In this, my second post of three, I wanted to share one of my recent personal experiences with Masonry, because it exemplifies to me the culmination of my first few years as a Mason. It was a unique opportunity for me to stand is as the Chaplain for my Lodge, and this brief but important experience in many ways is indicative of my total experience as a Mason up to that day.
In preparing for my role at home, I arranged a bench in the center of the parlor, this was to represent where I would say the prayer. I then sat in the adjoining room to represent where I would be sitting before I would be conducted to the center of the lodge by our Marshall. In practice, I went through the process where my Marshall would accompany me to the center of the lodge. I knelt, and I said the prayer. I repeated this many, many times until I got it right and I felt that I was giving the ceremony justice. Several days earlier, I had asked our lodge’s Chaplain, what he thought I should focus on when saying the prayer. He said do not worry, the most important thing was to be genuine in speaking the words, and then he added “talk slower than usual” – this was a great tip. There were three prayers to learn; the Opening and Closing prayers and a prayer to say before the lodge meal. Along with this there was proper floor work to learn. So I practiced.
When the day came where I would be fulfilling the roll of Chaplain for our lodge I was a bit worried. I believed it was a big responsibility and I wanted to do well. As it happened, I missed the first prayer, the prayer before the meal, because I was out by the grill talking to a friend who was cooking the last few burgers and when we came in people were already eating. So there was no prayer before the meal and for some reason this made me nervous for the opening prayer. But the time came where I had to be conducted to the center of the lodge by the Marshal. I went and said the prayer, and I came back, thanked the Marshall and took my seat again.
For the Lodge’s closing prayer, I was again conducted to the center of the lodge by the Marshall, and this time something different happened; the Marshall took my hand and placed it properly to be conducted, and said discreetly, so that I was the only one who could hear him, that “this is the way to do it just in case you trip or fall”. I then said the closing prayer and my task as a “Stand in Chaplain” was over. This one day said much about my time to date as a Mason and emblematic of my experience so far. The Marshall’s consideration in correcting my error, and quietly showing me the proper way of doing something without calling it out to all the members of the lodge, exemplifies the spirit of Masonry.
In Masonry at times there are lessons, and as I am a firm believer of lifelong learning, I view this as a good thing. A good example is that just to become a Mason there are some lessons to both learn and then demonstrate to your peers to show that you have learned your lesson satisfactorily. And after all of this there are more and more lessons to learn so that you can participate more deeply in the working of the lodge and/or performance of what is known as degrees. This may seem like a daunting task, to have to learn after a long day at work, school, or just taking care of your family – and in some cases it is extra work that you take on without any requirement. However, there is great satisfaction in doing so. One thing I am sure of in my journey as a Mason is that the work has been well worth it. As part of this process, when you demonstrate your knowledge, you don’t want to just demonstrate the lesson but you want to do it well. While not everyone can achieve the same level of learning and or performance there is one thing that is always true, people are not competing against others but rather they are working to improve themselves and everyone else is there to help them achieve that goal. This was true of all the lessons I learned and it was true of me learning the Basic duties of the Chaplain as required for one day – Not only did everyone help me prepare, but they were supportive of me being successful on that day.
At the end of the meeting there is a time where the people that did something for the Lodge are recognized for the bit of extra work, as it is said; “Pay the Craft their Wages, if any be due.” This could be filling in for a position or something similar or extra not normally required. I remember being called out and thanked for sitting in as Chaplain. I gave a proper response and then kind of got lost in a thought. I was being thanked for doing something that required no thanks. By taking part in this Lodge meeting today as Chaplain I did something that was a privilege – not a duty and one where I should give thanks and as I recall I did so. In reality much of the experience you will have as a Mason will be similar. Be it; working on fundraising, helping out on a scholarship committee or repairing a door, it is clear that the work does its part to reinforce the lessons and improve you as an individual if you are open to change. Participation itself can and will give you new insights into yourself and your community.
In closing, I am new to the fraternity and my journey has just begun. In the last three years I have been Initiated, Passed, Raised and am now happy to have received more degrees including, but not limited to the 32nd Degree as a member of the Scottish Rite in the Valley of Concord. While I may be new to the Fraternity it does welcome my ideas and input on all matters. Granted, it is not so important that any or all of my ideas are accepted but they all are heard and welcome. My first few years as a Mason have been enlightening beyond my expectations and the lessons that I learned go beyond the lessons of the degrees but fall more into the practice of; Tolerance, Brotherhood, Acceptance and Charity. Don’t get me wrong there can be and are areas of conflict between members, and there can be passionate discussions on what is next for the Fraternity or Lodge but in these times we tend to seek Harmony in the fraternity versus positions that divide. While I may not be perfect in the execution of these lofty goals, I am improving and it impacts every part of my life in a positive manner – none of these improvements would have been possible to me without the fraternity and my many guides over the last few years.
And now it is time to Pay the Craft their Wages, if any be due: To these people across many lodges in my many stages of development, I would like to extend a simple thanks.