The Master's Book 6
Carl H. Claudy
ENTERTAINMENT AND ATTENDANCE
The Master whose entertainment program is strictly Masonic has to send to the basement for extra chairs for most of his meetings.
Most Masters find the attendance problem vexatious; especially is this true in a Lodge in which the members have to some extent lost interest. But attendance, in itself, is of no value if nothing is given those who attend. Ten thousand Masons may stand before a world series score board, but receive no Masonic light. Attendance is not an end, but a means. Any Lodge room can be packed by advertising to exhibit a pair of Siamese twins, or a tattooed man from Borneo, but merely "packing them in" is of no Masonic value. It is when the Master packs his Lodge room with brethren eager for Masonic entertainment, which conceals instruction and information beneath a covering of pleasure and amusement, that attendance is important.
On the average, an attendance of ten percent of the membership is looked upon as a "good" turnout. Yet there are Lodges which have a much greater number at almost every communication.
The way to arouse interest is to do something different from what is normally done in Lodge. A Lodge overburdened with degree work can increase attendance by holding special meetings for social and fraternal purposes. A Lodge in which a speaker from another Lodge — and better, another Grand Jurisdiction — is seldom heard may increase its attendance by making such addresses a feature. A Lodge in which Masonic education is unknown may increase attendance by putting on an educational program.
If a speaker is secured from another Lodge or Jurisdiction, particular consideration should be given his comfort. Such entertainers usually sacrifice time and energy for their brethren; Masonic hospitality should see that everything possible is done for their comfort. Particularly if a speaker is brought from a distance with a promise to pay his expenses, should the check for those necessary expenditures be given to him promptly.
EXTRA LODGE ACTIVITIES
All Masters meet, in one way or another, proposals that the Lodge do this or that, support this or that, take part in this or that. And it is often difficult to decide where the line should be drawn between what a Lodge may do, and what its individual members may do.
Two safe tests to apply to any such proposal which involves Lodge activities are these; will acceptance of the invitation cause a difference of opinion among members which may disrupt the harmony of the Lodge? Will it be a precedent which may cause embarrassment in the future?
If either question may be answered in the affirmative, the wise Master will avoid Lodge participation.
The Master is faced at the start with two conflicting principles; the more of his own members he can persuade to take part in entertainment, the more interest he can arouse among them and their friends; the more he goes outside the Lodge for amusement, the more he is apt to interest all its members, most of whom have heard the home talent before.
Any program of entertainment or instruction is best put in the hands of a competent chairman of a committee. Give him plenty of assistance, and then let him run it without interference. Some Masters appoint a chairman and then attempt to do all his work, or dictate how it should be done. A chairman should be a willing worker, and in sympathy with the Master's ideas, but unless he has ideas and initiative of his own, he is not qualified to be a chairman; if he has ideas and initiative, he is not properly used unless allowed to employ them.
A small committee is better than a large one; if the plans are elaborate, the committee may divide itself into sub-committees with sub-chairmen, who may call to their assistance all the help they need. But a large central committee is difficult to handle; too many ideas and conflicting desires prevent success. An entertainment committee of three, or five at the most, is sufficiently large.
Masonic dignity and honors are not the first requisite in an entertainment committee chairman. The senior Past Master has not necessarily the most original mind; the Senior Warden may be an excellent officer and a prospective Master of charm and ability, without being constituted by nature to be a good chairman. Use the brains and enthusiasm of the younger members. It is easy to gain the cooperation of the older members, and of those the Lodge has honored, by asking them to give way to the young and untried that these may show their quality.
A few plans which have been tried and proved successful in increasing attendance.
