Past Master Advisory

by:Midnight Freemason Contributor Emeritus
Bro. Aaron R. Gardner, 32°



What happens to the newest Past Master? It’s election time again within the Craft—at least it is here in Michigan. Under the Grand Lodge of Michigan, we operate under the progressive line technique.Meaning, this year’s Senior Warden is usually the next person to approach the East. There are unsuspecting events that may occur causing that not to happen, and sometimes Masters serve more than their yearly term because of it. However, in the event that everything goes according to plan, where does the current sitting Master end up?

Some lodges kick him out into the Tyler’s position, because it is the most relaxing job within lodge. However, I fall under a different belief structure. The newest Past Master shouldn’t take an officer’s chair, he still has a job to complete after he abdicates his position to the incoming Worshipful Master.

That job is to assist the incoming Worshipful Master.He should be the right hand man for the incoming Worshipful, next to the Treasure, and Chaplain. He should be sitting in the chairs in the East still. Every time the new Worshipful Master has questions about the job, the newest Past Master should be there in an advisory role. The Secretary provides the law for the Master to abide by, the Treasurer provides the funds, the Chaplain provides the spiritual guidance, and the newest Past Master guides the Worshipful Master in the interpretation of the laws provided to him, both spiritual and Masonic.

Ultimately, it is the Worshipful Master’s interpretation that will be carried out; however, the Past
Master, in his new advisory role, can help ease the stress of such interpretations. We have all
experienced a job where we were tossed to the sharks, with no help. If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky. Yet, it is most likely an everyday occurrence when you are placed in a position, given a book of rules to follow and told “good luck”. It doesn’t have to be that way with our Fraternity.

Everybody who has ever sat in a chair, is a leader in that lodge and has the ability to walk beside the Worshipful Master as he sets his goals and expectations for the year to come. The advisory position, should be able to help the Worshipful Master set those goals and expectations based on his experience in the East. His previous successes can be the successes of the new Worshipful Master, and his previous failures do not have to be repeated.

The latest Past Master must show the Worshipful Master there is more to the job than memorizing lines. He must set a clear and concise plan of execution. He should make a general plan for what he wants to accomplish in the year as Master. Then he should break it down, 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. 180 days if he is feeling ambitious. Then, with clear and concise plans to move forward; he must trust his officers to accomplish his mission.

If you have ever served in the Military this is the method of action for commanders. Consider the
Worshipful Master as your Company Commander, the Senior Warden as your First Sergeant, the Junior Warden as the Platoon Sergeant, and the remaining appointed officers as the Non-Commissioned Officers that get the job done. The Past Master is the previous Company Commander that is conducting a Right Seat—Left Seat transition, to make operations move forward with ease and keep the wheels of a well-functioning organization greased.

So with the upcoming elections, I urge you to please, do not kick the newest Past Master into a chair that is outside the lodge, or even into the sidelines. Keep him as close to the Worshipful Master as possible, at least until the transition is completed. That doesn’t mean put him in the Secretary role, which happens more often than not. The Secretary has a job that includes advising the Worshipful Master, but is responsible for many other things as well. No, it is best to keep the Past Master in the East, in a chair next to the current Worshipful Master. There are plenty of chairs up there that don’t get their use unless Grand Lodge Officers are in town, so use them.

~ARG

Is It Time?

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

This week the Boy Scouts of America announced that they will allow girls to become Cub Scouts and to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. On the 23rd of October, I am going to receive my initiatory degree in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which became the first fraternity in the United States to allow women when it adopted the “Beautiful Rebekah Degree” on September 20, 1851. It’s time for Freemasonry to do the same. We need to start allowing women into our fraternity.

I know, what I’m saying is blasphemy to many of you. We’re steeped in historical tradition. We’ve been founded on the principles of brotherly love. We’ve already got a branch of Masonry with the Order of the Eastern Star that allows women. Part of the oath we take specifically states that we can’t assist or be present at the initiating, passing or raising of a woman. The root word in fraternity is frater, which is Latin for brother or brotherhood. How dare I even mention this?

Honestly, the answer is pretty simple. Women deserve to have the right to join us if they so desire. Women can enjoy and learn from our mysteries as much as men can. There is nothing in our mysteries that appeals to men only. Our fraternity teaches universal lessons that all of humankind can learn from. If a woman wants to learn our secrets, and meets our qualifications, I say we allow them to do so. If we can belong to an organization that teaches the universality of mankind regardless of his race or religion, then why do we not also teach this about gender? It seems hypocritical to me that we stop there. Can we not form similar bonds with females that we have with our brothers now? I believe we can.

