Don’s Diary (Quality Time )
To committed Freemasons, our lodges are a way of life and an integral part of our lives. While Freemasonry has different appeals to different people the underlying attraction is our fraternal relationships, being with, and sharing our lives with good men. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived in Ephesus, near modern Kusadasi, Turkey, around 500 B.C. said that "the only thing constant is change". Freemasonry is not exempt.
Those of us who want to see Freemasonry survive and thrive should look at our changed circumstances. A common observation is that younger Freemasons, of whom we, fortunately, have many, are time-short more than they are short of funds. Therefore to maintain the important aspect of fraternal relationships, we need to reflect on how we run out lodges as well as our communications away from the lodge room.
Most people do not come to lodge to hear people in the lodge room in leadership or executive positions “grandstand”; a Secretary go on and on about an issue that would best be dealt with by correspondence or in a committee, and so on. An experienced Master will quickly curtail deviant behaviour like this with a knock of his gavel.
The “South” should be conducted in a manner which conduces conviviality. Civility, good old fashioned manners, courtesy, some style and good order should prevail, but not an atmosphere of discipline or authoritarianism.
In line with the way Army Officers’ Messes used to be conducted, we could consider a “Dining President” being appointed and the Junior Warden controlling proceedings – it would be a good developmental opportunity for him. Likewise, a Deacon could be responsible for proposing routine toasts. It would give the Master an opportunity to be free from procedural duties and have more quality time with his brethren “on the level”, away from the often formidable top table, and enable him to devote time to lodge visitors.
Quality time should be considered in table arrangements. Round tables are conducive to conversations but reduce the feel of control by the host. “U” and long tables limit the opportunity for conversations and it is terrible to sit next to an uncouth bore, especially when their inadequate wit limits their conversation to banter. These latter arrangements put the focus on the top table and are probably best for very formal occasions. Buffet meals necessitate food being able to be eaten with a fork and are great for people mixing. There should be time for circulation and conversations between courses but there will always be those who live to eat, rather than eat to live, and prefer a faster service.
Unless you want to emulate a football club social, do not have tickets sold or raffles drawn during a meal. The proceedings should carry on without the exercise of overt power by anyone, particularly the Master and the Director of Ceremonies. There should be no public corrections or reprimands. Top shelf lodge drinks should not be dispensed just to mates. No standing up and shouting “Hands up all y’oos who want seconds (or soup!)”. While all this may be accepted by some other Orders*, it should not be appropriate for the Craft, certainly not in Lodge Devotion on a dining night. It might be alright on a pizza night.