What to Expect When You're Expecting - Epilogue

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners

The very first article I wrote for ‘The Midnight Freemasons’ was called: “What to Expect when You’re Expecting: Worshipful Masters Edition”. I wrote it as I was having trepidation upon going to the East in my home lodge of St. Joseph #970. I ended up setting out 5 things to follow as a guide on my way to the East.

1. Relax and have fun! You’re not going to be perfect, but you’ll be okay.

2. Communicate and be open to listening. Exchange ideas with your lodge.

3. Believe in yourself! Your brothers believe in you.

4. Have a plan. A mission statement is a good way to set out your goals in a few sentences.

5. Most importantly, invoke the blessing of Deity always before undertaking any task as Worshipful Master.

Now that my year is almost at a close, it’s time to reflect back on it. I’m going to address the first three items and then break out my Mission Statement.

1. Relax and have fun! You’re not going to be perfect, but you’ll be okay.

I don’t feel like I had time to relax or have fun during my term in the East. I had several things happen that while not in my direct control, contributed to this feeling. We spent a lot of time and money on the repairs for our stairs. Although the process of getting them repaired began while I was in the west, we went with a recommendation and bid from a contractor recommended by our Building Committee chairman. Unfortunately, once the job was done, the wood that was used began to split on the sides of stairs. When we asked him to replace it, he blamed everything on the age of our lodge. He didn’t take responsibility, so the committee chairman took it upon himself to fire the contractor. He then had to bring in another contractor to fix the stairs that were splitting. Needless to say, the effort took several thousands of dollars.

The brother that was going to serve as Junior Warden informed me shortly after being elected that he had been accepted into a program sponsored by his church that would allow him to continue his education. Unfortunately, his classes met on our Stated Meeting night, so he would only be able to make a few meetings. Around the same time, my Junior Deacon had to go back into the workforce and ended up getting a job which was second shift and would also keep him from the meetings. I was essentially two officers down, which I had to replace every meeting. Luckily my Senior Deacon stepped up to fill the Junior Warden’s station in his absence. I was also able to place one of the younger members of the lodge to the position of Junior Deacon from Junior Steward. All of this along with the items below contributed to a stressful time in the East for me.

2. Communicate and be open to listening. Exchange ideas with your lodge.

It’s difficult to communicate and exchange ideas with your lodge when nobody is showing up for a stated meeting. Of course, missing two members that regularly attended lodge meant that we were scrambling for quorum every meeting. There was actually one meeting where I had the bare minimum to open. While we were able to open every meeting, there were members that had missed meetings where we had discussed items and they had been voted on. Members would then occasionally show up for a meeting and question the items that had been voted on in previous meetings. This came to a head last meeting where I felt the choice of our scholarship winner was questioned. To be frank, I lost my temper when it was questioned. I blew up at the brother asking about it. In the not most gentle way possible, with probably not the gentlest of words, I told him that I felt that if he had made the meetings where we had discussed and voted on this, that he could have brought up his objections then. I felt that he was criticizing the decision and took it personally even though he was just trying to point out the original objective for the scholarship. My point is, it’s hard to communicate when there’s very few people to communicate to.

3. Believe in yourself! Your brothers believe in you.

I worked very hard with some other members of the lodge last year when I was Senior Warden to receive the Grandmaster’s Award of Excellence. At our Grand Lodge session as the Master of St. Joseph Lodge last October, we did it. Not only did we receive it, we also were awarded second place in the state for lodges under 80 members. In order to receive the award, there are a number of things that the lodge must do. These items always involve having at least 3 elected officers and a total of 5 to seven members doing them [the GMAE tasks]. For whatever reason this past year, very few members of my lodge were willing or able to make these events. It got to a point where I signed in as a member of another lodge to which I belong so that they would get the credit. While some of these events took place on dates where members couldn’t go because of family commitments or work, I feel that there is little to no desire by the membership to attend any lodge activities, especially ones needed to qualify for the award. It’s hard to believe in yourself and to believe that your brothers believe in you if you don’t share the same commitment to the lodge.

4. Have a plan. A mission statement is a good way to set out your goals in a few sentences.

In order to begin, I want to look back upon my Mission Statement. It was as follows:

I want to make Saint Joseph Lodge a better place. A place for brothers and their families to spend time, and a better asset to the community. A place that men in my community want to join. I want to educate the brethren not only using traditional education, but also teach some of the esoteric meanings of the ritual as well. Lastly, I want to raise some funds by having fun.

So, let’s see if I achieved any of what I set out to do.

I will begin with: “I want to make Saint Joseph Lodge a better place.” It’s a pretty broad statement. There’s two ways to answer it. What is a lodge really? Is it the building or room where you hold your degree work and stated meetings? Or is it the members that gather for the degree work or stated meetings? Every Mason should know it’s both. What did I do to make the Lodge a better place? From the building standpoint, several improvements were instituted. The very first thing we did was we improved the lodge room itself. We had our old degree trestle boards framed to keep them from deteriorating. We installed the internet, a wireless network and mounted a Flat Screen television on the wall so that we could cast the Degree slides from our phones instead of needing to have someone bring a computer and projector into the lodge. Our stairs were in dire need of repair so we had them fixed. We had some boiler repairs that needed to occur also. Finally, I took an old lodge computer and converted into a Chromebook, so that we would have another device to cast from if needed.

