May 22, 2014

The One That Got Away

Posted in Freemasonry tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:14 pm by GeneGoldman


The One That Got Away

By Brother Gene Goldman, pm2

He came to this country, and learned some English along the way, from SouthEast Asia, as a teenager. When he was a young adult he applied for membership in my lodge. I was serving as Master at the time. One of his investigators mentioned that he didn’t seem to know much about the fraternity, but seemed like a nice enough guy. Not an unusual situation, so I planned to assign him one of our more thorough coaches, to make sure he was taught properly. I never considered the cultural aspects at play.
Imagine the situation here. We had two candidates that night. He was the second, so he waited in the lobby with our Tyler, a retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant (who looked every inch the part). Of course, our Brother Gunny had his Tyler’s Sword prominently displayed, as is the custom. Our young friend seemed to take special note of the big brute of a Marine with the sword who stood watch over him.
The Stewards and Marshall came out to take the first candidate into the preparation room. Visualize this: our friend is being guarded by a Marine with a sword. Out come two more big guys with spears (actually, they are ceremonial staffs, but they do look deadly) and a guy with a billy club (we call it a Baton, but you get the picture). The three armed guys take the first candidate into the preparation room. The big Marine, and his sword stayed with our friend, like he was guarding him.
The Tyler said he never heard a peep and did not see how, but when they came back out to get our friend, he was nowhere to be found.

This is a true story, and happened while I was serving my Lodge as Master. As Master, I blame myself. I should have taken this young man aside and talked about the symbolic nature of our ceremonies. About how everything has a meaning, and that at no time would he ever be in any danger or even be made uncomfortable. I should have told him that all these symbols are presented strictly for their moral and ethical implications and none should be taken at face value. They should be appreciated for their personal meaning. I should also have shown him around the Lodge Room before we opened that evening.
I should have done these and other things, but I didn’t. And it haunts me to this day. So, every opportunity I get, I share the symbolic nature of our ceremonies, and how they are intended to create a transformational experience that will bring the individual from who he is to who he wants to become in a moral and ethical context. I have adapted the Lodge Walkabout guide I found to use with applicants. It takes only a few minutes and allows them to feel much more comfortable.

Especially with a candidate who is less familiar with us and what we do.

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May 9, 2011

Some Thoughts About Attending Lodge And Increasing Attendance

Posted in Freemasonry tagged , , , , , , at 9:32 pm by GeneGoldman


First off, let me say that I have always enjoyed attending meetings. Whether my own lodge, visiting another lodge nearby, visiting a Prince Hall lodge, or when traveling on business or pleasure, I have never been disappointed in a decision to go to lodge and enjoy the company of my brethren for a few hours. I have made friends and met some great individuals all across the country.

Usually, when traveling, I make it a point to find out if there is any Masonic activity in the area while I will be there. Sure, the dinners are not the sort of food I would order in a restaurant, but the company can’t be beat. The evening’s entertainment isn’t near as lavish as the latest Hollywood release or Broadway Theatrical , but the seats are usually comfortable, the atmosphere is warm and inviting and the cost is always very affordable.

One of the most important reasons I attend when I can is that every time I see a Degree, two things happen. First, I am returned to the time and place where I took my own degrees, even if only for a moment. Secondly, I learn or re-learn some critically important lessons. I am reminded of my beliefs, of the wonderful symbolism of our degrees and of the many moral and ethical lessons contained therein.

In my service as an officer and Master of two lodges, I have had the incredible opportunity  to assist in the initiation, passing and raising of many Masons. Some I hardly knew. Some were long-time friends already. Some became friends. I initiated my father-in-law and initiated, passed and raised my own father – what a complete joy and honor!

I heartedly recommend that every Mason attend lodge when he can. Nothing like it.

However (if you know me, you know there HAD to be a “however” somewhere nearby),

There are some masons who equate attending lodge with being a mason. They seem to believe (and express verbally) that a mason is somehow less of a mason or failing his lodge when he does not attend. Not an officer or when one has a part to play or something to present, but all the time, everyone.

