MEMBERSHIP, MENTORING AND MASONIC EDUCATION
A PowerPoint Address Presented by VWBro N D J Daysh, PDistGM, Bay of Plenty District No 12, to this Research Lodge on Monday, 7th May 2012.
This same paper had previously been presented in The Waikato Lodge of Research No 445 in 2011
I’m the guy who asked to join your organisation. I’m the guy who paid his dues to join. I’m the guy who stood up in front of all of you and promised to be faithful and loyal. I’m the guy who came to your meetings and no one paid any attention to. I tried several times to be friendly to some of the fellows, but they all had their own buddies they talked to and sat next to.
I sat down several times but no one paid any attention to me. I hoped very much that someone would have asked me to take part in a fund raising project or something, but no one saw my efforts when I volunteered.
I missed a few meetings after joining because I was sick and couldn’t be there. No one asked me at the next meeting where I had been. I guess it didn’t matter very much to the others whether I was there or not. The next meeting I decided to stay home and watch TV. The following meeting I attended but no one asked me where I was when the last meeting was held.
You might say I’m a good guy, a good family man who holds a responsible job, loves his community, and his country. You know who else I am? I’m the guy who never came back!
It amuses me when I think back on how the heads of the organisation and the members were discussing why the organisation was losing members. It amuses me to think that they spent so much time looking for new members when I was there all the time. All they needed to do was to make me feel needed, wanted and welcome!
Reprint from the Annual Report of the GLNZ 2010
According to the 2010 Annual Report of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand Freemasons, membership of the Craft is now less than 10,000 and is declining at a rate which will see the membership drop to about 2,000 in 2028. There has been a slight lessening of the downward plunge since about 2000, which suggests that something has been happening lately which is different from the situation, which existed in the 1990’s. My talk this evening looks at two influences, which are concurrent with this slight change in direction of the trend line. But first, I want to remind you of some things most of us already know.
Does not have to die but it does have to change.
One event in the last couple of years has had a galvanizing effect in a number of lodges. This was the address given to all Divisional Conferences by RWBro Greg Goding from the Grand Lodge of Queensland. He called his address Order in the House and subtitled it - Where will you plant your seedlings?
Greg Goding said, “Suppose you were given the healthiest punnet of Alyssum seedlings. You could plant them on a slab of concrete. Maybe one will survive if it finds a little patch of water down a crack, but it won’t thrive. The rest you will watch die over the next week or so, OR you can prepare a suitable garden bed - a garden bed in the right place, with the right soil, water, fertilizer, sunlight and general conditions – a suitable place to plant the seedlings. You can plant them in that concrete slab or you can plant them in a well prepared garden bed and watch them thrive – not only this year, but watch crop after crop come along in the years that follow. Where will you plant your seedlings?”
He draws the analogy of taking an initiate into a lodge, which is harmonious, well organized, which conducts ceremonies in an impressive and professional manner and where he will be looked after and encouraged to become part of a group of like-minded people of his own age with whom he can develop a strong bond. His chances of becoming a good Freemason are very good.
But an initiate who joins a lodge where Greg Goding’s principles of 1) Perfect Harmony, 2) Streamlined Business Sessions, 3) Excellent Ritual, 4) Good Refectory Proceedings and 5) No Cringe Factor, are not present will stand little chance of finding Freemasonry to be the wonderful, challenging and fulfilling organization he has been seeking and he will very likely be lost to the Craft forever.
It is only the present members of a failing lodge who have the power to change the prevailing culture of their lodge and make it a fertile place to “plant their seedlings”. There is no magic bullet. However there are plenty of sources of assistance available to those who accept that there is a problem. As a first step I would recommend reading Greg Goding’s booklet “Order in the House” or looking at the DVD of his presentation which is now available.
One of the factors that many of us don’t take into account when we are talking about younger men is that, as Greg Goding points out, men of today are different from those of yesteryear.
Men of the Modern Era – what are they really like?
- Far more professional.
- Taught to walk away from an argument.
- Generally well educated.
- Taught to be inquisitive & question rather than to blindly accept.
- Generally far better off financially.
- Are in fact money rich but time poor.
- Do not mind paying for value.
- Looking for a balanced life.
- Want to be told facts not fiction.
- Are not one bit naïve.
- In Fact - they are discerning & analytical.
- Want clear, precise & correct instructions.
- Want to be kept interested.
