[Square & Compasses]

Perspective of An Iowa Mason

Message-ID: <4115D283.1010501@qwest.net>
From: "John Klaus" <jmklaus@qwest.net>
To: masonry-ask@mit.edu
Subject: MY experience with One-Day Classes

Dear Bro. Dryfoos,

First of all, sincere and fraternal greetings from the Junior Warden of Mount Vernon Lodge No. 112 A. F. & A. M. in Mount Vernon, Iowa, Masonic Grand Jurisdiction of Iowa!

I have admired your devotion to, experience in, and knowledge of our gentle craft since I first began reading about Masonry, and particularly since I discovered your website. Congratulations on the site, by the way—it's first-rate!

I became a Master Mason the "old way," "proving up" on my Third Degree on June 5, 2001. It's the smartest thing I ever did.

In September 2002 I was appointed Grand Musician of the Grand Lodge of Iowa by M.W. Bro. Clifford Godsey, Grand Master of Masons in Iowa, probably because I was a music history professor for more years than I care to think about. I am also a member of both Scottish and York Rites.

Grand Master's One-Day Classes were initiated in Iowa at the Grand Communication in September 2000, are limited to three per year in the Jurisdiction; the first occurred in June 2001, and Raised nearly 400 new Master Masons. Subsequent numbers have been smaller, but nonetheless significant for Iowa Masonry.

I can speak, of course, only from personal experience—but I have been present at six of the nine classes, either as a mentor for a candidate, as a participant in ritual, or as an observer.

Our little cow-town Lodge has raised some 20 Brothers as the result of these classes. As is the case with in-Lodge Raisings, some of these Brothers have become "enrolled" in our Lodge, and others have not—but I am ASTOUNDED than the "One-Day Wonders" seem to have an even higher enrollment than in-Lodge candidates. The vast majority of my local One-Day Class Brothers—probably 85 percent of them—are very active. In fact, we have re-enlisted four or five Brothers who took their First or Second Degrees years ago, and completed their work at a class. OUR experience has been that these classes are a great boon.

Perhaps the central reason for Iowa's success—and on the Grand Lodge circuit last year I heard success stories from many other Lodges—is that new Master Masons do NOT have full membership rights, privileges, and responsibilities until they have completed Iowa's so-called "Iowa Masonic Enlightenment Course".

This course is now required of ALL new Iowa Masons, whether Raised in a One-Day Class or in a local Lodge. The new Brother works with a single mentor in completing the course. At his election, a Brother may opt to "prove up" on each degree in open Lodge, but this is not now a requirement as it once was.

Remarkably, the Enlightenment Course has actually helped our Lodge to attract new Brothers—AND, curiously enough, to attract them to ritual. Of our eleven local officers this year, five were Raised in One-Day Classes, and four of these are very interested in ritual. Four others among our One-Day Class Brothers are interested in ritual, and are already proficient in several parts of ritual. One of our local One-Day Brothers, our Junior Deacon this year, won the state-wide recruitment award at last year's Grand Communication, and is well on his way to winning it again this year. As I am in contact with other Brothers across the state, I am astonished to hear that these kinds of statistics are not unusual.

I think that the Brothers who are suspicious of One-Day Classes need to bear several things in mind. These are based on my personal experience in Iowa, and others' mileage, of course, may vary:

1. Inability to memorize long examinations is a genuine problem, at least in Iowa, and has been the reason some otherwise well-qualified men have "dropped out" after the First or Second Degree. As noted above, we have reclaimed several Brothers locally who fall into this category.

2. The question of time—or at least the PERCEPTION of the time required—can also be a very real one. There is certainly a perception among the "profane" that becoming a Master Mason is a long, arduous journey. Certainly this is the case, if one is truly to become a Master Mason (it takes more than a lifetime), but the opportunity for me to assure a potential Brother than he can, in fact, become a full member of our Lodge by completing a One-Day Class and completing the enlightment course can be a potent recruitment tool. During the enlightenment course I have the opportunity—indeed, the obligation—as the new Brother's mentor to explore what it means to be a Mason, and to discuss these matters for as long as he wants to talk.

3. Far from diluting our in-Lodge Degrees, the One-Day Class seems actually to have increased this work. Now that a potential Brother can CHOOSE either the One-Day or the more personalized in-Lodge approach, many have opted for the more personal in-Lodge approach. The important thing—at least for us—has been his OPPORTUNITY to choose.

4. A palpable excitement and enthusiasm for the Fraternity has been apparent at all One-Day Classes I have attended. Meeting for a full day with other brand-new and veteran Masons, observing and participating in first-rate ritual, and learning first-hand about the genuine friendship, fellowship, and brotherly love state-wide is an awe-inspiring, invigorating experience.

5. One-Day Classes have, if anything, improved our local proficiency in conferring Degrees, perhaps because the classes have afforded many of our local Brethren the opportunity to see excellent ritual and to encourage them to a higher level of proficiency.

I think Iowa has been very careful NOT to turn One-Day Classes into "Degree mills." Quite the contrary: EVERY new Master Mason has the same responsibilities before he can become a full member of any Lodge. He must take all three degrees, either in a One-Day Class or in-Lodge—AND he must complete the enlightenment course with one Master Mason in good standing in his own Lodge as his mentor.

One final note abut mentors: the mentoring program has been an ideal vehicle to encourage new Masons to participate in Lodge activities. Mentors regularly call their "mentees" before a Communication, or stop by to pick up new Brothers on Lodge night. We figure that if a new Brother attends three or four meetings in a row after he is Raised, the chances of his enrollment are about 90 percent. So that's what we do. It works.

Of course, nothing in this world is perfect. I'm sure there are Lodges or indiciduals in Iowa that have misused the One-Day program. By and large, however, it has been a roaring success here. For us, at least, it is a good thing, and here to stay.

S & F,

John M. Klaus
Junior Warden, Mount Vernon Lodge No. 112
Past Grand Musician, Grand Lodge of Iowa


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