Grand Architect of the Universe presides. Many brothers have touched my life and soul while traveling through this veil of tears. We have to remember that we are born, we live and we die, the reality of the situation can be a huge burden to bear, but we find comfort in knowing that our brothers are at peace and through with their suffering on this terrestrial sphere.

As I sit here trying to piece together a fitting memorial to WB Bennie King I'm listening to brother Ralph Stanley one of the kings of Bluegrass music....this was WB Bennie's favorite genre of music, I know because when he got a new vehicle he had me program the Bluegrass station on XM and that was it...."it's all I need," he would say.

While studying for my Master Ritualist with Bennie at his home we would have conversations while taking breaks from my reciting the part of the ritual I was working on at the time. One evening Bennie shared some of his life story. There was something about the way he talked in a gentle voice, sometimes a little fast but a southern drawl always adds to the story or any narration.

Forgive me for taking some liberties with the story but this is from memory.......at a young age Bennie lost his father, I can't recall what happened but I do recall that his dad died young and Bennie and his sister were young as well. Their mother was struggling to keep the family afloat, in those days women did not normally work outside of the home.

Bennie said one day he and his sister were outside playing when 2-3 men in a car pulled up to their modest home. The men were Masons from Bennie's dad's lodge. They talked with Mrs.King and offered to take Bennie and his sister to the Kentucky Home for orphans. Although they were not orphans, it was more than their mother could handle by herself. So she agreed that in the best interest of the children this would be a great solution to her new found problems.

I asked Bennie how he and his sister felt about it. He said that it was a little tough the first couple of days being away from their mom, but it was the best thing that ever happened to him. They were provided with clothes and shoes to wear, got their education, three meals a day and a warm dry place to sleep.

While a resident there Bennie joined the Order of DeMolay and also became a boy scout. He recounted that the Scouts were having their Jamboree in California and the Masons sent him and I think 3 other scouts to the Jamboree.....they provided train tickets to and fro and some spending money. He said that was an experience of a lifetime at a young age.

One of the best things that happened while there Bennie met the love of his life, Goldie. There were other tidbits and little stories he shared about some escapades and so forth but the main theme of the story comes through. I left his home that evening feeling like I had just witnessed a book, movie, or country song in my mind as he spun the tale of his early life......I left with a tear in my eye for sure. Out of all he taught me, nothing compares with the privilege of having heard the story of his formative years.

For many years Bennie held a Wednesday morning School of Instruction at Morning Star Lodge in Swartz Creek, many a Worshipful Master learned his work at this school. His teaching was not confined to Wednesday mornings....he was always teaching.....I wonder if he realized he was doing it.

My first stint in the East was in 1990 and then after a 8-9 year hiatus I returned to the craft and started doing work again. I remember distinctly one evening at Fellowship Lodge I was Senior Deacon and was using the wrong word. After the degree Bennie took me aside and said you're doing a fine job, there is just one word I want you to work on.....it's report not rapport. I also remember thinking that I was right, later while looking at the ritual....the word was report.....I discovered another item in the front of the ritual the name, Bennie King.....who helped correct the ritual while WB Harry Hicks was the Grand Lecturer.......never did I question him after that.

Many talented Past Masters credit their success to Bennie and many brothers throughout this Grand Jurisdiction of Michigan credit WB Bennie with helping them to learn the work. In the later years Bennie would be sitting off to the side with his eyes closed and someone would get stuck he would give a prompt without ever opening his eyes. When I was studying with him he never had to use a book to follow me, except in the FC lectures.....lectures which he admitted was a challenge even to him. It was amazing how well he knew that book and how he knew how to teach it.

Bennie never embarrassed anyone in doing their work and often would take the brother aside and nobody except the brother knew of his correcting. He was always inspiring brothers to stretch and do more work, and he had a way of doing it that encouraged the brother to do good work, because the brother didn't want to disappoint Bennie.

