Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Delivering The Goods

I remember.

The expectations of what was to come were overwhelming. So overwhelming that I sneaked a peek at what was to come and I can never get that experience I cheated back, but what came next I kept pure. I kept it pure because my heart and the stars had led me here and I wanted to let it take me to where I was meant to go.
I was swept up in it immediately but I was different than most. When you expect a treasure ship from the shore and receive a fishing boat most would head back to the safety of their home but I hopped on board and started fishing and fishing is hard work.
You sail farther and farther away from your home dragging a line with the hope of coming home with that big catch that will keep you home forever but it never comes so you keep fishing...it'll come some day.

After your Entered Apprentice degree, if you were like me you probably had more questions than answers after such an amazing ordeal. What was that all about? What am I now? They call me Brother so what can I do? Am I their Brother?
The veil of Freemasonry is a heavy one to lift and often even after their initiation, after all of the ceremony and symbolism most Entered Apprentices leave the lodge not really knowing what to do next. For all of our ritual and its importance most of it is lost to the person who needs it most...the candidate. They are so caught up in the moment and overwhelmed that they barely absorb anything that they just went though. I remember that feeling and have made it a point to change that experience for the better.
When I was a junior officer and was doing the different lectures I made sure that the delivery was for the candidates or Brothers and that what I was giving them was from the heart. I tried to learn not just the words but the meanings and feelings of the ritual and convey this to the men who it was supposed to be for. Ours is a theater of the mind and the greatest lecturers keep them on the edge of their seats as far as 18th century prose can bring modern man there, even though they will forget most of what was said as soon as they turn the key to their cars and drive home late that night.
Now that I sit in the oriental chair, I am more of a Master of Ceremonies and administrator so I have brought something new to my old lodge. I still try to deliver a profound experience with the ritual but now I can add something new. I have developed a "Welcome Package" for those who stand in the North East Corner for the first time in their lives. I wanted to give the new Brother something he could take home and read and really feel a part of my lodge. Included in this package is the usual mnemonic EA booklet with the lecture, the more verbose EA booklet from our Grand Lodge, our lodges Trestleboard and a "Welcome Letter";

Welcome Brother,

Again, it is with great pleasure that I now address you by that sacred appellation. You have now undergone the same experience that some of the greatest men in history have and can call George Washington, Henry Ford, Simón Bolívar, Mozart, Voltaire and countless other Brothers. The light of Freemasonry is a beacon that has long attracted men of the utmost character and temperament. This letter is to help you with the great honor that was bestowed upon you and to help welcome you into the St. Johns Lodge № 6 family.

St. Johns Lodge № 6 Free and Accepted Masons was chartered in 1765 by the then Provincial Grand Lodge in New York. The first Worshipful Master was a local merchant and ship’s captain named Benjamin Isaacs and Lodge met in his home on what would later be named Isaacs Street. To put it in perspective George Washington was a young 33 years old when our Lodge was formed. Our lodge has continually met and made Masons ever since and has produced a few Grand Masters and leaders of all levels in the Grand Lodge of Connecticut that was formed 18 years after our forming.

As an Entered Apprentice you are now a Freemason and you are entitled to join us at our meetings. We meet on the first and third Thursday of every month except July and August when we go dim for summer (which is to say not meeting formally). We will open the lodge on the degree of the lowest Brother attending unless we are conferring a higher degree and even then you may come for the fellowship that occurs before we open Lodge. We sincerely hope you will join us at all of our meetings and events when possible. The more you put into Freemasonry the more you will get out of it. We are first and foremost a Brotherhood and it is always great to see your Brother!

You may not yet display any forms of Masonic identification (i.e. rings, pins, and emblems) for although a Brother you are not yet a full member of the Fraternity and will not be one until you attain the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. I encourage you to enrich your mind with the countless books, articles, and websites that will enlighten you to the Craft, but be wary of reading anything that exposes your next two Degrees, only because it will lessen the experience that our rituals invoke. Our initiatic system was developed in time immemorial to reverberate in the soul of the true initiate and a knowledge of what is to come although trivial will dampen your experience.

