There is a line in Illinois ritual when opening on the First Degree, where the Senior Warden while giving his duty says: "Harmony being the strength and support of all institutions, especially ours." This year has challenged Harmony in several areas. Grandmasters were tasked with the difficult decision to cancel Masonic activities as the pandemic gripped their nations. If the pandemic wasn't enough, the political divides in our nation have leaked into our lodge rooms from the world of profane. I recently wrote about an experience in a lodge room prior to a degree where I was informed that a political discussion that should have no place in a lodge room was ok because "The gavel hadn't sounded." I have to ask myself then: "Does Freemasonry only exist between the gavels? Or are you a Freemason in your heart?"
Freemasons should always hear the sound of the gavel. While the master's gavel hadn't sounded, shouldn't the sound of the common gavel be ever-present in our personal quarries? “The Common Gavel is an instrument used by operative masons to break off the corners of rough stones, the better to fit them for the builder’s use; but we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to make use of it for the more noble and glorious purpose of divesting our hearts and consciences of all vices and superfluities of this life, thereby fitting our minds, as living stones for that spiritual building—that house not made with hands—eternal in the heavens.." Shouldn't we always endeavor to divest our hearts and consciences of the vestiges of the profane world by use of the common gavel regardless of the location, but in the lodge room especially?
While the Trowel spreads the cement of brotherly love which unites us, we need to be aware that the gavel must be employed first to smooth our ashlars so that they fit together more tightly. Without improving ourselves by use of the gavel, the trowel will not work as effectively. It will take more mortar to join us together, the harmony of the lodge will suffer, and the strength and support of our institution will erode.
When some of our brethren think that Freemasonry is something that only happens between the gavels, instead of using their compass to draw a boundary line around their desires and passions, in order to keep themselves within a circle of self-restraint and moderation; they forget that the most excellent tenets of Freemasonry are contained within the points of the compasses, which are friendship, morality and brotherly love. Instead, they don't have boundaries. They bring the world of the profane into our sacred spaces, they insult other brethren on social media for not having the same beliefs as them, and they spread incivility instead of brotherly love.
I will use something from a presentation on Masonic civility found here: https://www.masoniccivility.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Civility-Presentation-For-Lodges-Civility-and-Masonry.pdf or here: https://www.masoniccivility.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Civility-Presentation-For-Lodges-Civility-and-Masonry.pptx and I would encourage my brethren to present this and have a discussion about it at their next meeting. I ask all of us: "With all of the other potential stresses in a person’s life, why not make the lodge a refuge; a place of friendship, support, and understanding? This does not mean we need to always agree. It means we need to be able to express our differences in a way that is constructive without being a source of incivility, stress, and contention."
WB Darin A. Lahners is a Past Master of and Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of 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). You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org