WB Bennie King was one of a kind, his influence and love of the craft will be a living legacy to him and his work. The craft has lost a brilliant leader and teacher, and the world has lost one terrific man, whom we all are very proud to call brother and the most fitting tribute.....teacher. Fare thee well WB Bennie....fare thee well.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Memorials

The Masonic Memorial has spurred me to write numerous entries on this blog in regards to the final tribute we pay to a deceased brother.

Last night we had the privilege and honor to pay those respects to one of the elders of our lodge. WB Keith Hilliker served as Worshipful Master in 1961.....which was a very good year.

I can remember when acting as the Master of Ceremonies for our annual installation of officers, I made note that on the back of the program was a list of Past Masters. The left column of Past Masters had asterisks by all of the names except one; the asterisk denotes that those Masters had answered the summons of their God. The one name in the left column belonged to Keith, in my remarks I informed the attendees that it was not a typo and that WB Keith was with us that evening.

Unfortunately for us WB Keith earned his asterisk. Fortunately for the Master's bouquet Keith is a shining fresh flower.

Truly the measure of a Masons contribution to the craft over the years is demonstrated by the affection that the brethren show at his memorial. WB Lenzy read the history with the dates of Keith's advancement through the degrees and his year as Worshipful Master. One thing that WB Lenzy added was that Keith was a Masons Mason, a very true fact.

WB Keith was probably a Mason before taking his various obligations. He was definitely a fixture in our lodge and in latter years as a resident at the Masonic Home in Alma. Professionally Keith was a local insurance man, and everybody knew him. One of the qualities that Keith possessed was the skill of listening. He always had a warm greeting for everyone he met.

I remember shortly after he moved to the Masonic Home, we had a board meeting there in the conference room on the lower level. When I arrived about 15 minutes early, there was WB Keith in the lobby looking at his watch and after greeting me he said, "I was wondering when you were going to get here." He knew that there was a board meeting and that I would be attending and there he was waiting to greet me, that's brotherly love and affection in action.

As with most cases, the brothers who attend Masonic Memorials always seem to reconnect with brothers they haven't seen in a while. This was true last night for me and for others as well. WB Roger Kaufman was in attendance, Roger has had some health issues and hasn't been travelling the last couple of years, but he was there for Keith's memorial. They may not come out for a degree but if they can in any way make the memorial, they make it. Now that's brotherly love and affection in action as well.

One brother who was slated to assist with the memorial discovered after taking off his winter coat that he had neglected to put his suit coat on. Out of respect for Keith he gave his part to another brother in attendance. Too often in today's society, respect is seldom shown....it makes me proud to be a part of a fraternity that still offers up respect to one another.

It truly is a breathtaking sight to see a multitude of Masons gathered together to honor a deceased brother, and what a joyous sight it is for one's family and friends to witness the brotherly love bestowed upon their dearly departed.

The Masonic Memorial is designed to pay respect and honor to a fallen brother, but one of the hidden jewels of the service is the impact it has on the surviving brothers. One can't help but to reflect on their own life and service to the craft; to remember those brothers who have gone before us and the influence those brothers had on the craft and us as individual brothers. Fare thee well brother Keith and may we live up to the shining example you have set for all of us.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

The State of the Craft

Merry Christmas to all. The current weather situation I like to call "installation weather", yes it's that time of the year again. The occurrence of the annual auspicious solemnity......the Masonic lodge installation of officers.

One can not attend an installation and not reflect on days gone by. My...my....I'm officially old with that line.

While attending a few installations thus far, I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of attendees. This is certainly refreshing. I do recall in very recent memory that there were very small numbers of attendees, it seems that this year is better.

Open installations seem to be making a comeback. Four of the five lodges in my district have had or are having open installations. Recent memory also is full of closed installations and this is a nice departure from recent trends.

As I mentioned early on it's hard not to reflect on days gone by. There is one disturbingly notable difference in the installations of today versus those of yesteryear.....the absence of family and friends.

