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Pierpont Edwards Award given at Friendship Lodge

September 11, 2007 Leave a comment

Pierpont Edwards Award given at Friendship Lodge in Southington

On Saturday, September 1st, Friendship Lodge No. 33 in Southington held a Ladies Appreciation Dinner. WM David Hubbs wanted to take the opportunity to laud the wives and partners of the lodge members who support Friendship Lodge, either by coming down to the various events and pitching in to help, or by “allowing your husbands to come out and play” as he quipped.

But there was another event planned for the day that everybody knew about – except for the honoree.

At the end of the wonderful dinner (prepared mainly by the officers) WB Peter Boychuck was surprised to be called to the podium by the Grand Master, where he was presented with the Pierpont Edwards Medal in Bronze. On hand to present the award was MWGM William Greene, accompanied by most of the Grand Lodge officers, and the officers of the 5th District.

The Pierpont Edwards Award is one of the highest given by the Grand Lodge of Connecticut. It is awarded to commemorate outstanding service. A little more about it can be found on the Grand Lodge of Connecticut website.

Yes, it’s hard to believe that even the Masons could keep a secret that big for over two months, but WB Boychuck had no idea that he was to be honored for his hard work and dedication to the CTCHIP program in his capacity as the State Chairperson for the last five years. WB Boychuck has been active with the CTCHIP program right from the start, and helped in virtually every capacity, from setting up booths to running the equipment, to coordinating events with local fairs and schools. Peter has been instrumental to the success of the program, and certainly deserves to be honored for his labors.

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The Curse of the Black Cube

July 23, 2007 3 comments

In a recent conversation with a brother – a new officer of his lodge – the topic of “black balling” a candidate came up. Even non-Masons should understand that the term means a vote against allowing that person to join an organization. In Connecticut, most lodges actually use black cubes; presumably so that they can be more readily distinguished and prevent accidental or unintentional voting.

Please note I’m not saying that this practice has anything to do with the eyesight our aging brothers; the fact that the Friendship Lodge ballot box has a small LED light inside, and the fact that yours truly just recently started wearing spectacles is in no way related.

Anyway, the new officer mentioned that he’d never heard of anyone being black-balled (black-cubed?) in his lodge, and neither had anyone else, even the “old-timers.” He was surprised when I told him that it was my opinion that this was pretty much how it should be; that in fact, I could think of very few reasons why a black cube should be cast for a candidate.

Sure, we can all think of some hypothetical (and in some cases, actual) situations as to why one might cast a “Nay” vote for a candidate. But it’s my contention that, generally speaking, if the Master of a lodge finds a black ball cube in the ballot box, then the lodge is doing something wrong; namely, it is not communicating properly. While there are some circumstances in which this would be unavoidable, for the most part the Master of a lodge should not be surprised at the last minute to see a black cube in the box. Regular members should already know in advance that a particular candidate is being proposed, sponsored, and voted on; there is usually a decent interval during which all this happens, and if a lodge member has some reason to object to a particular candidate, he should raise the issue with either the investigating committee or with the Master well before the voting is to take place.

I have several reasons for this contention. One is that by raising the issue in advance, it gives the member with a concern an opportunity to address the issue to determine if it is indeed a legitimate concern. While one should never discuss openly how one should or would vote for a candidate, if you believe that a candidate (or his sponsor) is not being truthful with the information on a petition, then a discussion with the investigation committee gives them an opportunity to address that concern. Concerns of a more personal nature should probably be addressed in private with the Master, with the understanding that such concerns should be confidential.

Then, too, is the matter of the reputation and sensitivities of the candidate and his sponsors. Should a blackball occur, there is no further discussion; the candidate is simply sent a letter explaining that he was not accepted. But none of this happens within a vacuum; not only could a candidate become angry or hurt, it’s quite possible that he might actively engage in some public retaliation. It’s pretty easy to set up a blog or website and begin posting anti-Masonic rhetoric.

One other thing that is rarely mentioned is the impact a blackball might have upon the brother who proposed or sponsored the candidate. The candidate’s sponsor or proposer could well feel insulted or embarrassed, especially if they have sponsored a family member, old friend, or business associate. Few sponsors, I would imagine, would be pleased at having some discussion beforehand that his candidate presents some concerns; but I can’t imagine any sponsor not feeling upset to be surprised by a “Nay” ballot. Not only would he have to face the candidate later, he must do so without being able to provide any explanation. Worse, wounded pride might cause him to act resentfully toward his brothers.

