The Rough Ashlar

Thoughts from a Traveling Man

The Rough Ashlar - Thoughts from a Traveling Man

Title Hunters, or an Argument to Drop Fancy Masonic Titles

I sometimes hear negative talk about “title hunters” – those members who seem to want to collect all the fancy titles they can. They volunteer and ask for leadership roles and seem to want to be the head of everything for some time. You have met them. You know who I am talking about.

Personally, I have no problem with title hunters. As long as they are doing the work to earn the title, who cares what their motivations are? If they can work for their own egos and support the lodge or whatever body they are head of, and make it a better organization, their mercenary motives are not really that interesting to me.

However, I think we need to get back to all being brothers, rather than seeing the gradations of titles as class separators. Some of the newer brothers do not feel like they belong on the same row of seats as the seasoned old-timers who hold more titles than Carter had liver pills. And, to be honest, I have known some old-timers with lots of titles who mostly seemed interested in associating with their similarly titled colleagues, rather than with the rabble and riffraff. This isn’t how titles are supposed to work. The are supposed to reward a job well done, not be a barrier to social interaction. None of us is a higher rank than Master Mason; we should not create divisions where there are none.

Do we even need all these fancy titles? Those of us who can’t help but swallow the hook and be part of yet another organization tend to accumulate titles left and right, but really we are no higher than the title of Brother. Let’s get rid of the fancy titles, huh? We meet on the level, right? Shouldn’t we dispense with all the formalities and ego-boosting trappings?

I know what some of you are saying. “I worked too hard for my title! Why would I give it up?”

You have to ask yourself something. For whom did you work? Was it for yourself, for your ego, or for your brothers and the lodge? If you perform selfless work, being rewarded is not much of an issue. If you perform work to stoke your ego, maybe not keeping the fancy title is a good lesson.

When I was Master…

The 2015 Masonic Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel on Front Street Toronto…The Password of a Past Master

I have noticed that as soon as men get out of the East, all of a sudden they become experts on running an organization and on riutal, when in fact just the previous year they struggled with these things, as well as with cantankerous past masters who wanted to show their expertise. Continue reading

Adieu, Fancy Apron, or How Not to Treat Volunteers

DIW ApronI was presented with this apron about five years ago or so, when I became the District Instructor of Work. Today I gave it back. I enjoyed teaching the ritual and helping people figure out how to be better officers and members, but there seemed to be an ambient level of tomfoolery that came with the position. What pushed me over the edge on the decision to quit was the philosophy of those who managed the position. Continue reading

Back in the East; Learning to say, “No”

JUST SAY NO
People congratulated me last night after I was installed as worshipful master at Columbia Lodge No. 285. As much as I look forward to a great year and as honored as I feel about this, I have to wonder if I really simply do not learn well. I was at the Grand Encampment leadership development meeting a few months ago and our speaker/instructor said that the true lost word of a Master Mason was, “No.”

I think he was right. Many of us have a hard time saying no to things we believe in, whether a particular lodge or a charity, or helping a neighbor. As important as it is to say so sometimes, I also think it is important to say yes. By giving of ourselves, we reap great rewards, even if it does not always feel like it at the time. This is my third go-around as master of a lodge and I look forward to the challenge, but I also can see the road ahead and the end of commitments I have already made for various leadership positions. It is a great situation to be in.

A good year as DDGM

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I had a great honor bestowed upon me last year, from November 2013 through November 2014. I got to serve as the District Deputy Grand Master, which means that I was the intermediary between the subordinate lodges and the grand lodge. I am proud to report that none of my lodges shut their doors and that we had no Masonic trials during my tenure. I guess that constitutes success on some level.

We had great programs and good visitation between lodges. What’s more, this past year’s activities built on to what had been done before in the district and I expect that this coming year’s activities will continue to build on them.

People asked all year long how my year was going. It was busy but good. It was not always fun and not always interesting but it was a huge honor. As honored as I feel, though, I was not at all sad to pass the jewel on to someone else. I don’t need a second year of honor – that’s for darned sure!

Managing a Resurgance in Masonic Ritual

sheep-350A resurgence in brothers wanting to learn the Masonic ritual, whether to sit in a chair, return a catechism, deliver a lecture, or simply just for their personal edification, is a good thing. That is where we, as an organization, want to head. However, it is not always easy to manage. It can be a bit like herding sheep, trying to keep them going in the same direction and making sure they do not stray too far off course but also making sure none of them gets left behind. Overall, though, this is a great problem to have.

