The 6 Jewels of Masonry
and are they movable or immovable?
In the Entered apprentice degree we are taught that there are 6 Jewels of Masonry.
The Rough Ashlar
The Perfect Ashlar
The Trestle Board.
We are taught that the first 3 are immovable and intern the last three are moveable. This is pretty much the standard around the United States, but while reading a book titled “The Etiquette of Freemasonry” by an Old Past Master published in 1890, i discovered something quite different. It seems that in Great Britain and els ware around the globe these jewels are reversed as to their movability. This made be curious and wanting to know why it wasn't a uniform similarity.
Lets take the first 3 to start. The Square, Level, and the Plumb. These three are the principle icons in our lodge. We see them at every meeting. They are what govern the Lodge. Our Ritual says that the Square teaches us morality, the Level equality, and the Plumb the Rectitude of life. (Rectitude of life? Now this caught me by surprise as to what it means. Come to find out it means to be morally and Judgmentally straight in the course of ones life.) It says that they are always found and worn by the brethren stations in the East, West and South. Thus they are immovable due to the fact that they are always at their respective stations.
The Etiquette of Freemasonry though describes these three in a somewhat similar but very different manner. The Book States “They are called the movable jewels because they are worn by the Master, Senior, and Junior Wardens during their tenure of their several offices, and are transferred to their successors on the day of installation. The collars bearing these several jewels should be placed upon the pedestals, respectively, of the Master and the Wardens, Previously to the opening of the Lodge.” Now needless to say this struck me as odd, due to the fact that basically they are saying the same thing but for some reason interpret it differently.
Now lets look at the second 3 Jewels. The Rough Ashlar, Perfect Ashlar, and Trestle Board. These three we only hear about in the states and never really see them unless we move through the degrees of the Hall of the York Rite. There you see them used during certain lessons taught in certain degrees. In blue lodge there is made mention of the Trestle board in the 3rd degree but no further expiration is given.
In our ritual they are explained thus. The Rough Ashlar is the stone taken from the quarry in its rude and natural state. The perfect Ashlar is that stone prepared by the workmen to be adjusted by the working tools of the Fellow Craft, and the Trestle Board for the Master to draw his designs upon. The rough ashlar represents our imperfect state by nature, the perfect ashlar that state of perfection that we hope to arrive by our own endeavors and the blessing of God, and as the operative erects his temporal building according to the rules and designs laid down by the Master workman in the designs upon his trestle board, so should we both operative and speculative endeavor to erect our spiritual building according to the Rules and design laid down by the GAOTU in the Great books of nature and revelation, which are our moral, masonic, and spiritual, trestle board.
Now lets look at what the book says. “They are called the immovable jewels because they lie open and unmoved, each in its appointed place in the Lodge, for the brethren to Memorialize upon.’ Now thats quite different then what ours says. It seems that overseas these three jewels are actually in the lodge at all times. The Trestle Board or ‘tracing boards’ had and still do have a place in a lot of lodges both over seas and at home. The older ones are canvas cloths for each degree with the various symbols on them for each degree and they are laid out on the flood during the degree. We have one for the Fellow Craft degree. Washington and Eastern Star Lodge has older ones that display all three degrees, and the newer versions of these are basically a poster for each degree that is framed and hung on the wall. Oxford Lodge has all three of these framed and hanging in the north wall of their lodge. The Rough Ashlar is placed on the floor in front of the Junior Wardens Pedestal. The Perfect ashlar’s position should be immediately in front of the Senior Warden’s pedestal, properly suspended , with the lewis inserted in the centre.
Now the question is, Who is right? Us or the English?, or crazy thought are we both right. In asking some people smarter than myself it is of a general concuss that we actually have the older ritual. It would seem that when the Ancients and the Moderns split into 2 Grand Lodges in England in the 1720’s had everyone trying to figure out what was right and proper. By the time they came back together freemasonry was already well underway in the colonies. Set with their own traditions and understandings, but who is right? I personally feel it is in the manner in which you view them. I think they are both right and just got the interpretation of them for each jurisdiction set in a different way to where they are today.
