Learning From the Best

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

For some reason, I hold the position of Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master for the Eastern Area of the State of Illinois. It’s essentially an administrative and troubleshooting position, and I try to assist the Area Deputy and the District Deputies in performing their duties, since they all work much harder than I do. The office comes with one perk I’ll be loathe to give up whenever I resign or am fired: an apron with an elastic waistband, which means I don’t have to dig through the pile of aprons to find one with extra long strings.

It also comes with some privileges, and one of the great ones has been the chance to present the Grand Master’s Pin to newly raised Brethren at the conclusion of their Third Degrees, and to make a few comments about the Fraternity of which they’ve become full members. I have nothing original to say, I hasten to add, because everything I do is based on things two others have already said in the same circumstances. I

take a bit from Right Worshipful Brother Frank Lincoln, District Deputy Emeritus of the 11th Eastern District of the State of Illinois. Frank is a retired judge, Treasurer of my Lodge (Tuscola No. 332), and an exceptional amateur historian. He always speaks clearly, succinctly, and eloquently; when he presented pins to newly raised Brethren, he normally brought local history to his comments, and I’ve tried to do the same. 

Frank gives it his own flavor, but he told me that he took another speaker as his model, and I’ve done the same. Most Worshipful Brother Noel C. Dicks, Past Grand Master of Masons in Illinois, regularly speaks at Third Degrees, and it’s always a privilege to hear him. I have more of a chance to do that than most, as Noel’s lodge, Arthur Lodge No. 825, is also in the 11th Eastern District. One of the things he always says is his honors and rank are really superfluous, that appendant bodies are nice and can be important, but that there’s no higher degree than that of Master
Mason. In his concluding remarks at his last address to the Brethren assembled for the Grand Communication of the Grand Lodge of Illinois in 2007, he said, 

I have constantly reminded myself that although I may be the Grand Master, I am not the king of a dynasty or the ruler of a kingdom. I am a Master Mason.

If there’s anything it’s important that I remember in my Masonic journey, it’s that. Whatever I’m called to do, whatever rank or position I hold, I’m just trying to become a better Master Mason. I’d be hard pressed to find better models to emulate than Frank Lincoln and Noel Dicks. The talks they’ve given are eloquent representations of the men they are: Master Masons in the fullest sense of the phrase, good men made better by the Masonic philosophy they’ve lived in service to others. If it is a privilege to hold the office I do, it is a greater privilege to be a Master Mason, on the level with Brethren like them, and all Master Masons everywhere. And when I’m no longer AADGM, I’ll not have stepped down, for I was never truly raised above what I am: a grateful Master Mason, looking for nothing more than to be better today than I was yesterday, and hoping I can find an apron with long strings so I can share Masonic fellowship with my Brethren.


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He is Past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, IL; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.The author of several article on British and American history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at: m.h.shirley@gmail.com

1 comment:

  1. Excellent perspective in this piece. Many believe that they must grab for and cling to titles. All the while forgetting that they already hold the highest tile from whence they were Raised, Master Mason. The Lodge structure is largely misperceived, while it is most certainly a "pyramid" with the WM of a Lodge at the point, what most seem to not realize is that the pyramid is supposed to be inverted.


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