Vol. XXXVIII No. 9 — September 1960

How to Use The Short Talk Bulletin

Conrad Hahn

Although The Masonic Service Association published “Speakers’ Bulletins” as early as 1920, the famous Short Talk Bulletin began in January 1923, when Short Talk No. 1, “Paul Revere,” appeared. The Bulletins have been published continuously ever since; a new one is issued every month. This, the September 1960 Bulletin, is the four hundred and fifty-third consecutive Short Talk to appear since they first began almost forty years ago.

The Association is taking the unusual step of making this issue a guide for the use of The Short Talk Bulletin, because it wishes to help its readers and to strengthen the programs for Masonic information and culture set up by the various grand lodges that are members of the Association. These monthly messages are one of the many services that a grand lodge provides for its constituent lodges. Approximately 16,000 Bulletins are mailed each month, of which three-quarters go to the masters or secretaries of the lodges in member jurisdictions. Eighteen percent are delivered to grand lodge officers, past grand masters, district deputies, and chairmen of committees designated by the grand master or grand secretary. More than nine out of every ten Bulletins are being furnished to grand lodge personnel and the constituent lodges as part of the Association’s services to member jurisdictions. The remaining seven percent of the copies are sent to Association personnel for use in the Veterans Administration hospitals, to Masonic publications all over the United States, and to individual subscribers, many of whom received their first subscription to The Short Talk Bulletin as a present from the lodge, when they were made Master Masons.

The Short Talks were conceived as a supplementary tool for every program of Masonic education. These little pamphlets, which can be easily read aloud in approximately twenty minutes, are designed to bring to lodges and Masonic teachers short, informative, or inspirational essays, which may be used as lectures, addresses, or reference materials in the library of the lodge. While no claim is made that they are exhaustive treatments of any Masonic subject, they do present accurate information, scholarly insights, and sound interpretations of Masonic symbolism, philosophy, and ethics.

Some of The Short Talk Bulletins deal with Masonic history or famous Masons in history. Others deal with Masonic records and literature. Many deal with lodge practices, Masonic law, or custom and usage. Some describe the great benevolent undertakings of American Freemasonry, including the work of this Association during World War II, when the Fraternity succeeded brilliantly in helping its sons and brothers in the Armed Forces. Such an opportunity had been denied American Freemasonry in World War I, because the government refused to have forty-nine different Masonic organizations serving at camps and in the field. This denial was the principal reason why The Masonic Service Association was founded — to give American grand lodges a single unified agency to promote its national benevolent and educational objectives.

Among the writers who helped to produce the early Bulletins were such famous Masonic scholars and interpreters as J. Hugo Tatsch and Joseph Fort Newton. Beginning in 1924 some of The Short Talks came from the pen of Carl H. Claudy, who from 1929 to 1957 wrote all the Bulletins of the Association in the years that he served as its executive secretary. His imperishable fame as a Masonic writer and speaker is the result of those rich and productive years. Today the Association again publishes Short Talks contributed by outstanding Masonic writers and speakers everywhere, as well as those of its own editorial staff.

All Short Talk Bulletins are kept in print and back numbers may be ordered from the Association. An up-to-date catalog is issued annually and will be sent to any interested Mason free upon request.

Because The Short Talk Bulletins are published primarily to promote Masonic knowledge in the constituent lodges of member grand lodges, it is imperative to ask, “How are you using them?” and to offer some specific suggestions about ways and means to make these little Masonic messages more valuable.

Grand lodges are concerned with the welfare and progress of their lodges. They provide this service at no extra cost to the local Masonic organizations. The lodges, therefore, have an obligation to use The Short Talks effectively.

The most important idea to remember is this: “The Short Talk Bulletins are the property of the lodge.” Member grand lodges decide whether The Short Talks are sent to the worshipful master or the secretary. In actual practice, about half the grand lodges prefer that they be sent to the secretaries, because of their relative permanence in office and their experience in handling correspondence and informational materials. The other half request that the Bulletins be sent to the masters, because they are the chief executives of the lodges, responsible for programming and for “good and wholesome instruction” to the Craft. In either case, the Bulletins are provided by the grand lodge/or use in the lodges.

Whether The Short Talks are sent to masters or secretaries makes no difference to the principle stated above. It is the recipient's responsibility, as custodian of a bit of lodge property, to see that each copy of The Short Talk Bulletin is taken to lodge, used, and kept there, as part of the lodge library or archives. The grand lodge wants this service used. It does the brethren of a lodge very little good if a Masonic message of some value is left at home or dropped in a wastebasket. It does little more if it lies on a desk or in a file. At least, let it be circulated among the interested members of the lodge, making sure that it is returned each time to the lodge library.