I feel that if you look at them in 2 different ways all six can be either Movable or immovable. Let me explain. If you look at them all merely at a materialistic object that is meant to convey a lesson then they are all immovable jewels. Each meant to relay a message to the Brother observing it. The First three he should look upon as reminders as to how he should act amongst his brethren and his fellow man. That he should live by a high moral code, meet his brethren and fellow man on an equal level as to not make one feel inferior to the other, and that even though we may go astray, we should alway try to keep on that straight path of Morality and Judgement. When he views the next three he may contemplate on many things about himself. When he looks upon the rough ashlar, he may be reminded of his fixable imperfection and superfluities of life, so that he can continue to work upon those rough imperfections until he can smooth them out and be able to control them in his daily life. These imperfections could range from numerous things such as anger, frustration with others, intemperance to things such as Alcohol abuse or gluttony. Then he move on to observe the Perfect Ashlar. To where he may meditate as to how he has changed since his time in the craft and can reflect on how he has become a better man for his God, Family, Neighbor, community, and himself. He can also reflect on that ultimate goal of what he wants to become, that state of perfection which one cannot reach without the blessings of God. Finally he may look upon the Tracing board to be reminded of all the Moral Lessons and symbolic teaching of the first three degrees. In this State these Jewels are only meant for reflection and contemplation and are there for immovable in their stations with in the lodge.
Now Lets look at it from a different angle. What if each is applied to the Human body as an outward extension of himself. The Rough Ashlar would be the state of himself at the time he entered into and became an Entered Apprentice of the Lodge. A Profane as some call. An uneducated man searching for that light that will make him a better man. That Perfect Ashlar would be the same Man 50 years in the future, after spending much time with his brethren in lodge and educating himself in the teachings of the craft. He can look back and see what he has become. What type of better man he has turned out to be. Then you have the trestle board. Which if you apply it to your mind as a living stone for that house not made of hand eternal in the heavens, you can take all the lessons and symbols of masonry use them to become better connected with your god. In both thought and action. This then brings us to the Square, Level, and the Plumb, and while they teach us valuable lessons, they can also be seen as milestones for each of us in our attainment of more light in masonry. Each one of us when we have attained that station in the lodge we could look at it has having achieved that knowledge that is needed to fulfill that station. We can also look at is at a teaching tool that when the next brother takes over that position that we have educated him enough that he will be a suitable replacement for us when pass that emblem or badge of knowledge on to him. Thus these looked upon in this light we can see that they are movable and ever-changing in each of us. constantly evolving trying to achieve that perfection in ourselves and others.
Thus is my argument as to why i feel that they are both right, it is just a matter of perception and understanding. I personally feel that we should bring the rest of the Jewels back into the lodge as well as other symbols so that we may look and reflect upon them for the deeper meanings that each one holds. The Great Albert Pike said that every symbol in masonry has more than one meaning, and the newly made mason is only taught the most obvious meaning. This is because it is up to each brother to find the greater meaning in each through his constant study and understanding of the craft.
Anthony Hurr PM
Hugh L. Bates Lodge 686 F&AM Ohio
As i sit here this evening reading my new issue of NewPhilosopher magazine, which is completely dedicated to technology, I started thinking, is this a good thing or a bad thing.
Everywhere you look anymore it seems that everyone is plugged in to some electronic device. Googling, Facebooking, Tweeting, or numerous other activities that require no interaction at all with the outside world, yet the knowledge of the world is right at our fingertips.
I started thinking, is this part of the reason that we have had a fall in membership? Is this the reason that it is so hard to attract new men into the Craft. We have been on a downward spiral since the late 60s. Since that time society has changes so dramatically about every 10 years due to new technological breakthroughs that our culture can't seem to keep up. Each new generation can't relate to the next due to life being so different during their times of growing up. Im 36 and i look back 20 years ago when i was in high school and its a completely different world. No one had cell phones. Computers and the internet were so slow that that unless you were really skilled in them they were pretty much useless unless you wanted to play a game. To do any research you still had to go to a library. You interacted with friends and family more because you had to. If something great happened, you couldn't just txt you friends right away, you had to wait till the next morning at school to tell the awesome story to your friends.
