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Lecture Circuit

January 23, 2008 Leave a comment

This District Grand Lecturer position is a totally sweet gig. All I’m actually required to do is make sure that the incoming Master of a lodge passes a ritual test, and at rare times, oversee a little written test on the Grand Lodge rules and regulations. In Connecticut, most lodges have their installations from December to January; human nature being what it is, this means that I would be at my most busiest toward the end of the Masonic year as I do the certifications during October and November. The rest of the year I am free to spend on loose cars and fast women, while basking in the fame and glory.

Well, I suppose I could if I really wanted to.

A while back I had a discussion with a brother who insisted that the District Lecturers were unnecessary, and that the simple requirements could easily be done by the District Deputies or their Associate Grand Marshals. And indeed, he’s quite correct; the position as it now stands does not require much work, and carries very little authority. I’ll be the first to admit that almost anyone could handle the minimum requirements. Hell, they asked me, didn’t they?

But why would anyone want only the minimum requirements?

Over the last year, several lodges have asked me to help them polish their ritual proficiency and floorwork, and so I spend most of my time at lodges reviewing degree work, and at rehearsals, giving tips, making suggestions, and (hopefully) inspiring new officers to be better by coaching them along. Not surprisingly, this is exactly how I was taught in my own lodge by experienced Past Masters.

Recently, the Master-elect at one of my lodges asked if I would be willing to help out at their degree rehearsals. As it turns out, all of the junior officers are new guys, and the Wardens are not Past Masters. You might think that this would have been a challenge, but in fact, I was thrilled to see that all of the officers put in a lot of work to learn their parts in such a short amount of time. It’s really a good feeling to be around men who take pride in their work and who want to make an impression on the candidates. We spent a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon going over floorwork, coordinating the parts, and rehearsing lines. As it turns out, this was also helpful brush-up for the new Master who hadn’t done an EA degree in 28 years.

The result was a very fine degree two nights later, and a group of very proud officers. They’re so pumped that they’ve scheduled another EA degree for mid-February. Considering that this lodge had been having some difficulties over the past few years, it’s heartening to see that things are turning around for them.

That lodge joins my affiliate lodge in the ranks of those who are making concerted efforts to improve the quality of their ritual and degree work by setting higher expectations for the officers, scheduling one or more rehearsals for each degree, and having back-up plans in case of last-minute emergencies.

Each lodge is responsible for their own degree work. Unfortunately, many junior officers have not seen good degree work modeled for them, and so aren’t able to pass on those good habits when they become senior officers. Connecticut typically runs one ritual seminar per year… at least, they used to. We stopped even that for a few years when the District Grand Lecturer system was put into place, in essence taking away the one opportunity that many officers had to learn. Last year, the Lecturers got together with the Committee on Masonic Education to put on the first ritual seminar in four years – and it attracted over a hundred Masons from around the state, plus another few dozen purple aprons. The feedback was so positive that we’ve scheduled another one, to be held in February.

I think that’s great.

I also think that it’s not enough.

And this bring me back to the point about the necessity of the District Lecturers. Some of us have held “mini-seminars,” inviting the officers around the district to an evening of instruction, held at a particular lodge. I’ve been working with one lodge at a time at rehearsals, believing that it’s better to work with officers in smaller groups. Either way, we all believe that it’s important to address the ritual issues, and having one or two officers in each district dedicated to Masonic education and instruction seems like a better approach than waiting until an officer is ready to be elected to the East.

Many jurisdictions have appointed officers to oversee ritual instruction, but how they handle it varies widely. Some have an appointed person in each lodge, so that there is always one authority on what to do (or not) at every rehearsal. I like that idea because it prevents the multiple cross-feedback loops that new officers get when two or more Past Masters have varying ideas of how things should be done, and spend half the rehearsal arguing over why their way is better or how they never did something that way before.

Anyway, they asked me if I’d be interested in doing this gig again next year.  Of course, I agreed; It’s just too sweet to pass up.

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Ritual Certification at Sequin-Level Lodge No. 140

September 19, 2007 1 comment

So, it started off simply enough. I was to travel to Newington to Sequin-Level Lodge No. 140 in order to check the ritual proficiency of one of the officers. We opted to do this on a night that they were to have a degree rehearsal – a plan that I encourage because running a degree is nerve-wracking enough without the officer worrying that I’m going to be checking little flubs on my clipboard. Certifying at a rehearsal gives me a chance to coach the officer, and perhaps toss out some ideas for the rest of the lodge.

Unfortunately, the officer had some issues which prevented him from attending the dress rehearsal. Even more unfortunately, that left nobody to take the East for the EA degree that was only 2 nights away. Fortunately, the Senior Warden, who has been filling in as Master for the last few months was ready to take the helm.

Perhaps that’s because a few years ago, he was the Grand Master in Connecticut.

I took the chair across from the Most Worshipful Chip and we went right into a dress rehearsal. We paused several times to give tips to the Senior Deacon because this degree was to be a “move up” night for the officers, but it was an otherwise smooth experience.

Despite the fact that he was a Grand Lodge officer, MW Chip did an exemplary job of opening and closing a lodge, and accordingly I’m now able to certify our Past Grand Master for Ritual Proficiency.

This means that he’ll be able, should he be so elected, to move up into the East in his home lodge.

As to the rehearsal? The way it stands now, it looks like I will be sitting in the Senior Warden’s chair for the upcoming EA degree on Thursday evening. I’ll let you know how things go.

Pictured above: The officers of Sequin-Level at rehearsal on Tuesday evening:
1st Row: Marty, John, Steve
2nd Row: Bob, MW Chip, Larry
3rd Row: Chuck 2.0, Bill
Back Row: The District Grand Lecturer

 

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District 5 Update

September 16, 2007 Leave a comment

Anyone in the 5th District might want to check out the updates to my District Lecturer Google Calendar.
Lodges that would like to have their degrees and other important events
listed should email me or send me a copy of their trestleboard.I’m
listing the degree rehearsal nights for lodges, because several of them
have asked me to attend. I’m going to one later this week for a ritual
certification; some officers might want to do this because it would be
one less thing to worry about during an actual degree or business
meeting. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like me to do the
certification at your own rehearsal night.

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