This was written and delivered at an Official Visit in my second year as District Deputy Grand Master.
Brethren, one year ago I challanged you to “Be the Revolution”. I said in part: “The practicing Mason, that industrious soul, willing to work in the quarry, whether he be in Afghanistan or Ludlow, is the front line of the Revolution. He picks up his working tools and sets himself to labor alongside his Brothers. He “learns, he subdues his passions, and he improves himself in Masonry”. He exercises free will and becomes the Master of his own soul.”
I was afraid that day to deliver that speech. I thought it was too inflammatory. Who was I to tell the craft what a mason was? Who was I to incite a call to arms? Who would listen?
I was surprised at the response. In the last year that humble speech has made it from Brigham Lodge, to the Trowel (and subsequently the Library of Congress), to the Beyond the Third Degree Symposium, to the Southern California Reasearch Lodge’s monthly newsletter which is distributed to members in every state and thirty seperate countries.
In addition, I have found many kindred spirits who already were feeling or saying the same things. I know that it was the message and not the man that is responsible for the speech’s popularity. I was simply saying what the craft was already thinking. I was giving voice to that anxiety that we share. That we aren’t worthy of that in which we have been endowed. That anxiety… that somehow we would break Freemasonry.
Being appointed last year as the Grand Master’s personal representative only amplified those anxieties. One fear had persisted throughout my Masonic career, and probably throughout my life, the fear of inadequacy.
I was afraid to wear the ring of a master mason when I first joined, I was afraid they, that you, that I would find out that I was somehow unworthy of being called Brother. I was afraid to wear the top hat of a master of a lodge, I was afraid that they, that you, that I would find out that I was somehow unworthy of being called Worshipful. I was afraid to wear the collar, apron and, top hat of a District Deputy Grand Master, I was afraid that they, that you, that I would find out that I was somehow unworthy of being called Right Worshipful. That fear, however, hasn’t crippled me. In fact, it had done exactly the opposite. It has driven me to be the man that they, that you, that I, expect me to be.
I’ve done a lot of reading in the last year, and we are not the first generation to feel this way. Far from it. In fact, the generations that had the largest explosions in the membership rolls were the most anxious. They were afraid that they were diluting the message. There were proposals made to cap memberships per lodge or masons made per year. Lodges often turned more men away than they admitted. You see they understood that growth of the fraternity wasn’t measured by quantity, it was measured by quality.
In all of my reading and personal experience this important message has repeatedly been made. Serving as an officer in the craft serves a dual purpose. While you necessarily exercise your duties in the administration of the business to which we are engaged, more importantly you grow into the positions to which you are appointed. The regalia we are invested with is not given to us for what we have done, rather it is given to us for what we will do. As much as we celebrate it, Freemasonry is not about our past, its about our future. The lodge is a laboratory in which each man experiments with the science of self-improvement. I leave you tonight with a few thoughts from some of our present and past leaders which illustrate that we are not or should not be engaged in the business of building freemasonry as much as the building of freemasons.
RW Scott Jareo, Chairman of the Grand Lodge Membership Committee tells anyone who will listen, whenever he gets the chance, that we need to continually build and strengthen our core. RW David Nadreau District Deputy Grand Master of the 24th District often says, “We need more masonry in men, not more men in masonry”.
What does that look like you ask?
Twenty years ago, in December, 1994, Grand Master David W. Lovering presented a Vision Statement in his Address to the Grand Lodge.
It stated in part:
“Freemasonry in Massachusetts will be the outstanding fraternal organization for men. It will enhance and strengthen the character of the individual man by providing meaningful opportunities for fellowship, charity, education, and leadership. It will thereby contribute to the improvement of the individual member, his family life, his community, and his world.”
Thirty years ago, Grand Master J. Philip Berquist asked, Western Massachusetts own, then Worshipful Ronald Jackson and RW Donald J. Lohnes among others to create a set of booklets entitled “Discovering Freemasonry” for our two-hundred and fiftieth anniversery which were to be read by candidates as they progressed though their initiation.
“Book 1 – Before You Enter (or At The Threshold)” said the following in part,
“The Masonic fraternity is not a club, a mutual benefit society, a means of entertainment, nor an organization for social reform. It is a joint effort for individual self-improvement. It seeks to cultivate the art of living and the building of character. It teaches a philosophy of life which seeks to bring peace and happiness to all mankind through the building of our own spiritual temples on strong foundations.”
And one-hundred years ago, Grand Master Melvin Maynard Johnson, probably the greatest scholar among the Past Grand Masters, declared the following, which can still be found in our Grand Constitutions.
It stated in part:
“Freemasonry is a charitable, benevolent, educational, and religious society. Its principles are proclaimed as widely as men will hear. Its only secrets are in its methods of recognition and of symbolic instruction.
It is charitable in that it is not organized for profit and none of its income inures to the benefit of any individual, but all is devoted to the promotion of the welfare and happiness of mankind.
It is benevolent in that it teaches and exemplifies altruism as a duty.
It is educational in that it teaches by prescribed ceremonials a system of morality and brotherhood based upon the Sacred Law.
It is religious in that it teaches monotheism; the Volume of the Sacred Law is open upon its altars whenever a Lodge is in session; reverence for God is ever present in its ceremonial, and to its Brethren are constantly addressed lessons of morality; but it is not sectarian or theological.
It is a social organization only so far as it furnished additional inducement that men may forgather in numbers, thereby providing more material for its primary work of education, of worship, and of charity.
Through the improvement and strengthening of the character of the individual man, Freemasonry seeks to improve the community. Thus it impresses upon its members the principles of personal righteousness and personal responsibility, enlightens them as to those things which make for human welfare, and inspires them with that feeling of charity, or good will toward all mankind which will move them to translate principle and conviction into action.”
For almost three-hundred years the message has been the same. If we look back there is a chorus of voices repeating that message. It is not the destination but the journey that is important and Freemasonry is and always has been merely the vehicle. I assure you that if you follow that message you will not break freemasonry. In fact you will save it. You will save it from being something it was never intended to be.
Brethren I once again and always challange you to “Be the Revolution”, for that is what we came here to do.