You Don't Own the Ritual
By Most Illustrious Companion John D. Barnes
Past Most Illustrious Grand Master and Grand Treasurer, Grand Council of New Jersey
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The details are details. They make the product. The connections, the connections, the connections. It will in the end be these details that give the product its life.- Charles Eames
Speaking as an ardent Ritualist, I want to remind you that you do not own the ritual! Now that I have your attention…
One of the reasons we lose our newer members is that all too many of us act as if WE OWN the ritual. We keep sitting in the same stations and places year after year. We keep taking the same parts in the conferrals year after year. We talk about staying in place as a way to support our Lodge, our Chapter, or our Council. But after a few years of that, are we still helping? Or are we clogging up the pipeline?
I believe that our newer members need to be given assistance, encouragement, and assignments. They need the mentoring that an “Old Hand” can give. The things you do and say as a matter of course, based on your years of experience, may seem foreign to them. Many are new Masons, who are still learning Lodge protocol. Adding more layers of nomenclature, different grips, different titles, and more nights out, can become wearing on a new member’s home life. Work with them at each meeting; otherwise, they may not be at the next one.
Encourage them to sit in chairs for an opening. Give them a copy of the opening ritual, and then help them to read it and to do it. Not everyone learns things the first time out of the box. Stay near at hand, just like your friend and guide stayed with you during your Degrees. They cannot see where they are going, at first; but with your help, the Light will shine. Be encouraging about what they get right. Emphasizing the errors will only make them avoid mistakes by not doing anything at all. That’s not the goal.
Have them take part in the conferral of Degrees. Again, no one is great at first. It takes time, patience, and application to become proficient – give them a chance to make mistakes. Mistakes are a way to learn. At least, someone who is making mistakes is there doing something. He’s not sitting on the sidelines or, even worse, not even in the room at all!
We need to remember that our members have choices! In my father’s time, attendance at meetings was good. Men came home from work, had dinner with their family, and then went to Lodge. Nowadays, the options to do other things are both greater and fewer. Greater, because people go out to dinner more, or watch more TV, or go to the movies during the week. Fewer, because of longer work hours, or being a single parent, or other life factors which limit a man’s time to commit to meetings – especially with as many meetings as we can have each month.
I said that you do not own the Ritual. You do not even own that part that you’ve been doing for ten years. We own the ritual. And the ritual owns us, if we learn it, love it, and live it. We share the parts, the responsibilities, and the mentoring. Your most essential part within our Fraternity is to share the burden with others so that they become a part of the team, a part of the Craft, a part of your Council. That will ensure the continued life of your Council.
ARE YOU DOING YOUR PART?