How about “change your rod!” or “move over there” called out while the candidate is blindfolded? Other verbal ritual correction during an initiation? What about the two older Brothers sitting on the sidelines talking in loud whispers, enough to be heard across the lodge, during the degrees' non-speaking parts? Even wild arm waving and pointing for footwork or lighting queues?
Many of us witness such behavior and get annoyed or just pass it along as just another part of the meeting. However, after much contemplation on this, I disagree. We, at least in my jurisdiction’s ritual, are told we should counsel our Brethren in the most tender manner in their failings. We’re also told we’re all on the level with each other. I don’t see that happening, and I’m seeing a few honorifics being promoted as being above the level. It’s disturbing.
It’s not about you. It’s about the candidate, and it’s about respect for your Brothers. We have an opportunity post-COVID darkness to make some corrections in candidate and member experience.
Respect is respect, and I love all my Most and Right Worshipfuls, my Past Masters, and my lodge Brothers. I am grateful and fortunate my lodges (I belong to two), my districts, and my Grand Lodge jurisdiction have done well in guarding the West Gate. I’m even more fortunate that very few of my Brothers offer correction during the ceremony, but I see it happen too frequently to ignore.
Yet, who will walk up to a Grand Lodge Officer, past Right Worshipful, or even a sideline Brother and correct him after a meeting? Who would ask that officer or past officer to remain silent during times of silence, to observe the decorum and sanctity of the Lodge meeting? Yet, if we don’t observe the decorum, sanctity, and just plain good manners, then how do we make ourselves better for that?
Shut up. Well, there, I said it. Shush!. Although those are not the words I would choose to offer, the overall sentiment remains. Any and all coaching must be done AFTER lodge and definitely AFTER an initiation, preferably in private. Did I miss that part of the ritual where the initiatic experience is all about the officers and not the candidate? Did I miss that part of the ritual where our passions are to be circumscribed unless you have a title or have been a longtime member? I get it that we went through a period where many new Masons were picking up ritual parts for which they weren’t ready, but that’s never an excuse to correct ritual during the meeting or degree ceremony.
There are some coaching methods that I believe need to be taught, and every situation is different. I like to ask questions and make it light with a smile, such as, “Brother, did you mean for the candidate to hear you say, "change the rod?"” or “Brother, did you mean for us to hear about your fishing trip while the candidate was being escorted?” Often, a soft, kind word will get the message across. Don’t be offended if they get offended, and simply acknowledge their excuses, if any, to avoid an argument. The message won’t be lost, although it may take some repetition. Be kind, and know that you make mistakes too.
Again, it’s not about you. It’s about the candidate, and it’s about respect for your Brothers.
Bro. Randy Sanders lives near St. Louis and is active in Missouri and Oklahoma Freemasonry. He is Co-Librarian of the Valley of St. Louis, MO., Clerk of the Academy of Reflection based out of the Valley of Guthrie, OK., Lodge Education Officer of 2 Blue Lodges, and develops and delivers Masonic education across the region in blue lodges, AASR SMJ, and York Rite AMD. Randy works in IT/Telecom, mentors IT and business professionals, and also teaches Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and is an NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer. Randy and his wife raise Great Pyrenees dogs, enjoy gourmet cooking classes, and travel internationally. He has been involved in search and rescue, community response, and disaster mitigation for over three decades. He served as Logistics Section Chief on a federal disaster team and deployed to the Oklahoma City Murrah Building bombing and St. Thomas, USVI, for Hurricane Marilyn, among many others.