Vol. XL No. 12 — December 1962

Using The Short Talk Bulletins in Lodge

Conrad Hahn

It may seem facetious to say that the most important way to use The Short Talk Bulletins effectively is actually to use them! But that statement is not intended to be humorous. It points out the chief obstacle to the effective use of The Short Talk Bulletins in the constituent lodges of the member Grand Lodges of The Masonic Service Association. The Talks are not used in all the lodges to which they are sent, even though they are a part of the services provided by the grand lodges to increase Masonic information and inspiration in the constituent lodges. (What The Masonic Service Association is and does has been explained in The Short Talk for August 1962, “What Is The M.S.A.?”)

“Good and wholesome instruction” should certainly include an explanation to all the members of every lodge just what The Masonic Service Association is and why The Short Talk Bulletin and Your Masonic Hospital Visitor are sent each month to every constituent lodge of the grand lodges that compose The Association. This information can be supplied very quickly and easily by the worshipful master or lodge education officer, if he will abstract the August 1962 Short Talk referred to above.

Questions following such a brief report could be answered by making the August 1962 Bulletin available for interested brethren. Such a small beginning may create the need for a lodge librarian and a desire for further Light in Masonry. The purpose of this Short Talk Bulletin is to suggest ways in which such goals may be achieved.

However, the first step is making sure that the available materials are actually put to use. The Short Talk Bulletin and Your Masonic Hospital Visitor are sent to one of the following lodge officers, as the grand lodge directs: the worshipful master, the secretary, or the lodge education officer. That brother becomes the key man in seeing that those publications are really used by the lodge. If he is a “bottleneck” who keeps the copies at home, believing they are for his own use, or who merely files them away quietly somewhere in the lodge room, The Short Talks and Supplements become unused tools that are soon forgotten. The grand lodges purpose in providing some Masonic Light has been thwarted.

Consequently, the lodge officer who receives The Short Talk Bulletins should be thoroughly familiar with the following principles that the member grand lodges of the Association recommend. They should make them known to all officers of the lodge so that they, in turn, may transmit them to their successors who will administer the affairs of the lodge:

  1. The Short Talks are furnished to the lodges by the grand lodge, as supplementary materials for Masonic education.
  2. The copies belong to the lodge, not to the officer to whom they are directed.
  3. The Short Talks should be brought to lodge, used there, and preserved as part of the lodge library.
  4. They may be used in whole or in part — for addresses, excerpts in trestleboards, instructional manuals — as long as proper acknowledgment of the source is made. In reprints the usual reference is: “Copyright © (Date) by The Masonic Service Association of the United States. Reprinted by special permission.”

Freemasonry has been described as a benevolent, fraternal, and educational institution; and the devoted labors of grand lodge committees on information and Masonic culture during the past decade suggest that the leaders of the Craft are seriously concerned with the educational aspects of the Fraternity’s purposes.

In fact, most of them would be glad to be classified among those Masons who believe sincerely that Freemasonry is fundamentally an educational institution, that “we must teach and re-teach our principal tenets or die.” How to “teach and re-teach” is actually the purpose of these suggestions for using The Short Talk Bulletins in lodge.

All of us would concede that a university without a library is a contradiction in terms. Similarly, a Masonic lodge without a library can hardly be considered “a lodge of speculative builders.” One needs ideas and knowledge to speculate, to think, to transmit “our tenets unimpaired” to future generations.

The publications of The Masonic Service Association could be the nucleus of such lodge libraries. They are short and, it is hoped, clear and simple enough for the average Mason to read with understanding. They are not designed as “final answers,” but they do have the merit of answering questions briefly and of encouraging further search for Light. No forbiddingly lengthy or exhaustive tomes are published by the Association.