Though out the history of our craft we have been at the forefront of innovation in society and culture. Anything new that had the chance to make the world a better place it seemed like we were there doing our best to help it along. Then for some reason, about 50 years ago it seems that we stopped. We wanted to stay it the culture that we were. The big joke around my lodge is that we are finally moving out of the 70's into the late 90s as far as the fraternity goes. So within the last 5 to 10 years there has been a huge push to move the fraternity into the modern age of websites Facebook pages and so on. A big part of me thinks this is great. The amount of information moving back and forth between brothers, and lodges is like nothing the Fraternity has ever seen. If you want to know something about the craft all you have to do is get on your phone. You can converse with Brethren from all over the world on a variety of topics, the amount of education that a brother can emerse himself in is endless. We are also able to converse with the profane and answer questions that they may have about the fraternity and what it is all about.
This also has a negative effect though. As i am sure we have all seen, the way a brother would act in person with another brother is completely different than they will behind the safety of a computer or phone. Arguments breakout all the time between Brethren on discussion board over various pointless topics that it disrupts the harmony and causes more division among brothers. Administrators to these sites are constantly trying to keep brethren in line. Even Grand Lodges are having to get involved and write rules as to how masons should act on social media. What use to just be Jurisdictional issues now become world wide issues. Men who in the past would have come knocking on our doors can now look us up online and see a whole barrage of negative publicity on us, and i am sure that this has drove many away, and some it has brought to our doors to see if the things everyone says are real. A lot of the Mystery and Wonder have left because all one has to do is Google.
Another issue i see is that we have become addicted in a sense to our devices. I travel around to other lodges for inspection and whatnot, and even in my own meetings, you look around the lodge and you see Brethren on their phones. From the newest EA to the RWM and GM, and i am sure that they are not all taking notes on the evening. I am just as guilty of this. I love to promote the Craft and find myself using part of meeting time to tweet or Facebook.
I think technology is a great thing for the craft and can have many valuable uses in spreading the light of Masonry to the masses. I also think we need to use a little temperance when it comes to them. We need to realize that we are all walking billboards for the craft and the things we do on social media that may be unbecoming of a Mason has a large impact on the Fraternity as a whole weather we like it or not. Act as though you would in Lodge. If someone else is getting irate don't add fuel to the fire. Handle it the way we should. I also think that we need to start checking our devices more at the door. There is always some lesson to be learned in the degree or stated meeting, or a brother to converse with at dinner or in the Tyler's room thats not happening when we are on our devices. You want to take notes thats great go for it, but the one thing that everyone in this fraternity loves is fellowship, and while this can be done on our device when not in Lodge, when we are in lodge it needs to be the face to face. Thats how we grow as men and masons, and we may not see it now but i feel that, the personal interaction is what will bring the Young Men knocking on our doors once again.
Greetings Brethren, I know it has been some time since my last post and for that i do apologize. Life and masonry get in the way sometimes to new ventures that you attempt to put on. I have sort of a different post for tonight as you may have guessed for the title. I would like to get some opinions from Brothers mainly outside of the USA, and definitely outside of Ohio. I ask that if you can you please take a little time to answer some of the questions. Your answers will not only help Hugh L. Bates 686 to grow and prosper but Ohio Freemasonry as well. So before i even get started i just want to say thank you for your time, it is greatly appreciated.
