Jack just couldn’t get John’s statement about his annual job review out of his mind. After their last meeting Jack had returned home and wrote in his journal about John’s suggestion that he could use the lessons from the Entered Apprentice degree during his performance review.
Jeff, his supervisor, had already said some crazy things about Masonry, so if Jack did present some plan to accomplish his goals and said it came from being a Mason, it probably wouldn’t go over very well. Jack thought maybe the better thing to do when presenting his life plan was to tell Jeff he had begun working with someone who had agreed to be a mentor and leave Masonry out of it. After all it was true, John was becoming someone Jack looked up to and valued his opinions.
Jack was beginning to understand that Masonry wasn’t something you should have to tell people you belong to, it should become apparent you’re a Mason by your actions and behavior.
John had given Jack a manual entitled “Becoming Masonry” at their first meeting. He told Jack this would guide him in writing a personal values statement, a mission statement and a comprehensive personal development plan. The plan will include goals, strategies, and specific action plans for five areas of his life; personal, relationships, Masonic, professional and community.
Jack had just browsed through it once and then tossed it on his desk. He thought he would wait until John mentioned it again, but he didn’t. That was strange Jack thought, John is pretty attentive to details and to give him what appears to be something of importance and then not mention it again, doesn’t make sense.
Jack found out why when he opened the manual again and begin to read the preface. As he read the words the reason became crystal clear.
“This manual was designed to assist a Brother to Become Masonry. It is a guide and the basic framework from which to build your Masonic edifice. To assist you a caring Brother has been assigned as your mentor. He will be your initial source of knowledge and encouragement and will answer any questions you may have about the tasks and responsibilities in this manual.
You may be puzzled why your mentor gave the manual to you, briefly explained it and then never mentioned it again. This was deliberate and intentional. Masonry gives us all wonderful tools to use for building a better life for ourselves and our families. It is up to each Mason to take those tools and use them or not.
Those who use them will truly Become Masonry, and those who don’t have squandered valuable assets. Masonry does not make the choice for you. It is yours.”
Wow, thought Jack, that was a pretty “in your face” statement. But it made sense. He remembered his Uncle Ted telling him that Masonry was something that had great value but he would have to discover it. I guess this was the beginning of discovery.
Jack made an entry in his journal;
“today I learned that I will have to make a choice whether to live as a Mason or not. No one will force me and no one will make me use Masonry’s tools. My Brothers will explain the lessons and mentor me, but it will be up to me to apply them in my life.”
Jack turned back to the manual and the first section entitled “The Journey of Personal Improvement.” In the introductory statement it said this;
“This section is to introduce you to personal development and present you some basic tools to help you get started. Developing yourself personally not only benefits your Lodge by making you a more effective leader, but allows you to improve your family relationships, your professional career and be a more productive person in your community. It also may help you discover your true passion in life and lead you in an entirely different direction. “
The words about discovering your true passion and going in a different direction in life caught Jack’s attention. He knew he didn’t want to stay forever with the company who gave him his first job. He was grateful but he had dreams of something better. Masonry was now going to help him do that.
He had another week before he would sit with Jeff and discuss his performance. He wanted to be ready and had already decided that John’s suggestion of presenting a life plan was a good one. It would take some work to get it done but he knew it was the right thing to do.
He had just started reading the first chapter of the manual “Awareness” when his phone rang. It was his Aunt Betsy and in a panicked voice told him his Uncle Ted had been rushed to the hospital with an apparent heart attack. Jack threw on some clothes and was out the door in a few minutes.
Next: Brotherly Love
Note from Mike: This is part of a continuing story of Jack as he learns to Become Masonry. See previous blog posts to catch up.
Jack was running a little late but managed to get to his Lodge’s parking lot just as John was pulling in. Jack had been looking forward to tonight and learning more about Masonry from the EA ritual. In the last two weeks he had been trying to read the strange words and had managed to decipher the more common ones but was still a long way off. He knew John would take care of that tonight.
“Hey Jack, good to see you,” John said as he approached Jack’s car, “Any more strange comments from your boss?”
“No, not really, He’s been absorbed in looking his best the last couple of weeks; annual evaluations are coming up.”
“Oh is that right? Does this include yours as well?”
“Yes it does.”
“Let’s talk about that later. We need to get you started on learning your EA exam first.”
Jack and John found a quiet place inside the Lodge building and John began reading the EA examination ritual to Jack. He read a page and then Jack repeated. John continued through the book in that manner until they reached the end. He then had Jack begin reading from the beginning and when Jack got stuck he prompted him. By the end of the 45 minutes they had allotted, Jack was beginning to catch on and was doing well on his own.
