The following article comes from the book Alberta Workshop which is a compilation of the theme speeches of the first 25 years of the Masonic Spring Workshop held each April in the Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta. Bro. Tom Jackson (Pennsylvania) called this the best workshop available to rank and file Masons anywhere.
Bro. Myron Lusk
Leadership — perhaps the most misused, misplaced, misunderstood, mis-interpreted and just plain MISSED word in our world in general and our beloved Craft in particular.
Stop for a moment and contemplate the enormity of the scope of leadership in Freemasonry. What leadership are we talking about? At the Grand Lodge level; Blue Lodge; in our homes; our churches; our place of business; our government; or in world affairs?
On whom does the yoke of responsibility for leadership fall? Grand Lodge officers; Blue Lodge officers; or Masons at large?
What kind of leadership do we want and what results do we expect from it? Who is best suited for the task and how do we go about obtaining, choosing, and KEEPING these leaders when we are fortunate enough to find them?
It seems to me that our system, as it is used, regards leaders much like the paper towels in the men's washroom. Use them once and cast them into the refuse can.
Year after year the unchanging, sucking current of the river of our staid progression of officers drains the meagre pool of leaders inexorably into a sea of waste. And there they flounder and bob to the surface occasionally, like so much flotsam and jetsam.
And the worst of it is that we are doing precious little to conserve or preserve what is left and practically nothing to develop springs to replenish the supply.
If you study any charts or surveys of membership declines, they produce one devastatingly ominous warning. We are not attracting the younger men to Masonry! And I don't think it is difficult to explain why. We have been justifiably branded with the label of being an old men's club with secrets.
In the very near future over one half our population will be under the age of twenty-five. It's a young man's world they say. The world evolves and Masonry must keep pace. It is a progressive science isn't it?
Where will our future leadership come from? We don't retain the leadership we have and we aren't attracting and developing enough for the future. And here we sit in the mud and residue of the drainage and mourn for our dying Mother!
Well, what should leadership do to improve our performance, preserve past and present leadership, and nurture future leadership?
There are many misguided notions that you must do something sensational or very, very different to be a successful Masonic leader who will be remembered — to leave your mark!
Masonic leadership is, in my opinion, the most difficult and demanding of all. Leadership is more simple when you have a tangible goal such as a sales objective, competing in an athletic contest, or a political campaign. Masonry presents an intangible, abstract challenge of the evolution of the soul. That is it's great beauty! The intellectual stimulus it presents with its allegories and symbolisms.
The great Masonic writer, H.L. Haywood, wrote, "One of the great purposes of Masonry is to set a man to the task of understanding these symbols for himself."
It is no small wonder that the Second Degree is regarded by so many as relatively unimportant. We don't set the Lodge to the task of the study we preach about. If we did, we might elevate our respect to the high level this Degree warrants.
Herein could lie the secret of Masonic leadership. What is wrong with studying Masonry? If we hide Masonry under the veils of extraneous activities or go no further than the exercising of the ritual and reading of minutes and correspondence, then Freemasonry becomes nothing but a boring formality — a sterile, futile, infantile waste of precious time!
Perhaps we are guilty of "murdering" our future leaders. I think we may bore them to death. And those who escape that cruel fate probably wind up as the president of a service club.
Honestly Brethren, ninety percent of our regular meetings are an insult to the intelligence. Why we get anyone at all out to these meetings is a testimony to the great strength of the basis of Freemasonry. Beneath it all, these staunch supporters must see the true value. We don't need veils of allegory. The uninspired conducting of our Lodges and irrelevant substitutions for Masonic matter in the name of entertainment hide the real purpose of our Lodges without requiring further aid.
