Vol. L No. 1 — January 1972
Allen E. Roberts
The search for more and more light goes on day after day. The cost runs into billions of dollars year after year. Even in industry, which might be termed a post-educational institution, the quest for knowledge is encouraged and supported by tremendous sums of money.
In industry and non-profit organizations the search has differing terms. Two of the most popular are "research and development" and "training programs". As the term "training programs" most closely fits Freemasonry's search for more light, we'll use it here.
De we really need training programs in Masonry? Do. we really need to seek and spread more light? The answer may be "no", but if any of the following are present, the answer must be "yes"
- Attendance at meetings is poor
- Loss of membership is experienced
- Requests for demits are numerous
- Suspensions for any reason are high
- The degree work is pool
- Candidates don't return for the Second and Third Degree
- Programs are poor or non-existent
- The Lodge is not considered a vital part of the community
- The Lodge ignores requests or orders from the Grand Lodge or Grand Master
- Reports to the Grand Lodge are not made promptly
- Errors in reports are numerous
- District or area Conferences are sparsely attended
- The Lodge is making members instead of Master Masons
Other items can be added to the list. Each Lodge should determine where its own weaknesses are. If it is then determined that a search for more light is needed, some kind of training program will be required.
It must be emphasized that no training program can be successful unless the "top" is fully "sold" on the need. Unless the Worshipful Master and his officers are agreed that more knowledge about Freemasonry is essential, any program is doomed to failure.
This does not necessarily mean that the Master, or even one of his officers, be the leader of the program. The wise Master realizes that all men have their limitations. He also realizes that all men are proficient in some area. So he seeks out the most knowledgeable Masons he can find for the particular job that must be done. He remembers that he acknowledged when he was installed Worshipful Master:
The honor, reputation, and usefulness of your lodge will materially depend on the skill and assiduity with which you manage its concerns, while the happiness of its members will be materially promoted in proportion to the zeal and ability wish which you propagate the genuine principles of our Institution.
For a pattern of imitation, consider the Great Luminary of Nature, which, rising in the East, regularly diffuses light and lustre to all within its circle. In like manner, it is your province to spread and communicate light and instruction to the brethren of your lodge.
The Worshipful Master is charged to manage his Lodge, i.e., to set goals, to lay out plans, to reach them, to set the Craft to work and to superintend them in their labors, which means he will use the talents of his members for the benefit of Freemasonry. He will assign the tasks that must be done to the best men available. By doing so, with "skill and assiduity", he will "propagate the genuine principles of our Institution". Above all, he will then be fulfilling his most important duty - "to spread and communicate light and instruction to the brethren" of his Lodge.
Who does need this Masonic Light that the Master is charged to spread and communicate?
- The new members
- All the officers of the Lodge
- The "old timers"
- Sojourning Masons, members of other Jurisdictions residing near the Lodge
To reach these men, and to cover all the areas that need Masonic enlightenment, many types of training activities will be required. It is impossible for one person to list all the situations peculiar to the 16,000 Lodges throughout the United States. Not even Freemasonry's legendary first Grand Master, with all of his wisdom, could find all of the answers. Every person is different; every Jurisdiction has its own peculiarities; every Lodge has a differing number of members and location; so every Lodge must determine its own needs.
These needs, and the kinds of training activities required to meet them, can be determined in part through
- Seeking the advice and assistance of the Committee on Education and other Grand Lodge officers
- Interviews with members who have left the Lodge
- Analyzing the programs used by other Lodges in and out of the Jurisdiction
- Obtaining information from publishers of Masonic books for training programs and other books available
- Conferring with other organizations, such as management centers of local universities, about training programs and the results they achieve
- Seeking assistance from outside consultants, such as management training specialists in banks and industrial corporations
- Getting advice from current authors of books and articles on management and training programs
- Talking with teachers in schools and universities in the area
Actually, the sources for assistance from nonMasons and Masons are plentiful. The leadership of every Lodge can find the help required to set up any program desired.
Every Lodge has members who will be willing to take the time necessary to learn how to be a Masonic teacher. The ritualistic instructors have proven this. In those few lodges where Masonic education has been put to work, other instructors have been available. All it really takes is a Worshipful Master eager, anxious, and willing to spread the Light of Freemasonry to his members.
