His questions are:
1. How do we, as Masons, stay connected to our Craft?
2. What will be left of us when the lockdown ends?
3. How much will we have lost, and what can we do to rebuild?
My answer to the first question brings up some more questions:
How did you stay connected to our Craft before this?
A. Did you only feel connected by attending stated meetings and degrees? Indeed, we can’t meet in person and hold fellowship, but we can still meet. I see social media flooded with virtual opportunities for Masonic Education and Fellowship.
Aside from that, set up a virtual check-in for the Brothers in your Lodge, or at least check up on them. Make sure they don’t need anything. Most of the Lodge business that your Lodge has can be taken care of either by holding a virtual meeting or via email.
B. Are you making use of the 24-inch gauge? You should be using this time to improve yourself by learning new rituals or refreshing the existing ritual that you know. You should be practicing floor work in your home. If you’re a Deacon, are you practicing your rod work? If you have a broom, you have a rod. Practice. Practice. Practice. We all have that one book about Freemasonry that we’ve been meaning to read. Take the time to read it.
C. Are you using this time for non-Masonic self-improvement? After all, we like to advertise that we take good men and make them better. Self-improvement isn’t solely Masonic. Use this time to practice mindfulness, learn a new skill, pick up a new hobby, and reconnect with your spouse and/or family.
To summarize; your connection to the Craft should not be any different than it was prior to this crisis, because you always should be making an effort to maintain that connection. The environment might have changed, but the effort you need to put forward remains.
In Illinois, at the conclusion of a 3rd Degree, many Lodges allow the newly raised Master Mason to address the brethren attending and have the Brethren attending go around the Lodge room and introduce themselves. Ultimately, I always hear someone tell the new Master Mason, “You get out of Freemasonry what you put into it.” While there is a level of truth to this, I abhor this phrase. I have always felt that we’re giving the new Master Mason an excuse to not put in any effort towards the Craft because we’re not holding him accountable. All of the degrees in Illinois end with a Charge. They are mostly to the candidate, but in the 3rd degree, there is a charge to the Lodge as well. One of the definitions of Charge is to impose a duty, responsibility, or obligation on. What we should be saying is: “Live your charges”. If you are doing this, then you shouldn’t have any questions about your connection to the Craft.
The second and third question are I think are pretty much the same.
2. What will be left of us when the lockdown ends?
3. How much will we have lost and what can we do to rebuild?
I’d like to say that the Craft won’t see any adverse effects from this. However, I’d be foolish to answer that way. There will be some impact. However, it is probably too soon to make any concrete conclusions. We will need to assess after this is all done. I don’t know when that is going to be.
Much of this is going depend on how much we’re allowed to have contact, if we’re going to be allowed to meet in groups larger than 10 people, there is so much unknown at this point that I can’t give a definite answer. I will do my best to address this based upon what I think may happen. Once again, this is just my opinion.
Many of you may have already been negatively impacted by the pandemic. It may have impacted you negatively due to losing your job, a loved one, a Masonic Brother, or a friend. To those of you that have, my heart is broken for you, and my prayers go out for you. Some of us who haven’t been impacted may still be impacted at some point. We might experience some form of loss before this is said and done. We might see cases of someone who used to be active to become inactive because of their loss. We might lose a Brother who did a certain part during a degree, or who was an integral member of your Lodge. We may see Brothers walk away from the Craft. We might see some Lodges close or consolidate. We may have to change the way we do our floor work to conform to social distancing guidelines. We may have to wear masks. There is too much uncertainty right now for me to give a concrete answer regarding what has been lost. However, one thing is certain. The Craft may have to change, but it will endure.
Freemasonry is officially 302 years old if you count the start of the first Grand Lodge of England on June 24, 1717, as its birthday. We know it to be much older. The Regius Poem is the oldest document that makes reference to Masons, and it was printed around 1390 and was a copy of earlier work. My point is that the Craft is much older than its official birthdate, and it has already survived darker periods of history. It will continue to survive. During this time, it has evolved. It will continue to evolve.
How do we rebuild?
I don’t think we will have much to rebuild. We may have to share some more of the load in our lodges to replace those that have been lost. What I hope to see come from this is a stronger Craft. I hope to continue to see the virtual education and fellowship opportunities after this, but that we don’t replace the in-person experience with a virtual one. I hope that we see men who hadn’t thought about joining the Craft previously think about joining because they will feel a need to have some male bonding or fellowship with other males after being locked away with their families for months, or because of the impact that your Lodge is having on your community during this crisis due to their charitable efforts. While we may see some Lodges fold, or consolidate, I believe that this just accelerated the inevitable. If a Lodge isn’t bringing in new members or providing its current members with a reason to show up, then it was already doomed. What we will see is the energy of a rejuvenated membership, and I’m excited about what that energy will do.
I will end the article with some lyrics from the song “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. While maybe it’s not the most Masonic message in the song, but I think the beginning lyrics of the song are appropriate for the end of this article because it talks about new beginnings without losing one’s identity.
"Like the legend of the PhoenixAll ends with beginningsWhat keeps the planet spinningThe force from the beginning(Look)We’ve come too far to give up who we areSo let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars..."
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 No. 282, 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. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.