- Want to be encouraged & guided.
- Are fascinated with and want to be part of the ritual when it is done well.
- Are taught to have an active and hands on role in parenting.
So what do Young/New Freemasons Dislike?
- A lack of direction.
- Double standards.
- Being patronized.
- Time wasting.
- Waffling & Over explanation.
- Self Centred-ness.
- Resistance to change for No Good reason save that of selfishness.
- They cannot bear the “we have always done it this way” attitude.
- The concentration of power in the hands of but a few.
- Being pushed into & through office.
- Penny Pinching.
And these are the reasons that for years and years we have lost, within their first eight to ten years, four out of every five new members who we bring into the Craft.
I believe that Greg Goding’s inspirational address has given many lodges the enthusiasm to buck the trend and grow their lodges rather than to stand aside while the Craft finally dies.
I would like to return to the graph I showed you earlier. What were the two events that caused the trend line to change from totally disastrous to “not-quite-so” disastrous? I believe they were, firstly, the re-organisation of the government of the Craft in 2000 which saw a new model develop based on the devolvement of responsibility from a centrally controlled management system based on appointed power and authority to a more collegial system lead by District Grand Masters, elected by the Lodges of their District, who had a far greater involvement and a pastoral interaction with a smaller number of Lodges, and secondly the introduction of advisory committees in the two areas of Lodge Planning and Development and Masonic Education.
What was it about these two events that resulted in the amelioration of the trend of the previous few years? I believe that the District system has encouraged a closer relationship between members of Craft Lodges and the Grand Officers of the District – a breaking down of the “us and them” syndrome when lodges saw Grand Lodge on only one or two occasions each year. Lodges can now expect to see their District Grand Master on many occasions during the year and to feel that they have a far more collegial relationship with Grand Lodge. Lodges are being encouraged to be autonomous - to run their lodge in a manner that suits their members. Lodges are being encouraged to evaluate their own performance and District Grand Masters have pledged to assist wherever a need is shown for advice. The evaluation forms that District Grand Masters are required to ask lodges to complete and return will give an indication of the strengths and weaknesses of each lodge and point the way to the changes which are necessary to improve each lodge’s performance.
The other influence which I like to think has had some effect on the slowing down of the downward trend in membership was the setting up of Advisory Committees in Lodge Planning, Masonic Education, Membership, Benevolence and Buildings. The initial emphasis was to provide advice to the Divisional Grand Masters through the appointment of Divisional Advisory Officers and later to District Grand Masters through the appointment of District Advisory Officers. The two areas of Planning and Education seemed to gain impetus from the start and WBro Roger Carson of Lodge Arawhaiti and VWBro Alan Bevins of the United Masters’ Lodge of Research were appointed to convene National Committees in Lodge Planning and Masonic Education.
I would like to acknowledge, at this point, the very important contribution made to the Craft by Roger Carson and his Lodge Planning and Development Committee, especially in Roger’s great work in travelling the length and breadth of the country to tell the story of the phoenix-like resurrection of Lodge Arawhaiti, from a failing lodge ready to hand in its charter to a vibrant and active lodge ready to face a bright future, and the committee’s production of the booklet, “Planning for Your Lodge’s Future” which many lodges found most useful in changing the culture of their lodge.
However I intend to concentrate tonight on discussing the development of the National Education Committee under the initial guidance of VWBro Alan Bevins and later VWBro Alan Jackson and the work that they undertook during the ten years I was involved in the Masonic Education scene.
Masonic Education has an impeccable pedigree. History informs us that all great civilizations and particularly those of Egypt, Greece and Rome, encouraged the development of the intellectual powers. The pursuit of knowledge was the catalyst for the development of the great ideas of philosophy and reason. Learning in the Middle Ages was restricted to the Aristocracy and the Church and their power and authority depended to a great extent on their ability to use their intellectual powers. However there was one group who were neither gentry nor clergy - the medieval stonemasons engaged in the building of the cathedrals, palaces and great houses of England and Europe. Their lives were inextricably entwined with their belief that their great work was their way of showing their devotion to the work and ideals of the religious life of the church and the monastery. The education and training of apprentices and craftsmen was an important part of the duties of the Master Masons and it was the knowledge passed on from experienced Masters that made the stonemasons’ craft of such importance. It was this knowledge that enabled qualified masons to move from one place of employment to another. Because reading and writing were restricted to the aristocracy and those in monastic life, all education and training for tradesmen and the working class was of an oral nature. Therefore knowledge was veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
In the 18th century there was an upsurge in intellectual and philosophical thought which lead to the foundation of the Royal Society and the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 during the period often referred to as the Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilise the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in Church and State. Originating about 1650-1700, it was sparked by philosophers including John Locke (1632-1704), mathematician Isaac Newton (1643-1727), and Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). Ruling princes often endorsed and fostered Enlightenment figures and even attempted to apply their ideas of government. It was during this period of Enlightenment that intellectuals, including members of the aristocracy and influential people in the business world recognized that the stonemasons’ guilds embraced many of the same avenues of philosophy and they began to apply to join the lodges of operative masons as “accepted masons”. It was this group of “accepted” masons who formalised our Masonic ritual to encapsulate the tenets and principles of Freemasonry.
