Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Building Something Bigger Than Ourselves

This was passed to me last week, and I think it is a wonderful message, beautifully written, with a lesson we all sometimes lose sight of. It was composed by William B. Barr, SW of Elmhurst Lodge No. 941 in Elmhurst, Illinois:

Greetings from the West!

Brethren, one of the difficult things about writing these pieces for the month ahead is that I'm writing them in the middle of the month where I'm supposed to say things that have happened, and yet they haven't yet. Got that? So I want to talk about how great, say, the Christmas in April party at the Children's Home in LaGrange went thanks to the hard work of Bro. Toby Wehrle and many of you. And I can, except it hasn't happened as I'm writing this, but has as you're reading this. oh, heck with it. Bros. Toby, Brandon Breiby, and many of you, your wives and ladies, your children. you've all done a wonderful thing, with time, effort, money and work. As Garrison Keillor says, nothing you do for children is ever wasted. You're awesome. I hope those that went had a great time, and I hope all of you who contributed or volunteered know how great you are.

Brethren, we've had an interesting situation recently at Lodge. Good attendance for stated meetings, yet sparse attendance for Degrees. I've been thinking about this, and have some theories about it, and a plea. On the face of it, discussing bills and committee reports and whatnot - isn't that relatively boring, especially when compared to helping a Brother go through his journey through his Degrees? But, well, maybe I get it - many folks feel the stated meetings are accomplishing things, getting things done, and Brethren feel they are contributing to this. And they are, and they're right. And maybe at a certain point, being a sideliner at a Degree becomes repetitive, especially if one doesn't know the candidate/new Brother. But. But.

But Brethren, there are reasons why so many of our Brethren who teach the Degree Work insist on it being done accurately and well. There are reasons why learning different parts and roles are important. There are reasons why having a room full of Brethren forming the lines matters deeply.

It perhaps gets lost in the emphasis on trying to grow membership. It can certainly get lost in the stateds, when business matters take precedence. It might be found again by Brethren who join the York and/or Scottish Rites, but not applied back to Blue Lodge necessarily. Brethren, in a very real sense, we're not seeking members. We're initiating folks into something, and it behooves each of us to gain a personal understanding of what that is. Many folks understand Masonry as providing a foundation and framework for one's lifelong self-improvement. Some might see lessons learned as helping one face what happens when death approaches and overtakes one. Still others go beyond the personal lessons and understand that in a real sense, we as Masons are indeed building something bigger than ourselves. Hopefully, something that benefits the wider world, but definitely something that benefits those who help build it.

And the things that teach this - the things that drive this message home - are found in the Degree Work. And it is critically important that we support the work - by learning chairs, roles, and lectures, of course, but also by serving as sideliners and by impressing upon each new Brother how important and meaningful being a part of his initiating, passing and raising is to us. If we want new Brethren to be moved, to reflect on what he has just experienced, and to come back and be a part of our great Fraternity and the Great Building, we need to make those three Degrees as powerful as possible.

Brethren, so many of you are devoted and strong and dedicated in ways I can't imagine - in ways I can only applaud and hopefully learn from. You're probably sick of the praise, many of you! I'm sure Masonry has helped many of you become this way; I'm sure many of you brought these qualities to your Masonic journey. I know you all gain different things from Masonry: be they fellowship, the opportunity to do good, the chance to explore history or mysticism or mysteries, the chance to honor family. Many other things as well, I'm sure. So many of you give so much, and do so while giving to family and friends and work and church and volunteer opportunities and personal difficulties. So I know I'm asking a lot from folks who already give a lot. Please. Come to the Degrees. Sit on the sidelines if you don't want to take a chair or role or lecture. Make the new Brother feel welcome, make him feel he just underwent something important and meaningful. If your Degree experience mattered to you, help get that across to your new Brethren. If your Degree experience was less than special, help make sure new Brethren gain a better experience. There's a lifetime of material to ponder in those three Degrees. There's stuff that opens up as we move from station to station in life. Let's make sure each new Brother wants to take this journey and never regret doing so.

Thank you to those Brethren who helped me organize my thoughts on this. If folks want to check out short but meaningful books to help them reconnect with the Degrees and some of the lessons therein, I recommend Carl Claudy's books on each degree, available for free here as PDFs:

http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/www/Masonry/Claudy/intro-fm_EA.pdf
http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/www/Masonry/Claudy/intro-fm_FC.pdf
http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/www/Masonry/Claudy/intro-fm_MM.pdf


Allen E. Roberts's "The Craft and Its Symbols" is also helpful.

Thank you, Brethren!

1 comment:

J said...

I can't imagine why a group of brothers would want to attend a business meeting more then one of the degree ceremonies.

The degree ceremonies are the life blood of the lodge. And they are very interesting just from the reaction of the new brothers.

Why would you purposefully avoid that for the reasons given versus a boring business meeting??