A SURPRISE MEETING
Advertise to the membership that a surprise awaits them. Tell them there will be "something doing" which they have never seen before. Then arrange with a capable committee to exemplify a dozen or more matters of law and behavior. Have a new brother deliberately cross the room between Altar and East. Call him down for it. Have a Past Master explain why this is not good Masonic usage. During a ballot have a brother enter the room by way of the West Gate. Declare the ballot illegal and take it over again. Have a Past Master explain why it is illegal. Let some brother move that the Lodge adjourn. Have some one else explain that parliamentary procedure which governs most assemblages cannot apply in a Masonic Lodge because of the powers and prerogatives of the Master, at whose pleasure alone the Lodge convenes and is closed. Get a debate started on something, anything, and have a brother appeal from the decision of the Master to the Lodge. Rule him out of order, and explain that the only appeal lies to the Grand Master, and why. Have some brother give the wrong salute on entering or leaving; correct him, and have some one make a short talk on the reasons for the salute and how the brother may always know by an examination of the Great Lights upon what degree the Lodge is open. Think up half a dozen more matters in which the customs, the etiquette or the law of Masonry may be violated, and have an explanation and an answer ready for each one. The interest of such a practical demonstration is surprising.
A MASONIC EXPERIENCE MEETING
In any Lodge some brethren have had some pleasant, different, unusual experience of Masonry. One has had to borrow money in strange city, and did it through Masonic connection. Another has discovered a Masonic impostor. A third has made a pleasant friend in another city through mutual Masonry. A fourth has found interest in the manners, customs and usages of Masonry in a sister Grand Jurisdiction. Another has seen a funeral service in another Jurisdiction, quite different from his own. Get a committee to ascertain the names of half a dozen such brethren, and persuade them to give their experiences. Advertise it in the Lodge circular and see the increase in attendance.
A LODGE DEBATE
Choose some interesting Masonic subject, on which opinion is divided, appoint two teams of debaters, of two brethren each, and stage a contest to run not over forty minutes. A is given eight minutes for the affirmative, B eight minutes for the negative, followed by C with eight minutes for rebuttal and D, eight minutes for rebuttal. Each is then allowed two minutes to close. The decision is to rest on the vote of the Lodge. A few suggested topics are: "Resolved, that Masonry would be more effective if all Lodges were limited in size"; "Resolved, that perpetual jurisdiction over rejected candidates is unjust"; "Resolved, that a Master's powers should be limitable by a Lodge," etc.
It should be explained that these subjects are debated purely for the information such discussion may bring out, with no thought of attempting by Lodge action to alter existing law or practice. A Lodge debate may be humorous in character: "Resolved, that business should not interfere with golf"; "Resolved, that the Worshipful Master should pay the Lodge a salary for his privilege"; etc. If debaters are ready speakers, such simple entertainment can be made very effective and interesting.
PAST MASTERS NIGHT
Fill the chairs with the Past Masters, in order of seniority, for the conferring of a degree. If no candidate is available, and there is no local regulation against the practice, use a dummy candidate from among the members, or have the degree conferred on the oldest Past Master. Officers who have borne the heat and burden of the day are usually proud of the opportunity again to get into harness, and the membership is usually interested in the performance.
"TELL US WHAT YOU THINK"
Have ten brethren, each with an idea, give four-minute talks on what the Lodge needs This does not mean a new hall, or new equipment, or more money, but what it requires to be better, more alive, more interesting. Such a discussion will bring out many ideas. Throw the meeting open to the membership as soon as the arranged speakers have finished; often the unprepared speech will be the most illuminating of the evening.
THE QUESTION BOX
Put a small box with a slot in it in the Lodge, and invite the brethren to submit questions regarding anything Masonic; assure them that as many of the questions as possible will be answered the next meeting. See that half a dozen brethren, instructed in advance, drop questions in the box. As the Master will probably get a number for which he has not arranged, he can have prepared half a dozen answers to the questions he has inspired and these answers delivered to the Lodge in five-minute addresses. Questions and answers both, of course, can be obtained from books. Some questions interesting to most Masons are:
How old is Masonry, and how do we know its age?
What are the ten most Masonic verses in the Bible, not including those quotations from the Great Light used in the ritual?
Who was William Morgan and what happened in the Morgan affair?
In wearing a Masonic ring, should the points of the compass point towards the wearer or towards his finger tips, and why?
What is the origin of the Masonic use of the word "profane," meaning one not a member, and why is he so called?
England permits dual membership. What American Grand Jurisdictions permit it and what are some of the arguments for and against it?
What and where is the oldest Lodge in the world, in the United States, in this State?