As a lot of us know, Freemasonry is suffering, especially here in the United States. Membership numbers are dropping dramatically, mainly to death of our Veteran members and our somewhat failure as well as lack of interest from prospective men to join the craft to refill the rolls. Ohio is currently at 86,000 members, in 2013 we stood at 95,000 members. Now I am not advocating for massive membership recruitment drives to replace these members. I have stated my opinion on that sometime ago. What bothers me the most is our number of members that are actively participating in lodge, and what we can do to increase that number. Here in Ohio and across the USA, from my experience, talking to other Brethren, and listening to the various Masonic Podcast, if you get 10% - 15% of you membership to show up to your meetings regularly than you are doing good. Bates has 200 members and though we have made improvements we are still not at that 10% mark yet. We have with regular attendance 15 for about 8% with more and more meetings hitting the 20+ member mark, but not on a regular basis. Now from a few Brothers i have communicated with or that have been on the Podcast that i listen to, the percentage of members showing up at meetings in Great Britain, Europe, India, South America and so on is much greater, and ranges in the 40% to 80% range. So as curiosity always gets the better of me, I have to ask. What are we doing wrong and what are you doing different. I am currently working with a new State Group for the Grand Lodge of Ohio whose main mission is to answer the main issues such as participation. The answers that you provide will help in us tackling these problems and help to strengthen Masonry throughout the state. If you would in your response please list your Lodge and Location. Thanks
Anthony Hurr Sec'y
How many members does your lodge have and what is the percentage of members that attend your meetings
(Ohio has 483 Lodges for an average number of 178 members per lodge. The lowest lodge has under 40 members and the largest is over 600 members.)
How many required meeting do you have a year and how often do you actually meet.
(Ohio Lodges are required to have 10 stated meetings a year. Bates Meets every week on Tuesdays.)
Do you have a meal before or after the Meeting? Is it only for stated Meetings or every meeting? Do you charge the brethren for it, ask for donations, or does the lodge pay for it? What type of meal is it, an elaborate catered meal, chips and cookies, or somewhere in-between? How important do you feel the meal is.
(Bates has a meal before every Stated and Degree meeting that is made by one of the wives that is an excellent cook. We don't charge for our meals)
How big of an emphasis does your lodge place on education? Is it just a short 5 minute paper that someone reads, or does it take up a good part of the meeting? Does it lean more towards the Esoteric and sciences, or famous Masons and History? Is it interactive with the Brethren or do they just sit and listen? Do you bring in speakers? if so what are some popular topics.
(Bates has emphasized more education at Stated Meetings with it being between 15 to 30 minutes. it may be a paper, video or Power point presentation. Have had a few speakers. haven't really been able to have it be interactive yet.)
We all know that our first objective as freemasons (at least here in the States) is to make Masons. So we try our best to make the degree work as memorable and inspiring as we can. Memorizing our work and doing our best to have flawless ritual is all ways our first priority, and for some it is the one thing that keeps members coming to Lodge. Others its the fellowship that they receive with their brethren. Others its the philanthropy that the Lodge does throughout the year. Each lodge is different and seems to create their own identity for one of these. What is the one thing that your lodge seems to be known for and that your members are most proud of.
How often do you do a table lodge if ever? Do you have ritual that allows for the lodge to do degree work during a table lodge? How important do you feel the table lodge is to Masonry and the fellowship of the Brethren?
(The Grand Lodge of Minnesota has a ritual for an Entered Apprentice Degree to be done during a table lodge. This got me wondering if there were other jurisdictions that have this.)
The Practice of Singing during fraternal gatherings was widespread here in the States over a hundred years ago. Is this still a thing in parts of the world when masons meet? If so what do you feel it adds to the Brotherhood?
Here in Ohio each lodge is "inspected" in a different degree each year to make sure they are doing their work properly. This for years has been the only reason that Masons travel to other Lodges. For some Lodges this is the only thing that they worry about all year and once its over it's like the year is done for them. The pressure for the officers can be intense during these inspections. Does you jurisdiction do "inspections" every year? If not is there something inlace of this that brings Masons from other lodges to attend your lodge, and what is it? What is the Main reason that Masons Travel in your area?
What are some of the things that keep the Members coming back meeting after meeting? What is it about masonry that they find value in to keep coming and spending time with their brethren? What is it about Masonry that makes them proud to be freemasons? What is the success rate of having newly raised candidates coming back on a regular basis? Do you use a Mentorship program, and if so how important do you feel this is?
How long does it normally take for a new candidate to receive all three degrees? How long do you feel it should take? Is there extensive education that he must learn before moving on to the next degree.
(Ohio from the time the petition it can bee in as little as 4 months to complete this journey)
Does your Jurisdiction allow for alcohol in the building for meals or fellowship? How does the lodge keep this regulated to where no one gets out of hand? Are you allowed to have it before lodge? if so is there a cutoff time prior to the meeting? Is there a limit on the number of drinks your allowed to have? Do you feel that the presence of Alcohol is a positive or a negative in Masonry. Does it help to enhance the fellowship between brethren? If it were eliminated would you have a drop in participation? If so by how much?
