The following article comes from the book Alberta Workshop which is a compilation of the theme speeches of the first 25 years of the Masonic Spring Workshop held each April in the Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta. Bro. Tom Jackson (Pennsylvania) called this the best workshop available to rank and file Masons anywhere.
MEMBERSHIP OR MASONRY
Bro. M. G. Merner
The topic assigned to me is of prime importance to the Masonic Order today. It is worthy of the consideration and study of every Mason in attendance at this Workshop and of all the Masons who were unable to be with us; but who are I hope awaiting your return so they may reap the benefits of your many experiences at Banff.
I am assuming and I sincerely hope that each of you have decided now that upon your arrival home you will, in conjunction with others of your Lodge, prepare a complete and detailed report of all things Masonic that happened at Banff.
Let us now consider the question at hand — Membership or Masonry.
Every person who has made application to become a member of our fraternity, everyone who has been balloted on and accepted, who has received the three degrees of Masonry and who has taken a suitable examination is certainly a member of our great Order.
He has fulfilled the necessary requirements to obtain membership. He need only pay dues and live within the law to maintain that membership. He is entitled to and receives benefits far beyond what he may reasonably expect; yet he may never attend lodge or make any physical contribution to the furtherance of Freemasonry or his Brethren. He has obtained Membership. Whether he proceeds from this point on depends to a very large extent, perhaps totally, to the education provided by his Brothers within the Craft.
The sponsors, the committee, the officers of the lodge, the mentors, if any, the coaches, all should have informed, should have explained carefully and fully what he may expect and what his lodge will expect of him. If after these discussions, talks and Masonic Education he is unwilling to proceed he does not obtain membership. On the other hand if after that explanation and providing complete and proper answers to his questions have been given we can reasonably expect that not only will our candidate obtain membership but will truly become a Mason and practice Masonry.
A Mason in the sense that he will take part in the work of the Lodge that he will live according to his obligations, that he will observe the lessons taught in the lectures and charges of the degrees and as laid down by the Holy Scriptures open on each Masonic Altar. That he will attend lodge so he may participate in the work and thereby reap the benefits that will accrue to him and to those with whom he is associated.
The dictionary states that Membership is defined as one of a Society or the persons that make up a society. The dictionary does not qualify the quality or quantity of his contribution to the Craft or to its members or its work.
Masonry is defined in my dictionary as the work of a Mason the association of Free Masons and their forms and ceremonies.
The member may only belong, the member practising Masonry does the work of the Masonic Lodge and puts into practice the forms, ceremonies and teachings with which we are all familiar, and the world at large is benefitted because of those members who have and continue to be Masons.
Today I have the privilege of addressing Masons. By your very attendance you who are here today have demonstrated your interest in Freemasonry, have demonstrated by your attendance and by your participation that you have a desire to have a further knowledge of the Craft and that you are prepared to work for and sacrifice your time and finances in the interest of what you know to be just and right.
I congratulate you for your interest in the Craft that means so much to each of us. I commend you for your obvious desire to improve and expand your knowledge of this great Order, so that in your lodges, in your homes, in your daily lives you may serve your lodge, your family, your church, your community in a manner befitting all Masons and according to proper Masonic Principles and ideals.
At a Masonic District Meeting with over 200 Masons in attendance the question was asked — “What is Freemasonry?”
There were over 200 different replies. If we were asked tonight to write our answers to that question we could have over 500 different answers.
Not only because we differ in our opinions but because we express ourselves differently.
Let us consider just a few of the written replies and see which fits your own situation or position here today.
A Way of Life. A Blueprint for living. An opportunity to be of Service. A place where good men meet better men. The best influence in the world for good outside of the Church. The practical performance of the golden rule. A Fraternity of men engaged in the building of moral temples with the aid of Masonic tools. A Brotherhood that knows no distinction as to position in society and that works for the betterment of man himself. A group of gentlemen joined together to practice Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. God manifesting His love in the hearts of men, through His Fatherhood and their Brotherhood.
There were many other answers to the question “What is Freemasonry?” We all need to pause and ask ourselves individually, “What does Freemasonry mean to me?” If any of the above answers or combination of answers truly fit your feelings toward our Craft then you are on the right track and the world will be a better place because you have accepted the Masonic Challenge and advanced beyond “Membership to Masonry”.
Our concern today must be for the man who has achieved membership only. The member who does not attend lodge, who forgets or neglects his Masonic duties and obligations.
We all know such members. I have never known one who was not proud of his association with our great fraternity. They pay their dues, they often wear Masonic rings or lapel pins, they will tell you the name and number of their lodge. They will frequently boast of the number of years that they have belonged. Sometimes it is our fault that they don’t participate.
