Monday, February 20, 2012

Worshipful Master

  • It's been a while since I've been here, and I've served my year in the East. Apparently I didn't do as well as I thought because I am serving another year. I hope I don't have to get it right before I can relinquish the Oriental Chair.

I went to a leadership workshop a week ago, and I recognized a host of errors I've made as Master. As a result I'm indulging in a little self-flagellation, and if you choose not to watch, I can't say that I blame you.

I feel that, overall, I have let my lodge down as Master. I have two failings as Master that I am trying to work on.

1. I am not doing well at encouraging fellowship within the lodge - outside of our festive board.
2. I am not doing well at sharing my vision of my lodge which is:
  • Provide fellowship and enjoyment to our brethren
  • Perform superb ritual for our candidates – and ourselves
  • Be a friend – to neighboring lodges, to fellow masons and to our community.

We lost Master Masons overall. Three moved on to the Celestial Grand lodge, three went NPD, and we raised three men. We initiated and passed two more men, including my stepson, but we are not able to raise them yet.

More importantly, three of my officers stepped out of the line. My Junior Deacon has since been charged with unmasonic conduct, so his loss is understandable. The Senior Warden's children are now adolescent, and his work load has doubled, so his loss was understandable, if not inevitable. However, my Senior Deacon has lost interest, and that is something I should have been able to prevent.

I have also been fortunate because of the three men we raised, two have remained active. One, the son and grandson of active Past Masters, has assumed a steward position; and the other has taken Chaplain, and has begun to learn the Master's Carpet.

We could not field a full degree team without help from nearby lodges for our last two degrees. We can't do degree 3, part 2 without help, and while we can get help on the day of that degree, we can't get the practice we need to avoid paper on the floor. As a result, that ritual work was not up to the standards our lodge has held itself to, and I feel I have allowed us to stumble. I would like to encourage the participation and enthusiasm we need to field full degree teams.

After six years of publishing the Trestle board, the changes in postal regulations, along with other stresses, I stopped sending out a printed mailing last October. We are restarting it this month, with help from my Sr and Jr Wardens. I failed to ask for help when I needed it.

We are trying a member of the lodge for unmasonic conduct for the first time since 1894. I was his defender and counseled him against acting out, but my efforts to help him failed spectacularly.

Fortunately it wasn't all bad.

I did not shirk any ritual work, and I performed that work well. Not perfectly by any means, but I did perform it well. More importantly, my lodge also performed well, and our first and second degree work felt like magic.

My predecessor began a lodge celebration of Washington's Birthday with a wee dram of rum, that we enjoyed among ourselves. Last year I expanded this and held a Festive Board, which was mildly successful, and didn't lose too much money. Last week we had another Festive Board, which was held after a full morning of Scottish Rite degrees and it was wildly successful, recovering last years losses and setting us ahead for next year. But more important than the financial success, both of these helped cement the bonds of friendship and fraternity among everyone who was there - men from 50 - 100 miles away, from 15 different lodges. We all laughed, ate well, drank well, and went home smiling. More magic.

Two brothers came to our lodge and did lectures, and we have since offered them Honorary Membership in the lodge.

Several members of the lodge have stepped up and gone above and beyond, and watching that is very heartwarming.

Looking this over, maybe I'm more pessimistic than I should be. Most of our ritual was superb. Visitors and members enjoy our functions. And, most importantly, I have a lot less to do with our performance than I want to think I do.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

South Haven MM

On Saturday, May 30th South Haven held a Master Mason degree. There were 15 visitors helping us raise Ron, and the practice and planning really paid off.

We were not letter perfect. Not everyone knew their lines without the book. But thanks to help from Coloma, Lakeshore, Kalamazoo and other lodges we had plenty of people and an extremely successful degree.

I wish we could put on a degree like this with our own lodge, but the fact is we can't. And I wish I could have reciprocated by going to the Kalamazoo Lodge's all degree day yesterday, June 6th, but we gave our grandchildren (1 and 2) a combination birthday party yesterday.

My wife and I spent hours the night before preparing the breakfast and lunch. Even though it was "just" cold-cuts, there was a lot of preparation. I had help from one brother cleaning up afterward.

If I'm in town, and can possibly make it, I will do anything I can to help my brother lodges. The turnout was wonderful.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

SH Fellowcraft

We barely have enough regular attendees to perform a degree, and it's a good thing because that's all we had last night -- except JD from Pennsylvania popped in! Our JD had to do double duty as a Steward because no one -- no one -- from a neighboring lodge bothered to show up. I know Coloma had an officer practice because the GM was visiting their lodge during their regular meeting. But Fennville, Allegan, non-officer Coloma, Bloomingdale?

I used to think it was just us -- that South Haven didn't reach out, so no one reached out to us. But we have been reaching out, helping with degrees where necessary, and yet still no one visits.

I'm concerned about our MM on May 30th now. We're going to need a lot of help.