(Ohio doesn't allow for alcohol in a lodge building under any circumstances unless that part of the building is owned by another outside party.)
Has you lodge ever had a time when participation was so low you thought you might have to close the doors and pack up shop? What were some of the things that your Lodge did, that worked, to bring old members back to be active in Lodge? What were some of the things that worked for your lodge to bring in new members that remained active?
What is the cost of dues in your lodge? Do you feel that is to high or to low? Do you think we undervalue the Fraternity, and due to members not wanting to increase dues for the lodge cheapen their experience and Masonry? Is there any lodges that have monthly dues? if so how much?
(Dues at Bates is $75 a year with a $200 initiation fee for new candidates. I personally feel that this is to low for what i get out of it, but that me. I would easily pay $20 a month in dues. Not sure how this would go over with the lodge though
What is the one thing you would change about Masonry and its meetings that you feel is a burden or a hinderance to the brethren, and might cause or has caused brothers to no longer attend?
What is the one thing that you love the most about Masonry and that keeps you coming back meeting after meeting?
There are many More questions that i could ask but i think this a good place to begin. We all want the same thing, a good Strong Brotherhood. We just have to work together to get there. Once again thank you for your time and may God Bless.
You can reply with you answers in the comment section of this blog or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I plan to post answers to this in a future blog.
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
In every county in Ohio, and in every State in the Union, there is one thing that is at the top priority in every Masonic Lodge. MEMBERSHIP. Almost every Lodge in the United States over the course of the last 20 to 30 years has seen the numbers on the rolls of the craft for their lodge dwindle to numbers that would have been thought unthinkable 30 years ago.
In 1984 membership in the United States was close to 3 Million. In 2014 it stands at 1.2 Million. I would say that in the next year or two, if it already hasn't, membership will fall below 1 Million masons in the united states. The Masonic Services Association didn't start keeping records until 1924, which at that time there were 3.1 Million Members. If i had to guess i would say that membership hasn't been this low since the aftermath of the Morgan Affair around the early-mid to mid 1800's.
The Grand Lodge of Ohio, which at one time was well over 250,000 members is now at around 85,000 Members over 485 -490 lodges. Our own lodge which at one time was well over 700 members is now close to what it was when it was chartered at 200 members. All this equates to one thing, less money to go around. So what happens? Everyone starts to panic. Lodges are going out and asking its members to be more proactive in bringing people in, even though your not suppose to recruit members. They start to have more public events to try to spark interest in the public. The Grand Bodies come out with programs and classes to help lodges to replenish their rolls. They try to promote a new public persona of were not a secret society but a society of philanthropic men who want nothing more than to help the community. We start providing One Day Classes to make it easier for men to join. They no longer have to wait through 5 months to a year or more to receive the 3 Degrees, they can just get them all in one day. (Now I'm not knocking one day classes entirely, they have brought in a number of Great Masons that have been Great Leaders in the Craft. I also believe that in some circumstances a one day class is a necessary way to go.) Now all of this has gone on for a number of years, (myself only being a Mason for 10 years, I'm not sure exactly how long they have gone on before me) and we still have the same continued result. LOSS OF MEMBERSHIP. So the question then is, why are we still doing what is not working? Should we even care that we are getting smaller? Is there a better way, or a different way, to look at this issue.
Now like i stated earlier, i have only been a Mason for 10 years. In those 10 years Hugh L Bates Lodge #686 has Raised 46 Members. Of those 46 about 6 are active and serve as officers, one of them, myself, just finished serving as Master. Of the rest you have about 4 -5 who will help when needed, 2 who have been past master. (one of which is no longer a member), and one who had to move to another state for work. With that being said, in my opinion, bringing 46 men into the craft over 10 years with only that retention rate means only one thing. WE ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG. We are not doing what are Charter instructs us as a Lodge to do. We are not making Masons, we are telling men that for a fee every year they can call themselves Masons. Let me get this part clear, its not their fault, its ours.