It makes one wonder if the absence of family at these notable events is reflective of the current state of the craft.

Going back to my DeMolay days and my early days in lodge......the annual installation was a really big deal. It seems that the majority of the officers had their wife or significant other in attendance along with other family members, children, siblings, and friends from work or neighbors.

Admitting that this is in fact a current situation; what is the cause....how do we get to the root of the problem?

The absence of family in our fraternity is a challenge and one that our new brothers are craving; they want activities that involve the family. Another determining factor is that our brothers are not excited about things and this affects their family wanting to witness or be a part of certain activities.

Again, back in the day....the officers were proud to be installed and wanted their family and friends there. My mother lodge had a "family" night once a quarter. The lodge provided the meat, potatoes, and sides. The members depending on the first letter of their last name brought either a salad or a desert. This was a great avenue that allowed the brothers and their family and or friends to get together at least every 3 months, and it was always well attended. Today, I'm not sure if they still practice this tradition.

In DeMolay and when I first became an officer of the lodge in 1984, being installed as an officer was a big deal. It was a festive event. Family and friends in attendance. Boutonnieres for the officers, corsages for the wives of the officers. The majority of the officers being installed were accompanied by their wives, and children, from small kids to adult children. Also, often times they had friends, neighbors, and co-workers and such.

This year I've actually heard some officers offer up explanation of why their wife and kids aren't in attendance. Such as my daughter had dance and my wife took her to the dance lesson. This is an illustration of another challenge facing the lodge, and that is kids are crazy busy in this day and age. The number of extracurricular activities are astounding. Again, the installation is planned weeks and usually months in advance....is missing one night's activity that much of a tragedy to support dear old dad?

I suppose why support dear old dad....when the lodge does nothing to support dad's family and giving them some nice experiences throughout the year. Some lodges are always doing things for the families of the brothers but also doing good in the community. Recently I've heard many fine ideas....for example Easter Breakfast with the Easter Bunny, Breakfast with Santa, donating to a local charity that provides Christmas presents for the disadvantaged, donating food to a local pantry, presenting poinsettias to the widows of the lodge or fruit baskets to the widows, of course many lodges participate in books-for-bikes....the list can be endless with very little creativity.

Last night I attended an installation that was very reminiscent of days of yesteryear. There were many in attendance with wives, kids, siblings, etc. The Jobs were there, the DeMolay pulled chairs and this lodge is extremely active in the community. After the installation, desert and coffee was served. While many were enjoying the refreshments, there were a few brothers along with their wives working on the next project, because today is breakfast with Santa.

It was very refreshing that this lodge supports the family, the youth, the community and each other. In addition to keeping our members engaged, we need to engage with the community....the old adage of do unto others as you would wish that they would do unto you. Several lessons can be drawn from this event and many lodges could profit from modeling this lodge with their own flair. This annual event of this lodge is truly an auspicious solemnity to be enjoyed for generations to come.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Here We Go

Brothers, I hope the summer was enjoyable for everyone. Once again, it's been several months since my last writing and I apologize for that.

As one ages it seems that a longing for certain things of the past becomes more and more evident.

This is a special time of the year for the lodges in our area....election time and installation time. I remember the days of having hundreds of people attend open installations of officers for the local Masonic lodges.

Yes, "open" installations, it was a time of celebration and a chance for the lodges to demonstrate to their family and friends a little flavor of what actually goes on in a lodge. First, the memorization work performed by the Grand Installing Officer and their suite is always mesmerizing to the average person attending an installation for the first time. Secondly, the amount of cars in the parking lot surely stood out to passers by who normally only saw a few cars there at any given time. It was an outward sign to the community at large that there really was something going on in the building, and those family and friends on the inside could feel the bustle of the occasion and the fellowship displayed.

Today, it seems that there are far more closed installations than of days gone by. A couple of reasons is that there are so many recycled Worshipful Masters being installed for another time,.and one of the other reasons....a sad one....is that some poor brother was voted into the position without enough time to plan for an open installation, therefore a closed installation is far easier to "throw together" on short notice.

