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April 2016 AGL Article for The Word

I recently had the pleasure to watch as one of our Lodges initiated three new Brothers. During this Degree, I was struck by the fact that these three new Brothers, who all appeared to be Millennials, were being assisted in their first Masonic steps by other Millennials – most of whom were performing their parts for the first time.

Was the Ritual letter-perfect? Nope. As an AGL who was there to observe and evaluate the Degree, did it bother me that they didn’t achieve “perfection”? Not one bit, and here’s why:

Our Ritual, dear as it may be to us, consists of nothing more than words on a page. It is only when we infuse it with a bit of ourselves that it comes alive and delivers the teachings that have been passed from mouth to ear for centuries. It is for precisely this reason that large portions of our Ritual are written in cipher – to ensure that the lessons of old are imparted personally and in the proper atmosphere and context.

Each time one of our Brothers takes it upon himself to learn a new piece of Ritual, he deepens his knowledge of, and strengthens his ties to, our gentle Craft.   As he delivers the Ritual during a Degree, the student becomes the teacher and the candidate become the next generation of student. Philosophers from every great age have recognized the bond between student and teacher and it was a treat to watch this bond develop during and after this particular evening’s work.

I believe that the bond between the Brothers conferring and those receiving the Degree on that night was further strengthened by their proximity in age. We must all value the wisdom, experience, and mentoring of those Brothers who have more time in the Craft than we have spent on the planet. Just as importantly, however, we must recognize the value of being taken by the hand by one who is in every way a peer and who says, “Come, let me show you what I have discovered!” This is the stuff that lifelong friendships and true Brotherhood are made of.

I would also like to take this opportunity to ask the leaders in our Lodges (both those with and those without titles and/or offices) to avoid taking the easy way out. Make an investment in our future. Don’t hand out that petition at the first spark of interest. Instead, take the time to get to know the candidate and to make sure that he and his family are aware of what will be expected of him. Don’t schedule the 25-year Past Master for that Degree part. Get him to mentor the newly-raised Master Mason so that he is able to do the work instead.   Don’t accept being able to read the book as proficiency. Work with your candidate until he is able to stand in Lodge and prove himself proficient. Don’t give him a fish. Teach him how to fish!

In a misguided attempt to bolster our dwindling numbers, we have slowly whittled away at the quality of Freemasonry. We tried to trade quality for quantity. It didn’t work and we lost ground in both areas. The men now knocking on our doors are seeking that quality. They don’t want it easy – they recognize that anything worth doing isn’t going to be easy.  Give them the quality they came for, and the quantity will take care of itself.

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