Our Masonic ritual points out that education of self and others is the responsibility of every Mason. In the first degree, in the Charge after Initiation, the candidate is enjoined to study the liberal arts and sciences and to endeavour to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.
In the second degree, in the Charge in the South-East, the candidate is told that he is now expected to “extend his researches into the hidden mysteries of nature and science” and in the third degree, in the Charge after Investiture, he is instructed that the badge he now wears calls on him to afford assistance and instruction to his Brethren in the inferior degrees. And in the Final Charge he is henceforth authorized to correct the errors and irregularities of brethren and fellows and guard them against a breach of fidelity.
But very few people have given much thought to helping new masons (and older masons as well) to realise the obligations that had been placed on them in those parts of the ritual.
When the Advisory Service was first set up, it was obvious that the whole concept was very much an add-on to the devolution of control to Divisional and District Grand Masters. No advice or guidance was given to those who were appointed to the positions of Divisional and District Advisers. They were “thrown in the deep end” and told to “get on with it.”
My next comments refer to the Northern Division Education Advisory Service only as that was where I was initially involved. In the field of Education, people were chosen because of availability and enthusiasm, rather than expertise. Few of those chosen were professional educators although VWBro Ross Dalziell, PGLec, who was appointed Divisional Education Officer, Northern Division and I, appointed as District Education Officer, Bay of Plenty, were schoolteachers, and some others were involved in training roles in business organizations. There were also a number who were involved with Research Lodges and one who was a university tutor. The Grand Lecturers and Past Grand Lecturers were quickly involved in the education portfolio as “de facto” educators.
Meetings were held in Auckland and for a start we cast about for some definition of our role. For the first few meetings we grappled with the vexed question of training for lodge officers and Grand Lodge officers and attempts were made to develop Job Descriptions for the various roles. This fitted in with the training background of several of the District Education officers and addressed the question of “What is it that people taking on duties such as Master, Warden, Secretary, Treasurer, Education Officer, Grand Steward, Grand Lecturer, etc, need to know about the duties required of them?” Almost no attention was given at this time to the education and mentoring of new and existing members of the Craft. We were all very new to this game and defining what Masonic education really was seemed to be the most difficult question of all.
As an aside, the four other areas of the advisory service, namely planning, membership, benevolence and buildings seemed to be more definable areas and did not seem to have the same birth pangs that the education committees were experiencing.
The Board of General Purposes spent much time in grappling with the management of the Craft in the new climate of Divisional and District control and one of their 2005 decisions was to appoint National Committees in Planning and in Education to provide advice to the Board on matters relevant to the national scene in these areas. A Chairman was appointed to each Committee (WBro Roger Carson (Planning) with VWBro Alan Bevins (Education) plus one member from each of the Northern and Central Divisions, and, because of the size and distances involved, two from the Southern Division. In Education these were (VWBro David Daysh (Northern), VWBro Des Carr (Central) and VWBros Bob Wright and Alan Jackson (Southern). Once again there was very little direction from the board as to what the role of the National Education Committee was to be and we were again left to work out our own salvation.
VWBro Bob Wright had been instrumental, with WBro Keith Eaglesome, in developing the Auckland Leadership Courses for Wardens preparing for the Master’s Chair, and VWBro Des Carr had developed a Warden’s Course preparing for the Master’s Chair that was currently being used in Central Division. The National Education Committee spent quite some time considering these courses and trying to decide how they could be made relevant to lodges throughout New Zealand. In due time the Central Division’s course was revised and produced by the National Committee in booklet form as “The Journey to the Chair” but was not taken up by the other two Divisions.
