The Rough Ashlar

Thoughts from a Traveling Man

The Rough Ashlar - Thoughts from a Traveling Man

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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What it Means to be Worshipful Master

19022009338The titles of Masonry can seem very affected and can even evoke a sense of self-imposed majesty on the bearers. We have worshipfuls, right worshipfuls, most worshipfuls, grand this and grand that, and other similarly high titles for the various appendant bodies. In fact, one friend laughed at me when I told her I was about to become Worshipful Master of my lodge. She thought the title was funny and pretentious sounding. I had to agree on some level. It is a bit pretentious sounding, but only to those who do not know what it means.

To be worshipful master of the lodge is to serve the lodge. It is not a role that is meant to be occupied and taken on with hubris or because it conveys a certain gravitas or level of power. In fact, it does come with power, but the man who aspires toward the oriental chair with visions of power is the man who should not be elected to the position. It is a station to be assumed with seriousness and reverence. It is a great undertaking to advance in the lodge and a great privilege and responsiblity to lead it.

The title Worshipful should not be worn as a mantle demanding authority, but as a mantle of piety. In the lodge meeting, the Master symbolically receives his authority from the Great Architect of the Universe. He who demands authority is unfit to wear the square. It is incumbent on him to be pious and worship and seek through prayer and devotion the guidance he needs to bring to the lodge. He is the one who worships most, at least in theory. The master of the lodge is worshipful, meaning full of worship, not meaning deserving of worship. The Mason who mistakes these two concepts has had the wrong instruction and guidance, but we are all rough ashlars in this mortal quarry, hoping to be found fit for use in the temple of Heaven. Misunderstanding these concepts is not a grave sin. Living in self-imposed darkness instead of seeking more light is the only sin in Masonry.

Ascending to the Oriental Chair, Building Effective Committees, and Increasing Member Retention

Masonic Cake by Rothrock CakesI was recently installed as Worshipful Master of my lodge. Wow – what an exciting day that was! Wow – what a lot of work I have ahead of me! I get to write the monthly trestleboard; take phone calls from our brethren who have various issues such as illness, death, lack of transportation, and need of personal and fraternal advice; visit other lodges for various important events; improve our mentorship program; continue to teach a weekly ritual school; and arrange programs for 21 meetings this year, not to mention preside over many degree nights, at least ten of which I have already outlined as wanting to do before July. That’s a lot to bite off. Have you ever scheduled degrees? That’s a lot of work by itself!

Thank goodness I don’t have to do all this on my own. Our Junior Warden is scheduling degrees, our deacons are helping me teach the catechisms, our immediate Past Master is running the mentorship program and the secretary is going to take care of a lot of stuff I either don’t know what to do with or don’t have time for. And he will stay on my butt about writing the trestleboard. He hounded me until I wrote a brief bio for the website and is on top of stuff enough to not let me forget to do anything. Then what am I doing? I am hoping to have things farmed out enough that I mostly just have to answer the phone and show up to meetings.

I am able to do this by forming committees. We have a culture in my lodge of not liking committees, but that’s what we have. Everyone groans when someone mentions a committee, so what I have done is asked certain brothers to take on certain responsibilities and most have been willing to do so. Leadership established! Then I invited these brothers to pull in one or two extra guys to help them get the work done. Committee established! And look – I didn’t use the word committee in my requests at all. Instead of asking for committee reports, I just ask Bro. Bob how our widows are doing and what he has planned for them.

That’s what I am doing in my lodge. Whatever you are doing in yours, be sure not to do it all yourself. Bring in other brothers to help you out and give them something to do. Not only will this reduce your workload, but you will find that you have better member retention if you ask someone to take on a task or lead a committee. It gives a sense of ownership and also allows the bonds of brotherly love to grow organically as that brother finds others to work with him. Everybody wins and the Master just has to show up and be the overseer. In theory, anyway. We will see how it all works out.

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