“Well Jack do you have any questions?”
“Yeah, what’s the Lodge of the Holy Saint John of Jerusalem?”
“Good question and one that a lot of Masons don’t even bother to ask.” John continued, “The Masonic tradition is that the primitive or Mother Lodge was held at Jerusalem, and dedicated to Saint John, first the Baptist, then the Evangelist, and finally to both. Hence this Lodge was called “The Lodge of the Holy Saint John of Jerusalem. This is the Lodge, according to tradition, from which all Lodges have descended.”
“Is there anything else from the degree or the exam you have a question about Jack?
“Well, I don’t know. I guess it’s all pretty new and I’ll have to think about it. I’m sure I’ll have some questions as time goes on.”
“Jack I want to make sure that you understand the importance of the working tools of an Entered Apprentice. Do you remember what they are?”
“No, I don’t think I do,” replied Jack.
“Turn to the next to last page in your examination ritual and read it again.”
Jack found the page and the line where the tools were described. He thought a minute and finally remembered what was said when they were introduced to him during the degree. John purposely waited a few minutes; he knew Jack was thinking.
Finally John said, “Jack, can you think of some ways these tools can be useful to you?”
“Well, I suppose so, but nothing jumps to mind immediately.”
“Let me ask you a question then. How do you keep track of all your activities in life and how do you decide what things should be priorities?”
“I guess I really never thought about it. There are things that just have to be done. You know, like work, pay the bills, and stuff like that. Other things I guess just happen when they happen.”
John could see Jack was starting to get confused so he said, “Jack the first tool of an EA is reminding us that there are priorities in life. The degree outlines some basic responsibilities and some basic divisions of our time, but intends that each of us should fill in the details. We should each think about what is important and then devise a plan to ensure these important items are given priority. By doing so, we have outlined a plan to live our life in a manner that strives to reflect the values of Masonry and honors our god, our family, and ourselves.”
“What about the second tool?” Jack asked.
“Well to me it is there to remind us that once we have determined our priorities, we should constantly find ways to improve ourselves so we can accomplish our life plan. Remember when we first met you told me you had some dreams for your life; the second tool is there to shape you so you will continually work to realize your dreams.”
“Wow, that’s pretty powerful John, I didn’t know Masonry would do that.”
“It’s almost time for Lodge to start so I want to leave you with this thought. You mentioned your annual review at work is coming up. How powerful would it be if during that review, you outlined to your boss your plan to achieve your dreams? I think you would truly impress him and I want you to do that. The working tools in the EA degree are there to be used. Use them Jack.”
On the drive home after Lodge Jack could only think about John’s final words about using the tools of Masonry. Once home he pulled out his laptop and begin to write.
Next: Jack’s annual review.
John Grogan chuckled at the comments he received when he came to work wearing a suit and tie. The IT company where he worked had long ago adopted a casual dress code so anyone wearing clothes that gave the appearance of “dressing up” brought good-natured kidding.
John didn’t care because tonight was his Masonic Lodge meeting and his dress was very appropriate for the affair. There wasn’t time to dress one way for work, get home, change and then make it to the restaurant in time for the beginning of the meeting. And besides, the suit made him feel special and he actually found that on Lodge meeting days his attitude improved just because he looked, well…, gentlemanly.
John’s Lodge began their meeting at a local restaurant. They had long ago decided that a well-planned “Festive Board” created the atmosphere of Brotherly Love that was so essential to a successful Lodge. Besides the great food it allowed planned time for the Brethren to get to know each other, learn from each other and most importantly, laugh with each other.
It took several minutes for JT, the Master of Ceremonies, to get the Brethren calmed down so he could welcome everyone to the meeting. JT, a relatively new Mason, was appointed the MC after it was discovered that he a great talent for entertaining. His winning smile and jokes that sometime made everyone groan, left everyone laughing and wondering what he would come up with at the next meeting.
Tonight was no exception as he opened with the question; “How many Masons does it take to screw in a light bulb?” He had perfect timing as a comedian and his answer came before anyone could open their mouth’ “Twenty five; twenty four to serve on the committee to decide whether it should be changed, and one to actually change it.” The groans were loud and long but the effect was achieved; this was an enjoyable place to be.
As everyone was finishing their dinner and drinks, JT rose, thanked everyone for coming and announced that Lodge would opened in approximately ½ hour. The educational topic would be a paper presented by Brother Sanders entitled “Using Masonry for Personal Improvement” followed by open dialogue.
