The Rough Ashlar

Thoughts from a Traveling Man

The Rough Ashlar - Thoughts from a Traveling Man

The Masonic Order of Athelstan

athelstan250At the Masonic Week activities in Reston, VA last week I had the opportunity to join The Duke of Cumberland Court No. 101 of The Masonic Order of Athelstan. The Masonic Order of Athelstan is a relatively new order, founded in England in 2005, and is open to Masons who have attained the Royal Arch degree. A new candidate does not go through a degree, but receives instruction, using various symbols as tools to promote further thought and research.

The order is still new to me, as you might imagine, but I am excited to learn more. The teachings of the instruction are not new. If you are a Mason already, or even just a moral person, you know these teachings as being universal, as all the Masonic teachings are. However, the Order of Athelstan brings a different feel during the instruction, and a different take on what it means to be a good man and true.

This is an invitational body. I was able to join because a new Court was being formed in Winchester, VA and they were taking letters of interest from guys who would want to constitute the Court. If you find yourself in that situation, I recommend investigating joining this group. Anything that brings more light is worth doing, in my book.

Masters and Wardens Association

We have an organization in my Masonic district called the Masters and Wardens Association. In fact, I just finished my year as president of the association. It sounds a whole lot more prestigious than it really is, I assure you. The purpose of the organization is to gather the lodge leadership together to help support our DDGM and other various district activities, as well as to communicate what the different lodges are doing so we can support those activities or at least not do something that is in conflict with them.

This can be a very powerful forum to transmit ideas, get new ideas, and develop best practices for how to run our lodges. We have six lodges in our district, so if we had great attendance we might have 18 wardens and the district officers, so something like low 20s for attendance.

Unfortunately, we do not have that many attending. Some of the lodges seem to like working in their own silos, it seems, or possibly have leaders who have repeated as Master and are tired of propping up the organizations on their own and do not want to go to yet another meeting. I can certainly understand that, but the way to get out from under that sort of problem is to confer with other leaders and empower the subordinate lodge officers by encouraging them to attend this sort of meeting.

There is another problem in attendance. The name implies that the membership consists of the masters and wardens of the district, when it actually goes further. The deacons are also members, as are the past masters. In addition, all Master Masons are welcome and encouraged to attend. By virtue of the name of the organization, we are automatically disenfranchising some of the members who should be at the meetings.

I recently tried to get the organization to change its name to be more inclusive of the full body of members, but to no avail. Some of the suggested names that were discussed were in the vein of The Masonic Leadership Association. I do not recall all the names listed offhand, but the idea was to not enumerate only part of the membership in the name, because that keeps some members away.

This led to a discussion of who should be participating and attending the meeting. The meeting went long and I lost interest and left at 9:00 with the discussion still pretty active. I wanted to get home to my beautiful fiancee, who was waiting for me. However, before I left some of the discussion turned toward who should be speaking at the meetings and a few brothers said that it was a group for the masters and wardens, as the name said, and that if deacons attended, as junior officers they should not take part in the discussion.

I was dismayed by this line of thinking and have a few conclusions and thoughts on this topic and the general idea of the name change:

  • If we want to increase attendance, having the name seem more exclusive than the group is will not attract more people to come.
  • If we want more participation, asking some of the members to remain quiet during discussion will not achieve that.
  • Perhaps the majority of this group does not want greater attendance or participation. Maybe I am the one who is crazy.
  • My experience as a manager has shown me that not all the good ideas come from the corner office. We need others' input to make better decisions.
  • Silencing some of the officers outside of the lodge will make them more silent inside the lodge. That is the opposite of what we need.

So I am stymied a little. As a district officer, I sort of have to show up. Not all of them do, but I feel like it is a requirement, so I will definitely be there because of that. However, I do not like the way this organization is heading. It seems to be the way many lodges are heading: toward dwindling membership and attendance.

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