What Is a Masonic Apprenticeship?
Sir Knight Wayne T. Adams
If we want our newly Raised candidates to take an active part in Lodge life, we need at least to give them an introduction to Masonry. Ritual alone, no matter how well done, is not going to make a knowledgeable Mason or an active Lodge member. If we want a man who believes in Masonry, a man who is an active Lodge member, we have to take the time to show, to teach, to guide that new Mason to a clearer understanding of the tenets of his profession as a Mason. In short, we cannot just Raise a candidate and then drop him.
We have to start by making sure that we, ourselves, have a positive attitude. Masonry has much to offer. It has been a source of wisdom and personal satisfaction to millions of good men. Its principles and its benefits are as valuable and as timely today as they ever have been. Still, this question confronts us: Why are not more young men today interested in joining and participating in our Fraternity? I believe the answer, in large part, is that we fail to present Masonry in ways that appeal to a younger generation of men.
The men we want are activity oriented. We want the men who would rather to do something than be something.
Let us look at some of the community activities which compete for young men's time. Service clubs are growing. They explain to men their community projects and how they raise money to fund them. They are able to show a committed group of people doing something to make a positive impact on their communities. Public safety groups, such as fire companies and rescue squads, are growing. They show young people the scope of their activity. They demonstrate their equipment and their training programs, and they show a committed group of members intent on doing something to improve their skills. Social clubs, usually centered around sports such as golf, tennis, hunting or fishing, have no trouble maintaining membership. They are able to show interested people their facilities, their schedule of events, and their activities. They are able to show a group of people who are passionate about their sport and about doing something to improve their performance.
The success of these organizations gives us a clue. It tells us what appeals to good men today. They want to do something. They want to become more effective in what they do. They want to be involved with others, to be part of an effort, and to share goals.
Now, let us look at Masonry. What can Masonry offer? We can start with brotherly love, relief and truth. The elements of brotherly love are our perfect points: the obligation to go out of our way to serve a worthy Brother; the obligation to be ever mindful of the Brother in our meditations; the obligation to keep a confidence; the obligation to help a Brother and to protect his good name; and finally, the obligation to warn a worthy Brother of an approaching danger. We offer this bond to a man who is willing to reciprocate.
Relief need not be material relief. It can be a helping hand or an understanding ear, a favor or a word of encouragement. The underlying commitment is a willingness to help another Mason or his family with the same level of concern that a man might show to his own brother. We can offer this commitment to a man who is willing to reciprocate.
Truth is a value and a measure of the values we are committed to. Each of the three degrees of symbolic Masonry teaches by precept, allegory and symbol the virtues of fidelity, temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice, all of which we hold to be true today, true yesterday, and true tomorrow. We are willing to share the legends and the allegories and symbols which illustrate them with men who are willing to commit themselves to the virtues they represent.
Brotherly love, relief and truth require personal activity and commitment. We have to do something to put them into practice. Masonry can provide men with an opportunity to do something to improve themselves in pursuit of those truths.
Let us look at ourselves in practice. Is our emphasis on just being a member or on thinking and acting as a Mason? Do we try to create new members, or do we try to show a man how he can live Masonry? The answer, of course, varies from Lodge to Lodge. A Lodge which wants to attract young men today needs to offer them an opportunity to do something which will give them personal satisfaction. Sadly, many of our Lodges offer a new Mason little or nothing to do unless he is interested in taking part in ritual work.
Our own legends teach us that ancient apprentices and fellowcrafts learned to improve their skills under the guidance and tutelage of Masters. That was true in operative Masonry. It can become true in speculative Masonry. We should not permit a candidate simply to "take" three degrees. We should demonstrate to him that the tenets of his profession as a Freemason offer him a way of thinking and a way of living.
Fine words you may say. Fine and high sounding words. But, just how would you go about instructing a candidate on Masonry as a way of thinking and a way of living. I suggest a twelve-point apprenticeship plan to get new members involved, to give them something to do, twelve points which are closely related to the tenets of our profession as Freemasons.