Both of the instances mentioned above are sad reflections on the current state of the craft. I truly believe that we are taking in a fair number of new brothers we are doing a sub-par job of getting them engaged and giving them a sense of belonging.

This leads into another thing that I long for.....the days of actually having to work one's way through the chairs one station at a time and enjoying all of the rich learning experiences each station provides. From actually having to serve a couple of years as steward and learning what the JW does behind the scenes, to escorting the SD and the candidate around the lodge room as that man is beginning his Masonic journey, then moving to JD and observing the whole scene and listening intently to the Wardens as they do their work, and the most rewarding job in lodge....Senior Deacon, truly a learning station in the lodge preparing one for the south, west and east.

Another observation after a few years in this craft, is the woefully unpreparedness of the line officers, not all but many. There is another longing of mine, to visit a lodge at this time of the year and have the line officers...in particular, the wardens be so proficient in their work that everything moves with clockwork accuracy......not just knowing their ritual part, but owning it. Seldom does this occur in the current Masonic times we are living.

The above situations offer up some illustrations of the rebuilding pains that the lodges are currently encountering. We seem to be taking in many new brothers. In talking with the majority of these new brothers they are curious and begging for more information about the craft, it's beliefs and mysteries. When I speak of officers being unprepared, I'm referencing many aspects; the ritual, running an efficient business meeting, having the majority of the upcoming year planned out, facilitating learning for the new brothers, encouraging fellowship among the brothers, ensuring that mentoring is taking place, getting involved in the community, keeping in touch with the members, taking care of the widows of the lodge by letting them know they are not forgotten, raising funds to pay the bills, ensuring that the building is in good repair and displays a nice appearance to the community, and the list goes on and on.

Yet too many times WMs are elected in a moments notice and don't have the time necessary for a successful term, so they fly by the seat of their pants......and the new brothers coming in are not a focus because the Master is playing catch-up to keep up with the demands of his office.

As I've said many, many times the fraternity is currently at a pivotal point. The challenges facing all lodges can at times be daunting. Freemasonry is so much larger than any one man or one lodge or one Grand Lodge......but the fraternity could be stronger and more viable with leadership, communication, and education. To lead, communicate, and educate requires planning and action....being engaged and delegating the tasks required for the job.

To do any of the above requires commitment and action. We can talk until the cows come home but nothing will transpire until there is movement and action. Throwing together the leadership of a lodge at the last minute will not do justice to any of us or the fraternity at large. It's tough getting old and longing for the things of yesterday....but I'm convinced that the greatest days are ahead of us, the new brothers of today are thirsty and yes....longing, to learn more of the tenets, history, and mystery of our fraternal history and are fascinated by it's prospective future.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Relevance

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a Master Mason degree with a very attentive and thankful candidate. The degree was conferred in the usual fine manner.

A couple of things really caught my attention that evening. One, the quest for knowledge and rewards without paying ones dues, the second was a term I've heard hundreds of times before....basely assassinated.

Presumably most of you are well acquainted with the allegory of Hiram Abiff, if you're not then it is openly available on Wikileaks. In the story, workmen in the temple are desirous of obtaining the secrets and pass words of a Master Mason. By being in possession of these things the workman, who were fellowcrafts could move on and earn Master's wages in all areas.

The three fellowcrafts who were premature in their quest were told by Hiram Abiff that they were not ready for that level and if they would patiently wait and earn their due then they would surely receive what they most desired....the ability to freely travel and earn Master's wages.

That part of the story dovetailed nicely with my latest post on this blog. In that post I had mentioned that in today's society we have become overwhelmed by the notion of instant gratification or instant rewards without working through the ranks and paying ones dues.

Also in today's world we are bombarded by steadily changing options.....from our car radio which now has satellite reception with hundreds of stations....to the TV with thousands of channels and choices....even the phone which is now carried with most people and they can be in immediate constant communication with others.

