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.
MEMBERSHIP OR MASONRY
Bro. M. G. Merner
Let us get back to the subject at hand. I’m certain that we were in agreement yesterday that there is a difference between Membership or Masonry or members and Masons. It naturally followed that all Masons are members but not all members are Masons.
I hope that you agreed with me that perhaps the main reason that members do not advance is through the lack of Masonic Education.
I quote from the Indiana Freemason in support of that reasoning.
“The main purpose of Freemasonry is to give Light. To the man newly brought to Masonic light the world about him is puzzling and mysterious.”
“He is dazzled and can see only through a haze.” “His eyes must be trained so that by sight he can begin to understand what has already been introduced to him by sound and touch.” “He must be given something to work with.”
“It is no accident that the tools of Masonry are called working tools.”
“Masons must be given an intelligent and authentic knowledge of what Masonry is and means. The very future of the Fraternity depends upon what it will be willing to do with its own members in the field of Masonic education.”
I have before me the nucleus of a Masonic library. I’m not selling books, I am selling Masonic education and its value.
If we are to establish an educational program we must have reference material text books, letters, Bulletins, Speeches, Magazines. In other words we must have a library and many lodges do not.
They receive copies of the Grand Lodge Proceedings but these are frequently put away and no one sees them. Every Lodge Library should have all the copies of the Grand Lodge of Alberta Proceedings. They never become obsolete, they are always of interest. Any copy of the Proceedings of your Grand Lodge contains enough information to provide the basis for many evenings of interesting entertainment and Masonic Education.
Consider the Grand Master’s address or the address of the banquet speaker. Are we interested in the financing of Grand Lodge or of the Budget for next year? Read about the splendid work of Alberta Masons and the Annual Bursaries given to so many young people. do you know how many bursaries are given or who received them? It’s all published.
Do you know, is membership up or down and by how much?
Read the Notices of Motion so that you may vote knowledgeably and correctly.
What about the Condition of Masonry? The Grand Lodge Bulletins, Research and Education. Have you read these reports? If not your Masonic education is not complete and this very important part of your library is being neglected.
The cost of these Proceedings to your Grand Lodge is great. The value to your Lodge and its members is unbelievable.
Masters should appoint a committee to study and pass on this valuable information to all members.
I have before me reports of the Masonic All Canada Conference and the reports of the Banff Conference of the Four Western Provinces. They contain some of the finest Masonic addresses available on this continent. They are obtainable from the Grand Lodge office as are great numbers of Masonic books covering many subjects.
Tribute must be paid to M.W. Bro. Jack Collett for our splendid Grand Lodge Bulletin. The articles report outstanding events in Masonry and are all of interest and are educational.
I suggest that you each set up a file, that you save all copies of the Bulletin, as reference material, as a history of the Craft and to keep us all up to date on matters Masonic, there can be none better. No Masonic library is complete unless it has a file of Grand Lodge Bulletins.
I said that I wasn’t selling books, perhaps I am. Look over the stock of books on display at this Workshop and make certain that your library has a copy of each.
Each of us participate in some sporting activity, some curl or golf or play tennis or do all of them.
I suggest that we look back on the day that we started. Remember you golfers, how you sliced and stood too close to the ball after you hit it.
You curlers couldn’t throw the proper turn and had no idea of weight. We all had these problems when we started. What did we do, did we quit, did we stay away, did we not attend? Certainly not, we were at the rink or the golf course or driving range at every opportunity. We watched those who were expert at the sport, we asked for their advice, we had them show us how it was done. Then we practised and practised and took lessons, then more lessons and we practised some more. We got our handicaps down to a reasonable level and we found ourselves curling 75% or better.
Why do we work so hard at our chosen sport? Because we enjoy it, because it’s exciting, it’s fun, it presents a challenge, we want to excel or be at least as good as our associates.
We should all practice our Masonry with the same enthusiasm as we do our sports, and ask questions of those more knowledgeable, and seek guidance from experts. We should enjoy our Lodge, we should excel and get our attendance and participation score up to a reasonable level.
We need sports and enthused sportsmen, we need Masonry and enthusiastic Masons. The requirements for success are similar. Let us give our Masonry the same chance to improve as we do our tennis, curling or golf or other sports.
He who professes to be a sportsman knows the value of concentration. If someone or something distracts your attention you lose your concentration and your game suffers. Let us concentrate on our Masonry and may nothing disturb our concentration as we work toward Masonic knowledge.
We have an example in OUR lodge of the powers of concentration. Our W. Bro. Bill Davidson is 84 years of age. He is a dedicated Mason. In every degree he gives a lecture or a charge. He never falters, never needs to be prompted. When Bill was 80 he announced that he was going to learn the General Charge and he did. Bill is in great demand and travels throughout our part of the Province giving this Charge at many installations. Those who observe Bill are astounded that he never misses a word. His powers of concentration are tremendous and he is a splendid example to those of us who are rapidly approaching an age when we may be excused because of our frailties and the difficulty of concentration.
Some Masonic districts hold Schools of Instruction, others Mini-Workshops. Subjects of a Masonic nature are covered fully and those in attendance reap great benefit.
One such School of Instruction is suggested in your Grand Lodge Bulletin of February 1978. R.W. Bro. Bob Juthner of District No. 20 called a special meeting of that District for the purpose of holding a Lodge of Instruction. The notice stated that Avon Glen would demonstrate work in the Canadian Rite and East in the Ancient York Rite. Topics to be discussed are signs, grips, penalties, perambulations, floor work, balloting. Reception of Candidates, reception of Grand Lodge Officers and many other items.
The Committee Chairman of the Committee on the Work will be in attendance.
A great meeting and a full meeting and an example of Masonic education at work that could be adapted to any area.
