Past Master’s Degree 2007
Every year, the next-to-junior Past Master of Friendship Lodge gets the the unenviable task of gathering together a large group of his predecessors for the purpose of putting on a Master Mason degree. We typically hold two sets of degrees, one in early spring and one in the fall, and the Past Master’s degree is performed at the Master’s discretion. Some choose to do it early to give them more time to study for their own degree.
If you’re having deja vu, it’s because I first wrote that last year. Once again, I’m amazed that I’ve been blogging for a year and a half.
Last year, I sat in the East because the PM in charge of the degree wanted to slack off see it done properly didn’t have the time to prepare over the summer. This year, the degree was again held in November, and WB George, PM from 2005, followed suit by taking the JD position and asking WB Richie to take the East. Yours truly ended up in the West, although not exactly riding off into the sunset.
Because of the various schedules of the PMs involved, plus a large benefit dinner that involved most of the officers the previous weekend, there were no rehearsals for this degree. Now, in theory this should not make a difference; we’re all experienced ritualists, and being Past Masters, we’ve all had some degree of practice.
You know what they say: In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
Amazingly, however, most of the PMs did a great job, even though it’s been years since they’ve sat in the big chair. WB Bob reprised his role as SD and this year managed to leave by the correct door, and RWB Bob and his Past AGM Dick came out to give a great Q&A lecture. Our lodge has an extra part of the GMHA drama that takes the form of a prelude (and postlude) to the official ritual, and our RW Gary, the GSD took on the part of Hiram with his usual aplomb. We called upon a few of the regular officers to fill in other parts of the Craft, and managed to put on a great Master Mason degree… despite the fact that for some reason my brain was geared to an Entered Apprentice degree.
A day or two previously I was at another lodge in order to certify their SW in the ritual. We usually do this on the EA degree, and because he did not ask any other officers to help out, I played the roles of the other places and stations in order to give the ritual a better “flow.” When he was finished, another officer popped in and even though he wasn’t prepared to do his certification, we ran through it anyway. The result was that I ended up with the EA degree stuck in my head, much in the same way that a song or TV commercial plays and replays itself over and over until it’s cleansed by a few single malts or if it’s one of the more pernicious forms of earworm, perhaps a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.
So, WM Richie opens the lodge, and when he comes to my station, asks how many anciently composed a lodge of Master Masons.
My answer was immediate: “Seven or more.”
Richie is a pro. “When composed of only three, who were they?”
It didn’t stop there, of course. Signs? I was on the wrong degree half the time and it was a never ending source of amusement to watch me correct myself half a second after my brain kicked in. In fact, a visitor from another lodge came up to me later and said “You know, I’m a member of York Rite and Scottish rite, and I don’t believe I recognize that sign you gave at the end there. Was that one of those mystery degrees?”
In an interesting twist on how a man will often bring in a younger family member, one of the men we were raising was watched by his son-in-law who came up from New York City to see the degree. This particular batch of candidates have already made themselves useful in the lodge, coming down to help for various events since the summer. That’s great because often new brothers feel at a loss because they don’t know anyone or how things work. I’ve found that more than meeting nights, helping out at events – dinners, blood drives, food drives, etc., are a much better way to get to know your new brothers because it’s a much less formal setting, and doing actual, physical work give everyone – even the new guys – an opportunity to feel useful. I’m sure that they will all be great additions to our small but active group of brothers.
I managed to redeem myself in the second half, in which, saving the best for last, I gave the charge. It was the best damned EA charge ever heard in a MM degree, too.
Afterwards, RWB Gary said, “Well, Very Worshipful, that was a rather interesting degree. Certainly an interesting mix of ritual in there, wouldn’t you say?”
“Sure,” I agreed, “and some of that ritual was even from Connecticut.”
Obviously, the purpose of appointing me as District Grand Lecturer was to illustrate the point that W.C. Fields once said, “No man is totally useless; he can always serve as a bad example.”