Monday, March 17, 2008

Ten Minutes May Be Great For Hard Boiled Eggs But Not For Masonic Education

I have a great Worshipful Master, Worshipful Kazar. He is young, articulate, organized and he has a vision (see picture below). He also is pretty good at setting priorities.

Lately he has been revamping some of the Lodge procedures and tapping everybody's brain to try to make the way we do things have a well mapped out written process. One of the aspects he has been working on is the training of our candidates and getting to them some valuable information in handouts. He also is overseeing a way to formalize the training procedure in a handbook to make sure nothing is left out.

But the area I allude to in this article is what we call in Prince Hall -"The Lesson" or what you Mainstream Masons call Masonic Education at the Lodge which is normally accorded about ten minutes. Now my contention is that ten minutes is not long enough to teach or to learn much of anything and certainly there is no room for discussion which is an important part of buying into the educational process; long enough for a hard boiled egg but not anywhere near long enough to explain the intricacies of a philosophy which is a way of life.

How do we get more time into our meetings- just stay later? That is one thing Worshipful Kazar will not do. We meet for two hours and that is long enough, he contends. So to provide more learning time then business time has to decrease. And that is exactly what he did. He appointed a Steering Committee whose job it is to do the business of the Lodge when Lodge is not in session and to transact all such measures that the Lodge has voted on. This does not remove the voting power of any Lodge member. Large items are researched and an advisory opinion is voted on by the Steering Committee. Then the results of the Steering Committee is voted on by all the Brethren at a regular Communication. This just streamlines the process and allows the small petty stuff to be acted on outside of a Lodge Communication. If any action of the Steering Committee that is a votable issue needs to be reversed it can be simply and quickly at a meeting. But the endless debate and haggling over minor points is out the window.

So business now instead of taking one hour takes fifteen to twenty minutes. This leaves one hour to one hour and a half for actual learning and discussion. Remaining time is used in opening and closing Lodge and general non Lodge business talk.

Our last meeting was a good example of what can be done with time to get more deeply involved. We, as a Lodge, did a book review of "The Meaning of Masonry" by W.L. Wilmshurst. We all got a copy of the book, printed or online, and read it, the Master giving us two plus months notice of the event. This meeting we went over and discussed chapter one with the aid of our Junior Deacon, who was appointed facilitator for the night's lesson. Almost every Brother had something to say and all those contributions added up to one great night.

Now we didn't quite cover all the material in chapter one and we have already scheduled one more follow-up night at Lodge with the book with a third needed and to be determined. Some of the things we delved into were the "Sacred Mysteries" and how far back they went and how this was a certain philosophical, spiritual body of knowledge and understanding that seemed to be passed down from generation to generation through the ages albeit by different organizations. Wilmshurst says, "I am acquainted, for instance, with an Egyptian ceremonial system, some 5,000 years old, which taught precisely the same things as Masonry does, but in the terms of shipbuilding instead of in the terms of architecture."

We explored much that made for deeper meaning within the Craft including the author's characterization that Masonry was "a royal art." What really got us deep into the discussion were these words by Wilmshurst, "It is absurd to think that a vast organization like Masonry was ordained merely to teach grown-up men of the world the symbolic meaning of a few simple builders' tools, or to impress upon us such Masonry elementary virtues as temperance and justice - the children in every village school are taught such things; or to enforce such simple principles of morals as brotherly love, which every church and every religion teaches; or as relief, which is practised quite as much by non-Masons as by us; or of truth, which every infant learns upon it's mother's knee. There is surely, too, no need for us to join a secret society to be taught that the volume of the Sacred Law is a fountain of truth and instruction; or to go through the great and elaborate ceremony of the third degree merely to learn that we have to die. The Craft whose work we are taught to honour with the name of a 'science,' 'a royal art,' has surely some larger end in view than merely inculcating the practice of social virtues common to all the world and by no means the monopoly of Freemasons."

Well that really got the discussion going, back and forth. And in the end it led to one great result. When we left that night each man had searched his heart and had realized that Lodge was much more than a buddy, buddy time. We all learned more about why we are a Mason and why it is said that Masonry is a way of life. And our Lodge will be stronger for that. And it will have greater participation because of that. And a lot of the credit for all this goes to Worshipful Kazar who was not satisfied with just the allotment of time it takes to cook a hard boiled egg.

1 comment:

Silence Dogood said...

Squire, that is really great that your lodge has successfully turned the corner to spending the majority of the time on education. It mirrors the format which I have promoted in my lodge (but without any effect) exactly. It gives me hope that it can actually work. However, my lodge is struggling right now because of the lack of intelligent conversation. Like much of American society, anything philosophical is considered to be "out there." It is unfortunate that men are uncomfortable venturing into uncharted territory and choose to cling to the familiar.