I had my last meeting as Master of St. Joseph #970 on June 7, 2018. I’ve made no secret about my struggles as Master if you’re a regular reader of The Midnight Freemasons. As a Farewell address, I said the following to the Lodge members there. We actually had all of the chairs filled for my last meeting, which was due to having a dinner and ceremony honoring the Veterans and First Responders in the Lodge. The names have been expunged for privacy reasons. I present it below, in edited format:
"People talk about how the seat in the East is a hot seat, but you really don’t grasp it until you sit here. As a Mason, you have to remember to act in a certain way while in public in order to not give the Fraternity a bad name. As the Master of the Lodge, this is doubly so. You are the public face of the Lodge to the Community. You’re expected at every Grand Lodge school, every local event.
We’ve had successes this year. We’ve brought in two amazing Brothers. "Brother K" and "Brother C". We raised a lot of items for the food bank with our "trunk or treat". We should look to try to expand that this year. I think it is still a great idea. We are still having an adult pinewood derby and most of that money is going to another worthy cause. The multi lodge chili dinner was a success also. I think tonight is a success. We are blessed to have Bro. S and C. They are amazing cooks. Let’s give them a round of applause to thank them.
It’s been a rough year for me. I faced a lot of challenges. Stairs, juggling officers, falling attendance at meetings and lodge events. I’ve been super critical of myself as Master this year. I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I wanted to. I blame myself for a lot of things that were out of my control, but because they happened on my watch they feels like they are my legacy."
(Note to the reader: We spent over 5k on stair repairs. My Junior Warden had an opportunity to go to school, so he discussed it with me and we both agreed that he couldn’t pass it up. However it put me in a position where I had to elevate my Senior Deacon to Junior Warden for a majority of the meetings.)
"I don’t think we maintained the level of excellence that we should have. There were a lot of events that we needed numbers for officer wise, and we weren’t able to do it. Now these are just accolades, but I still think that we need to have some standard set. We will become sloppy without instruction. Hopefully we can start having schools of instruction again, even if they are before meetings. I’d also like to see us try to reach out to brothers who haven’t come to lodge to check us out. I know that my hope was that would happen tonight."
(Note to the reader: The Grand Lodge of Illinois awards a Grand Master’s Award of Excellence. Last year we were second in the state for lodges under 80 members. This year we will not receive the award. This is the level of excellence to which I’m referring. My hopefulness regarding getting brothers to lodge was due to having a dinner to recognize members of the lodge that were Veterans or First Responders before my last meeting as Master. My hope was that we’d have a decent turnout of some members of the lodge that hadn’t been to lodge in a while. It seems my optimism was not well founded. However we had every chair filled in the lodge and two of our Fellowcrafts were present, so it was better than the average attendance.)
"I also think we lack in the area of education. As the District Education Officer, I’d like to see the incoming Master appoint a lodge education officer for me to work with. I’d like to see education be a part of the meetings going forward. I know there are groans and sighs, but if you make it short, it can work. Even if it’s just showing some short YouTube video, something is better than nothing. Education doesn’t need to just be Masonic. There are many folks here that have a wealth of experience in life that you might not know about. Bro. W for example is a WWII vet. And if he’s willing to share some of those stories, that can be your education. Or Bro. Secretary B… B was on Hillary Clinton’s security detail when she came to give the commencement speech at the U of I in 1994. My point is, there are opportunities for education within this room, which can be utilized with little or no effort.
We need to challenge ourselves to show up for events. If we discuss an event in lodge, and everyone agrees to it, then I see that as a de facto confirmation that you’re going to be able to participate. There is nothing more frustrating as a Master than to try to do things as a lodge, fun things like a movie night, and only have one or two brother’s show up. So if you can’t make it, don’t vote for it. Tell the lodge that you can’t make it. Make sure the Master is aware. Don’t be afraid to communicate, or think that other brothers will think less of you. Honestly I would have thanked you for your honesty and been able to schedule or reschedule based upon the input of the lodge. So I’d encourage the lodge to try get more exposure doing things together. Involve the newer members, get them active. They are the key to our future growth. If we give Bros. K, C, W, and C a good experience in Lodge, then they will get other men like them to join.
To Bro. F, our incoming Master. Rely on your officers. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Use our secretary B. He’ll move heaven and hell for you. Just make sure you communicate everything with him. The issues I had this year were mainly due to me trying to do a lot of stuff myself, and not using him or communicating with him.
Good Luck, try not to let the chair get to you. If you need anything from any of the Past Masters, they’ll be willing to give you advice. Good Luck and may the Great Architect bless your endeavors for the coming year.
And since I’m a glutton for punishment, I’m going to be Master at Homer 199. Try to come visit us on the 3rd Monday at 6 for Dinner and the meeting is at 7. We’ve made education our focus there and I think we’ve got a formula that works. I’d like to see more lodges adopt it. So come out and see what all the fuss is about.
Thanks again for the opportunity to serve you and the lodge as Master.
And with that, my time in the East at Saint Joseph was done. I had a week’s respite before being installed at as Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge #199. I know that some of what I said fell on deaf ears. I’ve always been a believer in actions speaking louder than words. I hope that the energy I poured into St. Joseph #970 will pay dividends. As for me, I’m solely going to be focused on bringing Brothers to Homer #199 for education and fellowship. We meet the 3rd Monday of each month, with dinner at 6 PM, and the meeting at 7pm. One thing unique that we do at Homer is that we have education first. We also allow any visiting brethren to leave if they don’t want to stay for our business. We realize that you’ve come a ways to visit us. If you’re ever in the East Central Illinois area, you can meet not only myself, but also Midnight Freemasons Founder Todd E. Creason and Senior Contributor Gregory J. Knott. We’d love to have you.