Let me portray to you a meeting which I attended recently. Finally being called to order, over three-quarters of an hour late, Lodge was opened haltingly, with considerable prompting, much of which was as incorrect as the errors. There was the usual reading of minutes and correspondence, and then there were six ballots to be taken; four for initiation and two for affiliation. This in itself should be a landmark occasion for any Lodge. What a marvellous opportunity to bring new life into the Lodge! All six applications and reports from committees were read out individually and in their entirety. The same questions and answers, without omitting a word of the format. After this seemingly interminable procedure, the ballots were taken in a single ballot box, one by one. Each time, the Senior Deacon trudged about the Lodge presenting the ballot to the East and the West and the South. Then the members about the Lodge shuffled around to cast their ballots six separate times. Then six times again, the Senior Deacon dutifully plodded his way to the three Senior Officers with the ballot for inspection. The highlight of the evening was when he tripped over the rough ashlar on one of this perambulations. Then the Lodge was closed down just as inadequately as it had been opened. That was the meeting. "Let there be light!" I can tell you that there literally was no light because it was after midnight when I got back to my hotel
One would venture to say that more happened at that meeting than at most. At least they had six ballots to take. I could not help thinking to myself that if their meetings are no more stimulating than that, how many of the six newly elected members will continue to attend meetings? How many potential LEADERS are there in the six? How many will we LOSE?
Now, what do we know about "Leadership Lost", as I have entitled this paper. There are many more ways we are losing them, and I will deal with some of them as I go along, not perhaps to your individual satisfaction, but that is the purpose of your discussion groups. If I can arouse you to voice your opinions and action, whatever direction, for or against, I will be gratified.
As I mentioned earlier, each year our leadership changes. And inevitably, with all too few exceptions, disappears or at least dissipates after one or two years. The year a man is Master of his Lodge he has more than he can handle, and afterward is given little or nothing to do. At least that is the general practice. Nothing could be more wrong. When he is most able to help the Lodge by drawing on experience he does the least. And when he is under the greatest stress and pressure, burdened with memory work, constitutional difficulties, Grand Lodge responsibilities, and all the myriad duties to the Lodge which are thrust upon him, he is expected to be the leader. The poor fellow!
This is the age of specialization. Masonry is a progressive science. Let's progress! Let the landmarks stand. We don't have to alter them. There is nothing wrong with them. But there is just too much to know and do. The work must be delegated.
The operative Master of old could not have set his craft to work and given them instructions without a comprehensive and detailed plan for the erection of a building. And in those days they often took many years to do so. The Master of today has but ONE year in which to build a speculative cathedral!
An organized program for the entire year of office should, in my opinion, be presented to the Lodge by the incoming Master to ensure a successful term with duties assigned to specific members to be carried out, just as done by our ancestral predecessors, the builders.
Now let's talk about salvaging the cascading torrent of wasted Past Masters and other well skilled Brethren.
Allow me to just touch on a few considerations. You will be able to add innumerable projects of value and I certainly hope you will.
Each meeting one or two of them could produce an educational or instructional paper or demonstration of Masonic pertinence for the enlightenment of the Brethren. This agenda could be set up for the entire year, giving the contributors ample time to create their program.
A personal visitation of every member of the Lodge could be arranged to determine reasons for non-attendance; to encourage attendance; to discover personal distresses which would otherwise go unnoticed; to act in the aid or securing of aid for Brethren or their families in distress; and in general to practice the Brotherhood we profess to admire. the Past Masters' knowledge of the membership of earlier years of the Lodge would aid immeasurably. "Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth". The TRUTH is that it would be a RELIEF if we were to display a lot more BROTHERLY LOVE!
These Brethren could form instructional schools for the Junior Officers to aid them to perform their duties with precision, efficiency and dignity. I will not pursue this area any further, as I feel you will want to do so yourselves in your individual discussion groups.
But one thing is sure. these things will not happen if left to chance. Summonses by the Master to specific individuals are a must, and reports from the responsible parties should be a requirement. Here the Master must lead! He must make things happen and the workmen must be accountable.
For example, there are several groups of concerned Masons at work preparing material for the instruction of candidates specifically and the Craft in general to augment our present Mentor Plan. One of these with which I am personally familiar is the Edmonton Masonic Research Group. One of their projects is the preparation of a proposed system of Masonic Instruction similar to those now being successfully used in the Grand Jurisdictions of Texas, Arizona and Minnesota among others.
But if such a valuable working tool is made available and then goes unused because of apathy or laziness or carelessness, we will go on building on a foundation of sand.