The opening of Lodge was as elegant as it was simple. The officers assumed their stations with a solemn procession in a silent, candle-lit lodge room with soft, inspiring music playing. Once the officers reached their stations the period of reflection began. Each Brother was left to his own thoughts as the music continued, ended and then a short period of complete silence was observed.
The Master then opened lodge with each officer responding in a clear and serious manner, loud enough for everyone to hear but in a tone that conveyed the meaning and importance of the Masonic experience to come. The Brethren on the sidelines listened knowing silence and circumspection is an important part of Masonry.
The business matters necessary for the operation of lodge had been included in a “consent agenda” which was previously distributed to all members. This allows the Lodge to approve all items on this agenda with one motion unless a Brother requests that a particular item be presented, discussed and voted on separately. All matters regarding petitions and reports on petitions were handled individually. This particular evening there were no petitions or separate items so the consent agenda was improved and the business of the Lodge was handled in less than five minutes.
John and the Brethren listened intently as Brother Sanders presented his paper on personal improvement. Brother Sanders had recently received his Entered Apprentice degree and his paper was a required topic for every EA. The open dialogue that followed produced several useful techniques for preparing, executing and continuing a plan of personal improvement. John made note of several things he needed to review or add to his own plan. Every member has a plan; it was a requirement of the Lodge.
Each Lodge member devised a plan for personal improvement, maintained it and periodically reported their progress. The Lodge had written a template for use to devise the plan and had appointed several knowledgeable Brothers whose responsibility it was to assist each new EA. Through the degrees these Brothers would support, encourage and help after each degree to add items to your plan. After you were raised a Master Mason your plan would be finalized and you began full implementation by using the lessons of the degrees in support of your life goals, objectives and action plans.
Master Masons were then asked to become mentors for new EAs. Which, as John knew, kept each Brother accountable to his own plan as well as ensuring those men, who sought to improve their lives by Masonry, were given the proper tools.
Seeing the time for closing the Lodge approaching the Master concluded the paper presentation by congratulating Brother Sanders and thanking all Brothers for their input.
As was tradition in John’s Lodge, the Master called on one Brother at random prior to closing and asked him one question; “Brother, why are you a Mason?” In answering the question a Brother was to stand and give his Masonic Purpose Statement which he had developed as part of his personal improvement program.
“I am a Mason because I recognize that no man should live his life in a random manner. He should be guided by a plan that honors his God, supports his neighbor and provides improvement for him daily. Masonry has provided this plan for me and I will live in pursuit of knowledge and understanding for the purpose of providing for my family, supporting my Masonic Brethren, and improving my community. My continued hope is that I live respected and die regretted.”
The Lodge was closed with the same elegance and dignity with which it began.
As John drove home he was elated, inspired, refreshed and truly thankful he had become a Mason. He was so grateful he belonged to a Lodge that practiced Masonry.
1. Let’s face it! Can we expect Freemasonry to retain its past glory and prestige unless the level of leadership is raised above its present position? On many an occasion in the past 14 years, Masters and Secretaries have come into my office to ask my advice on what to do about lagging interest. Again and again I have said, “There is nothing wrong with your Lodge, nor with Freemasonry, that good leadership will not cure.” I believe that.
2. How well are we guarding the West Gate? Again, let’s face it. We are permitting too many to pass who can pay the fee and little else. On every hand I hear the same whispered complaint, “We used to be getting petitions for the degrees from the good, substantial leaders in the community. Now we are getting… ” Just what it is they are getting, you know as well as I.
3. Has Freemasonry become too easy to obtain? Fees for the degrees are ridiculously low; annual dues are far too low. Everything is geared to speed – getting through as fast as possible and on to something else. The Lodge demands little and gets little. It expects loyalty, but does almost nothing to put a claim on a man’s loyalty. When we ourselves place a cheap value on Masonic membership, how can we expect petitioners and new members to prize it?
4. Are we not worshipping at the altar of bigness? Look it in the face: too few Lodges, with those Lodges we do have much too large. Instead of devoting our thoughts and energies to ways whereby a new Master Mason may find a sphere of activity within his Lodge, we let him get lost in the shuffle. Then we nag and harangue at him because he does not come to meetings to wander around with nothing to do. We are hard at work to make each Lodge so large that it becomes an impersonal aggregation of strangers – a closed corporation.