Many of these members, in fact most of them, are great people, we want and need their support in our Masonic Work. They each have special abilities that we can use. We must exert every effort to convince them that we need them and that every effort we put forth is to make our meetings interesting, instructive, proper and concise. That we have an educational program to improve the mind of every Mason. That we want and need them all, not only to receive the benefits of our educational program, but to make their own personal contribution through leadership and participation.
We must by example prove that degree work is interesting and beneficial not only to the candidates but to all Masons when properly and solemnly done.
It has often been said that an informed Mason is a good Mason.
Obviously those great and good men who promote, manage, lead and participate in the work of the Committees on Research and Education appreciate and know the value of Masonic Eduction to our Craft. The work is of such prime importance that a research lodge has been instituted in Calgary. Fiat Lux No. 1980 will be of great benefit to the Craft throughout this Grand Jurisdiction as well as wherever Masonry is found.
We need education for all our members. An informed Mason is a good Mason.
In order to educate or inform we must have attendance.
We must remember that regular attendance at meetings is set to balance the scale of a thorough knowledge of the work. Regular attendance is an accepted duty of a Mason, we all agreed without equivocation or mental reservation that we would attend all summonses if within the length of our cable-tow. This agreement is reaffirmed time after time in lodge and in our ceremonies.
It naturally follows that if reasonable attendance is not maintained the member is a loser to a vast extend and the chain of fellowship is weakened by his dereliction to his duty.
Attendance at lodge is necessary. We are concerned with a science, that requires unbroken and continuous application on the part of its members if it is to be thoroughly understood and appreciated.
A very close friend of mine did a survey in his own lodge with the following result. A similar survey in your lodge would give like results.
His lodge had 174 members 46 were non-resident. Many of these should have demitted so they could have affiliated and practised their Masonry in their place of permanent residence. Ten lived in the area but so far from lodge as to make regular attendance difficult. Six were ill making it impossible or at least difficult to attend. This left 128 who might be expected to attend with reasonable regularity. A study of the attendance register indicated that about 30% was an average attendance. This is a percentage comparable with most lodges and better than many.
My friend and Brother then went to 20% of the non attending members and asked “Why do you not attend lodge more regularly?” He conducted his own poll.
These were some of the answers and I’m certain would be the same or similar if the question was asked of your non attenders.
- Pressure of business. I’ll try to do better.
- A farmer; 51 years of age. Pure carelessness, sometimes I am held up and can’t leave the farm but in the main I could be there. I will endeavour to be there in future.
- A Jeweller, 59. I attend a concordant body. They are a smaller group and need me more than my craft lodge.
- Garage Proprietor, age 56. I apologize. I have no excuse. I enjoy the meetings and the fellowship and will do better in the future.
- Veterinarian, age 39. No reasonable or logical excuse. I do some night work but could attend if I exerted myself. I do think that degree work takes too much time.
- It’s a matter of habit. Got out of the habit of going to Lodge. I will do better.
- Mechanic, aged 34. If I had some part of the work I would feel more like attending.
I won’t bore you with any more detail of the survey. The answers were all similar.
My brother who conducted the survey stated and I quote —
“I am convinced that most of the Brothers contacted will make an honest attempt to attend in the future and if the officers of the Lodge would pay a personal visit to those who show a lack in attendance that a greater degree of active participation would be a pleasing result.”
I dwell on the importance of attendance only because we must have attendance if we are going to educate members. I am convinced and I sincerely hope that you may be too, that success can be achieved as a result of Masonic Education but in order to educate we must have members present.
While preparing my remarks the Grand Lodge Bulletin for January arrived and upon reading it I was most pleased to see an article by our Immediate Past Grand Master, M.W. Bro. Love on Research and Education. I commend the article to your reading and study. It’s an excellent article as all Bill’s contributions to the Bulletin are. From the January 1981 Bulletin I quote — “If I were backed into a corner and forced to name any committee or Board of Masonry as the single most important one to the health of the Craft. I would have no hesitation in naming the Research and Education Committee of Grand Lodge.
Are we not after all an educational institution striving to teach and instill into the Characters of our Brethren eternal principles such as integrity, truth, brotherly love, charity, temperance, fortitude, justice or prudence, all those age old virtues that have been the goal of civilized men through the centuries.”
Most Worshipful Brother Love defines the purpose of the Committee on Research and Education.
- To inspire the Brethren with a desire to improve their character.
- To guide Masons to sources of educational material and in the techniques of teaching Masonry.
- To serve as a communication link between educators and to coordinate the exchange of successful Masonic Programs.
- To produce educational programs but only in a supporting capacity to that done at the individual or lodge level.