Let us first consider Brotherly Love. The candidate must get to know his new Brothers. Here is what a presiding Master can do:
Task 1. Make sure the candidate's sponsor introduces him to everyone present the night he is initiated. I have seen a candidate prepared for his degree sitting alone in a room where a whole group of Masons were chatting with each other, none of whom had been introduced to him or had taken the time to introduce themselves to him.
Task 2. Request the candidate and his sponsor to be greeters at the door the night of his second and third degrees. This is a good opportunity for him to speak to the members he met earlier and to meet additional members who are attending that evening.
Task 3. Invite the candidate to help out on the first three suppers following his initiation. Remember, he sought membership because he wanted to do something. Involving him in the work of the Lodge will make him begin to feel a part of it.
Now, let us look at Relief. Each new Mason needs to learn firsthand some of the aspects of Masonic relief and caring.
Task 4. Invite the new Mason to work on the first special ladies' night following his initiation and see that he personally meets several of them.
Task 5. Include the new Mason on the team delivering flowers or baskets or whatever the Lodge may do for widows and elder Brothers during the holiday season.
Task 6. Invite him to accompany the Master on a visit to a hospitalized Brother or to a Brother who is shut in.
Task 7. Request him to attend the first two Masonic Memorial Services following his initiation to witness the concern our Fraternity feels for the family of a departed Brother.
Our third tenet is Truth. The candidate should be told that he is expected to obtain a basic familiarity with the legends and symbols which illustrate truths we value.
Task 8. Make sure the candidate has the benefit of the four instructional sessions outlined in our Instructor's Manual. We seriously shortchange a man if we make him a member of our Lodge but fail to give him a basic familiarity with the ritual which is at the heart of our Fraternity.
Task 9. See to it that the candidate visits another Lodge three times as he progresses through his degrees, each time to witness the degree he has just taken. This will give him a better understanding of the degree he has just taken. It will also show him that he is part of a wider Fraternity, one that he can take with him wherever he goes. It goes without saying that he ought to be accompanied by his sponsor or Brothers he knows well.
Task 10. Invite the new Mason to take a nonspeaking chair within a month or two after he is Raised either for a degree or simply for a stated meeting. He may never want to do it again, but it is important for him to do it at least once and have the opportunity to feel he is a part of that ritual.
Task 11. Arrange for the candidate to give his third degree lesson either along or with other recent candidates within the prescribed time. The rule, after all, is ours. We have many, many new Masons who feel that they have failed to do something they should do. They haven't failed. We have failed when we tell them they are expected to do something and then never follow up.
Brotherly love, relief and truth are the tenets of our profession as Freemasons. There is another characteristic of Masons that is as old as the history of our country. Every community in this country is a better place to live because of the public spirited Masons, who, in hundreds of ways, keep their communities and this country going. They contribute as volunteer firemen, rescue squad members, little league coaches, church deacons and Sunday school teachers, as members of boards of hospitals and libraries and in countless other ways. Masons are the bedrock of every community in this country.
Task 12. Tell each new Mason, if he has not already done so, that we would like to see him identify one civic, community or church endeavor where he could carry into his community some of the lessons he has learned in his Lodge. Twelve points. We should tell a man who indicates an interest in Freemasonry what he would be expected to do in becoming a member. We might give him a pamphlet describing this apprenticeship plan so that he will understand in advance what it is, why we are asking him to do it, and how it will benefit him. Such a commitment might discourage a few do nothing types who simply want to be known as Masons. I am convinced that men who want to do something are attracted to membership in organizations which clearly state their principles, which ask them to make a commitment, and which relate those principles to a specific plan of activity for them. Any presiding Master can do a great service to Masonry, to his Lodge, and to his candidates if he will just give them something to do.
We have the greatest Fraternity in the world, founded on the noblest of principles. But let us never forget that it is not enough simply to make a man a member. Our Fraternity will grow as an influence for good, our Lodges will prosper, and our members will grow as good men and Masons only if we focus our thoughts and efforts and the thoughts and efforts of our candidates on Masonry as a way of thinking and a way of living in which brotherhood is the vehicle, the mission, and the goal.
Sir Knight Wayne T. Adams, Past Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Maine, is a member of St. Amand Commandery No. 20, West Kennebunk, Maine. He resides at 21 Walker's Lane, Kennebunkport, Maine.