THE SONGS OF MASONRY
Good Masonic poetry is scarce. But there is enough to furnish a pleasant and interesting hour of instruction and entertainment. Pick out half a dozen of the best known Masonic poems, and half a dozen brethren who will memorize them, and prepare a little talk upon them. Let each brother recite the poem of his choice, and then comment upon its significance. Good poems for an evening of this kind are Kipling's "The Palace" and "Mother Lodge," Burns's "Masonic Farewell," Goethe's "Mason Lodge," Leigh Hunt's "Abou Ben Adhem," Carruth's "Each in His Own Tongue," Burns's "On the Apron," Meredith's "Ebony Staff of Solomon," Bowman's "Voice of America," Malloch's "Father's Lodge" and Nesbit's "I Sat in Lodge with You."
It is often possible to awaken interest in a Lodge by the formation of a glee club, a dramatic club, a study club, all good ways to increase attendance.
A little "stunt" which always holds the attention of the members is having some part of the Masonic ritual — it may be the charge to a candidate in one of the degrees, a section from the Middle Chamber lecture, or perhaps the prayer from the third degree — committed to memory by half a dozen brethren. These brethren then deliver the same work to show how different the appeal may be, as done in different ways. The parts selected should be short. If the brethren are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the evening, a prize may be put up for the most effective rendition, the decision, of course, to rest with the Lodge. The vote on the best rendition should be by paper ballot. But do not do this unless the brethren have been previously consulted and are willing to enter into the spirit of the little contest.
In a Lodge which has much work and much business, the Master will add to the interest and the attendance if he runs the meeting with dispatch. The dragging business meeting, with a great deal of "hot air" from well-meaning brethren who really have little to say, is often sufficiently boresome to keep members away. It is not suggested that the Master shut off debate arbitrarily, or rap any brother down. But it is perfectly possible to run the first part of the business meeting snappily, have a prepared speech or so, very short and interesting, and then have a couple of "planted" brethren comment on the shortness and the snappiness. The round hand of applause which such comments usually draw will keep the prolix and the long-winded off their feet!
It adds to the interest and, therefore, to the attendance, if the Master always has something to tell his Lodge. "Give them good and wholesome instruction" means what it says. A five-minute talk by the Master upon some matter of interest to Masons generally will prove an interesting feature. The Master must be careful not to "talk the interest to death." Nor should he ever be witty at the expense of his members unless it is that kindly wit which compliments at the same time it brings a smile.
It means work for the Master to get up some twenty little addresses during his year, but Masters expect to work — or else they are much surprised brethren when they get in the East!
Source material for such talks is the copy of the Proceedings of Grand Lodge, which contains much of interest to all members. A clever Master will have no difficulty in finding in this volume enough topics for many five-minute talks.
An idea which produces results is the sending of letters to brethren on their Masonic birthdays reminding them "On such and such a date you were raised to the Sublime Degree. Our nearest meeting to your anniversary is such and such a date. Will you not come to Lodge that night, to join the other brethren whose Masonic birthday is the same, and give us the pleasure of offering you our good wishes?" The same is true of real birthdays, especially those of the older members.
Man is incurably curious; his desire to know and to understand is the mainspring of invention, discovery, civilization, progress; the driving force which leads men to learn.
Masters can make use of this desire to know to make better Masons of the brethren.
A "sugar-coated" Masonic educational meeting is interesting, intriguing, alive, vital, satisfying a great curiosity. Lodges which have tried the educational experiments here listed usually repeat them, and almost invariably the repetition is to a "packed house."
DISSECTING A DEGREE
Especially recommended for Lodges which have little work to do is the dissection and explanation of the first section of any degree. A dummy candidate is initiated, and the ceremony interrupted at each stage by some brother who offers a little explanation of the symbolism of the part of the degree under discussion; entry, circumambulation, rite of destitution, the antiquity of the apron, origin of the Lesser Lights, etc. Such dissection and exposition require some little study by those who take part, but giving each brother who offers an interruption only one subject minimizes the work of preparation and increases the variety by having many take part.
Inquiry should first be made of the District Deputy, or the Grand Master; in some Jurisdictions the practice of using a dummy candidate has been frowned upon, as derogatory to the dignity of our ceremonies. When it is explained that the purpose of the idea is educational, however, it is probable that no difficulty will be experienced in obtaining enthusiastic cooperation from those in authority.
