Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Peculiar Art

It is called a "peculiar art" in the Ceremony of Installation. That art of laying aside the insignia and authority of Master of the Lodge and handing the responsibility over to another.

I attended the Installation of Officers of Operative Lodge in Polk City today. It was a well attended meeting and the group that was there was there for two purposes. One was to say farewell to the outgoing Master and of course, to welcome and show support for the new corps of officers. That is the outgoing Master in the picture above and below you will see some pictures from the Installation.

The new Master is greeted by the craft with Grand Honors to signify that he is a member of Grand Lodge and has a vote therein.
The Junior Deacon's kids Benjamin and Abigail would tell you their favorite part of the day was the cake. (It was pretty high on my list also.)

But I want to spend a few minutes talking about the "peculiar art." Every year about this time all over the country Lodges change officers. The Master of the Lodge and his officers are not in those offices for life. It is described in the Book of Ceremonies as a part of the "democratic nature of our society." We are democratic to a point. I understand in England and in other places the Master may serve for more than one year. Certainly in England the Grand Master serves for longer than one year. But for us in most of the United States one year is enough.

The Master of a Lodge has unusual powers and authority. He is often told by others that he is the "Master" he can do what he wants. And he can within reason. We defer to our Masters and their judgment although we do expect them to rule with "moderation and decorum." He has a wonderful opportunity to lead his Lodge and help it to prosper and grow. He must promise to do this within certain parameters. There are certain questions which he must answer. Among them"

  • You agree to be a good man and true, and strictly to obey the moral law.
  • You agree to be a peaceable subject, and cheerfully to conform to the laws of the country in which you reside.
  • You promise not to be concerned in plots and conspiracies against government, but patiently to submit to the decisions of the supreme legislature.
  • You agree to pay a proper respect to the civil magistrate, to work diligently, live creditably, and act honorably by all men.

By agreeing to these questions and others he sets the limits of his authority and promises to do his best as Master of the Lodge. The year he spends as Master can be the most rewarding year as a Mason which he will ever spend. If he fulfills the responsibility and leads his lodge he can be proud of his accomplishment. He will receive the reward of knowing that he did his best and he will proudly carry the title of "Past Master" for the rest of his life. If he slides through his year and does not do his best he will know it and when it comes time to practice the "peculiar art" he may perhaps feel sorrow for a missed opportunity.

Giving up that power and authority is hard on some men and they don't like to do it. It is hard on them. Sometimes they become obnoxious about losing that authority and still try to "run the Lodge" Most Past Masters go to the sidelines and become supportive of the new Master and help him to accomplish the plans he has set out on his trestle-board. Certainly that is the Masonic thing to do.

I have spoken to many Masters and while most of them are proud to have served in that office and are ready to turn the reins over. There are others who wish for another chance. In some Lodges a person can serve as Master more than once. It does not work that way in my Lodge. sometimes a Mason will join another Lodge and work through the "chairs" in that Lodge. Sometimes he goes on to other Masonic Bodies to work in those fields. There are pleanty of opportunities to lead in Masonry for those who truly want to do so.

When I was Master of Arcadia Lodge I worked with my officers so that we all, together worked to plan and accomplish our goals. I can look back and feel pride in some of the things we accomplished and some of those things strengthened my Lodge and are still in place today. When I was finished as Master I turned the Lodge over to others and allowed them to lead. I am proud of doing that also. Now I serve the Lodge as Secretary but that is only a temporary job. I will relinquish that job in September or October of 2009 and help my successor to learn the job.

I can remember watching from the back of the room when they put the jewel of office on my successor as Master and as I recall, it was almost a physical sensation. The weight of responsibility literally was lifted from my shoulders and placed on his. I do not remember feeling that way a year and a half later when I went out of the office of Grand High Priest. It is an awesome responsibility to be a Master of the Lodge.

Brother Wade at Hiramsminute has a posting about this also. I particularly like his last two paragraphs and I echo his sentiments

Live up to the responsibilities that the brethren of your lodge have placed in your hands. Lead with humbleness and serve with pride. Make it a great year for yourself and your lodge
Several years ago we had a Master here in Ames who wanted me to form a Past Master's Club for the Lodge. I studied things and wrote a ritual for a ceremony. We had the retiring Master escorted to the level of the Lodge (down three steps) to be seated once again on the level. I used the scripture that says "God is no respecter of persons." to build the ritual. I asked the Brother to join us in our support of the new Master. The Past Master's Club never took off but the idea is still valid. All things are now ready to enter upon a new year and we will work for a year under our new Masters until once again this time of year would roll around and we masons would practice our "peculiar art."

Congratulations to the new Masters and a job well done to those who are retiring I hope your year was all you wanted it to be and for the new Masters... just ask someone if you need help. The membership is there to help. The way your Lodge prospers is, in a great measure, up to you and your officers. My best to you all. Hugs, j

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