5. What can we expect when we have permitted Freemasonry to become subdivided into a score of organizations? Look at it. Each organization dependent upon the parent body for its existence, yet each jockeying for a position of supremacy, and each claiming to be the Pinnacle to which any Master Mason may aspire. We have spread ourselves thin, and Ancient Craft Masonry is the loser. Downgraded, the Symbolic Lodge is used only as a springboard. A shortsighted Craft we have been to create in our Fraternity a condition wherein the tail can, and may wag the dog.
6. Has the American passion for bigness and efficiency dulled the spirit of Masonic charity? The “Box of Fraternal Assistance” which once occupied the central position in every Lodge room has been replaced by an annual per capita tax. That benevolence which for ages was one of the sweetest by-products of the teaching of our gentle Craft has, I fear, ceased to be a gift from the heart and has become the writing of a check. And unless the personal element is there, clarity becomes as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.
7. Do we pay enough attention to the Festive Board? Should any reader have to ask what the Festive Board is, that in itself will serve to show how far we have strayed from the traditional path of Freemasonry. Certainly the Festive Board is not the wolfing of ham sandwiches, pie and coffee at the conclusion of a degree. It is the Hour of Refreshment in all its beauty and dignity; an occasion for inspiration and fellowship; a time when the noble old traditions of the Craft are preserved.
8. What has become of that “course of moral instruction, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols,” that Freemasonry is supposed to be? If it is a course of instruction, then there should be teachers, and if ours is a progressive science, then the teaching of a Master Mason should not end when he is raised. I am not talking about dry, professorial lectures or sermons – heavens no! That is the kind of thing that makes Masonic education an anathema. Where are the parables and allegories? Alas, they have descended into booklets and stunts. No winder interest is so hard to sustain.
9. Hasn’t the so-called Century of the Common Man contributed to making our Fraternity a little too common? We can not expect to retain the prestige the Craft has enjoyed in the past if we continue without challenge to permit the standards of the picnic ground, the bowling alley, the private club and the golf links to be brought into the Lodge hall. Whether we like it or not, a general lowering of standards has left its mark on every Lodge in Indiana, large and small.
10. Are there not too many well-meaning Brethren who are working overtime to make Freemasonry something other than Freemasonry?
It was an unhappy day when some eager beaver conceived the idea that our Craft should adopt the methods of the service club, or the luncheon group, or the civic league, or the Playboy outfit. Whoever the eager beaver was, he lost sight of the fact that one of the reasons our Fraternity is prized so highly is that it does not operate like other organizations.
Well, that should be enough for one dose. The following pages elaborate on the ten points enumerated above.
Let me give you fair warning. In the following essays I shall call a spade a spade. Some of my readers are not going to like it. But what I have to say I believe our Craft needs to hear, and it is only for the “good of the Order” that it is said.
I shall propose no bright new ideas – not one. All I am going to advocate is that Freemasonry remain Freemasonry; and if we have strayed from the traditional path, we had better be moving back to the main line while there is yet time to restore the prestige and respect, the interest and loyalty and devotion that once was ours.
I was looking for reference material on building a vision to use in a presentation and ran across a copy of The Grand Lodge of Indiana’s mission statement. I thought it captured the essence of Masonry and in such a short statement outlines the mission we all should adopt. Here it is:
Mission Statement of The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Indiana
adopted May 17, 2005
“The Mission of the Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, was, is and shall be, to teach the art of Freemasonry to all Men of Good Character thus inspiring them to practice the art of Freemasonry in their homes, communities and daily lives. This Association of like minded men improves and strengthens the character of each Brother, reflecting Freemasonry and thereby perpetuating the values through the Fraternity.”
The Grand Lodge also further defines Masonry in their Declaration of Principles. Click here to read it.
We would all do well if we accepted these statements and lived them.
I was preparing for a presentation and one of the sections is about a leader’s legacy. Not many Masonic leaders have probably thought about the legacy they want to leave to the Fraternity.
In Dr. Maxwell’s The Law of Legacy he offers four thoughts on how leaders should develop a legacy.
Is your legacy just a bunch of titles you have accumulated to list in your obituary? Wouldn’t it be much more rewarding to know that your contributions will live on?
How do you create a Masonic legacy? Create another leader. Start doing it today!
On Wednesday, December 19th at 8:00pm EST I will be hosting a live conference call to introduce Kary Oberbrunner’s new book The Deeper Path. Kary is a pastor, writer, speaker and an amazing coach.
If you want some more ideas for lodge programming here is a link to some on The Grand Lodge of Michigan’ site.