Saturday, October 25, 2008
What Would You Do As Grandmaster #4
Here is Palmetto Bug in our fourth essay in this series. You might have noticed we are proceeding this way: Reformer > Traditionalist > Reformer > Traditionalist. Palmetto Bug comes to us from the Traditionalist School. His reasoning is sound and his logic solid. He writes from his experiences as we all seem to do. For now those experiences seem more or less confined to South Carolina and from what I hear its excellent Grand Lodge. Not all of us are as lucky as Palmetto Bug in experiencing an almost always joyful Masonic journey. But Palmetto Bug seems to have and I invite all who read this to visit his excellent Blog: The Masonic Line and to converse with this Brother for whom I have developed a high respect.
I am the Grand Master
At Squire Bentley’s urging, I have found myself magically elected to the position of Grand Master of Masons in my Grand Jurisdiction – in my imagination, of course. Following a recent imaginary change to my Grand Jurisdiction’s Constitution, I am the first to have been elected to serve a five year term. What am I going to do with all of this new responsibility and authority that now rests upon my shoulders? I will attempt to share my vision with the reader, though I doubt I’ll be able to exhibit the eloquence of that the Wayfaring Man displayed when he recently responded to this invitation from Squire Bentley.
First, I am going to make a list of the top three issues that threaten the harmony and stability of my Jurisdiction. I will then prioritize those issues. I am already a firm believer that problems must be tackled in order of priority and that all issues cannot be tackled all at once. Pick your priority target, concentrate on it, and do not be distracted by other issues of lower priority. I will not develop this list in a vacuum. I will solicit the thoughts of others and will even obligate some funds to conduct a survey which is similar to what the military often calls a Unit Climate Survey. This survey will allow the rank and file Masons to provide feedback anonymously.
Since I am currently just an imaginary Grand Master, I have no idea as to what the priorities will be, but - for the sake of discussion – let us say that a couple are as follows: 1) Financial troubles of subordinate Lodges. 2) Lack of attendance. By examining these two possible priorities, I will attempt to illustrate my method of addressing major issues.
1) Financial Troubles:
I strongly suspect that some of the subordinate Lodges are struggling to make ends meet. Heck, I KNOW some Lodges are struggling – I just don’t know how many. This I do know, however: financially stable Lodges are required to ensure the financial stability of the Grand Lodge. Struggling Lodges must be offered some help in finding ways to remain solvent. Here is how I will attempt to do this.
First, I will canvas the Grand Jurisdiction in search of our financial experts. I will then look for the “movers and shakers” in the Lodges that are already on a solid financial foundations. These men will be placed on a Committee – possibly even on several separate teams. For the sake of this article, I’ll call this the Financial Think Tank. I will ask the Think Tank to brainstorm and come up with ideas.
Its first task will be to make sure that the Grand Lodge is not placing an undue financial burden on the Lodges. In conjunction with the existing Grand Lodge Finance Committee, it will examine the Grand Lodge budget and develop a long-range and realistic financial vision for the Grand Lodge. Based on the Tank’s recommendations, the appropriate edicts will be issued or appropriate legislation will be proposed in order to ensure that the Grand Lodge is functioning on a balanced, realistic budget.
Its second mission will be to come up with ideas for the subordinate Lodges. I will instruct the Think Tank to remember that one solution will not fit all Lodges. In the meantime, I will attempt to determine which of the Lodges are having trouble making ends meet. The District Deputy Grand Masters, by way of official visits, already have a requirement to check Lodges’ books to ensure they are in order. This will be one of the methods used to compile a list of financially shaky Lodges.
Struggling Lodges will then be offered the services of the Financial Think Tank. I suspect the Think Tank may suggest some painful solutions – such as the merging of Lodges. The struggling Lodges will not have to accept the Think Tank’s suggestions as I have no intention of ruling with an iron fist. If they reject the recommendations and then fail – well, so be it. I’m sorry. I cannot micromanage the subordinate Lodges in this area. All I can do is offer to help by providing the services of the brightest and most successful of the Jurisdiction.
