For several years now I’ve gone to Grand Lodge sessions, and each time I’m amazed that a majority of the people attending get there just a few minutes early, and then leave as soon as the gavel bangs the meeting closed. Okay, I’ve never been much of a fan of sitting in meetings, especially meetings in which other people do the talking. In fact, I can imagine that for a lot of people, Grand Lodge sounds like this:
“Blah blah blah… declare the session open … blah blah blah… welcome to the two hundred and mumblety mumbleth annual… blah blah blah… welcome the Past Grand … blah blah blah… presentation by Masonicare… blah blah blah… elections for the next year… blah blah blah… the proposed budget includes … blah blah blah… lack of membership… blah blah blah… new programs will include… blah blah blah… show our appreciation to … blah blah blah… results of the voting… blah blah blah… congratulations to … blah blah blah… please inform the Grand Tyler… blah blah blah… Thank you all for coming.” BANG
Even though it ended a half hour earlier than anyone had expected, some people zoomed out of there so quickly that I thought we were serving free donuts in the lobby.
I don’t get that. For me, the best part about Grand Lodge is the hour before and the hour after the actual meeting; this is the time to get together with people that you don’t normally see every month, to renew old acquaintances, and to hear about what’s happening in other lodges and in other parts of the state. There are not a lot of ways that the Grand Lodge can communicate ideas about its various programs until after they are instituted – which, to my way of thinking – is usually to late. People on various committees who talk about new ideas with the Craft are in a position to get input. The flip side, of course, is that the Craft – that’s you and me – manages to have some input at the planning stage. And, this is the opportunity to meet those junior Grand Lodge officers who are going to be leading the Craft one day.
Additionally, I get to see other District Grand Lecturers so that we can complain discuss the issues in our districts. I have also found that there are a number of old-timers who are full of ideas and opinions – but good ones – and I enjoy talking to them and getting some feedback. And truth be told, I also enjoy listening to the latest gossip news about various lodges and officers and the people I’ve met.
In current business parlance, this is known as “networking.” Now, networking has developed a bad rep, mainly because people imagine a room full of insurance brokers and used car salesmen who are trying to get you to buy something that you don’t want. But consider: we explain to our Fellowcrafts that the pillars representing Strength and Establishment are adorned with net work because it represents “unity.” And truly, how can we have unity – that is, a cohesive Craft – if members on one end of the state don’t know (or don’t care) what is happening at the other end?
When talking with a few other brothers after the meeting, it came up that very few people had – according to the poll on the Grand Lodge website – visited lodges outside of Connecticut. That led another wag to note that most Masons don’t even visit other lodges inside Connecticut.
Brothers – what’s up with that?
Before a member is even raised, we are talking to him about visiting other lodges. “Wait until you’re a Master Mason,” we love to tell them. “You’ll go to all those other lodges and see how other people do things,” we explain. It’s as if other lodges are foreign countries. In fact, part of our degree ceremonies here in Connecticut do allude to traveling in foreign parts, and how that is one of the benefits of being a Master Mason.
So why do so few of us actually take advantage of that privilege?
Sure, sometimes there is a time factor. Many of us barely make time for our own lodges, even when we know what the schedule will be. Members with a family – or a life – are already juggling evenings off. In my own family, my daughter has music lessons, Girl Scouts, and tutoring, my wife has church meetings, and I have a few non-Masonic duties each month, and I imagine that many families are not much different.
Yet I’m still amazed at the number of masons that I talk to who have never – as in, you know, never – visited another lodge. Others have gone once or twice, but “not in years,” or only for some special program. Simple curiosity isn’t enough to get somebody out of the house and into another lodge once or twice a year?
The underlying attitude that puzzles me – actually, that bothers me – is that too often I get the impression that many members forget that we are all part of a larger organization. I understand that some members feel very strongly connected to their own lodge, and that could possibly be a reason that they do not have much interest in the lodges around them. But still, why bother even mentioning “the ability to travel” if you are not going to avail yourself of the opportunity?
For that matter, why not simply remain a Fellowcraft?