I know the argument is that all fraternal organizations, including those that allow women are seeing a decline. This is true. The numbers are there. They show a decrease across the board. The Masonic fraternity has lost 3.8 million members since the late 1950’s according to one article I read. So why bother with admitting women? Aside from the answer above, we’re excluding one half of the population as potential members. We’re also not seen as very progressive, which is hurting us with our target membership pool, which are Millennials.

We need to attract Millennials if we want our organization to survive. I know, we have many millennial members of our fraternity. As of 2012, it was estimated that there were approximately 80 million millennials in the U.S. However, there is another reason I say this. Millennial women outperform millennial men in the classroom. As of 2015, 57 percent of the undergraduate population were women. They are in general known for being determined, confident, intelligent and curious. They are always seeking new ways to improve. Are our lessons not perfect for them?

Furthermore, Millennials generally as a trait are civic-oriented, ethical, globally – minded, authentic, compassionate, progressive and liberal. Our belief in the universality of brotherhood regardless of race or religion could be easily expanded to add gender. I believe that with including women, we would see our fraternity undergo a renaissance. We would need to market ourselves to them of course, but instead of saying we make good men better, what better phrase to use but: We make good people into extraordinary people.

Think of how many members’ wives, girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, or great granddaughters might be interested in joining as well. For many years they’ve wondered about what goes on behind the closed doors. Here’s that chance to engage them. I know as current master of my lodge, I have a hard time getting my members to show up to events because they have other obligations to their families. But if their wife, or family were also members, I wonder how many might show up? Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I’m willing to bet that it might increase their engagement in our activities. I know several Masons that only have daughters. I’d be willing to bet that some of them might like to be able to see their daughters join Freemasonry, and be able to share the experiences of our gentle craft with them.

There could also be an economic benefit. I just attended the Grand Lodge session in Illinois, where our Grand Lodge made a desperate plea to increase the per capita by $20 dollars a year. (It was amended down to $20 dollars from $25 dollars.) This amendment was voted down by the Illinois Brethren. I also watched as another amendment to allow individual lodges to hold two raffles a year was amended to allow lodges to allow gambling where permissible by local laws, which was also defeated.

My point is: Our beloved fraternity is hurting for money, at both the Grand Lodge level and individual lodge level. Would you rather allow all forms of gambling be part of our organization instead of allowing women? Do you want to see every lodge turned into a video poker parlor or casino? Would we be having these discussions if we had the other half of the population as potential members? If we had women members, they would also be contributing dues at a local level and more per capita to the Grand Lodges.

Of course, I know we’re a long way off from this. We still have many Grand Lodges in the United States that haven’t even recognized Prince Hall in their state as Regular, which is another issue altogether. However, we need to adapt or die. I love Masonry. I love the friendships I have made and the bond between my brothers and I. I don’t want to have future generations lose the chance to make those authentic connections. I fear that if we don’t adapt, that they will.

~DAL 

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL).   He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  When he’s not busy enjoying Masonic fellowship, Darin spends his time as a DM for his children’s D&D campaign, reading, golfing, watching movies and listening to music.  You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.

A Lutheran Approach to Ritual Part 4: Scripture in Light of Scripture

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball


Part 1  -  Part 2  -  Part 3

Up to this point, I have introduced and expanded on two different ways to vary your approach to ritual and text. The next approach deals with the “big picture.” The Lutheran concept of ‘Scripture in Light of Scripture’ encourages the reader to examine the text as a whole to identify its entire value. In the Masonic context this means that the reader recognize that Craft Masonry is not a single homogeneous work but rather a series of lectures and allegories written and edited by multiple pens. As such, there may be tensions that exist between different parts of Masonic Philosophy.

This approach discourages us from being too myopic in our reading of the ritual. In doing this, we select the pieces of the philosophy that best fit our own comforts. This discredits the larger message of who we are meant to be as Masons. The ritual is meant to change us and make us better not comfort us. You have likely seen the focus on details over themes manifest as knowing the symbols and lectures of our degrees but distancing oneself from the more general message and application of the ritual.

