From WBro Alistair (Todd) of Devotion &,
PM, Lodge Argyll, UGLS
Having been a Freemason for twenty seven years, I began to wonder at what stage would I be classified an old fuddy duddy or just another relic sitting in the east silently mouthing along to whatever part of the ritual happens to be underway, or tut tutting to a mistake that shouldn't have or wouldn't have happened 'in my day'. It sounded all too familiar having been there many times and I am probably as guilty as any other for doing exactly that which I have just described.
A passage from the first degree tracing board flashed through my mind 'judge with candour admonish with friendship and reprehend with mercy' . It was at this same juncture that I reconsidered my value to the lodge and the craft and generally questioned how I could and undoubtedly should contribute to the promulgation of the next generation of masons who would keep the craft alive and as strong as it has always been long after my hopeful accession to the grand lodge above .
I have long since thought that freemasonry anywhere in the world, whilst still alive, needs a significant degree of change or a change of input of effort from the more experienced members of lodges. Those who have gone through the chair and become current Grand Lodge officers or past Grand Lodge officers. Those who have taken in the side degrees and not found what they thought they might, other than genuity and companionship much the same as the Craft .
Still however the sheer magnetism and excitement of craft freemasonry is an indelibly imprinted mark on my heart.
It is mightily refreshing to see that the face of freemasonry is indeed engaging in the hi tech world that overtakes our existences and is similarly tossing the coin of adaptability and survival. Newsletters and web pages, are all good signs for survival. The admission of non masons to lodge in the latter stages of an installation that I recently attended was indeed considerable food for Masonic thought.
I first occupied the chair of king Solomon eighteen years ago and did two years of consecutive duty as the master of my mother lodge. The experience was humbling yet fulfilling, gratifying yet frustrating. I encountered many challenges, that with the help and support of my brethren and the GAOTU, I emerged the other side with a flourish and an overwhelming sadness that led me to consider ... what next?
I was offered the office of district grand senior warden, and after due consideration I turned it down. Primarily because of the enormous amount of time that it would consume and which at that time I didn't have , and the overwhelming feeling that I would be figuratively turning my back on my mother lodge, and thereby potentially compromising the very foundation stone that was laid in my heart at my initiation. I had seen many a great past master engage in the quest for district or Grand honours and disappear into the miasma of installation after installation. (I analogised this to imagining what would craft freemasonry be like if we only ever did first degrees?) the answer flew in my face like a torn sail, pretty boring and very repetitive.
This train of thought got me thinking that I have seen probably 250 installations, and they have all been inch perfect performances by experienced district and grand lodge officers, who have the natural proclivity for exact, theatrical and moving performances.
I firmly believe that there are a number of things that keep a mason in masonry. Aside from the mighty works that occur external to our meetings, principally they revolve around a consistent and well delivered ritual message that sets the datum in a Masonic heart.
My belief is that this is where the strength of the lodge is nurtured and promoted.
In 2009 there were about 14,000 Freemasons in Victoria. I don't know what that number is now however, logically they can't all be district or grand rank. Simplistically put the grand lodge pool potentially increases by however many outgoing craft lodge masters there are in a Masonic year.
This article is entitled beyond the blue, because that is where I see the long term solution.
Grand lodge is a very necessary organisation, and from what I have seen of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria, there are a lot of talented eloquent enthusiastic and forward thinking people within its ranks.
I believe that there are many processes under way where the times are a changing and for the better of Freemasonry
I have a concept that perhaps some would deem to be audacious however fear not I have the heart of freemasonry in mind.
The concept is simple, my end of year in office was celebrated by my installation of the incoming master, I believe that this should happen here too, as it is almost a swan song to celebrate the old and acknowledge the new.
What I am saying here is that the outgoing master should do the whole installation with his choice of installing officers .
At a recent installation I followed from memory every word that was uttered by Grand lodge officers right up to the address to the brethren.
I remember my last line as installing master, ' worshipful installed master the lodge is now entirely in your control' .
The real fertiliser takes best effect at the roots of the organisation as in new members who are deeply moved and impressed will aspire to better things. The top of the tree doesn't need to be overly exemplified, as only masters get to see the whole thing anyway, so the audience is already converted.
If that were the case we could nominate to have the grand lodge team do an installation for each lodge once every five years. This would release a significant number of officers and experienced masons to do what I would call restoration workshops or degree exemplification teams. Or maybe assist lodges that, for whatever circumstances, may be struggling. Go there regularly and support them either with office bearers or ritualists and feed back the fire and the passion to set alight the spirit of new incoming freemasons.
That has to be better than handing in the charter, as that to me is the final acknowledgement that every tenet and principle of freemasonry that we have been taught has totally failed. There's the first degree final charge calling again . ' relieving his necessities and soothing his afflictions etc..