[Square & Compasses]

My Reply to Bro. Klaus

Message-ID: <1091969815.4116231787bd1@webmail.mit.edu>
Date: Sun,  8 Aug 2004 08:56:55 -0400
From: Gary L Dryfoos <dryfoo@MIT.EDU>
To: John Klaus <jmklaus@qwest.net>
Subject: Re: MY experience with One-Day Classes

dear Bro. Klaus,

Thank you for this excellent and detailed look at how the ODCs are being handled in Iowa.

While I am glad to know that participation rates and other measures are showing success by the usual measures, that is not the core of my objection to the ODCs — in fact, I would say that "success" disguises the real objection, which is the quality of personal initiation that the candidates don't receive.

The following analogy is not kind, but it makes the point clearly: if I rifle through a hundred wallets and pull out one hundred credit cards, surely my measure of "success" should not be whether the victims never notice that their cards are missing, and so do not cancel them.

When we bring in an auditorium full of candidates at one time, just by doing so we have denied them something important and central to Masonry. We have taken something away from them: the opportunity to enter upon and meet Masonry in its traditional ancient, original form. Whether they are aware of or upset by their loss is not the question. Is our measure of success really going to be "well, we didn't get caught that time!" ??

My lodge recently had a vote on amending our by-laws to prohibit participation in the ODCs. The amendment was rejected, at least partly I believe, because our Worshipful Master reminded us that we had a One Day Candidate present, and that we ought not do or say anything to make him feel inferior. It is not the One Day Mason who is inferior, it is we the body of Masonry that presents a second-rate experience as bona fide Masonry, we are the ones who make ourselves inferior. The candidate is as sincere and well-meaning as any who ever arrive at our door. If we swindle him and get away with it, that's not his fault, it's ours. Retention rates, activity, opinion polls, none of these measure the rightness of what we are doing, they paper it over.

I do appreciate that your GL has a mentoring program that educates the new Masons, looks after them during their proficiency studies and even makes sure they get to meetings. GREAT IDEA! And it would be a good idea to have such a thing in EVERY LODGE in EVERY GRAND LODGE. Oh wait, we're already supposed to, aren't we? That's what the candidate's SPONSOR is supposed to do. If we have let the role of sponsor deteriorate to the mere formality of someone to sign the candidates application, then adding the new position of mentor is a possible solution. Of course in 15 or 20 or 30 years, when the mentor position has likewise become a formality, we'll need to come up with another title and another position: "guide"? "senior craftsman"? Of course originally the craft had perfectly good words for this arrangement: "master" and "apprentice". But if we don't want to polish up any of the old arrangements, we can keep adding new ones ad infinitum.

However that goes, your current practice of mentoring makes sense and really should be a model, under any name, new or old. But suppose a grand lodge adopted a thoroughgoing mentoring program by itself, without the ODCs? Wouldn't that still have all the same good effects you've listed? Now let's take another step: in most jurisdictions outside the USA, Entered Apprentices are consided fully-participating members of their own lodges and all business meetings are held on the First Degree. That used to be the practice here, as well, until a 19th Century national Masonic conference changed it. Massachusetts has just changed back to the old practice, and although the lodges aren't really used to it yet, it opens up a lot of possibilities. For instance, instead of ODCs, a candidate who fears that Masonry will take "too much time" can join in the traditional individual way and be a member of his lodge that very night. He can come to all the meetings, and he could even have a mentor to bring him to meetings and help him learn his proficiency material.

In short, simply adding your admirable mentoring program and removing the requirement that only MMs can be members of the lodge would have nearly all of your benefits of the ODC but without the drawbacks. It's a much simpler solution, and is more honest and fair to the candidate.

As architects we're getting a little carried away: we've demolished the entire outside stairs, front porch and doorway, when all Masonry needs is a new window.

Thanks again for writing, and I hope things work out well for the Grand Lodge of Iowa.

sincerely and fraternally,

-- Gary


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