"I don't have the time." That is what you often hear. And people today are busy. Their time is at a premium. that is all the more reason we cannot waste it. However, it is not a waste if our meetings are made interesting and informative. Spread the work around. I think most of us will make time for one assignment a year. Just think how many inactive Brothers can be reactivated. They might just have been waiting for you to ask. why not find out?
This matter of time has been brought clearly to light personally as a recent job promotion I received necessitates travelling great distances at short notice. This has caused me to curtail many Masonic activities so dear to my heart. But such is our way of life.
Your Banff Spring Workshop Chairman, Herb Laycraft, has burned the midnight oil many a night in Ottawa and other unlikely places after his arduous daily avocations to put together this monumental undertaking.
I think you will allow that General Douglas McArthur was a busy man during World War II. Let me tell you this story which involves him, his love for Masonry and his Brother Masons.
During a battle to regain one of the countless Pacific islands, Brother McArthur received an impassioned letter from the father of one of the soldiers under his command. It informed him that the young man had received his first two Masonic Degrees before entering military service and leaving the United States. The father stated further that above all else he wished to have his son receive the beautiful lessons of the Third Degree before any harm befall him. He implored that the General might do what he could to bring this desire to fruition; that the boy would be raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason.
Brother McArthur was deeply stirred. The soldier shall indeed become a Master Mason! When the island was again made safe from the enemy, a conference was called by the General of his aides who were members of the Fraternity. A lodge was convened on the top of a hill overlooking the blue Pacific. There, sheltered by swaying palm trees, the young soldier was created a Master Mason by his comrades. General McArthur himself, occupied the station of the Junior Deacon. the boy's father was informed by the General that his most ardent wish had been fulfilled. Though he gave his life in subsequent action, the boy entered into the celestial Lodge above as a Master Mason. This because a Brother Mason found time.
Now, what about our future leaders? How do we get them, discover their potential, interest them in becoming Masonic leaders, and KEEP them?
Let's face the fact that there are many pressing economic and social emergencies for the young man raising a family to distract him from Lodge. Unfortunately, I believe, we lose more of our leadership in this category than at any other stage. These young men, geared to a fast moving world, better educated than in the past, are truly in search of more light. When they attend dull, boring, shallow meetings, dominated by the "old guard", they quickly lose interest.
You know Brethren, they say you can't tell the players without a program. But on our Masonic Degree teams all too often you surely can. Degree after Degree, the same players come to bat. What kind of leadership do you call that? How in the world do we expect to evince interest and enthusiasm with younger Brethren by having them sit in audience to their learned elders or receive the condescending offer of some 'spear-carriers' role in the 'opera'. 'Apprentices, Fellowcrafts, Master Masons, lend me your ears; I come not to bury Hiram, but to glorify myself!" Of course we all know the stock excuse given to the aspirant to some of the more challenging parts of the ritual. :Oh that must be done by a Past Master or Master." What a lot of soft-centred slop to feed to our future leaders! Let's stop this "Prima Donna" attitude and put the Craft to work. No matter how often a Mason listens to the work he will not receive as much from it as when he commits it to his memory. And if he has an active, inquiring mind, he is invited by his very intellect to research and study Masonry the more.
If you want leaders, you must give them the opportunity to participate. If you don't, the real leadership material bolts and runs for more open ground where they may exercise their ability. Let them satisfy their intellectual appetites or they will go where the food is better.
Poor leadership is the responsibility of every member of the Lodge. If a Junior Officer does not display the attitude, aptitude and dedication for the task, then he should be dropped or warned that he will be dropped from office to make room for someone who will treat the position with the respect and dignity it deserves.
In most Lodges, the progression through the chairs is as automatic as in royalty. This is not what is meant when Masonry is declared to be a progressive science. Two or three poor Masters in succession can do almost irreparable damage to a Lodge. It takes many years to recover and in the interim, many future leaders are discouraged by inferior performance which distracts from and degrades the dignity of these offices. These ineffectual officers become Masters in name only, come to the meetings without preparation, knowledge of agenda, or even the principles of Freemasonry.
don't forget, my Brethren, these men will then become eligible to run for election and or vote for your Grand Lodge offices. You owe it to all of Freemasonry to expect and demand good leadership. The onus is on you. don't blame anyone else!