There are a number of examples of this mistake. Our commitment to charity is one such example.When charity is challenged the first response is “...but Faith, Hope and Charity.” One single line of ritual governs nearly all of the Masonic activity in some of today’s lodges and organizations. If you study the larger themes and contexts of the ritual you will find that Charity is really Love. With this in mind, the act of passing an Almoners jar, buying a spaghetti dinner ticket, or participating in a raffle to win something is absolutely passive. It may be laudable but it falls well short of fulfilling our duty to “charity” inculcated by the ritual. In this example, we have zoomed in too closely resulting in ignorance toward the greater lessons in our teaching. We ought to be more apt, as William Preston put it, “[to] soothe calamity, alleviate misfortune, compassionated misery, and restore peace to the troubled mind.”

A few, infinitely more relevant examples are the exclusion of Brethren based on their sexuality, the prohibition of liquor in our lodge buildings (in Illinois at least), and promulgation of the progressive line. Here are applications of personal morals which have clouded our ability to see the larger messages of Brotherly Love, Equality, and Liberty which have been the pinnacle teachings of our order in all times.
The application of ‘Scripture in Light of Scripture’ is to observe the ritual both on a micro and macro level. We cannot get so dialed in to a point that we ignore the major themes. Further, if an idea is in conflict with a major theme, we should be able to consider whether the major theme should take precedence. But we will discuss that in more detail in the final installment of this series.

SSD

WB Scott S. Dueball is the Worshipful Master of D.C. Cregier Lodge No. 81 in Wheeling, IL and holds a dual membership in Denver Lodge No. 5 in Denver, CO. He currently serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois as the State Education Officer. Scott is also a member of the Palatine York Rite bodies and the Valley of Chicago A.A.S.R.-N.M.J. He is passionate about the development of young masons, strategy and visioning for Lodges. He can be reached at SEO@ilmason.org

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Nicholas Wennerström, 32

One of my favorite television shows of all time with one of the finest actors of all time; Wayne Brady (pending further review). The audience shouts out phrases and words and the contestants engage in a timeless form of comedy to finish: short-form improvisation.

Freemasonry has a similar tenant as improvisation does. The history, impetus, and origin are often speculative; even university professors cannot quite pinpoint fully, all that is Freemasonry. With no head of the modern Fraternity in America or around the world, much of Freemasonry is indeed speculative.

A word I never heard until I joined the Fraternity is esoteric. It’s a word that simply means exclusive or only known to one or a select few. While we have a written catechism and ritual to follow and by-laws to conduct Lodge and Grand Lodge business, the remaining parts are esoteric. No authority truly holds any of the so-called ‘mystics’ of the Fraternity true, so it’s left to individuals to write about our history, heritage and lore based on their own interpretation of it. Sure, we have facts such as which US Presidents and other notables were Masons and it is a matter of fact as to who founded Shriners and Scottish Rite and where the first formal Lodge was built in England. However, the meaning of the rituals and more are subjective. I wrote several months ago that the secrets of Freemasonry truly lie within the individual. I submit the same is true for the essence of Masonry.

There is often talk amongst Brothers as to who does what and how much. What does it mean to be a Mason and at times, are you ‘Masonic’ enough? We have a progression line to Worshipful Master but there is an almost life meter in some circles as to the who, how, how much and why as to the motivation of some Brothers. Service and civility are a hallmark of the Fraternity yet the work itself unfortunately can come second to who did it and how much.

I am a lifelong member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We believe our relationship with God is one on one and only faith not works can lead to salvation. The same I believe applies to Masonry. Your belief in a God is enough for us, whether it’s Allah, God or Yahweh, your relationship is singular. Only when humankind gets involved do things get awry. Masonry is no different.

My membership to the Lodge and the Fraternity is mine alone. I can read, write and study Masonry but what I put in to it is the Lodge is up to me. No one else. I can choose to be pragmatic like a good Treasurer should be or deep in Masonic Education. No matter my cause, initiative or sustained membership, I determine my path. No one else. In fact, we are encouraged to wander with no specific path. Anyone who tells you otherwise or questions your motives should check the original petition.

There are many reminders contained in our modern lexicon that come from Masonry: ‘getting the 3rd degree’, ‘squared away’, ‘level set’. The one we can do away with is ‘have you paid your dues?’


Bro. Nicholas Wennerström, 32 is a Master Mason out of the 1st NE District of Illinois and Treasurer of Libertyville lodge #492. He is also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago and York Rite Chapter 41 in Waukegan. He is a father of two boys and devoted husband and currently suffers from Benjamin Buttons disease.