This issue should have an easy answer - education and good fellowship. Again, I will not tackle this in a vacuum. I will reach out to those Lodges that do not have an attendance problem and use them to pass on their ideas to those Lodges that do. The Lodges with poor attendance may reject the ideas and, if they do, they’re on their own to figure out another solution. I believe that poor attendance and financial troubles go hand-in-hand. Hopefully the Lodges will take heed before having to turn in their charters.
Here are some things on my personal agenda while I am an imaginary Grand Master:
1) I will oppose any notion of relaxing standards of admission - no one day classes, no plain English ritual, no advertising campaigns, and no abolishment of proficiency requirements. Thus far, this is not a real problem in my Jurisdiction but I want to make sure we don’t follow down the same misguided path that some other Grand Jurisdictions are currently travelling. To help with this area, I will endeavor to compile some guidelines that pertain to the investigation of petitioners. All of the subordinate Lodges should be on the same sheet of music in this area. I will also make sure the Shrine understands this policy and make sure it understands that it is not to interfere in the process of investigating petitioners or in the learning of proficiency by those moving through the degrees.
2) Up to this point, there has never been a charity program mandated by my Grand Lodge and I will fight against any proposals for the adoption of such. The only charity program that should be managed at the Grand Lodge level is the one that pertains to the relief of distressed Master Masons, their widows, and orphans. That program is already in place and I will seek to make sure it remains on a sound financial footing.
3) Proper ritual and degree work will be enforced. My DDGMs will be my eyes and ears in this area. If a Mason is not well schooled in this area, he will not be a DDGM.
4) Masonic education at every Lodge meeting, minus communications during which degrees are being conferred, will be strongly encouraged. I will attempt to adopt the practice of the Grand Lodge of Texas by tasking the Grand Senior Warden and his Education Committee to develop a suggested monthly education schedule for the subordinate Lodges.
5) I will promote the development or adoption of systems, including computer software, that help Lodges – especially the Lodge Secretaries and Treasurers – to take care of the administrative and financial record keeping involved in this Fraternity.
6) Lodge websites will be encouraged and I will promote the development and creation of a system that allows the Grand Lodge to host the websites of the subordinate Lodges – at no cost to those Lodges. Technical advice will be made available to the Lodge webmasters.
7) As already mentioned, I will use the knowledge and expertise of the whole Craft – not just men with nice Masonic titles behind their names – when approaching any challenge. There is a wealth and diversity of knowledge and experience represented in the membership. I would be shortsighted not to take advantage of that resource. If we need computer system advice, I will call for the IT types. If we need budget insight, I will call for the CPAs. If the pipes are leaking in the Grand Lodge building, I will call for the plumbers.
I firmly believe that the state of Freemasonry in my Grand Jurisdiction is healthy. It is not perfect but it is healthy. I believe that the Craft is, when looking at the overall picture, doing rather well. The Fraternity has been in this State for more than two and a half centuries and she has weathered some very tough times in the past – including the schism between the Ancients and Moderns as well at the anti-Masonic fever. When I take a look back at those dark times, I see that these are good days and they’re only getting better. Though I don’t measure the success of Freemasonry by the number of men on her rolls, the downward trend in membership numbers is slowing. Lodges that were near death are shaking off the lethargy and getting a fire under their collective butts.
It will be my job to help struggling Lodges by placing the collective intelligence and experience of the Jurisdiction at their disposal. As I have already alluded – healthy Lodges equal a healthy Grand Lodge. If the subordinate Lodges are vibrant then any problems at the Grand Lodge level will fade away and become only a memory. I will always remember – however – that I can only guide, suggest, and lead by example. I cannot and will not force Lodges into any new direction – even if it be for their own good.
Posted by Frederic L. Milliken at 11:52 AM