Like I said before, we freaked out because of the loss that was happening, and were just worried about getting people in the door, and not doing what we needed to to keep them there. We stopped caring if they understood what it meant to be a Freemason. We stopped educating them in the "secrets" that we have. We stopped educating them about the history of Masonry. Most of all we stopped instilling the Pride in a man who took the journey to become a Freemason. Now in recent years through the advent of technology and Grand Lodges realizing that things needed to change once again, there has been a revival of instruction and education. I actually dropped out of the officer line about 5 or 6 years ago, because i became disinterested in Masonry, it wasn't what I had expected, it didn't fulfill the need that I thought it would. Then by luck, I discovered Masonic Podcasts. For those that don't know a podcast is like a radio program that can only be listened to from a computer or smartphone. These shows gave me what i was looking for. Funny thing is most of the guys doing these shows have only been in for at the most 15 years. They started their show for the same reasons that i became disinterested. Grand Lodges are promoting better education programs and leadership training that focuses more on the candidate and not the lodge. The younger Generation through movies and books and the internet and Facebook are starting to show an interest in the craft, and the Most important part of all, we as members are finally starting to talk to our friends and families about Masonry and show the Pride that we have for it. My only concern is, are we doing enough to keep it going, are we making enough changes that we don't repeat what we did before and start to loose our identity. I think that if we stay with the mind set of we have to have hundreds of members for our lodges to be successful, then we are missing the boat entirely.
We are in the mists of a revival and it is a great thing to witness. The only issue that i see people having though is that it is not bringing new guys to the lodge in droves like they did from the 20s through the 70s. The older members that built the lodges and kept them going are no longer able to attend and are sadly coming to the time to move to that celestial Lodge above. Result is we are still loosing members, or are we? We Brought the new members in, in the past, but were not able to retain them. As stated before in 10 years we put through 46 Men with only 6 active. Not a very good ratio at all. The last 5 though that we put through in the last 3 years, of them 4 are officers and very active, and the young man that we are currently putting through is showing the same excitement that the other 4 did. We are doing something right. we are finally teaching the candidates the way that we should, can we do better, of course we always can, but its a little step at a time.
As our membership continues to decline it seems that Masonry within the lodge is becoming richer and more meaningful to its members. One Lodge in Ohio, Arts & Sciences Lodge #792 has capitalized on this idea. They started in 2010 with the sole purpose of having a more meaningful masonic experience for everyone. Education is at the top of their priorities. Wether that be history, esoteric, symbolic, or whatever strikes their fancy for that evening. They take their time with their candidates and make sure they are well educated before they advance to the next degree. They have a healthy officer line who are willing to learn the work and take on new roles, and they also have more than half of their membership come and participate in every meeting. Oh, and did i mention they have less than 50 members.
This started me thinking about the benefits of this, and one thing stands out. FRATERNITY. with only having 25 to 50 members you would know everyone in your lodge, they wouldn't be just another dues payer. it would actually be feasible for members that are active to contact members that have maybe missed a meeting to see how they have been and if everything is ok. You would have a better fraternal bond of friendship between the members. If life happens and you miss a couple meetings and someone you actually know calls or comes to your house to check on you or to get you to come to lodge, you would feel a greater appreciation and be more willing to go because YOUR BROTHER reached out to you. Your lodge would once again be a family. This is what we are lacking in masonry, the close family aspect that we once had. Our lodge is slowly getting that back. We are slowly once again becoming a family. Our wives and girlfriends know each other, we have met each others kids and other family members. We have members volunteering to do things because they want to not because they are being forced to. Our Members are slowly starting to have Pride once agin in being a member of Hugh L. Bates Lodge. If our Membership keeps falling and we fall below 50 members, I feel as long as we keep instilling the EDUCATION and the Pride in our new candidates we will be just fine, because we will still be a close Fraternal Family.
