Letter to the Editor from Canada - What makes a good lodge?
From W.Bro. John from Strathcona Lodge No. 77 GLA Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
The photographs of happy men at festive boards could have been taken at Lodges in Alberta or England, showing that customs and fellowship are the same throughout my experience of the Craft.
I have read with understanding the problems you have of maintaining Lodge buildings in some places and of recruiting and retaining membership. These problems seem to be common to the three jurisdictions I know about. My own Lodge, Strathcona 77, G.L. of Alberta in Edmonton, is an exception in that it has grown steadily over the last decade. In discussion with other Brethren we put this down to a few simple factors.
We meet on a Friday. People are not in a rush to get home to bed because most do not have to work on Saturdays. The Festive Board is more relaxed and extended.
Our ritual work is of the highest standard. The officers know their opening and closing ritual perfectly, and they are personally embarrassed if they slip up. Everyone who takes on a lecture in degree work knows what is expected of them, and they always perform as expected because they know they will not be extended that privilege again if they mess up. Yes - "privilege" - it is a compliment to be asked to do one of the lectures in a degree in Strathcona Lodge.
We are careful about who is invited to join the officers' line-up each year. Usually the only new officer is the Junior Steward who comes in at the bottom end of the line as the Master moves out at the top end. We look at every Junior Steward as a future Master of the Lodge. We must be convinced that he has the potential in organization and leadership skills to continue the high standards that we have traditionally enjoyed when he reaches the East.
Most Lodges in our district offer a cup of tea or coffee, a sandwich and a cookie as a festive board for which they charge $3.00 to $5.00. At Strathcona we provide a good sit-down cooked meal free to all members and visitors. We do not employ a caterer. The provision of the festive board is the responsibility of the Junior Warden assisted by the two stewards.
The sort of person we accept for membership is important. Some Lodges are on the slippery slope towards extinction because they have accepted any person who will pay the fee and sign the application. They do this just to keep up their numbers so that they can pay the rent. If you have an over abundance of window cleaners and their mates, you do not have sufficient people with the personality, business acumen, organizational and leadership skills to lead the Lodge to continuous success. There is absolutely no reason why a window cleaner or grocery clerk should not be a Mason. If they are good men and true we should welcome them, but we must always be aware that we need potential leaders.
Our dress code is strict. Dark business suit or jacket and dress pants with tie is required for regular meetings. Evening dress with black bow tie is required for officers when we are performing degree work or welcoming a Grand Lodge Officer.
So, we at Strathcona Lodge find that raising the bar and demanding high standards works better than dumbing things down such as has been tried in the U.S.A. with "One Day Masons".
My cousin asked recently if we sang the "Royal Anthem" at our meetings. I assumed he meant "God Save the Queen", and I got the impression that it might be a problem in some Australian Lodges. We have never in my time sung "God Save the Queen" in a Lodge. If a Lodge has an organist, and most don't, they will begin with the national anthem "Oh Canada", otherwise there is no formal singing. The monarchy is not a problem in Canada. Outside of Quebec most people hold the Queen and the monarchial system in high regard.
I don't know much about Australia. My mother's sister married an Australian soldier in England during World War Two, hence I have an Australian cousin. I learned at school that Australia had a lot of sheep, produced a lot of wool, and rabbits ate all the grass. I have seen one or two Australian movies going as far back as Chips Rafferty, later "The Thorn Birds", and then Crocodile Dundee. In the last two years my wife and I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated "Sea Patrol". I watch soccer on television and, sometimes when there is no soccer, I have watched a strange game called "Aussie Rules", but I must admit that my Antipodean knowledge is very limited. I once had an Australian neighbour who insisted on addressing me as "you old bastard". I gathered after a while that that meant I was all right. Correct?
My wife and I, through the wonders of technology, watch the BBC World Service News on television. We were much amused recently by a verbal brawl in your parliament between Prime Minister Gillard and the leader of the opposition. I suspect the BBC showed it with tongue in cheek rather than as a serious piece of news. It made a little light relief after the problems of less civilized parts of the world.
My compliments to you, Brother Damien, on all the work you put into Devotion News. It makes interesting reading.
Best wishes and fraternal greetings.