Preach It and Teach It
By Most Illustrious Companion John D. Barnes
Past Most Illustrious Grand Master and Grand Treasurer, Grand Council of New Jersey

Dexter Gate
Dexter Gate
Photo Credit: Chicago Tonight

Enter to grow in wisdom. Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind. - C.W. Eliot

My Companion:

At one of the entrances to Harvard stands Dexter Gate, donated to the school in 1901. It is one of many gates in and around the campus. But not all students notice the carved inscriptions in the stone arch above the gate. The outside of the arch reads, “Enter to grow in wisdom,” while the one you see as you leave the campus reads “Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind.”  The quote is attributed to Charles W. Eliot, President of Harvard from 1869 to 1909, and is intended to encourage the students to apply their lessons in the real world.

Perhaps these inscriptions should be placed over the door of every Masonic building and, more especially, the outer door of every meeting room. This admonition seems to be the essence of the T.I.M.’s Charge, as well as the Master’s and the High Priest’s Charges in Lodge and Chapter. In each of those charges, you are admonished to practice out of Lodge/Chapter/Council all of the duties and lessons that you were taught while in that room. You are expected to practice your Masonry out in the world, not just while you are wearing an apron. It does not start when you walk past the Junior Deacon, nor does it end when you amble past the Tyler on your way to the Collation Room. You are a Mason at all times.

You are the representative of the Craft wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whatever you are saying. Your fellow Masons will spread the mantle of fellowship over your faults, and, as admonished in those same Charges, work with you to correct them, just as you would help them to correct theirs. But that will not be the case for anyone you meet who is not a Mason.

They can only judge us by what they see and hear. If they see someone lying or cheating while wearing a ring or lapel pin, they’ll think we all do that. If they see a car doing 80 miles an hour down a group street, all they may notice is that Masonic bumper sticker as it zooms by.

On the other hand, we also need to remember to teach and to learn while in our meetings, convocations, assemblies, and conclaves. Masonic leaders should not extort a member to follow lessons that he himself has failed to teach! You have to start somewhere, sometime: why not at your next meeting. Find a piece of ritual, or a symbol, and talk about it for a few minutes at the meeting. Or ask a question about it, although I’m certain the T.I.M. might like a heads up on that. Do not ask a question without giving others a chance to research it: we never want to embarrass a Brother or Companion.

Equally important, do not just talk about something because you like to hear your own voice – if that’s what you want, stay home and sing in the shower!

I’ve expounded on this topic any number of times, in any number of meetings; I’m not going to stop anytime soon.

Preach it and teach it; until we all reach it.