Saturday, October 4, 2008

What Would You Do As Grand Master #1

When I sent out all the invitations for essays on this subject I got back quite a few replies that said "I have to think about that for awhile so don't expect to receive anything from me right away". That was OK as I had said I would do the first essay and y'all could feed off that. So I have been taking my sweet time myself being not quite finished with mine.

But the subject hit a nerve with Silence Dogood who blogs at The Middle Chamber. He was back in a flash with a very good essay. The core of Silence's message is for Grand Lodge not to be a burden but an enabler. Don't be a hindrance, be a helper. That certainly resonates with me and something I have preached myself. We have Lodges all over the country failing. More Lodges today are going under than banks. So I hope everyone takes Silence's message to heart. And we will start with his essay and I and the others will feed off that!

I would like to thank Silence Dogood very much for his participation in what I hope will be a learning experience for all of us and meeting of minds that will produce some really good ideas and thoughts for consideration. And I recommend that anyone reading this also visit the excellent blog of Silence Dogood, The Middle Chamber.


What Would I Do As Grand Master?

When Brother Squire sent me a request for the following scenario, I just couldn’t resist giving my opinions.

“You are Grand Master of an American jurisdiction which has just changed its by-laws to give the Grand Master a five year term. As the first GM to serve five years what proposals, policies and changes would you make to insure the survival of your jurisdiction and promote healthy growth? Perhaps you like things just the way they are. You don't want to do anything different. If so make a case for standing pat or for trying some new (or old) ideas. It's your call. You are now in the hot seat. Tell us with that power and influence what you would do.”

So here it goes, if I was Grand Master:

First and foremost, I would eliminate all Grand Lodge programs placing a burden on the local lodges. In my jurisdiction, this is primarily the SDChIP program. I would stop asking lodges to fund and run these events so that their focus could be on what the lodge needs to do to improve and grow. Also, any other pet programs that have been haphazardly enforced on the local lodges would be removed to further reduce the strain.

One of the primary issues in my jurisdiction is the funding of the Grand Lodge. I would examine the Grand Lodge budget and make it public to all Masons in the jurisdiction. In addition, I would make a budget proposal that would cut out all unnecessary Grand Lodge spending and present that to the Masons in the jurisdiction to get their feedback. Finally, as part of fixing the budget, per capita dues would be adjusted to a lower rate to accommodate the new pork-free budget. Once again, this would reduce the financial strain on local lodges.

One addition to my Grand Lodge’s budget would be the professional design and maintenance of a website for the jurisdiction. The website would be created through a professional firm and would be a great way to make the Grand Lodge more visible and connect Masons in my state.

My last major measure of reform for my Grand Lodge would be to review the by-laws item by item and remove any by-laws that restrict the ability for local lodges to conduct business. One such regulation is the requirement that multiple lodges meeting in the same town must meet in the same building. This sort of regulation is ridiculous and simply restricts the ability of lodges to conduct business in their best interest.

After reforming the Grand Lodge and placing the power of the jurisdiction back in the hands of the local lodges, I would move forward with assisting lodges in building the organization. Lodges would be required to submit a report explaining the health of their lodge in the following categories: education, fellowship, ritual, attendance, membership, finance, and charitable pursuits. These would be reviewed by the principle Grand Lodge officers and District Masters (who would be appointed based on an interview process). Once the perceived weaknesses of each lodge are identified, the District Master would meet with the officers of each lodge to discuss an improvement plan. This plan would be submitted to the Grand Lodge for the record. The effectiveness of this plan would be evaluated on a semi-annual basis through District Master visits and a progress report would be submitted to the Grand Lodge in the same time frame.

The Grand Lodge would assist in these endeavors by implementing certain programs. The first would be developing a Masonic Lecturer circuit with Brothers from the jurisdiction. The Grand Lodge would help put together a list of lecturers in the jurisdiction and assist in scheduling there appearances. The goal would be to have the lodges host a guest lecturer at least twice a year. Also, teams would be assembled to administer lodges of instruction. Each lodge would be visited by one of these teams once a year to learn how to do ritual to standard and the lodge would be evaluated on its performance of ritual.

I believe that these steps would help to move Masonry forward. By removing unpopular Grand Lodge programs, the local lodges can focus on their own individual pursuits. By down-sizing the Grand Lodge budget and giving the savings back to the lodges, the local lodges will have more financial resources to accomplish their goals. Also, introducing greater transparency to Grand Lodge finance will improve relations between the Grand Lodge and members of the fraternity. The addition of a professional Grand Lodge website will move the jurisdiction into the 21st century and keep it from becoming obsolete. The reform of the Grand Lodge by-laws will remove silly policies which inhibit the ability of lodges to conduct their business and give them greater freedom to move forward with their improvements. By making the Grand Lodge an assistant in lodge improvement, lodges may develop plans specifically tailored for their situation. Lodge improvement is not a one size fits all plan and the Grand Lodge should respect that.

Changing the Grand Lodge from a regulatory body to an enabling body will help local lodges improve and that is where Masonry happens. If the local lodges can prosper, then the jurisdiction will as well.


Anonymous said...

Silence's comment about "unpopular programs" brings to mind the question—unpopular to whom?

Suppose a Grand Master arbitrarily cancelled something like a CHIP venture. You know what the reaction would be. A loud howl about a Grand Master overstepping his boundaries, coupled with a wail about the principle of Masonic charity and assistance being treated like Hiram's corpse.

A GM cannot win. If someone doesn't agree with his plan, it's "Grand Lodge interference." If he doesn't have a plan, it's "Grand Lodge is doing nothing to help."


Silence Dogood said...


You're right. Can you imagine the criticism that a GM might endure for cutting Grand Lodge program? The noise could be deafening! At least for a while.

My article was crafted for my jurisdiction, some are much better off and have conducted programs like ChIP in the appropriate manner. Mine has not.

Programs in my jurisdiction do nothing more than place a burden on the individual lodges (most of which are just trying to stay alive) so that the GM can say "I did x,y, and z when I was Grand Master!"

I realize that some may be upset when cutting GL programs, but a year later, when the lodge has no burden resting on its shoulders from the Grand Lodge, is paying lower per capita dues, and is benefiting from having an improvement plan that the GL is helping them accomplish, those voices will be mostly silenced.

Being GM is kind of like being President. You have two choices: you can be well liked by people now or you can be well liked by people later. Doing the right thing by removing GL restrictions and minimizing spending may be unpopular now, but in a few years, the organization will be better off.

I hope that a Mason isn't afraid of doing the right thing because he might meet some opposition. If he is, he probably isn't suited to lead the organization.

Dean said...

I don't know why this this essay is restricted to US brethren only. I can identify with most of these points. Fred I honestly don't know why you think we are all that different in Canada. And we do have multiple jurisdictions with differing issues in each jurisdiction.

Squire Bentley said...

I removed that language from the post previosly and I said right from the beginning if you want to make a contribution get in touch.

simon laplace said...

I'm surprised there haven't been more comments about this essay. Maybe Brothers don't really know what they would do, or maybe they wouldn't do anything. Imagine that, a do-nothing Grand Master.

Squire Bentley said...

Stay tuned there should be another 6 articles on the way on the same subject