Where Secretaries receive The Short Talks on behalf of their lodges, fewer interruptions in delivery occur. Worshipful masters go out of office annually; secretaries, much less frequently. In both cases, however, each change makes the Associations mailing list out-of- date. For this reason, the SPECIAL NOTICE on page 2 of every Bulletin is more than a hopeful request:

If you are receiving these Short Talk Bulletins as master or secretary, and you do not now hold such office in your lodge, please notify us to this effect and give the name and address, including street and number or post office box, of the brother who has succeeded you. Your own name and address as well as your lodge name and number on such notification will expedite corrections of the mailing list.

Ideally, masters and secretaries should interpret the phrase, “do not now hold such office,” as the day after leaving office! A master’s or secretary’s successor deserves such prompt attention to a detail concerning the lodge’s educational materials.

However, in those jurisdictions where the Bulletins are mailed from the grand lodge office, such notification should be sent to the grand secretary. The Grand Lodges of North Dakota, Utah, and the Philippine Islands handle the distribution of The Short Talk Bulletins in this manner.

In other grand lodges the complete list of masters and secretaries with their addresses is sent annually to The Masonic Service Association for correcting its mailing lists; but since these lists in large grand lodges take considerable time to compile and to print, there is often a gap of three or four months between the time an officer is elected and installed and the month in which he begins to receive The Short Talk Bulletin. Individual officers can overcome this difficulty by following the suggestions in the SPECIAL NOTICE above. The grand lodge committee on information and education in Ohio solved this problem by having grand lodge provide each incoming master with a special notification card to be mailed to The Masonic Service Association as soon as he takes office.

The original purpose of The Short Talk Bulletin was to supply constituent lodges with lectures or speeches that would bring fresh ideas as well as authoritative Masonic information to brothers who were hungering for Masonic knowledge. In every generation there has been emphasis on the need for more Masonic education.

The Short Talks can be used most effectively if they are regularly read to the members of the lodge by a brother who is practiced in the art of reading. Such a program takes very little time in the course of a year, but it really enriches any systematic effort to disseminate Masonic information or inspiration. Masters and secretaries who have used The Short Talk Bulletins faithfully are enthusiastic about the results they have achieved.

However, many a brother prefers to give a talk of his own. What he needs are some facts or ideas for which he has insufficient time to look them up himself. The Short Talk Bulletins supply these for him. With the large number of titles now available in the catalog of Bulletins, the choice of subjects is infinitely wide. For such speakers, or for the brother who prefers to give a short Short Talk by abstracting one of the Bulletins, the editorial staff now provides an “Outline for a Short Talk" at the end of most of the Bulletins.

Lodges that preserve each issue in a lodge file or library soon have a valuable “little Masonic library” for those members who wish to read more about Masonic symbols, history, philosophy, customs, or charities. The brother who is looking for speech materials will be proud of his lodge when he finds that it has a good supply of Masonic lectures and addresses available. He will be grateful to discover that he need not “dig” for facts and subjects. They are right at hand.

Occasionally a brother with a well-trained memory desires to deliver one of The Short Talks that he has “learned by heart.” The Masonic Service Association is glad to have its publication used in this way. It hopes that masters or program chairmen will encourage such efforts to be of service to the Craft. A brother with a good memory and a fine voice makes a real contribution to the program by such a performance.

Lodges also like to use excerpts from The Short Talk Bulletins as timely or appropriate messages in their trestleboards or local Masonic pubheations. Permission is always given for such use, provided proper acknowledgment is made. In the case of excerpts, acknowledgment should be made by stating at the end of the quotation, “from The Short Talk Bulletin, by permission of The Masonic Service Association.” Whenever an entire Short Talk is reproduced, the following acknowledgment should appear at the beginning of the Bulletin: “Copyright, (date), by The Masonic Service Association of the United States. Reprinted by special permission.”

Excerpts can also he used effectively in the lodge for short periods of Masonic instruction. A master, or brother designated by him, may read an interesting, thought-provoking, or inspiring paragraph just before the closing of the lodge, as “A Thought for Today.” The reading of a challenging paragraph to prompt a short discussion about the Masonic custom, tenet, or procedure that the Bulletin touches upon, is a stimulant to Masonic thinking. To be effective, such a five or ten minute discussion period should be prepared for in advance, with questions ready for the Craft, and with possible participants alerted to the proposed discussion.