I've heard of instances where a man becomes a Mason and immediately wants to be Secretary or a newly made Mason is thrown in line as Junior Warden.....or a man petitions a lodge and wants to be a Mater Mason in a matter of days. When this happens the new brother is really being cheated out of valuable experience which will aid him in his journey....and we are cheating ourselves by denying tremendous opportunities to get to know the brother and actually teach him about our traditions, heritage and ritual. It's been said that the teacher often learns more than the student.

Isn't it odd that the ritual is still relative all these years after it's completion. It could be argued that it is in fact timeless. Many lessons in the Bible have the same characteristics....the behaviors are the same today as all those years ago...situations are similar....and the lessons taught are the same....the only change is the technology.

Recently the Regional Grand Lecturer and I had a discussion about our ritual. If you've read any of the posts on this blog then you know that I feel the authors of our ritual were very precise and measured in their choice of words. The words and phrases used get the utmost out of each phrase. WB Gil mentioned that he had read an article in which the author felt that the writers of the ritual had merely got lucky by having some words, phrases, lectures, etc. fall into place and give the impression that they had been thought through....the author of that article felt that "purpose" has been read into the words of the ritual.

Both of us agree that we believe nothing could be farther from the truth. When one breaks down phrases into the words comprising those phrases it becomes very apparent that the words were chosen very wisely. Upon researching those words one learns the true meaning of those words and their clear intended meaning and representation.

Back to the allegory of Hiram Abiff and one phrase that really made me take notice....whom we have basely assassinated.

Basely is a word not commonly used today, but was very common in days of old, it comes obviously from the word....base. Upon researching basely we find that it means;




1.
morally low; without estimable personal qualities; dishonorable;meanspirited; selfish; cowardly.
2.
of little or no value; worthless



Assassinated is another interesting word...one comedian said what level does one have to attain to move from murder to assassination...well according to the meaning of the word...it deals specifically with certain criteria we see it defined as follows;

1.
to kill suddenly or secretively, especially a politically prominent person;murder premeditatedly and treacherously.


The story of the ruffians who basely assassinated the Master Craftsman Hiram Abiff were described through two very wisely chosen words. I've always thought that basely assassinated meant that they basically killed the Grand Master...which they did but the words describe their character and their actions as well.

The three who did not recant from their murderous desires are aptly described as morally low, without estimable personal qualities, they were dishonorable, definitely mean-spirited, cowardly because they hid by the three gates and launched surprise attacks.....all for selfish reasons to gain the Master's word to enrich their personal wealth.....and I think we all agree they were of little or no value....worthless members of society....oops that's the behive from the EA degree....see what I mean.

As we move on to assassinate we learn that it means to kill suddenly....the murder did happen in a very short span of time.....and it was definitely secretive in nature as they remained behind when the other workers left the temple to eat their noon time meal.

Obviously the Master Craftsman was a politically prominent person....he was one of the three Grand Master Illustrious Artisans and held the third element of the Master's word. We also learn from the 12 Fellowcrafts that his demise was premeditated and the fatal blow was treacherous for it split his skull.

It's always fascinating to me to research a phrase that jumps out at me to find that I had absolutely no idea just how much is conveyed by such seemingly simple phrases.

My brothers I encourage you to venture out on your own, find a phrase that makes you think and do some thinking and researching to discover for yourself just exactly what the ritual says....talk about more light in Masonry...my brothers I'm afraid we have barely struck the match.






Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Is Technology the Right Path ??

It's amazing that when thoughts occur to me that I simply sit down at the PC and start typing away....or should I say keyboarding away. This leads me into the topic I wish to address....technology.
As a youngster nerd status came naturally....and as my girlfriend will argue is still firmly in place.

Being that nerd, the typewriter was a mystery to me that needed to be unlocked. The mysteries became unlocked thanks to a spinster neighbor and "typing" class in both junior high and high school. I realized that computers were going to come into age and that typing would be a useful tool not only for that technology but for typing papers in college.

