I was looking through the winter 2008 issue of The California Mason and found some very interesting articles on the Entered Apprentice. In fact, most of the focus of this issue looked at the Entered Apprentice and its importance in Masonry. One of the articles that caught my attention concerned how men are engaged at the 1st step in their Masonic journey.
“A Record Year” by Terry Mendez looks into what California is doing for the newest brothers of the Fraternity. According to Brother Mendez, 1,951 Entered Apprentices were initiated in the state of California last year; this is the greatest number initiated in 20 years. The article presents a great list of ideas that successful Lodges are implementing to help introduce new brothers into the Craft. A few ideas struck me in this article. One of them was having the new brother mentored by a brother his age. This plan is interesting in its simplicity and its possible effectiveness.
According to the article, Huntington Beach Lodge #380 has begun this fascinating mentoring model. Additionally, a brother is assigned as a mentor even before the petition is submitted. I find this to be an intriguing case of mentoring from start to finish. Many brothers entering Freemasonry today have less of a connection than those chosen previously. Instead of stories of fathers bringing in sons or friends bringing in friends, it is common that a brother learns about his connection to Freemasonry from a grandfather, an uncle or learns about the Craft from a book. Mentoring is essential to assist these guys in being acclimated to Lodge life and to learn what to expect and what is expected of them.
As I have written before, I have recently commenced a mentorship program whereby the newest Master Mason helps the newest Entered Apprentice. In this way, the newest Master Mason may not possess the greatest amount of Masonic knowledge but he does have a similar excitement as the candidate. Also, the youngest Master Mason is in the best position to appreciate a new brother is experiencing during the process.
Another great practice initiated by Temecula Catalina Island Lodge #524 is to have a brother do pre-application interview with a petitioner accompanied by his spouse so the applicant and his spouse receives a family-oriented awareness of the Fraternity. I am sure that this procedure can also be done with significant others as well but it is important that both the brother and his significant other understand what Freemasonry is and how it will affect both of them. In fact, I think a major change in Freemasonry is the number of family-oriented activities that are done within a Lodge, including open installations, picnics, holiday get-togethers and so forth.
I applaud the California Grand Lodge on focusing most of its articles on the Entered Apprentice. We, as Lodges, must be aware of the first impression that we give potential candidates. As William Hazlitt, the famed British writer, once noted, “First impressions are often the truest, as we find (not unfrequently) to our cost when we have been wheedled out of them by plausible professions or actions. A man's look is the work of years, it is stamped on his countenance by the events of his whole life, nay, more, by the hand of nature, and it is not to be got rid of easily.”