Oh: Ron was passed and Dick, the outstanding ritualist he is, performed the lectures as well as ever. Tim stepped up and did the beginning of the lecture -- he's trying to learn it -- and James stepped up and did the charge. We all know we can't count on Dick forever, as much as we'd love to. I did fine until the end, where I completely blanked. And my wife made brownies. She never makes brownies and swore she'd never cook for the lodge, but she made them just the same.

The Trestleboard

I edit the Trestleboard -- a newsletter -- for South Haven lodge, Bloomingdale lodge and the Shrine club. A few months ago, my wife -- who is better at presentation than I -- took it over. I still edit the text the WM's send me, and help make it coherent, but she spends hours reformatting it and making it look good, then printing it, then folding it, then sorting it and taking it to the post office. Each group spends $200 a year on postage and supplies (I consider any extra costs to be a donation).

This year the WMs are writing a lot, which means a lot of paraphrasing and editing. There's only so much room. The first issue was on 11x17.

There's a lot going on in our lives, and it usually takes a while before we have the time it takes to do this.

The text is due on the 15th, and the Shrine club is usually right on time. Our WM is usually within tolerance of being on time (that is, Friday before the first weekend after the 15th). Last month I had a business trip from the 16th to the 20th. The WM of Bloomingdale never replied to my reminder, but everyone else was on-time. At the Fellowcraft degree on the 21st -- at Bloomingdale Lodge -- that WM assured me it would be there by the end of the day. It wasn't. We began editing and printing on the 22nd -- with only the information he gave me at the degree -- so we'd be done by the end of the week. We got his input on the 25th (Tuesday). So she printed his as written on a separate page of paper, and folded that in. Thanks to her heroic efforts, our newsletter arrived locally on the 31st.

Will this help our tardy WM deliver on time? We'll see.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Religious Tolerance

My parents were raised Southern Baptist. My brother is Catholic and my sister is Jewish. I was baptized in a generic Christian church. My soul, I think, is Jewish. I feel more at ease among Jews than any one else.
I remembered that recently when I went to my nieces' Bat Mitzvah in New York. I felt more like myself there.
The cultural differences between New York and South Haven are vast.
Item: I was having a drink with a couple of brothers and one complained about the prices a local merchant charged, then said "I know that, on Sunday, he goes to Synagogue". I pointed out that Jews celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday. I left the rest of my rant unspoken.
Item: a relative was talking about a big event at her church. It seems that the Jewish family that belongs to the church is going to hold a Seder so that everyone can see what the Last Supper was like. We recommended against bringing a ham.
(I am not making this up)
I explain to people that when I was young, I went to Jewish Community Day Camp, because (according to my Mom) that was the only nearby day camp with swim lessons. My parents were so traumatized by the Baptists that they couldn't bear to take us kids to church, so JCDC became my Bible school. But there's more to it than that. My Mom and Grandmother used yiddish terms like "kibitz" or "meshugga". I didn't realize they weren't English until I moved to Orange County, California, so unless I was hanging out with people who had heard Yiddish, I'd sound odd. I don't use Yiddish much any more, but I miss it.
I'm a goy and my wife is a shiksa, and if I said this out loud here I would get no smiles, no understanding, no recognition.
There have been (and may still be) Jewish members of my lodge. Our lodge isn't as diverse as Ruyrad Kipling's (In 1925, he wrote in the London Times, "I was Secretary for some years of Hope and Perseverance Lodge No. 782, E.C. Lahore which included Brethren of at least four creeds. I was entered by a member of Bramo Somaj, a Hindu; passed by a Mohammedan, and raised by an Englishman. Our Tyler was an Indian Jew"). I am comforted to know that religious tolerance is one of the fundamental tenets of Masonry.
My wife asked me the other day, "why would anyone want to be a Mason?"
I think one good reason to be a Mason is because Masons believe that there are many ways to worship The Grand Architect of the Universe.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Grand Master Visit

The Most Worshipful Grand Master of Michigan popped by last night.
The meeting basically went like this:
We have big charities, please donate to them.
We are really low on money, especially since our reserves were eaten up in the stock market.
We are not gaining members as fast as we need to. We need to raise per-capita, so there are two proposals. One raises the per-capita $50, the other raises it $12.50 over 4 years.. Any questions?
Q: We can't afford raising dues $50 a year.
A: Then raise it less.
Q: We can't afford raising dues at all
A: Then we can't afford Masonry. But don't tell me it's not worth a dollar more a week.
We have had an extraordinary run of good Grand Masters. I know several of them, and in every case, they are more interested in the needs of the Fraternity than the status confered by the title. Our Deputy Grand Master is a good guy. He says, "I'm the guy that is telling you we need to raise the per-capita. So blame me".
Afterwards, cake and ice cream from our lodge (most of the expense was reimbursed by Grand Lodge). We had almost 50 men there, and it worked out great.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Last night we cleaned the lodge from top to bottom -- except for the kitchen, which is fairly clean. There were eight of us and it took about 3 hours. Today the Grand Master is popping in for an area Town Hall meeting -- whatever that is.