When my sons were in school I insisted on typing classes....but they are now referred to as keyboarding. There was something about the clicking of the keys and the striking of the letters on the paper that made the whole mysterious process even more alluring.

How does this all relate to our fraternity must be the question in your mind. I read many articles about the supposed demise of our craft, many are written by very young Masonic bloggers, writers, and students of the craft. By very young I mean those in their late twenties and early thirties...by Masonic standards that is very young.

They do raise some good points about what the "lodge" does other than degree work. They claim that there are not enough activities outside of the usual meetings and degree work. I have to concur with that observation.

Those same articles seem to always get around to talking about how the younger generation communicates and the types of activities they desire and seek out. At some point in most of the articles they spend a fair amount of time discussing the various "hi-tech" devices and means which are an integral part of the younger generation's life.....I have to add, that age line seems to be increasing....everywhere I go there are people with their head bent down toward their phone.

A major theme of the articles also point out that membership numbers are declining and they tend to place the blame on the lodges for not being relevant to the needs of prospective members. While I am willing to partially accept that blame, I can't go along with that theory 100%.

All organizations are experiencing a decline in membership and another factor....participation of those who are already members. The last generation and a half were not joiners....many studies say that this is going to change...that the now young generation will be joiners.....time will tell as they say. I'm not sure if we can become relevant enough to help change and shape an entire generation...and by we I mean all organizations....churches, civic groups, fraternities and the like.

One factor affecting our local area is the decline in population. We have approximately 16+ lodges in our "local" area....this seems to be too many for the amount of membership of those lodges. Due to keeping the buildings going and the bills paid....much of the extra effort and time is devoted to raising money to keep the doors open.

So back to the "hi-tech" theme.....these articles talk often about social media and other hi-tech ways of communicating with members of the lodge and also prospective members as well. They speak of new brothers doing exhaustive research on line before joining only to find out that all too often they know more than many of the existing brothers.....because their needs are not met in regards to learning more of the history, tradition, and meaning of the craft, so they move on to other ventures.

Another disturbing trend in some circles is negative talk regarding the ritual and degree work. To me the degree work and the ritual work is what separates us from the animal groups, the moose, eagles, elk, water buffalo, etc. Freemasonry is rich in tradition, teachings and symbolism. The Supreme Commander of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction has made some speeches and wrote some articles about how he feels that the degree work of the Scottish Rite is hampering it's efforts at recruiting and retaining new members....that went over like a lead balloon in Bay City.

Social media has a huge footprint in society today. My contention has been that Freemasonry was the original social media. It provided then and provides today,  a vehicle for social interaction, education, and the betterment of man. Unfortunately today many rely on the various social media outlets as a means of social interaction. A few are realizing that they need to get their head out of the electronics and be around some living breathing humans.....thus was man made for the social and active life, the noblest part of the work of God.....there's that darn ritual, written hundreds of years ago and it's still relevant....imagine that.

I acknowledge that we as a fraternity need to take the lessons we espouse much more seriously, I'm not advocating to not have fun, but we need to re-educate ourselves so we can educate the newly made Masons and this will meet one of their needs.....but it requires dedication on our part. 

Communication is always bantered about as a concern....and that famous pop culture line...." what we have here, is a failure to communicate".....in our area we are very fortunate...several years ago a Yahoo group was formed for the communication of upcoming events, sickness, death, etc. The idea has been shared with other Masonic groups but many have a hard time grasping the concept. We here in the local area are so used to it that it is referenced almost without thought by the brothers of the area....it has become a very reliable and useful tool.....but many other groups can't grasp how it can be beneficial.

