Master of my Domain

I’ve never quite understood why most lodges in Connecticut – indeed, in New England – close down for a couple of months in the summer. This is generally – and erroneously – referred to as “going dark”, an expression that should only be applied to lodges that actually give up their charter and close for good. I’m sure that there was some Yankee economy involved in this, but nobody has been able to explain it to me.

But getting ready for the summer break was the reason that Dave (the best SW east of the Mississippi), and I were sitting in the lodge after our St. John’s Day observance, eating donuts, drinking coffee, and speculating on the low turnout of brothers for the service at the historic First Congregational Church on the town green across the street from our lodge building. Graduation parties, involvement with other activities, sleeping late all came up… and suddenly, a question that had been napping fitfully in the back of my brain woke up, stretched a bit, and popped into the forefront of my thought processes.

Did I, um, remember to announce the event in the first place?

For many of us, being the Master of the lodge is our first time in a managerial position, and while we’ve prepared ourselves by honing our ritual work for our new position, learning the proper introduction for the seemingly endless titles of Grand Lodge officers, and getting the phone number of the Grand Lodge secretary, most of us aren’t prepared for the real secret of the Master’s chair: Almost none of the things that were important last year will apply to you this year. That said, you’d think that those of us with years of managerial experience would sail through the year with nary a slip, right?

At this point, perhaps I should further add to my embarrassment and mention that I actually own a business. So much for my own managerial skills. The fact that we make money is a testament to the well-organized and hard-working people who keep me on task. I’ll be the first to admit (albeit only by a slim margin) that “organized” is not one of the words usually used to describe me. This is evident when one sees the number of people each day who keep asking me if I’ve called this person or filled out that form. This is also evident because I see that I’ve gotten way off track from where I was going with this essay.

Anyway, Dave, who is finally getting a little nervous about next year, started talking about some of the projects and plans that he’d like to accomplish, and in listening to him I began to feel a little disappointed in myself for not carrying out all of the plans that I began outlining last year at this time; moreso because he mentioned several of the same things that I had wanted to do, myself.

On the way home I reflected on how things seemed to start going wrong right from the second meeting. Maybe not wrong so much as the normal flubs and fluffs of everyday life seemed to get in the way. I’d planned an EA degree for the second meeting in February, but the candidates hadn’t been available for investigation, which meant that we couldn’t vote in time, and the entire degree series ended up getting pushed out a month. That messed up the scheduling of certain other programs for other nights – not necessarily a bad thing, but one of the goals I had set was to have something interesting at most, if not all of the meetings. I wrote about the several changes of schedule in order to have the MM degree at a lodge halfway across the state; the last meeting before we close for the summer is generally the Awards Night (Ah! That explains why I had the bad mojo!).

But I’ve got the summer off, so now isn’t the time to dwell on what didn’t go right – it’s time to look forward to 4 more months (4 being a number with deep Masonic significance), which for the most part are already programmed. An EA in mid-September, FC in mid-October, the Past Masters MM in mid-November, then elections and the annual meeting in December. We have a dinner scheduled for one of the nights, so that leaves only 2 or 3 “open” meeting nights.

Gosh, re-reading that makes it seem like the year is pretty much over!

I’m not upset that things didn’t go as planned; part of being a grown-up is that we understand that some things are simply out of our control, and we learn to adapt to new situations. On one night when plans fell through a couple of days before the meeting, a brother – one of the several engineers in our lodge – created a set of button controlled lights and we had a Masonic Jeopardy game. Another night, when we should have been having our first EA degree, we ended up with a “mini” awards night, at which a brother presented something to the lodge, and I presented several awards that hadn’t arrived in time for the previous WM to present.

And of course, some things did go well, perhaps even better than planned. We had a St. Patrick’s dinner, which was served by the Rainbow chapter that we sponsor. We had a Cinco de Mayo night, and while I did not wear a sombrero, we did have a visit from a newspaper reporter that was looking to do a story on the local fraternal and civic groups. We gave him so much information that he ended up writing the entire article just on our lodge. And although a local event was rained out, the next night a group of us went to see “The DaVinci Code” as a group – meeting first for some pizza to get us into the mood (The 8 triangular slices being of deep-dish Masonic significance, you understand).

