Monday, November 29, 2010

Call Me Past Master, Part 2

In a way, I don’t know why I argue with myself. Perhaps I am just lazy and can’t find the proper sparring partner with which to duke it out. Whatever the case, I have come to the realization that the title of “Past Master” and its accompanying honorific, “Worshipful Brother” have been earned. They have been earned by both myself and my family.

I have been accepting it more after reading the obituary section of the paper. A Past Master died on Saturday and his family honored his Masonic career by specifically mentioning his term as Master. The honor of Past Master is not only borne by me but also by my wife who spent days at home alone for me to help run this committee or that committee, be at this event, or that event, and to travel hours away and come home late into the night. She allowed me to do this even while pregnant.

The role of Master is also one of intense thought. A Master shouldn’t be at every committee meeting nor should he be willing to lay down his familial obligations to take care of lodge business. He should be ready to answer a phone call, to ask if a brother needs our assistance, and to both give and receive instruction through the attentive ear.

My advice to all Masters or brothers in the progressive line is to use themselves and their lodges as guinea pigs. The lodge is a laboratory, a place that new ideas can spring anew. Don’t allow the dull business drag your lodge to irrelevance. We were once the salons of discussion. If you would like to host a table lodge/EA degree, check with your Grand Lodge, and if it’s okay, plan it. If you want more papers on Masonic subjects, or non-Masonic subjects, plan to read at least one at each stated meeting.

Being Master is probably the most rewarding experience I have had in Masonry. If you are fortunate to serve in that role, relish the time you have in that chair. Your year will move incredibly fast. Plan accordingly. With all that being said, yes,  you may call me Worshipful Brother Nick.

Call me Past Master?

This is the pocket watch given to me for my year as Master of the Lodge.

I have been mulling over how I should have brothers address me. I am a big believer in meeting on the level. The concept of meeting on the level with all brothers seems to exclude the use of separate titles. On the other hand, I spent a good part of a year and a half as well as three years as an officer taking care of the needs of the Lodge. I know I have led my brothers through a very successful year. This brings me to my quandary: should I have brothers address me as Brother Nick or Worshipful Brother Nick?

An amazing aspect of the Craft is the number of titles a brother can collect as he lives a Masonic life. I was fortunate enough to give the Hiram Award to a very worthy brother. He is very active in York Rite and its related degrees and has led all major bodies of the York Rite culminating in being Past Grand Commander. He gave me his Masonic resume for the ceremony and it extended over two pages. Without reservation I call him Worshipful Brother because of how hard he has worked for Minnesota Masonry and my lodge having served at least two terms in the chair.

My mind remains clouded; I just don’t know if I have earned the sacred appellation of Worshipful Brother. I worked hard for my lodge during my year but I also believe that I have not done as much as other brothers. Maybe I’m just being excessively modest. Hopefully, as I grow in Masonry and become a wiser brother, (Masonry is a progressive science after all), I will begin to accept the honor of Worshipful Brother as a representation of my service.

I also wonder if being addressed as Worshipful Brother creates an unnecessary separation between hard-working brothers who have never sat in the Oriental Chair and those who have. However, the brother serving as Master will expend many hours of extra work during his year. It is an honor to serve as Master of a lodge. As any Master knows, a lodge is essentially a small non-profit business with property, bills, and “employees.” This work is done without monetary gain. The job of Master takes you away from things that you would like to otherwise do, missing minor family obligations, driving to far off lodges instead of staying home during a heavy snow, and making phone calls on a Sunday night instead of relaxing on the couch.

I love Masonry. I love working and being of service to my brothers and their families. My hope is that one day, signing PM behind my name in a lodge guestbook will feel earned and not just given. Again, thanks to the brothers of Corinthian Lodge for letting me try new ideas and have fun. I hope to carry over some of those same ideas to Corinthian Chapter as I take on the role of High Priest. I am honored to carry the title of Past Master and I will carry it dearly for the rest of my life even if I am unsure now about my worthiness.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Year

My year is complete and I am now happy to report of the great successes that we have had in Farmington, MN. When I first joined Masonry, I really didn’t know the brothers of the Lodge. I traveled to Farmington so rarely before joining that I didn’t even know the way to get there. Now, the path seems so well-worn that I sometimes forget the trip to the Temple. I have spent so many hours repeating ritual during that half-hour to lodge that I have probably conferred each degree a hundred times.

This year has been great. However, whatever success I have had has been a part of nearly a decade of growing from being small and nearly forgotten to well-regarded in Minnesota Masonic circles. I am proud of all the hard work we have done this year.

I started with some real goals to accomplish. The first task to tackle was my lodge’s website. We needed an overhaul. The ease of putting up content on the existing site was nearly impossible. Articles would disappear, trees would branch to nowhere, and I would have trouble transferring what I had written with pictures. I am a computer novice and sometimes these “compruters” confuse me. In just one simple switch, Corinthian Lodge No. 67 has one of the best sites in Minnesota. We switched to SquareSpace and Google Apps and never looked back. Our calendar is up to date and everyone knows what is going on at the lodge.

We started the year’s degree work with a Table Lodge/First Degree, something we had never done. All of the brothers were in good spirits and the meaning of brotherhood was never clearer. We had at that degree the just Past Grand Master, the sitting Grand Master, and the then Deputy Grand Master, now Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Minnesota. At that first meeting, we had four candidates as well as a recently raised Master Mason from the One Day class.

I also tried experimenting with our practices. One such practice is performing the full third degree on each candidate for Master Mason. The Minnesota Masonic Code allows for an abbreviation of the third degree for all but the last candidate. We, as a Lodge, had been abbreviating the experience for years. I wanted to see just how different it would be for the newly raised brothers if each brother received his degree in full. I called as many learned brothers as I could to share the degree workload and we did a wonderful job. The day was raining, the building was hot, but everyone had fun learning the important lessons of the third degree.  These brothers are now truly dedicated and rarely miss meetings and are completely engaged in the Lodge.

We hosted a great pancake breakfast for our scholarship fund, the first in many decades. We had fun discussing Masonry with interested men, showing off our nearly a century old temple and seeing all the brothers and their families. Chris Cakes worked the griddle which gave us more opportunities to chat with the public about who we are. Bro. Jarrod stepped it up along with Bro. Rick to make the event a great success. Kudos.

We also have done quite a bit of traveling as a lodge. Traveling is something that most Master Masons will never do while they are on this earth. In Minnesota, the right to travel is codified as an Ancient Landmark and every Mason in good standing should travel as often as they can. The types of Lodges a brother can visit in Minnesota alone are mind boggling. And once you have traveled in Minnesota, both A.F. & A.M. and F. & A.M., look to other states. Fraternal bonds can be formed in nearly every country in the world.

I won’t describe everything that we have done this year but I invite you visit the Lodge’s blog that lists all that we have accomplished. I have had one of the best years of my life and I hope that in my own little way, as I am an Eagle Scout, that I have left the lodge in as good, but hopefully better condition, than I found it.