Now I know what you are thinking, Grand Session already? We still have 10 months till we have to go. Your right, its a long way off, but something over the last few weeks has had me thinking a lot about it. Something that in the most obnoxious way that when you least expect it, like in the car or running on the treadmill, or when your lying in bed and can't seem to fall asleep, just keeps creeping into your head saying hey i'm hear again, are you going to listen to me this time. The thing it keeps saying over and over is that we can make this better.
Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy Grand Lodge. I actually look forward to it every year and do my best to attend. I enjoy seeing Brethren that i haven't seen since the year before and meeting new Brethren for the first time. I even enjoy listening to all the new legislation and getting the chance to have my voice, or vote, heard on which way i feel the Fraternity should go. This is one time where your vote can actually make a difference and you can see the change that could take place. Also its the one time each year that you can sit in lodge with 1000 like minded individuals that want nothing more than to see this Fraternity be the shining light that it is meant to be. After Attending Grand Council though in York Rite this year and seeing how it is ran and seeing some of the other Grand Bodies for York Rite and how they run, me personally i can see some changes that need or should be done that would benefit all four bodies.
Now some of you may not know this and others will think its ridiculous for pointing this out, but our system of Blue Lodge here in Ohio is York Rite Based, it is not Scottish Rite. There is only one place in the USA that have Scottish Rite based blue lodges that i know of, and that is in New Orleans, Louisiana. Interesting fact here though, they are not affiliated or recognized by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Norther or Southern Jurisdiction. They are actually permitted to act by the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, which is York Rite Based. One of these days i hope to go down to see the Scottish Rite Blue Lodge Degrees, from what i hear they are quite different and very impressive. (for more info on this check out youtube or The Masonic Roundtable Podcast. They did a whole episode on this) As i am sure everyone knows there are 4 bodies in York Rite Masonry. The Blue Lodge, Chapter, Council, and Commandery. All of these bodies, even though they are York Rite Based, are independent of one another. This means that each one has their own Grand Sessions, and they are all usually all in the month of October. Up until this past year they each hold their Grand Session in a different part of the State. Usually in the area where the Grand Master of that Body is from. ( This past year Chapter, Council, and Commandery all held their Grand session in the same place and in the same week.) Each session taking at least 2 days, and each with their own banquets. This means that if a Brother that belonged to all 4 Bodies went to all 4 Grand Sessions, he would have around 8 nights in different hotels, travel expenses to all 4, and if he chooses to spend the money on the lunch and dinner banquets for all 4, he's looking at well over $1000 spent on just attending those event. Now thats just an individual Brother, just think how much each Grand Body is spending to put on the whole production. Its Mind Boggling. Now we have falling membership in each of these 4 bodies, and because of the falling membership and less members to go around, less Blue Lodge members are electing to join the other York Rite Bodies. Commandery for instance, at one time had well over 100,000 members. Today they have a little over 8,000 members. Now call me crazy but with falling numbers like that does it really make sense for these Grand Bodies to spend all this money on a 2 or 4 day event. Me personally, I think not, and i think theres a better way.
Now in the Washington, D.C. area every year they have what is called Masonic Week. It is put on by the Allied Masonic Degrees, or AMD for short. It is basically an offshoot of York Rite that Gets all the Degrees that no one else has a place for or wants to deal with. I have been told that their degree book looks like the Webster's Dictionary. Now during this week they have educational seminars, leadership trainings, and the most important thing, they put on some of these obscure degrees. Of course there is a small fee for a lifetime membership to the degrees but it may be the only time you will ever see it preformed. They bring in degree teams from all over the world to put their unique degrees on. Brethren form all over the world travel to take part in this each year. Which if you are interested it is usually in February every year. I have not been but it is on my Masonic Bucket list. The biggest thing though about these unique degrees, you must be a York Rite Mason to receive them.
Now i know what you are thinking, how in does all this tie in with us here in Ohio. Well Ill tell you. i think we should have our own version of Masonic Week here in October every year. Now it would be different because you would incorporate it around the Grand Sessions for each Body. All 4 bodies need to come together and have their Gand Sessions at the same place all during the same week. Now some of you may say this could never happen. You could never get them all to agree to the same thing, and to that i say bullcrap. In my opinion, the Blue Lodge runs the show for all 4 of them. The other 3 don't exist without the Blue Lodge. So if on of them doesn't want to do it then the Grand Master needs to just put his foot down and say this is how its going to be, and if you don't like it then too bad. Now after attending Grand council and Grand chapter I can assure you they can each do all the business of their Grand Session in one day. I am sure that commandery is no different, if it is then they take part of the next day to finish. So you would have Grand Council on Monday, Grand Chapter on Tuesday, Grand Commandery on Wednesday and Thursday Morning, and then wrap it up with Grand Lodge on Friday and Saturday like it normally is. Then i say you bring in Ohio AMD to put on degrees for each day in the evening. We are already holding these sessions in large hotels, and the rooms that they are in can be sectioned off into smaller ones. Put on different degrees or educational lectures during each evening. Have smaller affordable dinners throughout the week, then maybe on Thursday or Friday Evening, have one large reception for all the newly elected Grand officers together, and there you can charge the $40 to $50 for the dinner if you want, even though i personally think thats ridiculous, but if thats what the GM wants then thats what he gets, its his night. Here's the kicker though, to receive the degrees you need to be a York Rite Mason. Have the Educational lecture geared towards York Rite themes, historical, or esoteric. Make this thing an event that Members want to go to and look forward to it every year. Scottish Rite figured this out a long time ago. Now its time for York Rite to do the same and Make this an event the Brethren from all over the State and Country want to come to. Just think of the money that would be saved each year by the Grand Bodies by doing this together. Shoot they might be able to not raise the per capita rates of everyone for a while. That would be a win, win all around. Isn't the idea of getting the brethren interested and enthused again about masonry what Grand Lodge has been preaching for the Lodges to do with their member for years. Maybe its time they try to do the same.
Once again this is just my simple opinion. I love Masonry and everything it has done for me. It has made me the better man that I am today. I just want to see it not only survive, but to thrive