Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What came you here to do?

Much like Aedifico42 in his recent post on MasonicMinute.com, of late I have been wondering just how constructive my time spent blogging about Masonry really is. Specifically, opinionated blogging... about the state of the craft, what Freemasonry is, what it means, what it's supposed to be, et cetera.

Thinking back to the first couple of weeks I went searching online for information about the Freemasonry, there were two types of sites that were instrumental in my decision to ask to become a Mason:
  • Factual: Sites that discuss Masonic history and fundamentals; the nuts and bolts of how a lodge works and what the degrees are about
  • Experiential: Sites featuring first-hand accounts of what it's like to be initiated and become a member of a lodge
It didn't take long for me to exhaust whatever factual/experiential resources I could find, and during my long wait to be inducted I moved on to other sites/blogs of the "I hate fish frys, modern Masonry is lacking" stripe. While these critical viewpoints did temper some of the loftier notions I had about the experience that lay in store for me, they also set me up to feel as though disappointment was inevitable.

Recently I attended a district meeting, standing in for the vacationing Brother who usually represents our lodge. Lots of things were discussed, but among them were not the finer esoteric/philosophical points of Freemasonry. The question of retention and how we can provide new Masons with a better experience was raised, and agreement was pretty much universal that we need to do better - and ideas were discussed. The same sorts of ideas that get thrown out across the internet by solitary Brothers lamenting the state of the craft in their local lodges, to be read by Brothers on the other side of the country who can't do much but commiserate. At a real-live face to face meeting though, suddenly you're in a room full of Masons who can effect local change. What a difference!

Otherwise, it was mundane stuff... planning events for the coming year, discussing logistics and delegating responsibilities. The sort of thing that any organization has to do. There was nothing inherently mystical or ritual about it, but there was good fellowship and a mutual understanding that everyone there had given this lovely weekend evening out of their supposedly "dark" summer out of devotion to the Craft.

I guess what I'm saying is, between that meeting and the ambassador training I attended last week, I feel like I've done more to improve Masonry in my Lodge and district in one week than I have in 15 months of blogging.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Practical Freemasonry

Ambassador's Jewel

I'm now officially a Masonic Ambassador for my lodge, having attended one of Grand Lodge's training sessions earlier this week. I even have a certificate and and jewel to prove it.

So what does a Masonic Ambassador do in Massachusetts? They are often the first point of contact for a potential candidate who calls Grand Lodge for information, or looks up a local lodge on the Grand Lodge web site. They answer candidates' questions, and follow through with them as they take the degrees so that they have a familiar face they can sit with at dinner, and most importantly know they can bring questions to.

Within the lodge, the Ambassador tries to help find ways to integrate new members, whether that's just introducing them to Brothers with similar interests, or learning about their hobbies/skills and putting them in touch with a particular committee where they can contribute.

Grand Lodge recognizes that it's about retention as much as it is about recruitment, and Ambassadors are charged with getting Brothers new and old engaged in their lodges again. The whole session was refreshingly pragmatic and quite encouraging overall. One plain statement presented during the evening was that it is important that lodges understand that membership is the only reason for our existence.

Now, now. All of the other things that make Freemasonry so unique and important to all of us are also reasons for our existence... but without new members who keep coming back the only place we'll be able to discuss them or enjoy the fellowship of one another is in the comments sections of each others' weblogs.

I also learned that there are some official Grand Lodge guidelines regarding web sites and what types of content are allowed on them, so I may be quiet here for another while until I can make sure I haven't committed any no-nos with content I've posted since last June.