We are all most conscious of the need of Masonic Education, we have demonstrated that at all levels. We know that Masonic Education absorbed by members makes them Masons practising Masonry as we want them to.
All Schools of Instruction, Lodges of Instruction, Committees on the Work are functioning well and are providing Masonic education and educational materials for which we are grateful and we congratulate and thank them.
In analyzing what is happening we find that those in attendance at these educational events are interested Masons, educated Masons, well informed and consequently attending Masons. By their very attendance they indicate the desire to obtain and gain knowledge of Masonic Education.
It is most important that those in attendance at all meetings of an educational nature be prepared to share the knowledge which it has been their privilege to receive.
Using information from their meetings and notes, someone or more of their number should be prepared to carry these important findings back to their lodges. They should, in as interesting a way as possible, convey their message to those who did not or could not attend the educational event.
The message to the lodge designed to make all Brethren informed Masons could be incorporated into a part of the work in open Lodge, or if more convenient, or comfortable, during the banquet hour.
We are assembled here today over 500 strong. The knowledge received, the information passed on at our formal sessions or informal get togethers will be great. Some lodges have from 10 — 20 Brethren in attendance. I suspect that in many cases no one of the 10 — 20 will consider it his duty or responsibility to pass on this knowledge to those at home. Perhaps someone will report that a group attended Banff, that everyone had a good time and that may be the complete report in some lodges.
Will each lodge represented please make an organized effort to designate someone or two or more of your Brethren to report back to your lodge the important details of this Workshop. Arrange this report to fit the plans of your Master and Wardens. This is an exciting, challenging, enjoyable, fun filled yet serious event in our Masonic year and should be shared with all Masons.
We talked earlier about the excitement and fun of sports. With proper leadership and guidance on the part of the Wardens our Masters and committees of each lodge, our meetings too can reach new heights of enjoyment and a pleasing result will be increased attendance and a rapid change of members to Masons.
I hope that my remarks today have not indicated that every Mason must be a ritualist and that education is always essential. I hope that I have not given the feeling that all Masons must fill offices, or be leaders. I have an extract from a Grand Lodge Bulletin of December 1980. It has been used many times.
I quote from A Great Mason.
Once there was a Mason who found it really hard to learn the ritual and he never was much help in conferring the degrees. He was extremely self-conscious and had no real ability to fill positions of authority; he was not officer material and he never held a lodge office. He never achieved financial success and he could not be one of the larger contributors to lodge charities or the building fund. In all these respects, he was rather an insignificant Mason.
He did attend every Lodge meeting he possibly could, always arriving early enough to assist the Tyler and Stewards in getting things ready. He visited the sick and the widows. He went to see and talk to that brother who suddenly stopped attending lodge. He made sure that each visiting brother was never made to feel a stranger. He praised the officers, encouraged new members, put his arm around the shoulders of any who were troubled or discouraged, and had a smile and a cheery, “Hello, my Brother”, for all he met, every time.
Eventually he died. The church could not hold all those attending his funeral. Even the cemetery was crowded. The next meeting of the lodge was just not the same. Everyone missed him, terribly.
An insignificant Mason? Certainly not! He was a GREAT Mason. Perhaps no greater ever sat in Lodge!
Who was he?
Nobody in particular. Most lodges have known him or his like. And he is still around, still attending his lodge, still doing those little things. DO WE TREASURE HIM AND HONOUR HIM? We certainly ought to, for he is a GREAT Mason!
We have many such Masons at home and many are in attendance at this Workshop. His contribution has been a great one and whether we be leaders or followers we can be a better Mason by emulating his fine qualities and his example of splendid Masonic behaviour.
May I quote again from your own “Bulletin” on January 1981. I quote:
Here perhaps is where we come to the crux of the matter. We cannot retain a Brother’s interest if he sees nothing but the same ceremonies, often indifferently done by the same people year in and year out, without any explanation of their meaning, interpretation of their significance or encouragement to study, to search out the age old lessons behind them.
I suggest that we all lend our full support to our Education Committee in every way we can, and that individuals with a particular bent or enthusiasm for Masonic instruction seek out opportunities to serve this often exciting area.
Many Lodges realize the importance of an educational program.
I hold in my hand just some of the material published by Redwood Lodge No. 193.
Steve McVittie, Worshipful Master Ron Dockery, Editor
The Master’s Trestle Board published monthly. You may never know or predict what the next issue will contain but what is apparent is that it will be instructive, inspiring interesting and educational. It will do much for all Masons who see it and it is an example of what one or two brothers or a committee or a lodge can accomplish. I have no doubt that the effort being exerted will improve attendance not only in Redwood but throughout the Jurisdiction.
Last month the mail brought me a large envelope on which 26 cents postage had been paid. It contained the most recent Trestle Board as well as three well set up pages of Masonic Truth, suitably printed and set up for framing.
- “A Mason”
- “I am Freemasonry”
- “The Ten Commandments of a Mason”
My thanks to Steve McVittie, to Redwood Lodge and all other lodges following a program similar to this one that can be of such value to us all.
Mr Brethren, you have been a splendid audience. I thank you for your attention and it is my sincere hope that perhaps we may be more successful in our Masonic endeavours as a result of your Banff Workshop and that many more of our Members may become Masons as a result of your endeavours.
May I bring these remarks to a close by quoting a Masonic Charge that is available to each of you if you will ask for it.
“We are now about to leave this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue.”
Forget not the duties we owe to God, our neighbours and ourselves.
Let us be happy ourselves and endeavour to Promote the Happiness of others.
Live in peace and may the God of Love and Peace delight to dwell with you and bless you.
TILL WE MEET AGAIN.