Blue Lodge First

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball

*Editors Note* This piece was first featured on the "Whence Came You?" Podcast and was read by the writer, WB:. Scott S. Dueball. Listen here


When it comes to the appendant bodies, I often hear the phrase "Blue Lodge comes first." In fact, before I can develop a well thought-out response to a new Mason inquiring about the appendant bodies, this line comes careening across the room. Every. Time. I am not going to argue with that point as it holds some degree of truth. However, when I hear this phrase, it is used to mean something different. What may sound like "Blue Lodge should always come first", progressively transitions into "Blue Lodge should be the most important thing to you" and completes its evolution as "You shouldn't do anything else if you aren't going to Blue Lodge". That's right, the Scottish Rite steals members. The York Rite steals members. The Shrine steals members. I take exception to this position. The problem is that this thought allows the individual Blue Lodge (or those espousing the aforementioned belief) to expect you to participate without providing you something in return. This belief is propagated in order to require you to come to stated meetings, participate in degrees, and perhaps to learn lengthy lectures. All of which, I admit, are laudable. You are admonished that your duty is to fill whatever needs your Lodge may have. These duties may include sacrificing church to volunteer at pancake breakfasts, sacrificing tucking your children in to perform the "charge" for the evenings degree, or sacrificing most of your Saturday off for additional ritual instruction.

Where this becomes unhealthy is that we, as individual members, lack the same expectation of our Lodges. We do not believe that our Lodges owe us anything in return. We do not expect that the Lodge should be providing us with some fulfillment as well. By saying that the three degrees (and a few pancakes) should provide you with everything you need, we assume that the only thing you could ever need is to watch the same ritual performed in the same way that it has been for over 200 years. That is not fair. You can make the claim that you learn something every time you see the degrees and I would agree with you but remain firm when I ask "That's it?"

It is unfair to Masonry to pit the Blue Lodge against those Brothers who enjoy the appendant bodies. We don't lose active Brothers to the appendant bodies because those Brothers have their priorities wrong. It's quite the opposite, we (the Lodge) have our priorities wrong. The appendant bodies provide opportunities to their members that Blue Lodge do not. The Blue Lodge teaches one set of philosophies and almost never expands on them. You don't become a 33rd, KCCH, KYCH, by exclusively attending Blue Lodge. The appendant bodies also offer occasions to interact outside of your our Lodge. These are likely flaws with the existing model of many Blue Lodges.

I am sure you have all heard this sentiment before but I assure you that it is not a part of every Lodge. Blue lodges with thriving membership don't hold this belief (they certainly do not verbalize it). Thriving lodges provide their membership with reasons to show up and be active. They do not need to guilt their members by suggesting that their first responsibility is to be present. These lodges treat Masonic Philosophy as living, progressing, and ever evolving such that it requires constant discussion within the tyled space. These lodges have a genuine expression of appreciation for those dedicated to the Craft and its teaching. These lodges are never short of diverse interactions among Brothers.

The appendant bodies know that they must provide you with something to justify your participation. Your time and your priorities belong to you. How you choose to spend time away from home and family is completely your decision. Sacrificing time away from your non-Masonic life should be worthwhile. If you are giving up time with your spouse and kids, you have every right to expect to get something out of it. I admit that I am a member of my Lodge because I wanted to be Worshipful Master. There is truly no more or less to it than that. This period has been extremely fulfilling. A time where I will no longer receive the fulfillment of being Master is on the horizon and I will be in search for new fulfillment. I constantly wonder if I will I find it in my lodge or someplace else.

To suggest that our lack of participation is anyone else's fault but our own is myopic. It appeals to our own insecurities but it is far from true. Craft lodges and appendant bodies should both seek to prioritize the fulfillment of their members. When we use guilt to force members to stay active rather than giving them what they are seeking, we do the Gentle Craft a disservice. My wife and I are expecting a baby girl in August; is the chance to deliver a lecture I have heard a hundred times worth time away from her? Will running a Facebook/Eventbrite/Wordpress campaign be worth diverting focus and energy away from her and my wife? There are Masonic organizations that make these trade-offs worthwhile. It's a matter of who can deliver them and, quite honestly, no amount of reminding me that 'Blue Lodge comes first' will factor into that decision process.

~SSD

WB Scott 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 on the Leadership Development Committee and as the 2nd Northeast District Education Officer. Scott is also a member of the Palatine York Rite bodies, E.M. Lambert Council A.M.D. 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 scott@wheelingfreemasons.org ​

2 comments:

  1. Well said as it seems to be well thought out. Congratulations on everything.

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  2. It is interesting...
    In my Blue Lodge (Maybe called red lodge on the USA) we work in the craft degrees of the AASR (I live in México, and most of the Grand Lodges uses the AASR rituals for 1st, 2nd and 3rd degrees). In the ritual, there is a part where a Bro. can present a lecture or an essay, that's very fulfilling; and we use it in order to learn from the appreciation of the symbolism that the brethren can explaing. So we can analyze different points of view.

    Nice to read you. I began reading you while looking information of the AASR craft degrees in North America. Amazing article.

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