Out of the darkness, into the light
who comes here?
Brethren, I have often illustrated the power of the ballot in my discussions about our Fraternity. The unanimous ballot is the most important part of taking a worthy candidate into our membership. This tradition is certainly important within our Fraternity, or part of guarding the West Gate of the Temple.
Why then are we seeing new members that do not complete the process, or complete their degrees and obtain full membership in our Lodges?
I believe the process for membership needs to be reviewed in our Lodges so that our members and our candidates fully understand what it takes to become a Master Mason in our ancient and honorable institution.
I call your attention to the 2015 Edition of the Ahiman Rezon, particularly the Index, page 556 – 558 which outlines the Articles and Sections relating to the Candidate and pages 587 – 588 are related to the Petition process.
Your Grand Lodge Elected Officers have engaged and listened to some of those that have not completed their degrees. We have listened to members that shared their concerns about what they should have known prior to joining the Fraternity.
The main items learned were as follows:
Most were not aware of all the requirements to become a full member, viz., the time commitment to become a Master Mason, the memory work required to advance, the financial requirement to go through the process.
Some said their experience was not favorable, in that they were confused and even embarrassed during the process.
Some were not impressed by the work nor the quality of the process. They expected more from the Lodge, specifically the lessons and how they were presented.
Some worked hard to study and prove my knowledge of the degree and it was not taken seriously! “Why bother, if they are not interested in teaching me, then why should I continue?”
Many were excited when the process was done correctly.
Have you and your Lodge really listened to your members to understand if they are getting what you are trying to teach? Do they get the great lessons that Freemasonry has to offer? Have you asked? Are your degrees really about the candidate or about the members of the cast?”
Brethren, when your elected line gathered this information, we began a dialogue as to how to address some of these issues that are negatively impacting our members and candidates. Here is the process we have developed for your review and study.
Inquiry. While we are not to directly solicit members, our Fraternity is known by those that know us and those that see what the Lodge is doing in the community, if we are active. What is the impression of your Lodge in your community? If a man is interested, and perhaps, lucky enough to find a Freemason and inquire about the Lodge or Fraternity, what do you do? Rather than just hand him a petition, we believe it is better to discuss his inquiry.
“How did you learn of Freemasonry?”
“What interests you about the Fraternity?”
“Why are you seeking membership?”
It is best to explain the process of membership to any inquirer.
Freemasonry does not solicit members, members seek to join our Fraternity. Our requirements are as follows, we are men of faith, who believe in one true God and the belief in the resurrection of the soul. (See page 456, the Twenty Five Landmarks of Freemasonry.) Note this is not specific to denomination. Two members of a Lodge must get to know you and recommend you for membership on their honor as a man and Freemason. If you are recommended, our requirements include standing a background investigation, interviews with a committee of inquiry who must unanimously recommend your membership, it takes a financial commitment for the petition, each of the degrees and annual membership dues. Our process included several steps to gain full membership and you will be required to demonstrate proficiency by learning the key moral lessons of our Fraternity that will not interfere with your religious or political opinion; we will require time to obtain full Lodge membership with both proficiency and repeated approval of the members prior to advancement. With these requirements in mind, do you wish to proceed?
If the candidate agrees to proceed, and one member is convinced that he would sign a petition, then we recommend introduction to the members, and perhaps, inviting them to a Lodge Dinner to meet members prior to giving a petition to the inquirer. We then follow the process of investigation, recommendation, and balloting. If elected, our process continues with education of the candidate of the first of the Masonic Education Program and inviting the family to visit the Lodge to become familiar with the Fraternity and address any questions or concerns that may surface.
The background check fee, in our opinion should be part of the petition fee and explained that portion is non-refundable if it is run. The report, only viewed by the secretary and Investigating Committee and given to the background check and no copy kept by the Lodge.
Finally, it is important to reiterate that the coaching of a candidate is critically important and is not taken lightly. The responsibility of the coach and Worshipful Master is to teach the candidate the lessons of the degree in the proper fashion, by mouth to ear instruction. No Red Ritual Book, or any portion thereof, should ever be provided to the candidate during his instruction.
It is also important to have the new member show his proficiency so that both he and the Lodge are certain of his preparedness for advancement.
Brethren, the process will improve both the perception and practice in your Lodge and will help streamline the on boarding process of new members.
It is our hope that your Lodge will review and consider the process and increase the percentage of members completing their degrees.
See the Lesson Plan found at www.scgrandlodgeafm.org and find the Lesson plans under the resources tab.
Retaining members and proper teaching of our members is critical to future success.
Michael D. Smith, Sr.