It would be impossible to hire on the open market the type of talent needed to carry out the required training activities. There isn't enough money in the treasury of any Lodge for that. But Freemasonry is fortunate. It has all the talent it needs among its members. It just isn't being used as it should be. It hasn't been put to work!
The answers received to our question, "Do we really need to seek and spread more light?" will determine where the problems are. When we find them, the next step is to do something about them. So, let's define a problem and analyze it in some detail.
The attendance has been poor for several years. Seldom do over 15% of the resident members of the Lodge attend. We must determine why; so you, the Worshipful Master, call a meeting of your officers. You don't stop there, however. You want the best information you can get, so you also call in the Past Masters and as many members as you can roundup. You don't ask just the faithful members to meet with you. You bring in as many of those who have lost interest in the Lodge as you can find. These are the men who will "let their hair down" and tell you what is really wrong.
What you will learn will probably shock you, especially if there has been frank and open participation. But you don't stop with this meeting. You ask these men to go out and contact all the members of the Lodge. You are particularly interested in the views and comments of those who are not active. And you want as much information from those who have left the Lodge as possible. A time limit of one month is set by the group.
A month later you find that what shocked you earlier is even more shocking. You have learned that attendance is poor because there have been no Masonic programs. The Lodge has been opened, the minutes read, the bills paid, and if there was no candidate, the Lodge closed. Hardly worth leaving the reclining chair and TV for.
The consensus also indicated that the degree work needed much improvement. That's the reason three candidates didn't return to receive the Second or Third Degree. And that's the reason many who did go on to become members don't bother to attend the meetings now.
Many of those who don't still want to know what is going on in the Lodge. They are unhappy because they only receive an occasional post card. That tells them nothing. They want better communication than that from the Lodge.
A few wanted to know more about Freemasonry. They could find no one to tell them anything about the Order beyond the lectures (catechisms) that they had learned. They couldn't even find out where to obtain Masonic books, and the Lodge had none. This was one reason that several let themselves be suspended for non-payment of dues.
It was learned that the community knew little or nothing about the Lodge. That was the main reason the good men of the community were not petitioning the Lodge. No one is interested in becoming a part of an inactive organization. There were civic clubs available that were doing something.
The Master learned that in trying to define one problem - lack of attendance - he had found several areas that needed improving. He enumerated them as
- A lack of Masonic programs at the stated meetings
- Poor degree work
- No Lodge library
- A lack of communication with the members
- No Masonic education program
- The Lodge is not a vital part of the community
There was no question about it. If the Brethren were to receive More Light in Masonry, there was a lot of hard work ahead.
The problems couldn't be solved overnight - not even in a year. To do the job that ought to be done, all the officers would have to be committed to work with an overall educational program for several years. Fortunately, your officers agreed to seek and spread Masonic Light throughout their Lodge.
More Light in Masonry? Who needs it?
Those of us who aren't proud to be called a Master Mason. Those of us who don't feel that "we" can identify with Freemasonry. Those of us who can't talk about the Order, not even to our families, because we don't know what to say. Those of us who asked questions about the Fraternity but never received meaningful answers.
If the goal of making every member a Master Mason hasn't been set and reached, there is a need to seek and spread More Light in Masonry. If the members and officers aren't enthused about being Freemasons, knowledge about the Craft is lacking. If every Master Mason isn't a worker in the quarries of Freemasonry, there is a need for more and more Light.
The Worshipful Master in our "problem" discovered the need to spread Masonic Light in many areas of his Lodge. By studying the problem of attendance, the officers were in a position to answer the question which forms the title and subtitle of this essay:
MORE LIGHT in MASONRY: WHO NEEDS IT? - All of us!
(Next: A Plan of Action. How the Worshipful Master of one Lodge worked toward the goal of making Master Masons and not merely members.)
SUGGESTED MATERIALS for STUDY
- Your Grand Lodge educational materials: (outlines, programs, instructional materials for officers and candidates, etc.)
- Short Talks, the Masonic Service Association We Can Do It! (Oct., 1968) Lodge Organization (May, 1966) Increasing Lodge Attendance (Oct., 1928)
- Leadership (booklet), the Masonic Service Association Leadership Training (booklet), the Masonic Service Association
- The Master's Book, Carl H. Claudy, The Temple Publishers, Silver Spring, Maryland
- Key to Freemasonry's Growth, Allen E. Roberts, Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co. (full length book on Lodge management)