WHY BE MASTER?
The Master's Chair was the second object that caught my attention the first time I stepped foot in a Lodge room. I am the first man in my family to visit a Masonic Lodge, the first to become a Master Mason. I keep my personal experience in mind every time I give a Lodge room tour. I was 35-years-old at that time. Freemasonry was not the first community group or charity I had expressed an interest in joining. Growing up in southwest Arizona, I was a member of my local 4-H club and high school FFA chapter. As an adult, I have volunteered with the American Heart Association, served on non-profit leadership boards, and am a professional society member. But there was something distinctively different about the Master's Chair the evening of my first Lodge visit.
First, the placement struck me. It's the highest seat in the room. Most Master's Chairs are ornate. I noticed the decoration, distinctive hard carvings, that must relate to the duties of the office. There was a small pedestal, about waist high, with a gavel within arm's length. A set of stairs led up to this seat. Below the station was the alter, situated in the center of the room. The alter was the first object to catch my eye. There aren't many meeting rooms that have an alter!
I was a visitor, a guest, during my first Lodge meeting. There was a handful of other interested men that evening; we all sat in a row together. My second observation about the Master's Chair is the man who occupies it. There was another striking difference between this Mason and the others in the room: he was the only man wearing a hat. He was able to stand and move freely around the room when he spoke. And when he addressed those in attendance, he had their complete attention. I had never seen anything like this! I looked around the room, taking an inventory of the men. They were engaged, not one side conversation or comment was made as he spoke. The way these men revered this leader intrigued me to learn more about the significance of this role.
Years later, when the question is asked, "why be a Master," I point to that first experience as what initially drew me to being the Master of a Lodge. After I was raised, like many new Brothers, the Master of the Lodge approached me to take a position in his line as a Steward. I accepted, and so began my journey to the East. Over the next three years, I advanced through the line to the Junior Warden's station. It was during that time when I began to question my path. "Why be Master" was something I would ask myself after seeing the division and politics that is a part of any organization. My impression of the role began to tarnish; I witnessed the stress that is a by-product of being the top decision-maker, the man ultimately responsible for every aspect of the Lodge. I saw past the cheery greetings and friendly handshakes the Master would extend, to his frustrations and personal fears.
Why be Master when you are the center of attention and the target of criticism? Shakespeare was right. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." Or, in our case, the hat.
WHY BE A MASTER?
This article has taken three attempts to complete because I needed to find my answer — that required time, experience, and perspective. This May marked my fifth year as a Master Mason. I am now a member of my third Lodge. I want to be a Master to contribute to the experience of the Brethern. While that may seem like a simple answer, I realize the complexities. To me, becoming Master is more than having a place in a progressive line — it is the dedication and work invested in improving myself. One must know one's self before offering help to another, right? My focus is on being the best Blue Lodge member I can be right now. I want to learn my parts for ritual, not for perfection, but to be proficient and a resource for others. I need time to understand the challenge that comes in leading a diverse group of like-minded men. That can only be observed by investing the time to work through the chairs. Most importantly, instead of making plans for what I will do during "my year" in the East, I need to sit, watch, and support the Brothers who precede me.
I now know that being a Master is more than learning the word, getting a fancy ring, special apron, or Grand Honors. Being a Master means you are the man your Brothers elect to lead them and care for the Lodge.
There is a reason the Master's Chair is prominent: it is a large chair to fill.