One master, at the start of his year, selected twenty-four short Masonic statements and typed them on separate sheets of paper. At each meeting he gave one of these statements to a member of the lodge and asked him to study it privately. When the question was asked, “Has any brother about the lodge anything to offer?” the member arose and read the statement. Excerpts from The Short Talk Bulletin could be used in the same way. The same master had thirty-six Bulletins bound into permanent form in one set of covers, an excellent way of preventing the loss of these valuable Masonic messages, or of combining those that deal with a particular area of Masonic symbolism or procedure.

One of the most important areas in which brethren need Masonic information and instruction is that of benevolence. Every lodge has its own program to help, aid, and assist the widow and orphan. Every grand lodge has its own great project to care for the destitute, aged, or infirm Mason, his wife or widow and children, by means of a charity fund or a Masonic home or hospital.

A thorough and wide-spread re-emphasis on Masonic charity is a “must” if American Freemasonry desires to recapture the effective “public relations” it enjoyed a century ago. Too few Masons, however, are even aware of the one great benevolence in which Symbolic Freemasonry in the United States is unitedly engaged — the relief work of this Association’s Hospital Visitation Program. Your sons and brothers, whose service to their country in two world wars has made them periodic or permanent patients in Veterans Administration and Service Hospitals, are being visited daily by the field agents of The Masonic Service Association. They bring to these handicapped veterans, non-Masons as well as Masons, the spirit of brotherhood: a word of cheer, a thoughtful useful token, or a personal service that the veterans cannot perform for themselves. Freemasonry may well be proud of this remarkable service of love.

Except in July and August, Part II of The Short Talk Bulletin tells the story of this Masonic achievement. Part II is called Your Masonic Hospital Visitor. Every member of the lodge is entided to know the story of the Hospital Visitation Program. It will make him “stick out his chest” as a Mason.

Masters and secretaries can use the Hospital Visitor as they do The Short Talk Bulletin. It should be brought to lodge. Some of the “lead articles” and stories make excellent Short Talks by themselves. Because of the pictures in this Supplement, it is an attention-getter when posted on a bulletin board. The list of Masonic Service field agents on the back cover of this monthly journal is constantly kept up-to-date. It is a valuable reference for every lodge that wants to keep in touch with brothers who are known to be in Service or Veterans Hospitals. When used and displayed, Your Masonic Hospital Visitor will make the Craft proud of their membership in the Fraternity.

Masters who have made specific uses of The Short Talk Bulletin and the Hospital Visitor will find it stimulating and profitable to evaluate the results that have accrued to the lodge and its programs. An exchange of such evaluations with other masters in the district will undoubtedly lead to some worthwhile suggestions for Masonic education and information, to forward to the district deputy grand master or grand lecturer. Sharing one’s experiences makes them more significant.

One brother in the Mid-West has written that he uses The Short Talk Bulletins for short talks in various lodges. “My brethren tell me that my speeches are tops!”

A subscriber in a non-member jurisdiction, who has been receiving the Bulletins for many years, reports that he enjoys The Short Talk every month.

I passed it on to some of my brothers. They enjoyed it too, and I have a number of requests to read it from other brothers who have heard about it. As it is easy to read and understand, I wonder if I could get a dozen copies or so to give to the new members that I expect to raise this year?

From one of New England’s oldest lodges the secretary writes to inquire if he can purchase copies of "Duly and Truly Prepared,” a recent Short Talk Bulletin, in quantity, “to send out to brethren appointed to committees of Investigation.”

A Master Mason’s wife orders a subscription to the Bulletin, as well a dozen back numbers and some other books and pamphlets published by the Association, with these words: “My husband is hospitalized and cannot write for them himself.” What a thoughtful wife can do for an interested Mason, an interested lodge can do for its members who are lonely or distressed.

The secretary of a grand lodge committee on Masonic education asks for permission "to reprint about 50 copies” of a Short Talk “for use among the Craft in one of our 1960-61 workshops” Such permission is gladly given; the Bulletins are meant “to go to work.”

Such are some of the uses of The Short Talk Bulletins. They are designed to be used. Your grand lodge wants them used. When masters and secretaries who receive them for their lodges take them to lodge and see that they are used, they inevitably receive some of the satisfactions and benefits suggested by the correspondents above.

Finally, The Masonic Service Association sincerely desires to improve its service through The Short Talk Bulletins. It is always grateful for suggestions about the contents of a particular Talk, about subjects that brethren would like the Bulletins to cover, and about Masonic information that could be disseminated. Engaged as it is in the great task of bringing Masonic light to American Freemasons, the staff of the Association is just as eager to learn as to teach others, how to use The Short Talk Bulletin.

The Masonic Service Association of North America