Contrasting the process of becoming a Mason today to that of 34 years ago, things have changed drastically. When I joined we were told what time to be there, what to wear, etc. We followed it because we were joining them and we were to conform to their rules and customs. We had a six page one letter key lesson to learn to become proficient and we were assigned a teacher, a mentor to guide us through the process. Today a man is voted on to receive the degrees of Masonry, he tells us when he can take his degrees, nobody recommends what the candidate should wear, often they show up in shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops.....I'm sure he is real comfortable when we are all in shirt and tie or suit or tux,. he spends about a half an hour with a brother before doing his proficiency and he is rushed through the next two degrees....the whole process can be done in 3-4 weeks......then more cases than not he's never heard from again. That is the reality....it's not how it is designed to work by the Grand Lodge....but that is reality in more lodges than I care to acknowledge. No real studying, no real mentoring, just a rush to the mighty Master Mason degree.

Sadly that is a reflection of our society today.....today is the age of instant gratification...instantaneous results....nobody wants to start at the bottom and work their way up the ladder, learn the tricks of the trade as they say, they want to come in as Chairman of the Board....me, me, me.....nothing is earned it's given on a silver platter. The days of telling a candidate when and where to be, what to wear and what to expect seem to have fallen by the wayside. The mention of starting as a steward and working ones way up is practically unheard of in today's Masonic environment. One of my pet peeves is that a man comes in and takes his EA degree and after the lectures is afforded a seat in the East, that new brother now has less to look forward to. I believe the first time I sat in the East was during my first term as JW on advanced officers night or it might have even been as SW....I remember thinking that it had taken some time to achieve and that moment meant so much more to me, because I had worked for it and paid my dues, I didn't start my journey there, it was a stop made much later and it meant a lot to me.

The Grand Lodge of Michigan has implemented several plans, two very important ones are the 6-step program and the Mentor program. The 6-step allows the lodge to get to know the potential candidate and also allows the petitioner to get to know the lodge. If there seems to be a fit between the potential candidate and the lodge, the last step is to hand the man a petition......lodges can't seem to get away from the old theory of shoving a petition in a man's face, at the first hint of a question about joining the lodge. Many of us brothers who have been around for a while dream of the day when a candidate actually worked at becoming proficient....I think those days are gone for good and will never be returned to....thus the need for Mentors. The Grand Lodge has a terrific Mentor program and encourages every lodge to assign a Mentor to the newly made Mason....unfortunately this too falls by the wayside for whatever reason.

It seems almost ironic that the majority of the articles talking about the demise of the craft always reference the lack of activities outside of meetings and degree work. I've been approached by brothers who seem to preface their remarks with why doesn't the Grand Lodge or why doesn't the district do such and such. My response is always, wow, that sounds like a great idea....why don't you put some things together, get some organization to your ideas, then I will help you get it implemented, invariably their response is I can't do that, or I don't have the time to organize it. Great ideas are usually great, terrific ideas start with great ideas with the originator being the catalyst to make it happen.

Another topic always bantered around is family oriented activities, which can include the wife and kids. The argument is that if a brother is going to take time away from his wife and children then the lodge needs to offer activities with the family in mind. What are those types of activities....obviously Lodge picnics don't meet the criteria, most I have attended are usually light in attendance. Several lodges and other apendant bodies have baseball trips, the challenge there is the price...taking 4-6 to a ball game adds up rather quickly, there are several minor league teams in the area which are more affordable, would that work? I wish I knew what the magic answer is.....the sad part is that there isn't a magic answer.....one never knows what will motivate people to action, to actually show up and participate. The key to any activity is to motivate people to "make" time for the activity....all the planning in the world can not guarantee a great turn out....it seems all the planets need to be aligned to pull off a successful event.

I've read plenty of articles talking about the condition of the craft, even the potential demise....but rarely are any viable solutions offered up. In our local area we are blessed with King Solomon's Club, in recent memory we would always have 100+ for big events......now we are lucky to see 50....why is that....I feel we can attribute the low numbers to one thing....leadership....or more aptly said the lack of leadership on the local lodge level.