A lodge, in some respects, is like a small business. Successful businesses work toward good communication between employees, and have clear direction from the managers. But they also have good communication between the management and the employees. Good managers managers who foster open, clear lines of communication are rarely surprised by issues the employees have. Why would the “management” of a lodge operate any differently?

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Masonic Renaissance

July 9, 2007 Leave a comment

Apparently, people around Connecticut who know me are saying to themselves “Well, if that bozo can blog, then so can I!”

Yes, Masons in the Nutmeg State (and when the hell are we going to get rid of that ridiculous nickname? Nutmeg was never grown in this state.) now have one more alternative to me and Moveable Jewel: Masonic Renaissance, a blog run by one of my Very Worshipful counterparts in the southern part of the state. I know it’s going to be good because he’s the guy behind the Masonic Scavenger Hunt.

The aim of Masonic Renaissance is to present ideas for lodges that are seeing a resurgence or an increase in membership. While he’s just getting it off the ground, so to speak, I’m sure that it’s going to be a great resource for officers and interested members.

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Master of Your Domain

June 15, 2007 2 comments

Q: How many Past Masters does it take to change a light bulb?

A1: Change?
A2: But… my grandfather donated that light bulb!
A3: Let’s put a committee on it next month.
[ . . . ]
A1,001: The bulbs never went dark in my year.

The jokes about Past Masters abound, and understandably so; the stories we hear about some Past Masters seem to be almost as old as the fraternity itself. Yet, most new Masters look to the Past Masters, if not for help and support, at least for some kind of direction. And again, understandably so: for most of us, being the Master of a lodge is less a matter of preparation and more like On the Job Training. Unfortunately, too often the “direction” we seek comes in the form of “thou shalt nots:”

“We never did it that way before.”
“We tried that back in ’96 and it didn’t work.”
“Don’t waste your time, nobody wants that.”
“We’ve never done it like that, and we’re not going to start now.”
“Don’t worry about what Grand Lodge says, we run things differently here.”

Does any of this sound familiar? Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before.

That was a trick question; if anyone has been paying attention, you’d realize that you’ve heard this not just in lodge, but pretty much everywhere you’ve been since you were old enough to understand the spoken language. Parents, teachers, civic leaders, politicians, religious leaders, family, friends, cow-orkers, neighbors, even spouses have all chanted these lines to you – and perhaps you, yourself have said some version of one of those lines to someone else.

Lately, I’ve been hearing about lodges run by Past Masters, to the frustration of the new Masters. This means that at some point in the history of that lodge, a new Master – perhaps motivated by insecurity or doubt – abdicated some authority to those with (or so he must have believed) more experience. It’s no wonder that so many lodges are run by the Past Masters; to most of us, it’s got to be very difficult to overcome the feelings and beliefs that have been instilled in us from childhood: Listen to your elders. Do what they say. Don’t rock the boat. Follow instructions. Stay inside the lines.

With the exception of a few of the Pointdexter types, most men going into the East do not have the rules and regulations and By-laws memorized, and generally, younger men haven’t had the experience with managing and organizing large groups of people. I’m quoting from something that I wrote last year to help make my point:

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.

Does that sound familiar, too? It should. No, not because you read it last year, but because this is exactly what happens to us every day in real life. Elementary school, High School, College, and even Grad School do not prepare us for real life, except in the sense that we learn some general skills that we can (hopefully!) apply.

Think of your lodge as a metaphor for your own life, and the Past Masters as a metaphor for the society around you. As Master of the lodge (that is, your life) you are presumably in a position to control your own destiny. Yet, every situation you encounter is one more opportunity not to display your knowledge, but to learn even more new skills, and you are constantly testing your experience and new skills against those societal rules and social mores that you’ve internalized all of your life. In real life, at some point we make our own decisions, even though we may consult others for advice. That is because our life’s task is to learn how to best take care of ourselves. Often, what we want for ourselves is not what our community, family, legal system or faith traditions may want for us, and so we then learn how to cope with either giving up our desires, or to cope with the consequences of doing something that is counter to the desires of those around us. Whatever we decide, we hope it will help to smooth our ashlars.

So, who’s running your lodge?

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