"YOU MUST — YOU MUST NOT!"
The average Lodge member knows little about Masonic law. The very term "Jurisprudence" seems repellent. Yet Masonic law is intensely interesting, and may be made to appear so to the Lodge by any brother who will devote a little time and attention to developing a talk on those parts of our legal system which most intimately touch the brethren. Masonic law is vastly different from civil law; most Masonic law is a matter of "thou shalt" rather than "thou shalt not." A few salient points chosen for their interest to the average Mason, and explained, first as to their origin, and second as to their use or necessity, will interest any Lodge. It is not an arduous task for a clever brother to arrange such a talk; he may use any good book on Jurisprudence as a foundation, Mackey or Pound for choice, as both are complete and concise.
The more brethren take part in an educational meeting, the greater the enjoyment. No scheme for an educational meeting yet developed exceeds the Lodge contest in this respect, since it gives every one an opportunity to participate.
The educational contest is conducted by a Master of Ceremonies asking a series of questions, carefully prepared in advance, the correct answers to which can be given in one or two words, a date, a name. Supplied with paper and pencils, the brethren write and number their answers to the questions, as they are asked. Then they exchange papers, the correct answers are read, and the brethren mark the replies "right" or "wrong" according to the facts. The winners, of course, are those who have the greatest number, next greatest number and third greatest number answered correctly. Interest in such a contest is increased by offering prizes. These may be very inexpensive; a good Masonic book, a subscription to a Masonic magazine, a Masonic lapel pin are all appreciated.
The questions should not be complex; answers should be facts, not opinions. For instance "In what Lodge was George Washington raised?" "Who is Grand Master in this State?" "How old is this Lodge?" "How many Lodges in our Grand Lodge?" are all questions needing but a word or two to answer with facts. Such questions as "Do you think Masonry is a religion?" should not be included, since any answer must be an opinion, not a fact. Questions like "Explain the part Freemasonry played in the Revolution" should not be asked, as they require lengthy replies.
In giving out the correct answers, a clever Master of Ceremonies will offer some "good and wholesome instruction" of Masonic value; for instance, if the question be "How many landmarks are recognized in this Jurisdiction?" and the correct answer is "Twenty five," the Master of Ceremonies may explain that some Jurisdictions have less, others more; that many Jurisdictions have adopted Mackey's list, while others have condensed Mackey's twenty-five into a less number, which nevertheless contains all of Mackey's points, and so on.
In any Lodge entertainment, whether purely amusement or Masonically instructive, arrange the program to reach a climax; when it culminates, close the evening. If the program includes a principal speaker, have him come last. After he has spoken, do not call on half a dozen brethren to talk about the speaker and his address. Nothing makes a fine talk fall flatter than far less able speakers giving short resumes of what has been said and telling the Lodge how good it was. Past Master John Smith and Brother Henry Robinson are good men and true, beloved of the brethren, listened to with respect, but unless they are orators of high calibre, their supplementary remarks on a thought-provoking address usually throw a cold wet blanket which is very chilling to enthusiasm !
The old adage for speakers: "Stand up, speak up, shut up!" may well be applied here; when a program is ended, consider it finished! Far better that the brethren go home wishing the evening had been longer, than with the feeling "I'm glad that's over!"
Any Master may largely increase interest in his meetings by departing from the custom of previous Masters, doing what they did not do! This does not mean a criticism of previous Masters; what they did may also have been interesting and different. The new is always interesting; that which is interesting usually stimulates attendance. With good reason, depart from the usual order of business; it is a Master's privilege. Have some brother, the more obscure the better, who has done something, anything, escorted to the Altar, and thank him, congratulate him or comment on his work; the more unexpected this is, the more interesting to the membership. Extend a special welcome to the oldest Past Master, or most beloved brother. If the Lodge has no regularly appointed chaplain, or if he is absent, call on some brother to take over the simple duties of Lodge chaplain. Encourage debate; ask for comments on any question which comes up on which no one voluntarily has anything to offer; the more members get on their feet the greater interest there is in the meeting, always providing they are not long-winded about it.