Leadership is also motivation of the members....one should be strong but fair in leading a lodge, but being a motivator is also a key attribute for a good leader. Planning is a must but motivating the members to actually participate in activities is the key to success. This is where some good old fashioned networking comes in....press the flesh...shake some hands, make some phone calls, send some text messages, blast it on Facebook, Twitter and such...face to face contact along with some flyers and word-of-mouth advertisement can lead to success for planned events.

The challenges facing our fraternity today are challenges facing all fraternities, churches, civic groups, etc. While I agree that the lodges need other activities beyond boring business meetings and degree work, I'm unclear about what type of activities will motivate the brothers and their families to "make" time for any activity. It's hard to compete with the constantly moving electronic fodder that is called entertainment these days. Back in the day, many lodges and apendant bodies had entertainment shows of various kinds, but variety shows were very popular on any of the three channels available on TV. Today there are hundreds if not thousands of channels available on TV, not to mention video games, computers, laptops, tablets, phones and the list goes on.

Our challenges are real....but there comes a time when people realize that they are truly created to be social beings and eventually come from behind their electronics. Maybe that's how we should market ourselves....as the original Social Media....with real-live humans interacting with one another in a "social" setting. It's odd that the term Social-Media is bantered about without even thinking about what the term means...."Social" meaning to interact with one another....the Media is simply the medium used for socialization.....we tend to use the most powerful form of intelligence....the human mind, body, and soul.....even the most powerful computer with the most advanced software pales in comparison to the human brain, add into that the body and soul and it's the most advanced machine known to man......after all it was divinely created.

I had the pleasure of catching the tail-end of a Fellowcraft degree last night at my home lodge. In addressing the candidate during the closing remarks, I mentioned that if he talked to some old-timers that they will often say that the Fellowcraft degree is considered the education degree. This title comes from a time hundreds of years ago when a formal education system was not in place. For many brothers during those times the education they received at a Fellowcraft degree was their only education regarding the 5 human senses and the 7 liberal arts and sciences along with a short lesson on the 5 orders of architecture which was much more prevalent then as opposed to modern building techniques.

My short talk could very well be the only talk that some brothers ever hear about our history and tradition. This aspect about our craft needs to be talked about much more frequently. In the majority of the articles I've recently read about the younger members seeking more substance to the degrees and meetings they attend....most of the comments come around to a thirst among these brothers seeking more knowledge about this great craft. Many of the older brothers know about this history and tradition but for whatever reason tend to dismiss it or can't communicate it to the newly made brothers of this marvelous fraternity.

Again, the Grand Lodge of Michigan has strongly encouraged a Lodge Education Officer be put in place to offer up short talks at the regular meetings of the lodges throughout the state. I have found that many lodges do have an active LEO and many of the short talks are very good. This should be a requirement for all lodges in my opinion. Too often these programs have cold water thrown on them by the overall membership of the lodges.

Indeed all of this is quite puzzling. Why do men seek out joining the fraternity? Is it because they have one or more friend that always talks about the great time they have with craft? Is it because they learn that a family member is a brother or maybe a relative who has passed on was a brother? Is it because of the mystery surrounding the craft? Is it a love of history and tradition? Is it plain curiosity?  By following the 6-step program, my belief is that we will find out.....when the man becomes a brother and has an assigned mentor, he will be more likely to return.....if we meet his needs and open ourselves up to "listening" to his thoughts and desires.....we may try some new things that will lead to increased interest.....if we back up the process with continuing education about the craft it may just excite his curiosity to do some studying on his own about the craft.

It's easy to point out the deficiencies of the craft.....but it's extremely difficult to develop programs and activities that will appeal to a broad spectrum of the brothers and their families. Actually I would wager that if they were posed that question they would not have an immediate response. Somehow it all relates back to the process of getting to know the men who are joining the fraternity, to pick their brain and assess their wants and desires.....if we can make that assessment, will we be willing to respond vigorously to their ideas and meet their expectations???