I do not mean to suggest for a moment that the member who is not a regular attender or does not hold office or does not participate in Degree work is not a good Mason or not a Masonic leader. We can point with pride to many of our Brethren who are great leaders in our society. Their contributions are of great sustaining value to our Craft. I might mention one member of my own Lodge whom I have never seen at a meeting; the Reverend Hart Cantelon. Many thousands of people, some desperate and despondent, have found solace and new strength to face their problems in life through Brother Hart's fine, comprehensive counselling organization. All who know of his great work, be they Masons or not, regard him with profound respect. He is a beacon of light for Freemasonry. Hart Cantelon is proud to be a Mason and lives Masonry, though I say, we do not enjoy his regular attendance because of his overwhelming schedule. But he is a Masonic leader nevertheless. If I wanted to have a prospective candidate interviewed, I cannot think of a man whom I would sooner have discuss Masonry with him.
There is an old story about one of the operative workmen on a Gothic Cathedral in the middle ages. it was his job to climb a scaffold to a dizzying height where the vaulted arches met. there he laboured with his tools, carving delicate rosette figures. Day after day he threw himself into his work. The days extended into months, the months into years. A fellow workman asked him why he did not protest. "It is not right that you must work far up above the floor of the cathedral carving figures the worshippers will never see!" "Ah but the Great Architect of the Universe will see my work!" the loyal craftsman replied.
Our operative Masonic heritage should remind us that our work should not be the drudgery of a mass production factory turning out Master Masons from mould into a packaged product. But we should emulate the craftsmen who painstakingly chiselled and polished their individual stones and designs to fit with the others, yet lend their individual beauty. Good instruction and leadership must be individually tailored for each new "cornerstone".
Allow me to relate the good fortune I encountered when I made application to become a Mason and received my Degrees. It is an exhibit by a member of what I consider to be the highest grade of leadership I have seen in Masonry and an example which would be well for all of us to emulate.
This Mason was the chairman of my investigating committee and by the thorough job he did of it, I felt that becoming a Mason was a very special privilege. He became my Mentor and as we committed the Work to my memory he unveiled the allegory and symbolism to my view, revealing the strength, wisdom and beauty of Freemasonry to my profane eyes. Succeeding each Degree, he accompanied me to visit a Sister Lodge to witness the re-enactment of the same. In addition, he took me to visit a Lodge practising the Ancient york Rite. From these visitations I discovered what a great privilege this practice is and the world of new Brothers and friends It opens. This WAS a Brotherhood, I felt. He gave me work to do in Lodge and encouraged my attendance at practices. When the first Banff Spring Workshop was announced, just after my raising, he suggested I travel with a group from our Lodge to attend. our Workshop is a story of leadership of its own. Much to my utter delight I was nominated and elected to office in my Mother Lodge. There is no question in my mind that the leadership demonstrated by this Mason developed me into an enthusiastic, productive member and resulted in my taking office. From his initial grooming I have developed a pattern of study and participation of Freemasonry for which I will ever be grateful. thank you Worshipful Brother Herb Ficht! It has caused me to seek the company of Masonic students and leaders whom i can tell you are eager to share their knowledge and offer their encouragement. Their very presence lends aid to one's advancement in Masonic knowledge.
One great mission of Masonic leadership should be to reinstate the meaning and dignity of the Symbolic Lodge; to make it quite clear that the Master Mason is the ultimate creation of our Craft; to establish firmly that while they are valuable and admirable, the so-called higher degrees and concordant bodies are by-products and completely superfluous if we do not keep up the strength of the Mother Lodge. Let leadership put the proper perspective in the minds of our candidates. Loyalty first and foremost to our Mother, for that is surely what she is!
Finally, my Brethren, the greatest task of Masonic leadership is to impress on the membership the importance of practising the precepts of the Symbolic Lodge in the everyday world. Our responsibility is to God, our Country, family, neighbours and selves to conduct our lives as Masons. The charity and benevolence we profess should show in our daily lives — not through the Grand Lodge in the form of public relations promotions, but through our social contacts as men and as Masons. When we apply our tenets to life through our churches, communities and homes as citizens of the world, then we will really know what is meant by Masonic leadership!