After wide-ranging discussion it was decided that the primary focus of the National Education Committee would be to provide a set of Education Booklets to enable new candidates and their mentors to understand more fully the ceremonies of Initiation, Passing and Raising and to explore the philosophy of the organisation they had joined. The beautiful ritual with which we are all familiar was written many years ago and while there was never any desire to change the wonderfully evocative language in which it was couched, it was felt that many of the charges needed “unpacking” (to use an expressive term coined by VWBro Gary Kerkin, PGLec) to make them accessible to candidates for the Craft. This task was to be assigned to each candidate’s “mentor”, a new concept for many lodges.
The role of the mentor was one of the crucial differences between the proposed course of action and previous attempts to encourage and retain new members. No longer was a new member to be put through the three degrees and then left to get on with the process of finding out what Freemasonry was all about. Each candidate was to be partnered with a Masonic buddy whose duty it was to get alongside him and ensure that there was at least one person in the lodge who took a personal interest in his progress in Freemasonry, who would be there to discuss the ceremonies, to unpack the meaning and philosophy in each charge, to coach him in the Test Questions of each degree, to answer his questions, to take an interest in his family, his work, his interests and hobbies, to ensure he knew when meetings were on, what to wear, what time to arrive, to pick him up and bring him to lodge if possible, to make sure his wife was welcomed to ladies’ functions, and generally to make sure that his experience in Freemasonry was a positive and enjoyable one.
Because the role of mentor was to be a new challenge for many of those assigned to that role, it was felt that the mentor must be provided with the tools to do the job successfully. And so the education booklets were complemented by the production of a mentor’s handbook that explained the mentor’s role and provided the strategies that would make the relationship between the mentor and the candidate a rewarding and enjoyable one for both parties.
Anecdotal evidence abounds regarding misinterpretations and misunderstandings of the ritual. How often have we heard “tenets” referred to as “tenants”? Or even experienced Past Masters talking about the “square and compass” when the correct word is “compasses”. I recently helped a Brother with his first attempt at presenting the Working Tools in the Second Degree after he struggled at a practice with some of the words including “criterion, rectitude, avarice, and propensity”.
And not surprisingly, he had no idea what “to steer the bark of this life over the seas of passion without quitting the helm of rectitude” was referring to, as he had no understanding of what the words “bark, seas of passion, helm and rectitude,” meant. And many years ago I knew another very experienced Past Master who always referred to the “inflammable” plumb rule in the same charge. If experienced Masons have such difficulty coping with the pronunciation and understanding of sections of the ritual, how much more difficult must it be for the candidate who hears the charges for the first time.
Bob Wright and Keith Eaglesome had both been involved with the United Grand Lodge of Victoria and were able to tell us of Masonic Education, as it had been introduced to the Masons of Victoria, and of the 1983 booklet “Sons of Light” written by RWBro Kenneth G Linton, PGSW, Past Master of the Victorian Lodge of Research. This booklet was to become the inspiration for the series of Education Booklets produced by the National Education Committee for it was designed to teach the new Mason about the degrees, by taking him through each degree and explaining the implications of each charge, as well as other chapters such as “The Three Great Pillars”, “King Solomon’s Temple” and “The Interpretation of Symbolism”. The United Grand Lodge of Victoria graciously permitted the National Education Committee of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand to borrow heavily not only from the text of the book but also from the concept of Masonic Education it represents.
In 2006 the Committee produced the First Edition of the nine Education Handbooks. Book One was intended for prospective members who had completed a proposition form for membership, Books Two, Three and Four were to be given to a candidate after he had completed each of the three degrees, and books Five to Nine were for the candidate’s mentor. They were provided free of charge and distributed through the network of District Education Officers who applied to the Divisional Education Officer for additional copies required by lodges as they initiated new candidates. The general reaction from lodges and candidates was very positive and it was felt that at last new candidates could find out more about the organisation they had joined and that mentors had useful and practical material they could discuss with those they were mentoring.
Later the Committee produced revisions of the Grand Lodge handbooks for lodge secretaries and lodge treasurers, a handbook for new Grand Lodge Officers and one for Grand Lecturers that were provided to those officers free of charge. The committee, for sale to interested members, also published a further publication “How to Learn and Present Ritual”. In 2008 the National Training Courses for District Grand Masters included presentations from the Chairmen of the Planning and Education Committees.