However, every lodge library needs a librarian to manage it, to preserve it, and to make it a working tool for “good and wholesome instruction” for the members of that lodge. Here is one more place in which a wise master can set to work another craftsman who might otherwise lose interest for lack of work to do. A real builder doesn’t want a master’s wages if he hasn’t earned them, but it takes all kinds of jobs and assignments to keep all the members of a lodge at labor. A librarian is one more active Mason if he is carefully chosen and encouraged.

Such a lodge librarian, after arranging and indexing the materials at hand, can become a tremendously valuable aid to the educational committee or the lodge educational officer. For example, he can classify The Short Talk Bulletins into various groups that would be useful to the officers, to the new members, or to the general reader of Masonic information.

He might, for example, arrange a packet of available Short Talks that can help a senior warden prepare himself for his year in the East. The librarian could let it be known frequently, by announcements in lodge and in its trestleboards, that such selected packets are available. For the prospective master he could group such Short Talk Bulletins as the following: “The Lodge”; “Master”; “The Art of Presiding”; “The Powers of the Worshipful Master”; “The Gavel of Authority”; “Installation”; “The Laws of Masonry”; “Lodge and Grand Lodge Organization”; “Lodge Inspection”; “Parliamentary Law in Masonry”; “Masonic Debate”; “The ‘Why’ of Initiation”; “Lodge Finances”; “Minutes ARE Important”; “Lodge Courtesies”; “The Visiting Brother”; “Masonic Manners”; “Masonic Offense”; “Increasing Lodge Attendance”; “What Can I Do?”; “‘Well-Informed Brethren’”; “‘They Ought to be Married.’”

Here, of course, it has been assumed that a lodge has carefully preserved all the issues of The Short Talk Bulletin since its inception; but a lodge librarian could make a narrower selection if only some of the Bulletins are on hand. He can at least make a beginning of such packets if very few have been preserved. The chief thought here is that a librarian can be more than a custodian of Masonic information and literature. He can be the pump that activates the fountain.

In furnishing a selection of Bulletins for initiates in the various degrees, the lodge librarian could arrange three packets, for example, of those that deal with the symbolism of the Fellowcraft Degree, such as: “‘A Survey of Nature’”; “The Architecture of Masonry”; “Two Pillars”; “Columns and Pillars”; “The Five Senses”; “‘From a Point to a Line’”; “The Significant Numbers”; “3-5-7”; “Masonic Geometry”; “Mathematics”; “Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences”; “Seven Cardinal Virtues”; “Passages of Jordan”; “Sanctum Sanctorum”; “‘G’”; “The Letter ‘G’ ”; “More Light”; “Signs”; “The Level and Plumb”; “Square, Level and Plumb.” Similar packets could also be put together for the symbolism of the other degrees.

He could also arrange a collection of Short Talks that would be useful to lodge officers, program committees, instructors and speakers. Among these would be: “So You’re Going to Make a Speech?”; “How to Use The Short Talk Bulletin”; “What Is The M.S.A.?”; “The Learning and Delivery of Ritual.” There are three particular Bulletins that were written for the new brother, to give him a historical understanding of the operative craftsmen and their modern Speculative counterparts: “Apprentices”; “Fellowcraft”; “Master Mason.” The lodge librarian could put these into one packet and place them in the hands of each new member, to start him on his way to becoming a “well-informed brother.”

These samples should be sufficient to show the variety of subjects contained in The Short Talk Bulletins of the M.S.A. A good librarian could create a considerable amount of interest in Masonic study and reading by a judicious arrangement into small groups of the Bulletins that the lodge already has and that will be augmented by a new one every month. It will require a bit of work to organize such a little Masonic library and to find various devices to stimulate interest in its use; but if we really mean it when we say we must give more brethren something to do, good leaders will readily see the potentialities in a lodge librarian for increased participation and for increased interest in Masonic reading.