The second line of my mission statement covers the Lodge from the member perspective: A place for brothers and their families to spend time, and a better asset to the community. I tried very hard to make our lodge better. I tried to have two separate movie nights for the members and community. On the couple of occasions when I did this, I was able to get a total of 4 members combined at both events including myself. We did have moderate success at holding a trunk or treat event for the local food pantry. The idea that was communicated to our community, was to have them show up and bring items for the food pantry and get candy. I had a total of 6 members including myself show up and help me hand out candy while we collected items for the food pantry. We collected a decent amount for a donation. We also held a chili dinner that we participated with Ogden and Homer lodges. This event brought out a good number of brethren and their families from across the area. We had a good meal and good fellowship as well. I have one more event planned before my time in the East is at a close. We’re having a dinner to recognize the veterans and first responders in the Lodge prior to our stated meeting in June. As of right now, I have one RSVP, but the mail just went out, so I’m hoping that I get more responses.

The next line of the mission statement is the big one: “ A place that men in my community want to join.” During my year as Master, we have had three petitions to join our lodge. We also have one candidate that is an EA but is a college student and has trouble scheduling his next degrees. Of the three petitions, two are now Fellowcrafts and one is getting his EA degree this coming Thursday. I think that getting any new members is doing a decent job, I’m a member of a few lodges where they’re lucky to get a new petition a year.

Did I really make the lodge a place the men in my community want to join? I certainly tried. I advertised on social media to have men come and meet us at a local establishment before our meetings. I tried to have community movie nights as well. We held the trunk or treat as a community event. I used the new materials from the Scottish Rite and posted the short video, “Not Just a Man, A Mason” all over social medians well. I’ve also discussed with the lodge using the Invitation to Petition in order to get new members. We’re giving away our yearly scholarship and teacher of the year award at the High School this week, which is another chance for us to get community exposure. My hope is that maybe one man in the audience will be interested in joining us.

I want to educate the brethren not only using traditional education, but also teach some of the esoteric meanings of the ritual. My biggest failure as Master has been in the area of Masonic Education. Quite frankly, compared to Homer where Education is the first and foremost item at every stated meeting, we have a fair amount of business to get through at St. Joseph. I absolutely tried to institute a meeting structure where Education was the first item, followed by the regular meeting, but it ended up being close to a 2-and-a-half-hour affair. Many of the older membership complained about the length of the meetings. Of course, this had nothing really to do with the education which might have added 10 minutes to the meeting. Some of the older members like to hear themselves talk and like to motion for items on the floor for votes. They also like to have me explain items that we are discussing multiple times because they are hard of hearing, even though they are usually at the front of the lodge. By the time we get to where education is on the agenda, most of the older membership will audibly groan or sigh when I mention it. It’s gotten to the point where at the last meeting, I told everyone that I had an education piece that I would give after the meeting if anyone was interested. Of course, the younger members of my lodge were interested, while the older guys just packed up and left.

The last item on my Mission Statement was a personal goal. Lastly, I want to raise some funds by having fun. At St. Joseph, we have a building with retail space downstairs. We have a renter that guarantees us fixed income every month, so we really don’t have to do any fundraising. The idea for my fund raiser was simply to help bring awareness that our lodge is more than a bunch of guys who dress up and wear aprons. The idea was to show us having fun in a relaxed setting. From my time being a Cub Scout Leader, the best event of every year was always the pinewood derby. So, my idea of having an Adult Pinewood Derby was one that I thought would be well received. As we began planning the event last June, the vision took twists and turns. However, I could not be more pleased to be partnering with some adult leaders from local Scouting units to have our lodge sponsor the event. The fundraiser has become an event with a real date, place and time. The fundraiser will donate a majority of the funds to help local scouting programs, while the Masonic Lodge will receive a small portion of the funds for sponsoring, which I plan in asking the lodge to donate to the Venturing Scout Crew that we charter.

5. Most importantly, invoke the blessing of Deity always before undertaking any task as Worshipful Master.

I know that we open and close every meeting with a prayer. I don’t know that I have really taken the time to pray before writing every email to the lodge. I know I haven’t done it as much as I probably should have. Maybe that’s what made the difference. I guess all I can do is hope to do it more during this next year. You see my brethren, I am hoping to be elected as Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge for the next Masonic Year. Which leads me to add a new item to my guide.

6. Never give up.

One of my favorite movie quotes is probably going to surprise you. It’s from Batman Begins. “Why do we fall, sir?” Alfred asks Bruce Wayne in the scene, and Bruce looks at him unable to come up with an answer, so Alfred says “So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Yes, I didn’t accomplish everything that I wanted to during my year as Master in St. Joseph. I made some mistakes, some things were out of my control, and some things just aren’t worth worrying about. I have to learn from my mistakes and refocus my efforts for the coming year at Homer. I am not going to let what happened at one lodge take away from my enthusiasm for the coming year. I have to pick myself up. 


WB Darin 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.

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