Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pride of Ownership

Last night Tyrian Lodge No. 644 played host to my ninth Official Visit of the year.

We had a great deal of work on the Trestleboard.  We presented two Fifty Year Embles and a Sixty Year wreath.  I had the opportunity to present a Century Club pin and certificate to Brother Byrl Johnson.  Brother Byrl has conferred 153 degrees in his own Lodge and countless others in Lodges all over the area.

We also awarded the final Travelling Trowel award to Pollock Lodge No. 502 and the Boaz and Jachin Ritual Excellence Award to Bethel Lodge No. 789.  Congratulations to the Brethren and the Lodges for each of their honors.

I was pleased to offer the following address when called upon for remarks:

Pride of Ownership

One ship sails east, another west,
By the self-same winds that blow.
It isn't the gales, it's the set of the sails,
That determines the way we go.
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox
For several months now, I have come before you to talk about the Grand Master’s 21st Century Masonic Renaissance. You all know about the great tools he has given us to help slow the membership decline in our Fraternity.

You all know that we can now ask men of good character to join; that we have a brochure entitled You’re Invited to answer any questions they may have. I have told you all about the One Day Journey to be held on October 30th where a man can become a Mason in just one day. He will need training and guidance after, but he can take all of his Degrees and be a full-fledged Mason by the early afternoon.

You know about the “Call to the Craft” program that makes phone calls to your members fast and easy. We have shared our Acts of Kindness, and talked about the monthly service projects and fundraisers, all designed to boost our image in the community and the individual Mason’s pride in his membership.

In ancient Athens, the young men of the city had to take the following oath upon reaching their majority:
  • We will never bring disgrace on this our City by an act of dishonesty or cowardice.
  • We will fight for the ideals and Sacred Things of the City both alone and with many.
  • We will revere and obey the City's laws, and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those above us who are prone to annul them or set them at naught.
  • We will strive increasingly to quicken the public's sense of civic duty.
  • Thus, in all these ways we will transmit this City, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could take that kind of delight in our Fraternity? How much more grand would we be if every Mason felt that kind of pride of ownership. That’s what we are, owners – or perhaps stewards would be more accurate – of the Craft.

What does it mean to transmit [the Lodge], not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us? It means work. It means labor and toil and sweat and tears and sacrifice. There are Lodges in this District that have not read a single petition this year. Those same Lodges will suspend members and undoubtedly lose a few through death. Conversely, there are Lodges which have read more than ten petitions for Initiation and may suspend few or no Masons because they have done the work necessary. They have used the Call to the Craft for dues reminders and have made personal calls to delinquent Brothers reminding them of the value of being a Freemason. It isn’t the gales, but the set of the sails that determines the way we go.

Many of you know I’m a fairly avid runner. I don’t generally run very far – only about three to four miles at a time – but I do run frequently. Recently, a friend suggested that we run the half marathon in Pittsburgh together. I said yes thinking it would never happen. Well, on May 2nd, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning, drove down to the city with Gail (my cheering section) and joined 16,000 other people at the common start of the marathon and half marathon. Prior to that time, the longest run I had ever taken was ten miles. I’m now set to increase that by thirty percent all at once. During the race, there were stretches of straightaway where you could see thousands of people ahead of you and thousands behind you all working toward the same goal. It made me wonder what our Fraternity would be like if we did that.

Gail asked me why I wanted to do it. I guess the answer is that I wanted to see what I was capable of, and the only way to find out was to try.

At the end of the race, there are people there to place a finisher’s medal around your neck. Those of you who have heard me decry participant trophies may sense some irony here, but I assure you this is something different. You see, excluding the elite athletes who are racing each other, the half marathon and marathon are challenges to yourself. They are races against the inner voices that tell you that you cannot overcome adversity or pain; that quitting would be easier. When I crossed the finish line, I did not care about who was in front of me because I wasn’t racing against them. I beat the part of me that said you can’t do it and that was my victory. I now have pride of ownership in that medal because it was purchased by my sweat and hard work.

We need to bring that kind of drive to our Lodge. We need to set our goals high and then work to attain them. Soon, what was difficult and cumbersome becomes habit and custom. You won’t mind doing the hard work, because it will become part of what you do. The victory will be the perpetuity of the Lodge; it will be in leaving it not only not less, but greater than when it was in your care. Every single Lodge in our District should grow in 2010. There is no reason for that not to happen. The Grand Lodge has given you the tools, now you need to pick them up and use them. Be mindful of the men in your life who would make good Masons. Tell them about the good things we do and invite them to be a part of it. Freemasonry is yours Brethren, be proud of that.

In 1914 Brother Sir Ernest Shackleton’s was preparing for an expedition to the South Pole. There is a legend that states he placed a newspaper ad recruiting men for his ship The Endurance. The ad read:


The story is told that he received thousands of applicants for the trip.

Our journey is not hazardous, there is no bitter cold, constant danger or complete darkness and our safety is not in doubt. Our journey on the Renaissance will require effort. It will take some time and sacrifice on the parts of all of us. Our reward will be honor and pride. Honor, in that we did the right thing for Freemasonry even though it was difficult. Pride, in knowing that our labor is responsible for the successful future of the Craft we all love so deeply.

Set your sails and join me Brethren!

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