The Short Talk entitled “How to Use The Short Talk Bulletin” contains a fairly comprehensive discussion of methods that can be used to make the Bulletins effective tools for Masonic instruction and inspiration. Those ideas will not be repeated here. That Bulletin is readily obtainable from The Masonic Service Association. However, it maybe helpful to go into more detail about one minor use of these pamphlets for stimulating interest in things Masonic. It is suggested that the master (or someone requested by him) could prepare a short five or ten minute period of instruction by selecting a paragraph or two from one of the Bulletins, reading it aloud, and then asking a question or two based on the passage read. He might even warn one or two of the brethren that he will call on them for answers. This device, used as frequently as it elicits interest and participation, can do much to send the brethren home with a feeling that they have received some good and wholesome instruction. Such a feeling helps to bring members back to lodge more frequently.

For example, the master could read the short paragraph on page six of the May 1962 Bulletin,Master Mason” : “Few operative Masons became master, etc.” Then he could ask for replies to the following question: “Do you think that every Mason today really becomes a Master Mason?” If the question fails to arouse interest or replies, he might continue by reading the paragraph on the bottom of page 9 and top of page 10, and by asking the same question again.

Or, the worshipful master could read from the July 1962, Short Talk,Three Distinct Knocks,” the two paragraphs beginning “Even before he presents himself at the lodge,” and ending, "for this lack of understanding on the part of new members.” A worthwhile discussion could be started by asking this question, “What is a Master Mason really seeking?” This simple device frequently stimulates interest, especially after a lodge has gotten used to it.

If the master has regular officers’ meetings, he may find that occasionally a little wholesome instruction will go a long way to make his fellow officers feel that such meetings are Masonically profitable. For example, a short reading of the first two paragraphs of the August 1961 Bulletin,Presenting the Working Tools,” beginning "The presentation of the common gavel. . . .” may help to improve attitudes toward the performance of ritualistic work. That Short Talk might also be called to the attention of past masters who habitually present the working tools to the initiates on a particular degree.

For instruction in the idea and practice of Masonic benevolence, the master could substitute the reading of a paragraph or two from the Supplement to The Short Talk Bulletin, Your Masonic Hospital Visitor. For example, he could read the feature story of this month’s Hospital Visitor (December 1962) to convey to his brethren a picture of Christmas activities in a large Veterans Hospital. Then a word or two about the work of Masonic field agents. No questions - just good and wholesome instruction. If there is available a brother who has done volunteer work in a Veterans Administration Hospital, he could be asked to comment briefly on the satisfactions he has derived from such labors of love. Prior warning to such a commentator would not only be courteous; it will produce better results.

Connecticut’s grand lodge committee on Masonic culture and public relations has recently produced in one of its service letters to constituent lodges an “Outline for a Meeting Presenting The Masonic Service Association of the United States.” The emphasis is placed on the Hospital Visitation Program, so that the brethren may learn how their money is being spent in this great labor of love for our hospitalized sons and brothers. Connecticut is one of the grand lodges that levies a small assessment on every member to support this benevolent work.

Every conscientious master, or education officer, can use these devices for short, “snappy” discussion periods to convince his members that Freemasonry believes in good and wholesome instruction. The Short Talk Bulletins are recommended because they are usually available. Other grand lodge officers, like the district deputy grand masters, can apply these devices to other publications of the Association like the Digests, the most recent one being Ronald Heaton’s Masonic Membership of the Signers of the Constitution of the United States. These booklets do not reach the local lodges, but they can be similarly employed by the grand lodge officers who receive them, especially when they are called upon to take part in the program of a particular lodge.

Two final suggestions might be made: make Masonic education programs brief, varied, and interesting. Make them continuous and consistent. Freemasons want Light, but they want it in “flashes of insight and inspiration.”

The great aim of Freemasonry is to make its votaries wiser and consequently happier men. They become wiser only as they learn how to use the Great Architect’s designs for brotherly love, relief, and truth. They become happier only as they practice the skills involved in such building. This we must teach, or our Fraternity dies.

The Masonic Service Association of North America