More importantly, I think, is that the lodge overall seems to be functioning smoothly. Officers and members seem to enjoy coming to lodge and attendance seems to increase a bit with each meeting. I never lack for volunteers when I ask for committees to investigate new candidates, plan projects, or take a degree part. In fact, we’ve never had a last minute no-show; the couple of times that an officer thought he’d have a problem, they’d made arrangements with someone else to keep things covered. And after meetings, guys and visitors are always hanging around for hours afterward, talking about Masonry, computers, gossiping, and generally enjoying themselves.

Hmm. The lodge seems to be having fun. That can’t be such a bad thing, right? So I’m going to stop worrying about the plans that didn’t materialize and about the programs that didn’t work. I’ve got two months in which I can take stock of what went right, and to fine tune my plans for the fall.

Now, where the hell did I leave my Palm Pilot?

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  1. July 7, 2006 at 12:08 am

    Going dark in Indiana used to happen, way back and when, because the farmers would be too busy to be able to make it to town regularly. Or at least that’s the story I was told.

    The current reason for going dark over the summer is usually a question of air conditioning. Many lodges lack AC and have members that are just simply to old to be sitting in a lodge room in mid-July with 90 degrees outside. Of course, at 23 I’m not all that keen on sitting in a lodge room in a suite in mid-July without AC. Not my cup of tea.

    Oh, and then I’ve heard the “everyone leaves for vacation” remark meaning that there just won’t be enough people around to keep having open lodge – which is non-sense – vacations in the US rarely last more than a week and not everyone will be gone at the same time…oh, well. That’s an argument waiting to happen elsewhere.

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  2. July 7, 2006 at 8:44 am

    Luke – I’ve heard the AC thing. My lodge had some remodeling 20 years ago, and they installed AC in the upper rooms. A lot of the older buildings, though don’t have it. I’ve also heard the thing about the farmers being too busy. That makes me wonder if any of the city lodges meet all year.

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  3. July 7, 2006 at 9:37 am

    Many of the lodges in the smaller towns of north Georgia go dark in the summer so — are you ready for this? — the Brethren can focus their attention on the numerous meet-at-noon-and-again-at-six “Revivals” going on in the three bazillion Baptist churches around every curve on every country road and big highway.

    At the last springtime lodge meeting, all the church-goers stand up and announce their churches’ summer revival schedule so everyone can be sure to attend.

    Goin’ to re-VIVE-als around here in the summertime is so popular a few years ago there was a big fight to try to push public schools’ starting date into September so the kids could get more churching.

    The larger lodges, including my own, meet all year-round, but very few men show up in the summer. Even the Worshipful Masters typically miss one or two meetings in the summer, when their particular church is having a revival.

    You guys must think I make this stuff up… but I don’t. I’m only slightly exaggerating the three bazillion number of Baptist churches around here.

    One of the lodges that goes dark in the summer has a huge velvet painting of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” in the Lodge room, over the Outer Door, to remind everyone they are Christians.

    I was visiting in a lodge one night a year or so ago. Apparently they’d been having squabbles for some time about what to include or not include in their new lodge building. Their treasurer stood up and tried to calm hurt feelings by saying this: “As Christians, we should try to get along better here…”, not THIS: “As Masons, we should try to get along here….”

    Widow’s Son
    BurningTaper.com

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  4. July 7, 2006 at 12:13 pm

    Many of the lodges in the smaller towns of north Georgia go dark in the summer so – are you ready for this? – the Brethren can focus their attention on the numerous meet-at-noon-and-again-at-six “Revivals” going on in the three bazillion Baptist churches around every curve on every country road and big highway.

