By Hannes Grobe 19:04, 3 September 2006 (UTC) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
As I began to pull back into my new role as Lodge Education Officer, I’ve been thinking about all the different programs I tried at Corinthian Lodge No. 67 while I sat in the East. Masters are given a lot of leeway to try new programs out to get the brothers more active. We may not make innovations in the Craft but this prohibition is aimed at the ritual and have little to do with programs that make Lodge a fun and worthwhile experience, i.e. no fourth Craft degree. When I took the Oriental Chair, I began to view myself as a scientist, testing experiments on the brothers and candidates to see what works and what doesn’t work. The first experiment I would like to discuss is the idea of giving each candidate the full degree work.
In Minnesota, lodges have the ability to abbreviate the second section of the third degree on all but the last candidate. I wanted to see if retention and more especially, participation, went up if candidate received the full second section. I should first preface why I wanted to test this hypothesis.
For many years at Corinthian Lodge, we had many candidates go through and witness the second section performed on the last guy. I began to notice that there seemed to be a correlation between them coming to lodge and taking a part in the full degree. I also had a personal reason. The fee for degrees is not a small number. Many lodges charge hundreds of dollars to take the degrees yet we weaken the degrees’ punch by abbreviating them. Essentially, all but the last candidate becomes a spectator and loses any dramatic punch from the third degree.
This is what I did. We had three candidates for our spring class. (Corinthian Lodge ranges from one to three classes a year). I decided that I wanted each brother to receive the full third degree. As Master, it was my responsibility to plan the third degree and I took it upon myself to get the right brothers for parts. I doubled each part of the third degree and let the experiment begin. I also had all the candidates together for the first section of the degree as that was what they were used to. When the degree started, the results were astonishing.
I imagined the time to do each second section taking at least forty-five minutes if not longer. I was surprised to find out that it takes less than 25 minutes at a normal pace. With the right planning, three candidates at a normal pace take an extra 25 minutes maximum. Also, if brothers need a break, having roles doubled removes the stress and gives each candidate a different perspective on the degree. The ritual is the same for each candidate but the different emphasis and inflection of the words. Also, the first candidate to go through is able to watch the rest of the degree and understand more fully what just happened to him. Now for the results.
I have noticed that the first three brothers that we tried this on have been incredibly active. Two out of the three are in Scottish Rite and all are looking for other avenues for Masonic light within our Fraternity. All of them are voracious readers of our history and philosophy and are incredibly committed in just a short time of being a Mason. It looks like we will continue this tradition of the full second section on each of our new candidates.
My conclusion in this experiment is that we need to give candidates the same attention and care that we would want paid to us. Candidates pay a lot of money to join our Fraternity but may not get to experience the full feeling of being a Mason. Men petitioning now are looking for something more; not merely a place to hang out with the boys but a society of seekers looking for the tenet of Truth. They want to be true initiates of our Order. I think the only way we can give them that feeling and status is by giving them degree work without becoming a spectator.
Does your Lodge do the full third degree on each candidate? Why not leave a comment?