Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Are The Degree Rituals Too Long?

Ever since my last lodge meeting, where we raised 5 worthy brothers to the sublime degree of Master Mason, I have been pondering how to improve the camaraderie of the degree nights. Not to say that fellowship does not happen, it does, but we build so much brotherhood during the degree and due to the length of the ritual and the late hour we finish everyone is usually in a hurry to get home afterwards. I have lamented this in the past and now seek a solution and I believe I have one.

Remove the first section, or Stewards lectures, from the degree night and do them instead on the next meeting immediately following the degree. They may be called something else in your jurisdiction but these lectures are a question and answer session between two brothers that rehash the entire degree that just happened and are required to be memorized to be passed on to the next degree. By moving this lecture to the next meeting night it does a few things.

1. From my own experience, after going through the degree it seemed so repetitive to sit and watch an entire play by play of the thing I just went through immediately after I went through it. When I study the candidates/Brothers faces when they watch it, no matter how well it is done, they too seemed confused or bored during the lecture.

2. By moving it to the next meeting it gets the new brothers immediately involved. Usually the meeting after a degree is held on a higher degree and the newly initiated Brothers feel a bit left out when they are told they cannot attend the next meeting of the Brotherhood they just joined because they are only E.A's or F.C.'s. This gets them right back in.

3. It gives the new Brothers time to mull over the Degree they went through without the pressure of memorization. If we tell them after the degree to just take some time to really think about what happened during the degree they can take their first step into really delving into the meaning of the ritual without having to recite it from rote.

4. It slows down the "Get them to the next degree as fast as possible" mentality that hurts the overall meaning of our craft. If we slow down the railroading of candidates quickly through the degrees we build better Brothers and consequently a better fraternity.

And last of all it removes a tangible amount of time from a degree night that can be better spent building upon the actual degree and the ties it forms between the Brethren. Maybe if it wasn't creeping on midnight after a degree more brothers would hang out and spend a little informal quality time with their new Brothers in a way that cant happen during a dinner before hand.

What do you think?

Do you do it differently?


Michael said...

For the third degree, we go from labor to refreshment after the first section, share a meal, and then do the second and third sections. It works well

M.M.M. From the North Eastern Corner said...

I have read that some lodges do the 3rd that way and I love that idea.

ChuckEye said...

In Texas, the lecture after the degree mentions the Q&A, but only by example lists the first question or two, then gets on with describing other attributes of what you've just been through.

Actually doing the full length Q&A isn't done for the benefit of the newly degreed that evening, but is left for later instruction.

Anonymous said...

You asked:
Do you do it differently?

Well, in a number of ways, not the least of which is several of my Lodges don't use the American style ritual. Most of the degree is a monologue.

However, none of the Lodges in my jurisdiction which use the American type of ritual have a lengthy Q & A session, at least that I know of. I know such a thing exists in Lester's Look to the East and Lodges of the 18th century instructed their candidates in this very manner, but I didn't realise anyone still did it. It strikes me as superfluous.

If you want to cut back your time for the Third Degree, don't take five guys through. I'm presuming you don't do them all at the same time. To doing them on different nights, to quote: "It slows down the 'Get them to the next degree as fast as possible' mentality." We have six EAs in one of my Lodges and it'll likely take longer than a year to raise them. What's the hurry? There's no fire. No one's water broke on the way to hospital.

Michael was talking about a "third section." Few local Lodges which do an American type degree have one, and even then, it's done on non-degree nights the rare time it's given.

Justa Mason

Tom Accuosti said...

3M - Last night we had an EA. No business beforehand (it's summer) and we hit the break by 8:30. Took 20, then came back to the lectures and charges and were done around 9:15.

SS Kyle and SW Eric did the lectures in a "walk around the lodge" fashion that is both informative and entertaining (Justa is gonna plotz when he reads that). Maybe not entertaining so much as not monotonous and boring. Our single candidate did not get the "deer in the headlights" look, and we spent the next hour just BSing over coffee.

Works for us, dude. You just need a few people who have to work at the camaraderie part and others will join in.

M.M.M. From the North Eastern Corner said...

I have been waiting for a nutmegger to comment Tom.
First of all I need to get on the Friendship 33 email list, I would have come up if I could have! Its funny how most of the replies from the brethren around the country don't do the lecture. The EA you mentioned was a special circumstance. We have the group of guys for the camaraderie we just always end so late that everyone high tails it out of there. Have you in your travels as DGL ever heard of anyone not doing the 1st section lecture on the night of the degree? What do you think of the idea of moving it to the next night?
If I didn't a response from one of the constitution staters I was going to post the question on our GL Forum, I still may.

The Millennial Freemason said...

What is the method used in Canada? In MN, we have two different ways that the lectures are delivered, as a Q and A or a monologue. I really think that the lectures should be given in the monologue. Many of these brothers have read the "For Dummies" book and get really confused if you don't explain the symbolism to them.

I think there are good and bad things about going through the degrees with others. It helps create collegiality among the brothers being moved through the degrees. However, there are times when a brother feels that it is not focused on his accomplishments.

M.M.M. From the North Eastern Corner said...

You better email Justa because he self admittedly doesn't pay attention to follow up comments but I'd be interested in his response.

Tom Accuosti said...