    My sister lives down south, and belongs to a fundamentalist baptist church. I don’t think she goes to the revival meetings, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

    She prays for my soul every night because she found out that I’m a Baphomet worshipping Mason. She told me about some woman who was doing the lecture circuit in the area – this woman claimed the Masons held ritual Satanic sexual ceremonies, and that she had “recovered” memories of her grandfather and his lodge brothers abusing her. I explained about the psychology of recovered memory, the fact that we don’t do that kind of thing, etc. Then I asked her point blank, “Sis, you know how I am – do you really think that I would join a group like that?” She waffled a bit, and then talked about how the “lower ranking” Masons don’t understand how bad we are, that it’s only the secret “higher ranking” Masons who know the real secrets, etc.

    We’ve pretty much agreed not to discuss it anymore.

    You guys must think I make this stuff up… but I don’t. I’m only slightly exaggerating the three bazillion number of Baptist churches around here.

    The culture is a lot different down there, almost like visiting another country.

    Their treasurer stood up and tried to calm hurt feelings by saying this: “As Christians, we should try to get along better here…”, not THIS: “As Masons, we should try to get along here….”

    There are a few lodges up here that are known as “Jewish lodges” because of the large population of Jewish members. One of the members likes to joke “You don’t have to be Jewish to join our lodge… but it helps.” I’ve heard another lodge referred to as an “Italian lodge” because of the ancestry of most of the members of that community. I think that to some degree this is typical because lodges tend to draw on the members of the local community for members. That said, I do understand your point. How disappointing for you.

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  5. July 9, 2006 at 7:25 pm

    Well, I’m from Ohio, and we too go dark. It wasn’t oficially explained to me, but I assumed it was simply so the officers and brethren can enjoy a summer break (much like school).

    I do miss Lodge meeting, but I’ve been working on my Lodge history which means they have given me a key to the Temple building so as to have acess to records, minutes of meeting etc. . .

    On Labor Day, however, Masons from two of the nearby Districts are doing an outdoor raising. If anyone is interested in a road trip here, I can get more info.

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  6. July 9, 2006 at 9:42 pm

    Nate, glad to see that you’re taking such an interest in this. Looking through the old records can be fascinating. Our lodge was founded back in 1795, and the other night we were looking back to the early 1800’s and discovered that someone was actually expelled, but we didnt’ come across the reason why. We met in a nearby inn (that’s no longer extant) before buying our building in the late 1930s from the former Gov of COnn (and Mason).

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  7. July 10, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    Most of the lodges in Minnesota are dark all summer. It’s Minnesota, so I’m not sure we can make use of the “no A/C” reason. One officer of my lodge is taking the initiative through the summer to hold informal get-togethers at a coffee shop, for Masonic education,discussions about masonic books and articles, etc. Most of us are in the habit of meeting at a certain date and time anyway, so we are trying not to let the lack of a stated meeting stop our fellowship.

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  8. July 31, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    we go dark because of AC. Period.
    As for your year as master, I hear you loud and clear, I was Master last year. It can be tough and easy to forget things.
    My inspection was in the MM degree and I had to both sections from the east. My first time doing KS was infront of 100+ people.
    whew
    have fun and enjoy

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  9. simon
    August 10, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    Well, sorry you missed it Tom. Last Friday, Estuary had an EA degree in a special communication. I announced it would coincide with the Master’s picnic, where I fed the Brothers hamburgers and hot dogs. And I also announced it was a T-shirt and shorts night. Got some people a little twisted not to be wearing a tux, but what the heck. The candidate got a good degree, which is what counts. As you provided us in June. Summer shouldn’t stop us, maybe only slow us down.
    -GSS

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  10. August 11, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    This post has been removed by the author.

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  11. August 11, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    Hi, Bro. Simon! Glad to see a few more Conn brothers stumbling over my little corner of the internet. I’m happy to hear that you had another good degree. I’m even happier to hear that you had some grumbling; it means that you’re stirring the pot a little bit. Can’t let the old-timers get too sedentary, you know 😉

    By the way – I did a small write-up about this for our state newsletter “The Connecticut Freemason”… which you probably know about already. Hopefully it will make the September “Back to School” issue.

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