I see this eventually happening with lodges all across the state. As the numbers keep falling, lodges will have to eventually reinvent themselves into what will work. The days of the Mega Lodges of 1500 plus members i feel are over. Eventually what i see happening in the State is that you will have more lodges than what you do now, maybe 800 to 1000 Lodges, but with each having 25 to 50 members. They will go back to the small community lodges that meet above a store or maybe even in a converted barn. The focus will return on helping men to improve themselves and actually teaching the lessons that are talked about in the degrees. You will have more community involvement because the members are apart of that community. You will have more charitable giving at the local community level where members can actually see the impact of what they have done then to State Wide Charities. Eventually i see this bringing more men into the craft, because they will have that feeling of belonging and family, and self improvement. Instead of going through the degrees and still wondering what it is all about. Now in doing this Lodges will close for not wanting to change. Lodges merge out of necessity. The next 10 years will not be a fun smooth ride. In the end though i feel we will come out of this stronger than before with a greater identity of who we are as men and as masons.
So after my long confusing rant, in conclusion i feel we all need to just take a step back, settle down for a moment, and realize that no matter how low we go in numbers and even if our Grand Lodges tumble down, we will still have Masonry. It can't die and will not die. It may change its name or look like something completely different, but one thing will always remain. You will always have men who are desirous of improving themselves for themselves, their families, and their communities, and you will always have men who are willing to help them in that journey, and at the end of the day isn't that all that Masonry is, Men helping Men to become better Men.
I found this tonight as i was attempting to write my own version. Thought i'd just share this one instead. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Lodge Number One, the North Pole24ThursdayDec 2009
Posted by Jim Tome in Poetry & Other Esoterica
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Masonic Christmas poem
Courtesy of Brother David Hunter of Masonic supply house, HiramHunter.com, come this Masonic Christmas poem:
‘Twas the Night before Christmas, and down at the Lodge
Not a gavel was stirring, and in the hodge-podge
Of aprons and jewels and chairs East and West
You could savor the silence, most gladly divest
All metal and mineral, it mattered not,
Since Christmas was nigh and the coals were still hot.
In the hearth of your homeplace, all Masons abed,
As visions of trestleboards danced in their head;
When up on the roof there arose such a clatter
Our Tiler jumped up to see what was the matter!
He picked up his sword and ran fast to the door,
Three knocks shook the panels — he wondered “What for?”
He answered the knocking with raps of his own,
And once the door opened he saw, with a moan
Of delight it was Santa, all jolly and red
Except for one notable feature instead!
Upon his large finger he wore what we knew
Was compasses and square on a background of blue!
“Why Santa!” he shouted and lowered his blade,
“I see you’re a Mason!” the Tiler relayed.
He looked tow’rd the Master’s most dignified chair
And said, voice near trembling, “Most Worshipful Sir
There’s a Gentleman properly clothed at the gate! ”
The Master replied, “Let’s allow him — but wait!
You tell me a Gentleman, but I don’t see
His Apron beneath that red suit, can it be
Our visitor hasn’t been properly raised?
Must we offer a test that is suitably phrased?”
“I do beg your pardon,” ol’ Santa said quick
As he pulled up his coat and displayed not a stick
But a cane with engraving, two balls did appear
And oh, what an apron, he wore and held dear!
Adorned like the Master’s, complete with a sign
Of “Lodge Number One, the North Pole” on one line!
“Now let this man enter,” the Master declared,
And once in the Lodge room, the Brethren all stared,
For Santa was wearing a jewel not seen
For many a century — there in between
The fur of his coat and the splendid red collar
Gleamed two golden reindeer that shone line a dollar!
“It’s Donner and Blitzen, who I must confess
Are actually images brought from the West
By my Warden, a craftsman like none in the world!”
And with a great laugh from his bag he unfurled
An ear of fine corn, and some oil from the East,
“My friends I have plenty, tonight we will feast
On all that is good! We are Masons, kind sir!”
A murmur went throughout the Lodge, quite a stir,
As presents and promises flew from his sack!
This Santa, a Mason, showed he had a knack
For making this Christmas the best you could glean,
And soon even Deacons were laughing, they’d seen
On this very night only happiness reigned!
This jolly Saint Nicholas quickly explained
That only a Mason could be so inclined
To make all kids happy, make all people find
A Christmas so special, yes, Santa was right!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!