Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How do you tell a Past Master he's wrong?

I hate that I even have to write this post but I again am calling out to my cyber-brethren for some advice and experience.

I hope this is not anything like my last post where I asked the Masonic blogosphere for some insight and personal experience and heard nothing back, see Discourse, or lack of, on The Chamber of Reflection. I guess the electronic brethren were too busy fighting each other over at The Burning Taper. But I digress.

Anyway, last night I answered the call of the other lodge in my city who were short on brothers to help out with a memorial service for a brother of theirs that passed on to the celestial lodge. I had never performed that most important duty and was glad to help the lodge that first met with me in Masonry. When I found out about the need, I immediately went to my Grand Lodges Web site because Connecticut has spent a lot of time developing their site and has a lot of stuff available electronically. Under the policy and procedures tab I quickly found Masonic Funerals and dove in head first.

Over the summer the combined lodges of my city performed a re dedication and memorial service at the grave site of our first Worshipful Master that I took part in. It was a beautiful ceremony enjoyed by all who attended. It was then that I realized the importance of the Masonic funeral service. Although we did not do the entire funeral service at the re dedication we did do some of the more symbolic parts of the service. It is very powerful ritual. For those interested who do not know visit: Masonic Funerals its a PDF available to all. When performed with dignity and quality, it is one of the best examples our fraternity can give to the public of the deeper meaning of our craft. More importantly it is the last thing we give a Brother that gave to us his devotion. Many of the people gathered for the re dedication told me after how moving a ceremony it was and how it shed such a good light about us.

Back to my quandary. After reacquainting myself with the procedure for a proper funeral service I met up with the brethren at the funeral home and while putting on the regalia we started to go over what was to go on during the service. Being freshly reacquainted with the material I tried to point out some of the disparities that we were about to perform to the family and friends of our deceased brother. I was told by a Past Master of their lodge that that was how they do things and dutifully proceeded to perform the service even though I knew we were doing things wrong. I will not go into details, but it was not just a trivial ritualistic misunderstanding that could be explained by "this is how we do it". Not that anyone observing the ceremony would know the difference, but I did, and along with some other things that I did not like about "how they do things", I left very frustrated with myself for not standing up for what I knew to be right because I did not want to offend a Past Master. I always remember the words of one of my brothers who told me that I was just as much a Master Mason as any other brother no matter how long they have served or how much gold and purple they wear. I did not heed those words. I would like to do so in the future without stepping on toes.

How can I?


Tom Accuosti said...


Not sure how to respond to this, bro, 'cos there's "wrong" and then there's "wrong".

There is the GL sanctioned memorial service, found on the website. Some lodges, though, have their own service that they've been doing for generations because until recently, there wasn't a sanctioned service.

Friendship has one that is similar, but not exactly the same as the GL. It happens to be the one that I'm versed in, and while I can't recite it from memory, I can scan a paragraph and speak it to the public. Is it wrong? Well, it's certainly different - but it's solemn and moving, which is kind of the point of a memorial service.

A side issue - not necessarily the smallest issue - is that some lodges have a history of doing things a certain way that aren't what you're used to seeing and it's tempting to snark them for doing something wrong. Even I find myself biting my tongue when discussing why a lodge should or shouldnt' be doing some particular thing, and determining if it's just a difference in usage and custom, or if it's something really stoopid.

Not that we Masons would ever do something stoopid.

M.M.M. from the North Eastern Corner said...

As always a glimmering light from the East bro. Tom, maybe I'll email you the particulars and see what you think, I dont want to publish them.

The Plumbline said...

I thought it was our duty to correct our brothers in their legal, masonic undertakings. Just becuase "that's the way we've done it" doesn't make it right. Gently use the facts and the "truth shall set you free."

Silence Dogood said...

I can definitely identify with this. Depending on the infraction, print off the material and show him how the material differs. Perhaps his intent is actually good, but if he is really a long ways off you may want another experienced member present to help give the PM in question good council.

Tom Accuosti said...

print off the material and show him how the material differs.

Ah, you are either unfamiliar with Connecticut or with Past Masters ;-)

Seriously, for years, Conn either did not have standardized rituals or was lax about overseeing them. While some states have rituals beyond the degree conferral, in Conn we've only had recommendations.

On one hand it's allowed some lodges to develop some very nice pieces.

On the other, it's allowed some lodges to do things that aren't quite... quite...
um, what they should be doing.

Widow's Son said...

I've struggled with this kind of issue for years, and have finally (mostly) learned this:

Decide how important it is in the long run. If it's trivial, let it go. You risk hurting someone's feelings and making enemies anytime you correct someone.

But... if it matters a lot, be polite but hold your ground, damn the consequences.

Just make sure you're right.

And that you're not wanting to be right, just to be right.

Again, if it's fairly inconsequential, let it go. But if it's important, hammer it home.

It makes no difference if the guy who is wrong is a PM; titles and honorifics mean nothing. In fact, if it's a man of power who is wrong, and the issue is important, he should all the more be challenged and corrected, because he holds power to sway others to the wrong idea, too.

Widow's Son

Wayfaring Man said...

We are told, in nearly every jurisdicition in the US, that we should ... "[t]o your inferiors in rank or office you are to recommend obedience and submission; to your equals, courtesy and affability; to your superiors, kindness and condescension. Universal benevolence you are zealously to inculcate; and by the regularity of your own conduct, endeavor to remove every aspersion against this venerable institution."
We are also taught that "we should whisper good counsel in his ear, gently admonishing him of his errors... "

I agree with Tom - there is wrong and then there is WRONG. I think if you approach it gently you can get your point across.

Royce Myers said...

Rather than correcting the PM, you could choose to learn why the rite on your GL website is different than the one performed by your lodge. If you asked with genuine and non-judgmental interest -- as a seeker of light -- I don't know how the PM could refuse to discuss it with you.

(And as a side note: I have given a LOT of thought to your Chamber of Reflection article. Like, where did that come from? Where is the esoteric stuff? I saw all three degrees and two different installation ceremonies over the course of a month and none of mentioned a chamber of reflection. If I've received all my official masonic light, what the hell. But that's a post for another day).