Most Worshipful Brother Love says —
“The Committee on Masonic Education is the only one that concerns itself with the fundamental objectives of Freemasonry that is to turn our members into Masons.”
“Masonic Education is more than just historical and philosophical addresses. Masonic Education can include any information of actively affecting the welfare and smooth operating of our Lodges.”
My Brethren you have been a splendid audience. I thank you for coming to this session for taking time away from your many pleasures and activities.
I sincerely hope that you agree with me that Knowledge and Education will and does turn
“Members into Masons”.
I beg of you all that as you return to your respective places of abode, it will be with a firm determination nurtured by attendance at this Workshop to carry on and expand present Masonic Education programs that presently exist. To start new ones if none exist.
The results will astound you and the very future of Masonry depends on your individual efforts.
We have today considered Membership or Masonry.
We have considered how to turn members into Masons through Masonic Education.
I invite you to participate in another session tomorrow at which time we can enlarge on the subject at hand.
Before we leave I would cite for you a Masonic charge for no other reason than that it can be considered part of your Masonic education and contains a truly great message. This charge is available to all Masons. You need only ask for it if you don’t have it.
MY BROTHERS. The Ways of Virtue are Beautiful. Knowledge is attained by degrees. Wisdom dwells in contemplation. There we must seek her.
The great objects of our Association —
The restraint of improper desires and passions. The cultivation of an active Benevolence. The promotion of the correct knowledge of the duties we owe to God, our neighbour and ourselves.
Uniting in the Grand Design Let us be happy ourselves and endeavour to promote the happiness of others.
My Brethren, I hold in my hand an old old Masonic Fable based on the times when the operative craft were becoming Free and Accepted masons and there was a real thirsting for knowledge. It has a great message.
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Extract from: Masonic Relief Association of the U.S. and Canada
SPEAK NOW TO US OF MASONRY
And when the Labour of the day was ended and evening had come, They gathered on a high hill and having placed one of the guild of tylers to guard against the approach of cowans and eavesdroppers, They seated the Oldest Master in the Chair. Then the Others gathered at his feet saying, “Tell us of our great free order of masons.”
And he said, “What wilt thou?” and one said, “Now speak to us of the lodge.”
He answered saying, verily, the lodge is as a mother. She giveth us birth by bringing us from darkness unto light. She provideth us instruction mete to our youth and training in the art of character building and manhood. She feedeth our bodies with the milk of human kindness. She causeth our soul to know of the Fatherhood of God. She teacheth each of us is a brother. She loveth no one more than another but putteth each on the same level. None to her is a stranger. She is a sanctuary for the weary. A wholesome guiding light. She demandeth little but giveth much. Verily, she is a mother.
Then Another said “Speak to us of the lesser lights.”
And he said, “anciently the Sun was thought to rule the day and at nighttime the Moon assumed this duty by governance of the time of darkness. To the Master of the lodge is given the task of ruling and governing his lodge both day and night. Placed in a triangular position are the lesser lights. Viewed from any side one taper always appears to be centrally placed. This one would guide our steps in the search for truth while those on either side would keep our steps from straying too far either to the right or to the left. Regard well the lesser lights my brothers.
Then one said “what of truth?”
And he answered saying “Lo, truth is like unto a bright star by which the seafaring man steers his course. It shines constantly if he will but look for it yet he cannot grasp it nor can he examine it closely. It is nothing that he can take in the palm of his hand and say it is thus and so. Yet he hath faith that it will lead him safely to the end of his voyage. So is truth like unto a guiding star which, if followed in faith, will never lead us to the right or to the left along the path of righteousness. Truth is much to be desired by the earnest craftsman.
Yet another said, “what is the choice among wealth, power and wisdom?”
And he answered saying, “three wayfarers in ancient times in a far-away country rescued an all-knowing man from a dire situation. Being possessed of strange powers he granted each one a desire as a reward. The first chose wealth, the second power and the third wisdom unbelieving the powers of the stranger. In after years, the first became possessed of great wealth. He bought his position, his friends and his pleasures and he was beholden to none. As time went on his wealth went from him and his position, friends and pleasures deserted him leaving him worse off than before. The second man gained great power. He held control over the lives of many of his fellow men and in their hearts they hated him. In time his power faded but not the hatred, leaving him more destitute than before. The third gained great wisdom. He understood life. He understood the birds and the beasts and the whys and wherefores of all things. None could take his wisdom from him for his was the wisdom of the heart. Unto him was rendered much power which he exercised wisely for the good of all. And unto him came great wealth which he shared with others. Verily wisdom is to be desired above all things.
Others clamoured to ask him more of the teachings of the craft but he stilled them saying, “know ye not that an over-abundance of talk is confusing? Ponder upon what ye have heard and go thy ways in peace.”