Yes, as I describe above, I get a lot out of attending. I wish I could be in lodge every night. But I have a family that needs me, a living to make, my health to consider and other demands on my time, attention and energy. In my degrees, I clearly remember being told about my duties. As Master, I have similarly advised candidates during their degrees about their duties. The first, and most important duty a mason should observe is to his Great Creator. Duty to one’s country should come next. One’s neighbor has the next claim on a mason’s kind offices, followed by his own family and those he supports. Every mason has a duty to himself as well. In the ceremonies, the candidate is advised that only after these more important duties are met should one look to his service to the lodge and the fraternity.

This order makes a lot of sense to me, and is strictly in keeping with everything else we teach and believe.

Let’s look at a few examples, to put all this in context.

Which duty is taking preference when a mason should be resting up for or from a difficult day, goes to lodge and comes home exhausted?

When a mason is looking for work, who is being served while he takes time from his job search and money for gasoline to go to lodge?

There are more examples, but let’s proceed with these two for now.

I remember a lesson from a brother, who lived in Los Angeles. He described the following.

“I get up at 5:00 in the morning. I get ready for work, grab a breakfast I can eat on the run and drive an hour to an hour and a half to work. At work, I put in a ten-hour day, then drive two to two and a half hours home. If it is a Lodge night, I have to shower and change clothes, grab a sandwich to eat in the car and drive thirty to forty five minutes, maybe more, to lodge. Most lodge meetings run until 10:30 or 11:00, then I have to drive another half hour home. If you expect me to do all that very often, you are going to have to make it worth my while. Stale sandwiches and cold spaghetti, followed by boring talk about bills, or poorly-conducted ritual just isn’t going to cut it.

Give me a reason to come to lodge.”

What’s the answer?

I have heard some brothers (like the ones mentioned above) who blame poor attendance on the members who don’t show up. Maybe the lodge management team deserves some credit for attendance. I firmly believe that it is a rather simple mathematical equation.  This is true for Stated Meetings, degrees, recognition nights, special and social events and even fund-raisers.

If a lodge wants a lot of members to attend meetings, the lodge should have the kind of meetings that a lot of members want to attend. Interestingly, the same applies to increasing membership. If a lodge wants to attract members, they should be a lodge that is attractive to the kind of members they want to have.

It is simple, but by no means easy. It takes work, requires effort, demands sacrifice and risk. In practical terms, it may involve doing some things differently, and doing some new things.  Here are some questions to consider.

  • What are the stated meetings like?
  • How much time and energy goes into planning an event or a meeting?
  • Is the family included?
  • Are wives invited and provided with something to do while the members are in the private part of the meeting?
  • Does the meeting consist of anything more than the secretary reading minutes, a few notifications and bills, maybe a ballot?
  • Is there Masonic Education?
  • Are the committees encouraged to make their presentations in the dining room, to include the wives and families?
  • Is the menu the same as the last twenty meetings?
  • Is everyone wearing the same thing to every meeting?
There are lots of possibilities. I remember stated meetings that included a Hawaiian Luau, and everyone was invited to wear Aloha shirts and shorts. We wore Red, White and Blue for our July dinner. We had a barbecue, and everyone wore western garb. How about a “bring your favorite game” night? Or a talent show, travelogue, or barbershop quartet? Why not present Masonic Education for everyone, before a meeting? Maybe a round-table discussion or guest speaker? Most areas have ritual teams – a Shrine Past Master club, a neighbor lodge ritual team, ever see the Oklahoma Indian degree team…
So, instead of asking why they are not coming, ask what would make them WANT to come. There are a lot of things that can be done to turn a meeting into an event, and an event into a night to remember.  If you make it an event that people want to attend, and let them know why they want to attend, they will.

April 4, 2011

What I get from Masonry

Posted in Freemasonry tagged , , , , at 8:07 am by GeneGoldman


People have asked me from time to time, what I get from being a Mason.
What is it that I learned, or discovered in Lodge that makes it so
interesting or valuable to me? Why do I keep going back to Lodge,
paying Dues, serving as an Officer, spend so much time on the Internet
researching and discussing Masonry?

I don’t think anyone really learns anything new in Masonry. I know I
didn’t, though I really expected to. Much to my surprise I was, and
continue to be, reminded of several principles and virtues that I had
already inculcated as my own long before I became a Mason. Most, if
not all, Masons it has been my pleasure to meet also accept these
principles and Virtues as valid and true in their lives. What are
these Virtues? What are these Principles? I will enumerate and
describe them, as best I can, one at a time.