You will need to learn the Question and Answer lecture that was recited for you in order to pass onto the next Degree of Fellowcraft. The booklets you were given will help you some but what will help you even more will be the guidance of one of your Brothers who will gladly assist you in learning. This not only helps you learn but will grow the bond of Brotherhood that is the binding part of Freemasonry. The lecture book is written in mnemonics, a sort of code that is meant to help you in memorizing the lecture. While perfect recitation of the lecture is desirable and encouraged it is most important that you know the Due Guard, Sign, Grip (handshake), and Word of an Entered Apprentice which are the true secrets of your rank. Included in this packet is our Trestleboard which is our monthly newsletter, which has a list of the Officers of the Lodge and their contact information. Feel free to contact anyone of us including myself to help you become a proficient Entered Apprentice and a shining example of our lodge and great Order.

Sincerely and Fraternally,

Matthew M. Morris, Worshipful Master St. Johns Lodge № 6 F.&A.M.

I wanted to give the new EA some insight into the lodge and answer what questions he may have lingering and make him feel at home. All of these items are presented to the Entered Apprentice at the end of the degree in a nice pocket folder.
I have shared this letter with some Worshipful Masters in my Grand Lodge and feel it may help others. All you have to do is replace all of the stuff about my lodge and replace it with stuff about yours and hopefully you will see him at your next meeting more eager than before.
What do you think?

5 comments:

Brother Jason said...

I love this idea, I have been working on the same idea for Canyon Lodge and am slowly getting the "welcome packet" down to valuables that I think are essential for a new brother. One thing that I have also chosen to enclose is a formal letter to the wife and family of the new mason, making them a part of this new path that hopefully will include the family.
I have also formed a "packet" for each degree. The Grand Lodge of Utah has small education plans for each degree that answers a few questions and explains customs that are generally overlooked. In these I include a new letter for the brother and his family, and also in the third I have thought of including a petition, history would suggest that the new brother is far more likely to find the next new brother than those who have been in lodge for a while.
It's the little things like this that make a new brother feel a little more comfortable in a completely new and unknown world.

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

Thanks Jason,
I totally forgot about the wife and family and they are almost as important as the new Brother himself. Without their support and understanding our Fraternity can create some enmity with the family that will now miss their loved one a couple nights a month. I am doing another EA tonight and grabbed one off the oldest Freemason Page on the internet http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/Masons/
and tweaked it for my lodge. I would love to see what you came up with.

Brother Jason said...

Hey,

I sent the letter to your email due to the fact I wanted to save space here. Feel free to post!

Thanks,
S&F
Jason

Mike said...

My EA degree was Feb. 18 and I felt many of the things you described in the post: wonder, curiosity, and quite a bit of confusion. My Lodge brothers were great and helped me understand about as much as I probably could have understood at the time. Also, our Grand Master mailed a "welcome packet" to me and it included a pamphlet for my wife. I described this a little on my blog: http://iowafreemasonry.blogspot.com/2010/03/welcome-letter-for-new-iowa-masons.html.

Thanks for writing your blog. I plan to read it regularly.
Mike

Mark Tensmeyer said...

It's so easy for more seasoned Masons to forget what's it like to be new. Freemasonry is so inexplicably foreign to anything experienced in mainstream culture. I don't know if there is any way to avoid that initial confusion, perhaps we shouldn't even want to, but it sure helps to at least know that someone understands.

In Idaho the Marshal tells you before your initiation that what you experience may seem strange but it's just what all brothers have done who have gone before. The WM said, after it was over, that we may feel strange having just taken on a obligation to regard men we just met as brothers, but to remember that the brothers in the Lodge owe the same obligation to us as we do to them. They also are taking just a much a risk on us as we are on them.

Thanks so much for this post. I've shared it via Facebook to new EA's who have liked it.

Fraternally,

Mark Tensmeyer
Eagle Rock #19 ID
newfreemasons.com