I can only speak from my own observations and experiences on this topic. When I joined my lodge, we seemed to be at a low point in terms of ritual proficiency among the line officers. What I observed was that the officer positions changed frequently and that those who sat in for the officers seemed to struggle quite a bit with what to say and do. Our senior wardens for two years in a row did not advance to the East and did not receive their certificate of competency that would allow them to preside as masters of the lodge.
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The Powers of the Worshipful Master

Worshipful Master's GavelWhen I petitioned my lodge a number of years ago, the brother who conducted my investigation explained a bit about how a lodge is governed. As I recall, he said that it is like a dictatorship. What the master says and orders is the rule, as long as it is within the rather loose confines of the Masonic law. Here in Virginia we have our Methodical Digest, which is the book of Masonic law, dictating what we can and cannot do in our lodges. The law prohibits some things and prescribes others, but most lodge rule devolves to the Master.

What I always found interesting is that, while the law establishes the bounds of the world we live in, it really leaves a lot of what we do up to the subordinate lodges. The Grand Lodge has a number of publications on best practices and how a master should run his lodge, but when the rubber meets the road, it is up to one person to decide what happens.
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Past High Priest – Finally!

Past High Priest JewelIt was a long year at Arlington Royal Arch but we did some good work. We lost a few members to death or suspension, and gained quite a number as well. Overall, we had a net loss of one, which in my book is a success. We also became more ritually proficient as a chapter and had some great programs.

All in all, I am happy.

The year was fun. We did some things we had not done in a while and maybe a few things we had not done before at all. As much fun as it was, though, and as happy as I am with the year, I am glad to have given the task to a very competent successor. The new high priest is smart and capable and I get the feeling that he likes to build on the success of his predecessors, so I feel great about the coming year and look forward in anticipation to where he will lead the chapter.

One of the things I have always felt about leadership in the lodge – or in any group or job – is that when you take on a position, you want to approach it with the mindset of being a steward for that position. Being a good steward means building in the right way and leaving it in a better state than it was when you got there. It is good to serve and then sit back so someone else can take the reins and make even more improvements. Another part of being a good steward is knowing that your duties do not end when you vacate a position. Numerous opportunities for mentorship and assistance will always be there.

Good luck and congratulations, Ex. Comp. Velena!

Visit to Springfield Lodge

20120505-102425.jpgMy good friend and brother Alfred Tecson had me visit Springfield Lodge last year to give a talk on Masonic charity in the Book of Ruth. I do not get down to Springfield nearly as often as I would like to because it is not particularly close to where I live and spend my time, but it is always a pleasure to be with that particular group. Thank you, Wor. Bro. Tecson. I enjoyed visiting your lodge and was honored to be asked to speak. Thank you for the opportunity, as well as for the mug you gave me. I send my thanks late, but this is the type of thing that helps make my mornings complete – a memento that holds my coffee. You can never have enough mugs, in my estimation.

As master, it is a sign of class to have a gift or token of some sort to give visitors and those who make presentations. Those of you who are aspiring to ascend to the oriental chair, definitely invest in mugs, pens, pins, or some sort of trinket for your visitors. Wor. Bro. Tecson did it right. What I especially like about this mug is that it has the Square and Compasses on the other side, so it is easily recognizable to all, but also has the lodge and master’s name and year of service. Even better is that the master had a theme, which is clearly indicated on the mug: “Spreading the Light.” I do not know what all my good brother did that year to spread light other than have me visit, but I know it was good because he was at the helm, making sure it happened. I just hope that I was able to add something during the visit.

Now to check my calendar for the next meeting…

What it Means to be a Past Master

Past Master's JewelSince I wrote a post about what it means to be master of a lodge, I figured I would follow up with my thoughts on being a past master.

I thought the hard part was over when I stepped down and gave the keys to the next master. I never thought it would be a challenge to be on the sidelines with the esteemed past masters who came before me. I thought it would be easy to be among the crowd of revered elders who sat in lodge, stoic and unflinching as the proceedings unfolded. After years of expanding responsibilities and then a year running the show, however, it is hard to simply let go and not be part of everything. Unfortunately, that is how it is designed to be.

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