BRYCE ON FREEMASONRY
– And what I remembered of them.
After being away a long time, I recently returned to my home lodge for a visit. Those of you who have followed my writings will remember why I left my lodge, primarily due to Freemasonry turning into a good old boys club as opposed to the fraternity it was intended to be.
Read: Why I No Longer Attend Lodge
I went back to my lodge to see a young man return his catechism in front of the Craft. This was a good man who I was pleased to sign his petition. I am somewhat old school in this regard. I believe if you sign a man’s petition, you should be there for him as he proceeds through the three degrees. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me and thinks nothing of deserting the Brother.
My friend was joined by three other Entered Apprentices who all returned their catechisms masterfully. I have obviously heard these words many times before and instructed several Brothers in this regard. Needless to say, listening to this was nice, but a wee bit boring. As I sat there, my mind started to drift away to years ago when I was in their shoes and returning my catechisms.
It was a slow night, and nobody was in the north. As I sat there staring at the empty seats, I began to imagine seeing the many lodge Brothers I had known over the years who made lodge meaningful to me, but had passed away in recent years.
There was my old mentor, Rome Scerbo, who I succeeded as Secretary; the three men on my Masonic investigation committee, Bill Brooks, Forrest McQuiston, and Herb Furman; the organist, Bob Haynes, who played “Happy Trails” as we closed the lodge; Bob Clarkson, the Treasurer who presented me my first Masonic pin; Bill McIntosh (senior and junior) who influenced my Masonic career; Dave Seidel, who was Treasurer when I was Secretary; Alex McColl, an old Scot with a wonderful singing voice; Charles Rongey, the lodge Historian who taught me a lot about the history of the lodge and the village; and many other side-liners who had served the lodge in a variety of capacities. They are all gone now, but in their day, they were the movers and shakers of the lodge.
Back then, when our lodge meeting was over, it was common for them to sit down, drink coffee, and talk about the lodge, their lives, and the world around them. It was here I discovered these were the people who truly tended to the business of the lodge, not the current sitting Master. If there was a problem that needed to be addressed, they took care of it. They leaned on one and other thereby creating an esprit de corps which I admired. Yes, they most definitely spoke “on the level.” These were men of honor, integrity, and teamwork. There was no interest in autocratic rule or accolades for personal glory.
Read: The Secret Of A Successful Masonic Lodge
Today though, when lodge is over, people bolt for the exit. The words spoken in the lodge room are the same today, but the spirit is different. I am still warmly greeted, but I get the unsettling feeling we are only going through the mechanics of Freemasonry as opposed to living Freemasonry.
I had the great honor of serving as Master for many of the ghosts during their Masonic funeral service. Maybe that’s why I am so sensitive to their spirit and see them sitting in lodge before me.
Now, I am one of the elders. As I looked around the lodge room, and heard the catechisms spoken, I noticed there were only three other men attending who served the lodge longer than myself. Everyone else was much younger.
As I sat in my chair, gathering my thoughts, I thought back to a time when the fraternity meant something more important than a good old boy’s club. People weren’t measured by a Masonic title or fancy apron, but simply by a plain white leather apron, a warm grip, and the word “Brother.”
Read: Disillusionment with Freemasonry
I hope someone in the lodge will remember me this way when I finally join the ghosts.
Keep the Faith!
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A J.T. of Dunedin, Florida wrote…
“WOW! This past Monday at lodge we only had 4 Brothers on the side line with only 2 from our lodge!
Very sad when I remember back to the 80,s 90,s we had a minimum of 60 to 70 for business meetings. Never thought I would see the day with only two Dunedin brothers on the side lines.”
A D.C. of Clearwater, Florida wrote…
“What beautifully written prose and written from your heart. I appreciate your candor and you are certainly right in much of what you say. I’ve noticed the same things that you so eloquently point out. Where are all of those former active brothers who were foundation stones of the lodge? I’ve often wondered why we seldom see many of the leaders once they have been in the East. The same is true at Clearwater 127. We have perhaps 5 members and/or visitors sitting in the south at Stated and sometimes they have to take a chair to complete the roster of officers. I’ve only been attending Florida lodges for 11 years, and I cherish my Honorary membership in both 192 and 127. I do attend both lodges more than most members. I find brotherhood to be an important factor in my attending along with a thankfulness for being needed and appointed Tyler at both lodges.
I’m sure you are aware that I exhibit a sincere, warm greeting whenever I see you. You certainly were one of those pillars you speak of and I hope you will continue to support the lodge with your wisdom, friendship and attendance.”
An R.D. of Las Vegas, Nevada wrote…
“I just wanted to let you know how right you are about what’s happening in the lodges. I love what Freemasonry is but see it abused in the lodges. When I moved from California to Nevada I had zero support and the lodge here in Vegas was very clicky; the complete opposite of Brotherly love. Unfortunately I could go on and on….
Thanks again for the article I know it’s not just me now.”
I think this situation has been around for generations, but we see much more of it during years when overall membership is declining. It’s a bit like the iceberg example, when there are lots of members the underlying issues are not as noticeable, and there is more chance of any of us finding similar men for connections and friendships.
There has always been a core of “those who get it done”, which has a very close correlation to “those who understand and actually love Masonry”. When there are few new members for any time, for any reason, the older core remains and does not get replaced, and it becomes very visible. I’ve visited many lodges where all the members wear dark blue, the “core” who keeps doing what needs to be done to keep the lodge going. One issue with this is that in many of those cases unfortunately any rare new member is pushed to the East in far too few years, does not really get what they need to put Masonry in their blood, and then fades away after that. The other negative I have seen in such situations, over time without new new blood, the core has to keep doing for so long that they get set in their ways and may turn into a negative for new potential members. We all have seen when those “who know” point out and complain loudly to new members or new chairs about errors in ritual and protocol instead of kindly and helpfully guiding.
But that’s the negative side. And I believe both that and the positive have always been there. There are lodges that are flourishing, with what I will call cadres or groups of new masons going through their journey together and developing friendships, and groups of core men who are still friendly and helpful to new members without letting their longevity or titles get in the way.
Which is a hard lesson I am trying to take to heart … no matter how many times I do the work, to not complain, but be a friend and guide to every other member, in whatever way I can. To me, that is masonry
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