[Square & Compasses] This is my opinion. I have heard from some other people, too.

One Day Classes

From: <dryfoo@MIT.EDU>
Subject: Re: One Day Classes
Date: Mon, 08 Apr 2002 06:14:33 -0400

Dear Brother,

You have really hit one of my buttons :-) Since you have asked me what I think is the future of the One Day Classes, I'll be glad to tell you what I think and have seen on this subject.

Some people in our grand lodge say that the one day classes are a "success" but I don't see how.

Those who attend them are, according to grand lodge explanations, "successful" men (which is a nice thing to say about the rest of us, I think) who "don't have time in their busy schedules" to attend lodge meetings to take the degrees (which is a nice thing to say about Masonry).

The result is a "mason" who has taken all three degrees in one day, which means he has taken each degree without time for digesting and understanding the one before it. Do you remember the time between your degrees? Thinking about what you'd seen, learning your candidate's material, perhaps reading (as we used to receive in Massachusetts) those small blue books, Claudy's Introduction to Freemasonry? That was the sweetest most exciting time. Getting to know the men who had taken you in and presented the work. Would you give those memories away for any price?

Our One Day "Mason" has not seen and heard the members of his own lodge presenting the ritual to him. Isn't that great? He will never be able to look around his lodge and think, "There's Darryl who gave me the Middle Chamber Lecture, there's Ed who met me at the door of the lodge as Deacon, there's Lenny who was so impressive in the East during the third degree, et cetera."

Instead of having gone through an experience that each of his brothers has, our One Day "Mason" sat in an auditorium watching an examplar take the degree. Yes, he was supposed to have his "sponsor" sitting next to him, to explain things to him as it went along, but how many sponsors themselves know enough to pass along useful info at the right time?

Then it is hoped that his lodge will adequately instruct him when he returns. Yes of course, the man who is "too busy to attend lodge meetings" will make time to meet with an instructor to learn his candidate ciphers!! (I know that some states have no cipher books, and instruct their candidates "mouth to ear," but the conundrum is the same.)

And he'll be learning this material when? When he is a candidate, and at his most receptive, most eager to learn what happened and what is to be coming in the next degree? No, he's supposed to learn it after he's taken the three degrees and is a Master Mason with a pin on his lapel already. He doesn't need to learn it to prove his proficiency in the previous degree. He doesn't need to learn it for anything now.

Now, what about the effect on our lodges? If a lodge has a marginal line, or has new officers trying to become proficient, it is the responsibility of having to be ready to do the degree for a candidate that can motivate them to prepare and improve. When I am helping young officers learn ritual, there is nothing more motivating than to say, "Think of the candidate: will he understand what you are saying? Are you speaking clearly and with meaning for someone who is hearing all this for the first time? When you give your lecture, look at the candidate and speak directly to him in a relaxed, informative way. He's really interested in what you have to say -- that's why you're learning this."

So if a lodge decides it can just send candidates to a one day class, then maybe the pressure is off to find a past master to fill in as a Warden for the next several months while good ol' Fred is out of town. Well that's great, but now the young deacons and stewards won't get to practice and then work with a real candidate, so maybe they'll lose interest instead of moving up, and now there are more holes in the line, but No Worries! because if the lodge is even weaker next year, well then more of the candidates can go to one day classes.

The strength of Masonry is the strength of the individual lodges. The lodges support the brothers and the brothers support each other and the lodge. It is to his lodge that a brother feels kinship first. It is his lodge that raises him, teaches him, and eventually it is his lodge that mourns him. The one day class undercuts that -- the candidate is taught by a conglomeration of strangers at grand lodge, and then eventually shows up, possibly a stranger (to all but his sponsor and the investigating committee) to take his seat in lodge.

I have heard members of our grand lodge explain that the "too busy" man who becomes a One Day "Mason" will eventually have more time on his hands and will then begin to participate in lodge. Why should he? He will have made the friends of his lifetime elsewhere. By then the lodge may mean no more to him than a notice every month and another dues bill every year. Meanwhile, he has been told that the business of running the lodge is not for the likes of His Nibs, but for the others, those guys who aren't so "successful" -- the ones who actually decided to make time to participate.

Of course the classes are a success by one measure: grand lodge dues. The grand lodges are addicted to the large revenues they've been receiving since the explosive growth of lodges in the middle of the last century. Now that those men are moving on towards that Sublime Grand Lodge "...whence no per capitum is due to the earthly grand lodges,..." those grand lodges are feeling the pinch. One Day "Masons" may indeed be helping with that problem.

I can't blame the grand lodges for that: they're not enriching themselves with those funds; they have attractive, venerable, sometimes unique buildings to maintain, a wide array of charitable projects depending on them, bureaucracies and record-keeping systems that are (in many cases) still struggling to make the transition from the 19th century into the 21st.

In addition, I truly appreciate our grand lodges, and of our grand lodge system, for enforcing a system of "regularity" and "recognition", without which any scoundrel could do up some scrolls, buy some lapel pins, and start selling "masonic degrees" to any gullible innocent he could entice. (Though I'm not sure they'd be any worse off than the poor one-day "masons".) So, I grant that the financial and demographic problems facing grand lodges are serious, but one day classes seem to be a solution that's worse than the problem.

Imagine how awful it would be to come back in 50 or 100 years and see that Masonry (what's left of it) is a dinner society social club, with a "ritual" that new members have to go into town at some point to watch, but that none of the lodges actually can put on any more. When the idea of actually performing the rituals for themselves is as out-dated as meeting in taverns with serving stewards bringing in pitchers of beer and wine during the working. Imagine, when a Wor. Master's proficiency is no more than the mumbled inanities usually seen in conferrals of the Chapter "Virtual" PM's degree.

I think that what you're imagining is the future One Day Classses.

Now aren't you glad you asked?

Sincerely & fraternally,

 
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| Gary L. Dryfoos <dryfoo@mit.edu>| PM: Ocean Lodge AF&AM, Saugus, MA
| P.O.Box 425400, Camb, MA 02142  | PM: Mt. Scopus Lodge AF&AM, Malden, MA
| http://mit.edu/dryfoo/Masonry/  | Richard C. Maclaurin Lodge, MIT, MA
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|  whom no contention should ever exist, save that noble contention,
|  or rather emulation, of who best can work and best agree."
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