The Western Degree
In the old movies, one could tell the bad guys because they wore the black hats. Not so with our very own Marshal Dave, the best Senior Warden east of the Pecos. Last week, Dave got the opportunity to lead the posse for the fall FC degree, and a fine job he and his band of compadres made of it.
Dave was on a trip out west with his wife and some friends. One day they mosied into a haberdashery, where Dave espied a particular Stetson, and tried it out in front of the mirror. A woman passing by exclaimed “You should buy that hat; it makes you look just like a marshal.” Dave, who in real life is a law-enforcement agent, decided that it was a good omen; and so last Wednesday found him riding high in the saddle… or at least, in the Oriental chair.
In Connecticut, the Fellowcraft degree is a little longer than the Entered Apprentice degree, and I was disappointed to see some of the members disappeared after the break. This happens fairly frequently, and I try to be understanding because I realize that some of the older members need their sleep. But it’s disappointing because some of the best work is performed during the second half of the degrees. In Connecticut, we have a particularly involved second Section lecture that we call “The Middle Chamber Lecture.” Other jurisdictions call it the Staircase Lecture, or the Senior. Deacon’s Lecture, or something similar. This time, the Middle Chamber Lecture was performed by our Junior Deacon Gerry, who delivered what was unquestionably one of the best explanations of columns, senses and the liberal arts that I’ve ever heard. Gerry likes to tease me by pointing out that I tend to use a lot of body language in my ritual delivery, but I noticed that he was doing the same – and I think that it enhanced an already fantastic piece of memory work.
Naturally, the rest of the Friendship officers performed admirably, moreso because just as last month, this was also a “move up” night for everyone, with the exception of me, for whom it represented more of a “move out” night. Yes, just like my
complaint observation from last month, I no longer get the opportunity to do ritual. Oh, Marshall Dave threw me a bone by allowing me to do the Fellowcraft charge, but that was the extent of my participation.
And of course, as saddened as I am, it’s the way it should be. I know that there are a lot, perhaps even a majority of lodges in which a particular member “owns” a part and may rehearse that for years. A particularly gifted ritualist will give that part meaning and character, and make it something that the candidate will long remember. But it also discourages the newer officers from developing their own ritual skills, and quite likely contributes to the encroachment of sloppy work, especially when an officer thinks to himself “I can just wing it, because ol ‘ Tom is gonna do that long part.” And while the rituals vary from country to country, and sometimes even from lodge to lodge in the same territory, the overall presentation is what makes Freemasonry what it is: the oldest fraternity. We should all be proud of the presentation that we make to our candidates, and we should encourage them by our own actions to become involved. When they see the same guy give the same set of lectures for the umpteenth time the familiar and comfortable will begin to become the trite and stale. But when the candidates – our friends and family – see us making the effort, not only does it inspire them, it also gives a sense of variety as each officer delivers a performance differently from the previous one.
But I’m drifting from my main topic, which was to point out the great work done by Marshal Dave and his posse.
As I get ready to close my own year of serving my lodge in the East, I like to reflect on the progress that I’ve seen my officers make as they’ve progressed through the line. I remember that Eric was one of the first candidates that I conducted around the lodge when I was a new Senior Steward – and considering that Eric is about 50% larger than I am, this was no mean feat. But I remember that he was a young and very nervous candidate, and became the young and nervous officer to my right when I was sitting in the South. He’s now a bit older, more experienced, and certainly more seasoned as he served at my right as Senior Deacon this year. And his brother, Kyle, was the first candidate that I initiated as an Entered Apprentice when I did my first move-up two years ago, and is now one of the busiest guys at the lodge. Likewise, the Stewards Kevin and Ryan are both active with the DeMolay chapter. I’ve known them since they were teenagers; while they’ve both matured, they’re not all that much different – and I mean that in a good way. Jim, the Junior Warden, is also busy as the Secretary of our building committee, and I’m sure he’ll do a great job supporting Marshall Dave next year. It’s been great working with all of them. The Marshal is going to have a fantastic posse riding with him next year.
And as for Marshal Dave, he’s been fun to play off of during our lodge meetings. Dave is always ready with a smile, a joke, or a long, rambling story that – eventually – has a punch line. I know that he’s got some interesting programs planned for next year, and I hope that he enjoys his time every bit as much as I have.