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January 2016 AGL article for The Word

The last two Degrees conferred by my Lodge were both First Degrees. One was amongst the poorest Degrees I have ever had the misfortune to observe, the other was fantastic and left the newly initiated Entered Apprentices awestruck and craving more. How could two vastly different results come from the same Brothers, in the same Lodge, only a few weeks apart?

The answer is simple: planning, preparation, and practice. All aspects of a Degree need to be planned well in advance. The morning of the Degree is not the time to realize that you don’t have someone to do a lecture, or that you have no aprons or Bibles. A well-planned Degree allows those participating in it the time to prepare their work. Even if a Brother has been doing a piece of work for many years, he will benefit from the time to review the Ritual and to polish his performance. Lastly, I cannot overstate the importance of practice sessions or rehearsals, particularly if a Brother or Brothers will be performing a new part. Reciting a portion of the Ritual to your reflection in the mirror is an altogether different thing than looking someone else in the eyes and delivering a lecture with feeling and meaning. Additionally, many portions of our Degree Ritual require interaction between Brothers. Live practice sessions help these interactions to flow naturally without awkward pauses and without one Brother “throwing off” the other one’s timing, etc.

Each of the three Degrees is important and is deserving of our full attention to detail. It has often been said, however, that the first Degree is most important, as it is our newly made Brother’s first introduction to Freemasonry.  Some might be quick to dismiss this as a trite platitude, but consider the following: at the last meeting of the Fellowcraft Club, I asked each Brother in attendance to give the name of the Master for his First Degree. Every single man there was able to do so without hesitation, up to half a century later! Clearly, that first impression is a lasting one. We owe it to each of our candidates, and to the Craft as a whole, to do everything in our power to ensure that the impression we leave is the one that we intended.

Before I close, I’d like to leave you with a couple of reminders. First, the next meeting of the Fellowcraft Club will be on January 26 at 7PM in Hamilton. Also, there are still Lodges in the District that have yet to comply with the annual requirement to have a Degree conferral or exemplification observed by one of the AGLs. Please make arrangements with either Bart or myself to do so as soon as possible.

Bart and I wish each of you a safe and joyous Holiday Season and all of the best for the coming New Year!

Scott A. Cary