Brotherly Love: This Virtue admonishes us to regard the entire human
race as family. We were, after all, created by the same Creator, and
the tie that binds us is stronger than we sometimes think. In all
that we do, we should consider our family, known and unknown. What is
best for them, and for ourselves?

Relief: Whenever we encounter a fellow creature in need, particularly
at times when we are in abundance (but even when we are not), we
should never fail to do what we are able to relieve their distress.

Truth: This should always have the highest priority, above personal
agendas and disagreements. We must be always ready, not only to seek,
find and speak the Truth. However, we must be prepared to hear it as
well. This is not always easy. In fact, hearing an unwelcome Truth
is usually difficult. Still, hear it we sometimes must, and accept it
as well.

Faith: When we believe in something bigger than ourselves, something
greater than we can even aspire to becoming, we are humbled. Humility
inspires us to do our best. Not because we can equal the Creator, but
to imitate Him and make something of Beauty ourselves. Beauty gives
both pleasure and brings the following Virtue.

Hope: A better world awaits us. Even in this life, we may look
forward to an improved existence. Educating our Children will insure
that they will be able to make good decisions when it is their time to
do so. Here I speak not of an empty Hope, but a Hope based on the
secure knowledge that we have all done our best to make the world of
tomorrow better than it is today.

Charity: Beyond Relief (above), we should always work hard to improve
the condition of those around us. Where Relief leaves off, Charity
begins. Going beyond soothing an affliction or satisfying a need,
Charity is the act or acts designed to prevent those needs from ever
existing again. Preventing distress, not for the recognition, thanks
or acclaim, but because it improves some part of the world, is the
highest form of Charity.

Tolerance: By this principle of life and conduct we are reminded that
it is seldom necessary to prove someone else wrong for us to be right.
We do not have to cause another to fail in order to succeed. In the
60s, there was a term called win – win. Both sides of almost every
conflict can find a “middle ground” in which satisfaction may be a
shared commodity, if both sides are willing to allow the other to win
also.

Temprence: Doing almost anything to excess is harmful. Charity, given
to excess, can leave one impoverished. Love, given to excess, may be
smothering. The effects of drugs and alcohol, when used to excess,
are well known. However, consider the effect of too much Truth.
Truth without tact (the knowledge of when NOT to say things) can hurt
feelings and even destroy friendships.

Fortitude: Without fortitude, no one can succeed. Everything gets
difficult sometimes, there is always the temptation to give in or give
up. When we show Fortitude, we learn to “stick it out” and overcome
obstacles to accomplish goals.

Prudence: The mark of a Polite person is knowing when to speak and

when not to. What to say and what not to. “To everything, there is a
season.” This is not only a quotation from Scripture, and a popular
song of a previous decade, but good advice as well.

Justice: Everyone deserves to have their fair due, whatever that may
be. Like Truth, we must be prepared not only to dispense Justice, but
to have it dispensed to us. We must be able to put aside our own
wants and sometimes needs in order to insure that Justice is served.

All these Principles and Virtues are bigger than ourselves, greater
than our personal desires. Observing and practicing them, we are
making this a better world, not only for ourselves, but for all who
inhabit it.

This is what I get from Masonry. This is why I keep coming back. To
be reminded of these principles, and learn more about them.

_________________________________
Note:
Have I ever seen anything I did not like in the fraternity? Yes.
Masons are human beings and sometimes human beings do not behave as
they should. Sometimes they are small, petty, childish, spitefull,
even just plain wrong. I will say this, though. I have seen far far
less of these characteristics in Masonry and among Masons in any
setting than I have seen in Campfire, PTA, Scouting, religious
denominations (ever attend a Board Meeting at a House of Worship?) or
any of the other groups I have been a member of. I have found it an
honor and a priveledge to be associated with almost every one of my
Brethren. As for those very few that need to improve themselves in
Masonry and better learn the lessons taught in their Degrees, I can
only say that I do my best to teach by example and encourage my
Brethren and Fellows to do likewise. That, to me, is what the
fraternity is all about.

The above work is the sole creative property of myself. Any member of
the Fraternity may copy it in whole or in part of Freemasonry, of
whatever Degree and affiliation, for any Masonic purpose. The author
may grant use by others on request.

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