A complete revision of the Education series was proposed in 2009 and it was decided to reduce the number of booklets to five – Introduction to Freemasonry, The First, Second and Third Degree booklets and a Handbook for Mentors. These were produced in time for the 2010 Divisional Conferences and again the booklets were provided to lodges free of charge.
However it was decided by the Board of General Purposes that distribution would be from head office on requisition from lodge secretaries, rather than the previously successful practice of District Education Officers distributing them within their District as required. In hindsight this decision could be seen as very unwise as there was an immediate blowout in requisitions and the whole print run was exhausted in a very short time. It was stated that lodges had requisitioned more than three times the number of sets of books required for new members. The books were so successful, the control over their issue so non-existent and the hunger of existing members for the information they contained so great that lodges took the opportunity to provide free copies to many more members than just the NEW candidates for whom they were mainly intended.
This resulted in what I believe was a “knee-jerk” reaction from head office who decided that the cost of the education booklets, which had previously been met from the National Education budget, would now have to move to a “user-pays” basis and they would, in future, only be available on requisition. The original nine booklets were provided free in 2006 at a cost of approximately $1 per booklet ($4 for booklets 1-4). The 2010 price on requisition was $16 for each candidate to be paid by the lodge with a further $4 for the Mentor’s Handbook and $30 for the binder and sleeve.
Lodge, District and Divisional Education Officers realised in 2006 that they had to work hard with some lodges to ensure that the FREE booklets were distributed to candidates as recommended. It is difficult to overcome the inertia engendered by apathy, which exists in some lodges, of the “We’ve never done it before” persuasion. How much harder to make sure that the education booklets are issued when the lodge secretary has to remember to requisition for them and the treasurer has to cover the cost. Lodges now have the perfect excuse if they choose not to use the booklets for their candidates and there is no way that District and Lodge Education Officers can override the decision of the lodges that “don’t want to know”. I believe that the Board of General Purposes made a further unwise decision when it was decided to recover the cost of the Education booklets by placing them on the requisition form. I wrote to the Grand Secretary and the Divisional Grand Master to suggest a compromise which would see a set of the first four books issued free of charge to lodge secretaries, as a matter of course, on the receipt of the signed proposition form for a new candidate. Any further books required for other brethren (including mentor’s handbooks) would remain available on requisition at cost. I did receive an acknowledgement of my letter but the idea seems to have died a natural death without being considered by the Board of General Purposes.
I believe that we must ensure that EVERY new candidate has a full set of the handbooks issued on the night he takes each degree. I also believe that we ignore the need for the education of our new members (and of course our existing members) at our peril.
I wish to conclude with some thoughts about the future of Masonic Education and to examine what appears to have been happening in this field over the past year. The Special Communication held in mid-2010 signalled some radical changes in the management of the Craft. Among other far-reaching changes in organisation, it was decided that, in order to reduce the number of Grand Lodge Officers, all new appointments would be for three years, that only District Grand Masters would be invested at Communication and that other officers would be invested in their own District, and that the office of Grand Lecturer would be replaced by a Divisional Grand Lecturer who would not be responsible for any lectures to lodges but who would be responsible for the educational needs of the Division. The National Education Committee was disbanded, and self-nominations for the position of Chairman of a new Committee were called for. The three Divisional Grand Lecturers automatically became members of the new National Education Committee.
To my knowledge there has been almost no contact from the Divisional Grand Lecturer/Education Officer with the District or Lodge Education Officers. In fact, lodges appear to have heard very little from the Divisional Grand Master or the Divisional Executive about anything. It seems that the work of the past few years in Masonic Education has been largely ignored by those now involved in the administration of the Craft and the whole Education Advisory scene is in danger of collapsing.
It has been my privilege to be involved with what I consider to have been the worthwhile development of Masonic Education in New Zealand lodges. The recognition of the value of mentoring in nurturing our new candidates as they embark on their Masonic career is one of the achievements of the first National Education Committee of which I am very proud. It appears to me that, following the demise of the Grand Lecturers, as we have known them over the years, and the perceived lack of any interest or encouragement for those in the education area from higher levels of administration, that Research Lodges will need to take up the slack and ensure that the valuable work which has been developed by the first National Education Committee is not lost to the Craft. It will be a challenge for each of us in the years to come.