I have to tell you, my Brothers, that I feel something special happening. I really believe that change is afoot in Freemasonry. A typical Official Visit seems to draw between seventy and eighty people. As I prepared for last night's Visit to Plum Creek Monroeville Lodge No. 799, I will admit that I was steeling myself for disappointment. I was sure that the Penguins v. Flyers playoff game would hold greater sway over men and cause a decline in attendance. Was I ever wrong!
By my count, ninety-one people decided that a night of Brotherhood was more important and of far greater value than a hockey game.
I am thankful to all who attended. They may have missed an exellent hockey game, but those who chose other options missed out on something far more valuable - the chance to share in the Mystic Tie of Brotherhood.
When called on for comments, I was privileged to offer the following:
The Measure for a Man
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached by a Brother after a Lodge meeting who tells me how different things were in the old days; how they would have to have three or four extra meetings each month to accommodate all the new Masons who were entering the Fraternity. A quick check of your Lodge minute books from the 1960s would be all you need to confirm it for yourself. The lament continues. “Nowadays, you see a man here three times and that’s it. He never comes back.”
There may be myriad reasons for why this is so, but tonight I want to focus on just one of them – the sum of our parts. Masonry is built entirely of Masons. Masons, when they leave here, have problems, appointments, stresses, joys, burdens, conflicts, jobs, bills and countless other demands on their time, talents and treasure. How we present ourselves as Masons, and by extension, how we present Masonry, has a lot to do with whether a new Brother returns to Lodge.
Let me tell you about my own experience. My first exposure to Freemasonry was at my grandfather’s funeral. Brother Bob Geiger presented the service. Its message of consolation and hope attracted me immediately. Before they left, I asked what I needed to do to become part of the organization. Two of the members who knew my grandfather agreed to be my recommenders if I wished to join. I finished the paperwork and waited. The night of my Initiation finally came. Neither of my recommenders were able to attend, so when I arrived here I knew no one. After a few introductions and handshakes, I was ushered into the preparing room by Brother Vern Henery. His soft manner and kindness instantly made me feel at ease. Brother Jim Smith conferred that Degree. After the meeting, I was introduced to Harry Bauer who would go on to teach me my work. Brother Joe Connors conferred my Second Degree and Brother Skip Green acted as Guide. Brother James Rainey conferred my Third with Brother Chuck Kammer acting as guide.
What does my nostalgia trip have to do with the sum of our parts? It’s simple. Each of these men is the face of Freemasonry for me. Each of them took so much pride in his work that he refused to settle for an “okay” degree. Their attention to detail and the pride they rightly took in doing excellent Ritualistic work played a major role in my immediate attraction to and continued interest in Freemasonry. The guides knew how to prepare me, the Worshipful Masters and Officer knew their work and Brother Bauer knew that anything worth doing was worth doing correctly. The insistence by each of these Brothers (and you all know Brothers just like them) on exemplary work made them, and the Lodge they called home, a place that I wanted to spend my time.
In short, better Masons make better Masonry.
But how do we become better Masons? Learning ritual, attending meetings and practices – these things take time. And with work, soccer practice, dinner with our friends, we’re all just tapped out.
Masonry already addresses this. We have a way to balance our services to God, our profession and our entertainment. We call it the twenty-four inch gauge.
What if we could actually spend an entire week living as that working tool teaches us? Fifty-six hours for work - some work more, some work less, but that is a good average. Fifty-six hours for refreshment and sleep – that should suffice for most. We would then be left with that same amount for service. Now, can you imagine how a great a world we would have if we each spent a full fifty-six hours weekly in service to God through our church, synagogue, Lodge, a favorite charity or volunteer organization?
What kind of man could you be if you actually lived that way? You would be a man that anyone would be proud to count as a friend. You would be a role model for others, a man to be emulated. You would be an exemplar in your Lodge, family and community.
Do you know what else would happen if you really lived by the gauge? Petty disagreements, personality conflicts and the other minor issues that sometimes creep into Lodge workings would disappear. Why? Because grumbling when the Worshipful Master calls a practice doesn’t have a place on the gauge. Complaining about who is chairing the Pancake Breakfast Committee what date we’re holding the Past Masters’ Dinner is neither a service to God, your usual vocation, nor is it refreshment or sleep, so it isn’t worthy of your time.
So making use of the gauge will make us better Masons. Pride in who we are and how we work will help attract and keep men in our Lodges. Perhaps then will we return to those days when we have so many candidates that we need three or four extra meetings each month to accommodate them.
Let us leave here tonight and vow to do nothing save that we do it to the best of our ability; to take so much pride in our work that we inspire our new Masons to return; and most of all, let us ask the Great Architect of the Universe to help us order our hours and our days that we might serve Him and all of humanity thereby living up to the strong legacy that is Freemasonry.