3M - See, I don't understand why it has to take so long. Do you need a half hour of business beforehand? Probably not; most business can wait for a non-degree night. Don't read the entire minutes from the previous meeting, just re-cap the highlights (or better yet, have a few printed copies available for review before the meeting) and move things along.

I should also point out that a well-rehearsed ceremony is going to flow along more smoothly. The candidates could be prepared beforehand and be almost ready to go when the meeting starts. A few minutes here and there adds up.

Anonymous said...

MF asked:
What is the method used in Canada?

There is no one method.

Each jurisdiction handles ritual differently. Some use ritual that came from the U.S. Some use ritual that came from England. Some use ritual that came from England and was modified in Ontario. Some use more than one of the above. And Newfoundland still has a Scottish Provincial Grand Lodge that uses rituals from Scotland.

I honestly don't want to get into a response outlining the format of the 3rd Degree in the non-American type rituals. It would take up too much space and frankly, it's not for a public forum. However, as I mentioned above, the basic story line in your "second section" is given in a monologue by the Master (generally, it's a PM), assisted by the Wardens at two appropriate junctures.

I have e-mailed you a copy of the 3rd Degree that is not really what we use in one of my Lodges; it's a newer version that has changes to the obligation we have not made. But it gives you an idea.

As I say, I don't know of any Lodge using the American type ritual that has a Q & A portion done at the end that goes through the entire degree. Most of them in B.C. I know of end with a charge after raising. Some Lodges have a lecture which quotes Rob Morris' "Level and the Square". A few have a chart or carpet with symbols, but I don't think any actually do it on the degree night. It's used as a special presentation every few years in only a couple of Lodges.

Justa Mason

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Tom queried:
3M - See, I don't understand why it has to take so long

Probably because you've got show-offs who add more and more unnecessary optional lectures. ;)

The Millennial Freemason said...

Thanks Justa.
I think it is really great to see how ritual is done in different jurisdictions. I really was most curious about the Q and A because it is a necessary for a certified lecturer to commit to memory these lectures. The major problem with the lectures that we have had is how to reconcile requiring them in constituent Lodges while not requiring them during one day classes. I am of the opinion that this is a matter of the how a brother is raised; one is raised traditionally and one is made at sight. Therefore, the two forum approach can be different as they are not of the same character.

I think a few of the Lodges here also do non-business meetings during degree nights. My Lodge is about flexibility for the candidates and sometimes does business the same night. It is all about planning for the business. We email copies of the minutes about a week before and tell brothers to make changes then.

I would agree with Chuckeye that the Lectures are given for the benefit of the brothers and I think that is why MN has the monologue version so that the brother delivering the lecture seems more natural like a teacher to students instead of a play by bit players.


M.M.M. From the North Eastern Corner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M.M.M. From the North Eastern Corner said...

I thanked Justa already by email but I'll do it here too. It was very interesting reading a different version of the ritual. It had all of the same basic material but was totally different!
ONE DAY CLASSES ****?*?*! It must be our proximity to Broadway but all of our ritual is a big production! We love our bit players.
And Tom,
We do the walk around Q&A well rehersed with much bravado. I just think it is so repetitive on the same night of the degree!

Anonymous said...

well, Mill, we have neither one-day classes nor certified lecturers here. It's up to the WM to decide who does what when it comes to ritual in the Lodge, not Grand Lodge. There's one possible exception .. in the 'Canadian' book (modified a bit from the Ontario ritual), the book says the JW does the 1st Tracing Board and the SW does the 2nd Board.

As we don't have one ritual, and a good percentage of Lodges follow their own forms, it would be impossible to certify anyone.

You can see why there's a bit of confusion in discussing the ceremonies on line. People in England understand what it is they do and there are sometimes no equivalent in the ceremonies in the U.S., and vice versa. And then not all American jurisdictions do things quite the same way.

Michael said...

This is all very interesting. We don't generally do degrees at stated meetings, but schedule them separately.

Charles Tirrell said...

Brother MMM,

I don't believe there should be any problem with rehearsing the Steward's lecture at another meeting. Many lodges do this with the 2nd and 3rd section lectures of some of the degrees, so I don't believe this should be a problem with the first. Before going forward with it, I would just check with your DD or District Grand Lodge Line Officer.

My lodge has started to adopt doing a meal between the two sections of the MM and I highly recommend it. It's a nice break for the officers and it heightens the surprise for the candidate. Its a lot more fun this way!

However, I have to say that the key to not having a ritual that is too long is rehearsals, rehearsals and more rehearsals. If all the officers know what they should be doing, when they should be doing it, the whole night will move faster. This is not just important for the actual ritual work, it is important for all the logistical aspects of the degree. The lodge should plan out who is preparing the candidates before hand, so you don't waste five minutes finding a brother to do the preparation. All of the lodge paraphernalia should be in it's exact place. Basically, ever little decision that an officer needs to make that evening will waste more time. So prepare everything beforehand. A well oiled machine runs fastest.


Brother Charles

Paul Chapin said...

I agree with Tom and Charles, meeting preparation and rehersals are the key to speed. We always have a rehersal the week before the degree and we use lists of who is doing what for each part. The Master also has a big influence on how promptly the degree moves along as well as the Senior Deacon.

I don't like having the candidates wait months in between degrees unless you can actively engage them which is tough. Also doing this would create too big of a back log of candidates in recent years. The degree of activity of new members is going to be based on their interest in the fraternity not how well they learn the lectures.