Freemasonry is said to take good men and make them better. In this idea two things are implied:
- That we must be good men, before and after we join
- That even good men are not complete, and there is something more for them to learn, to gain, to do.
By this theme we are taught that improvement is always possible, that growth is a journey, and that becoming better is our duty as long as we live.
This may seem obvious to us as masons. What may not be as obvious is the implication that a lodge, being made up of masons who are “good, and becoming better” has by extension the same duty- to be good, and to work to be better.
So how can we each contribute to the improvement of the lodge as a whole? That is the focus of this manifesto.
Applying the process of self-improvement to the lodge as a body (or “egregore”, i.e. group mind from the Greek “grigori”) involves active participation from each cell of the organism. We each have a role to play, and within our roles there are best practices that can support a healthy, effective, and joyous process of lodge growth.
Here are some suggested best practices:
Past Masters: You are to support the lodge in any way possible because your knowledge and experience are assets. Because you have been there and have had to learn some of the hardest lessons already, you can add valuable insight. You are also perceived to be the wisest members of the lodge, so you must strive to act as such. Be patient, encouraging, and whisper good counsel, but also be okay when your counsel is not heeded, for some need to learn by experience. You are especially tasked with supporting the Master, for you remember how hard that job can be. A Master has a grand hope and new energy that can transform a lodge for the better- or quickly dissipate in frustration- and your help and support make all the difference.
Masters: The Master’s design upon the trestleboard defines the culture of the lodge. It sets the tone and defines what the rest of the lodge considers to be the standard. What the master considers acceptable will become acceptable, so aim high. Always strive for the best possible vision of your lodge, and work to define and maintain the highest standards. Yet do not be attached to the outcome. Your duty is to steer and lead by example, and success is a journey.
Wardens: You have the most important job in the lodge! You set the standard of brotherly love and affection that the brethren will emulate, and you cannot expect your members to follow the example of the master if you cannot yourself do so. For instance you can merely “indulge” the master out of a sense of duty, or you can encourage him and lend support out of respect and brotherly love. The spirit with which you carry out your duties is everything. The more cheerfully you step up to help and support the master, the more likely the rest of the membership will be to follow your example. When your turn at the wheel comes, you will get the very same support system you taught by example; so be a good example!
Officers: Officers are depended upon a great deal. It is easy to miss how much you matter, and it’s totally normal at times to feel burned out, critical of the leadership, and to wonder why you are doing it at all. It is not easy to serve. We often have other ideas of how we would do things, and we don’t always feel appreciated or valued. Yet service is one of the ways in which Masonry makes us better men. When we help a leader even while disagreeing with him, we get to test our assumptions and ideas without taking all of the impact if he has made a mistake. Furthermore it teaches us patience, exposes us to new perspectives, and gives us opportunities for charity- not charity in the sense of “philanthropy”, but benevolence (forgiveness, patience of shortcomings, encouragement)- that kind of charity all masons are charged to practice with one another, and which makes us worthy of emulation.
Master Masons: You are tasked with pure and simple participation. Only by coming to the place where “masonry” happens can you hope to be a “mason”. A lodge is not the building, it is the brethren, so you are missed when you are not around. Truly, one who will wear a masonic ring and tell people he is a mason, but won’t join his fellows in the quarry is clearly fooling himself. Brotherhood is not something that can be faked, yet that is exactly what happens when we join a brotherhood and don’t spend time with said brothers. Most importantly, you are needed every week to lend your voice, support the new members, and to continue your personal growth. You are mentors to the apprentices and fellows of the craft, and this is a critical job. Now, if the lodge you joined is not your style; if it is lacking in brotherly love, in truth (education), and if it does not foster growth- then you have a duty to participate and help to build it into something better, for masons are, after all, builders! Also, see above about benevolence.
Fellows and Apprentices: Study and participate. Apply yourself in learning everything you can about the lessons and symbols of your degree, and the history of the fraternity. Come to every event and meeting you can. Get to know every member you can and work right from the beginning to understand their unique experiences, perspectives, and values. Be sure to listen more than you speak so that you can soak in as much as possible just like the apprentices of old. You are the future masters and past masters of the lodge, use this time to learn about the system so that you can later teach it and improve upon it. Also, enjoy your time in the first two grades, go slow and allow each to stage to do its work in changing you for the better. Each has its own value to impart to you, and rushing only cheapens the experience. Surely, we have three degrees for a reason!
May these suggestions help to strengthen us, and to demonstrate the vital role each of us has to play in the health of Claremont Lodge. After all, a lodge is only a mirror held before the faces of the members of which it is made. What do we see when faced with ourselves?
So mote it be!
– “We Take Good Lodges and Make Them Better”: A Master’s Manifesto” first appeared on ClaremontLodge.org 01.05.19, written by Dru Wood