Preparing For The East
Preparing for the East is best accomplished by beginning early.
If you truly wish to create a memorable year during your reign as Worshipful Master, at a minimum, you should begin preparing yourself during your year as Junior Warden.
Grand lodges appoint instructors to teach Masonic ritual. Very few Masters, however, receive training in how to conduct lodge meetings, how to set up an Audit Committee nor how to schedule their year.
As a result, many Masters feel over burdened. With proper pre-planning, you can overcome these obstacles and make your year into one which subsequent Masters may look to for direction.
Very little is available to assure that the incoming Master has a grasp of the history, philosophy and the symbolism of the Craft. The fundamentals of' lodge management and ongoing lodge programs and events are rarely talked about in detail. Therefore, lodge operations and lodge administration are areas which few lodge officers are completely comfortable with when left to educate themselves. Many never do. Others begin too late.
Preparing For The East: Accumulating Knowledge
Masonic Reading: Prior to setting his designs on the trestleboard, the future Master would do well to spend at least two years becoming a knowledgeable Freemason as he begins preparing for the East. This is not to suggest that he must become a Masonic scholar, only that he become familiar with the writings of learned brethren such as the following.
Joseph Fort Newton, Thomas Sherrod Roy, H. L. Haywood, Albert Mackey, Robert Gould, Roscoe Pound, Dwight Smith, Alphonse Cerza, Harry Carr, Conrad Hahn, and Carl Claudy and others.
The Grand Lodge library is an excellent source for material, as is the Masonic Service Association. Your lodge library and even your public library may also be good resources. In addition, there are many outstanding Masonic publications in the United States.
Quatuor Coronati Research Lodge: Membership in the Correspondence Circle of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, London, England, the premier Masonic research lodge in the world, is also very enlightening and recommended. Membership is also inexpensive.
The Master who acquires a background in the history, philosophy, and symbolism of the Craft better understands the mission of Freemasonry and his own duties within the lodge.
Placing Your Designs Upon Your Trestleboard
Many newly elected Masters err by attempting to set the craft to work before they have placed their own designs upon their Trestleboard...believing that they will simply follow the previous Master's footsteps. However a "special" year is best produced by having a pre-thought-out and special plan as you begin preparing for the East.
Preparing For the East: Setting the Craft to Work
Setting the Craft to work is more than the ritual work of initiating, passing, and raising candidates. The Master should encourage each member to take part in the activity best suited to his character and abilities and to make sure there is an activity in which each member can participate.
Preparing For the East: Delegation
Preparing for the East requires delegation/request of duties. This lightens the load and creates teamwork which both strengthens the lodge and creates a noticeable improvement in its smooth operation and overall enjoyment by its members..
Brethren involved in tasks they like to do value their membership and return more frequently. Requesting members who possess the correct skill set to help with these tasks makes everyone's job, lighter, easier and more enjoyable.
This takes a bit of pre-planning on the part of the Senior Warden, as he looks to the East, several months before becoming the Master. The easiest way to accomplish this is to sit down and make a list of the different committees (or begin new ones) and then match each member's skill set with an appropriate committee.
Don't forget your new members. Ask them about their special interests and request that they serve on a committee which fits their interests.
Audit and Budget Committee: Ask the brethren who among them work as a Certified Public Accountant or bookkeeper or simply has a "head" for numbers. Perhaps they would enjoy working on the lodge's Audit Committee or Budget Committee.
Refreshment Committee: For those who like to cook, help is always needed on the Refreshment Committee. Ask your members which of them might like to cook for the other members.
Trestleboard Newsletter: For those with writing and computer skills, writing the Trestleboard can be an enjoyable task. Ask who among your members might enjoy composing a couple pages every month, quarterly or however often your trestleboard comes out.
Fund Raising: If possible, choose at least one member with experience in fund raising to help with the lodge Charity Fund or Masonic Home appeal.
Charitable Event Committee: This committee could include Adopt a Family, Masonic scholarship, Send-A-Child-To-Camp or any other of the numerous charitable programs.
Education Officer: Ask a knowledgeable member to begin mentoring new members and hold classes. There are also many pages on this website which the Education Officer can simply print, distribute and discuss, such as my Entered Apprentice quiz, Fellowcraft quiz, Master Mason quiz and Masonic symbol quiz. Feel free to print and use them as you begin preparing for the East. The answers are below the quizzes.
Masonic Mentors Club: Some members may not feel totally comfortable in the Education Officer role, but would still like to actively participate in helping new members learn. This is an excellent role for Past Masters who may contribute their knowledge to the candidate from initiation through their Master Mason degree.
As you begin preparing for the East, many Masters simply continue with ongoing lodge programs, however if you would like your year to be special, not only to you, but to your brethren, take an hour or so and place all the existing and newly conceived programs onto a calendar before you begin your year in the East.
Each lodge around the world has a composition and character which is all its own. Your determining factor in the selection of lodge programs will center on this composition. Programs should be developed which keep in mind the aim for common objectives even for men of dissimilar backgrounds.
The Master who creates Masonic programs which are of interest to the brethren creates an ongoing foundation of fellowship and establishes a bond of continued and open communication necessary to sustain interest and induce attendance.
Social, Cultural and Intellectual Stimuli: When the Master blends the social aspects of lodge programs onto his calendar with ongoing cultural and learning experiences such as Masonic education, Masonic book reviews or a talk about one of Freemasonry's many symbols each lodge night, members reap the rewards, several-fold.
This all begins with the Master as he sets his designs upon his trestleboard.
Does this sound forbiddingly difficult? It really isn't.
Possible Programs Throughout the Year:
Past Master's Night
Founder's Day Observance
Father and Son Banquet - Short Speech: "What I Receive By Being a Member of This Lodge"
Mother's Day Breakfast - with a special card given and signed by several or all of the lodge's members
Scholarship Award Dinner
Widow's Support Program
Preparing For The East: Masonic Education
It has been said many times over the last century that the prime reason for poor attendance in the average lodge is the ongoing lack of Masonic education.
Masonic Education: Masonic education is an educational meeting for enlightenment and fellowship. Lodge business is not discussed. Allow plenty of time for those present to ask questions and make comments. Meetings of this type usually last one hour and often the discussion continues in the dining room at refreshment.
Ask your Grand Lodge what Masonic education program media, such as films, videos and slide presentations that are available. You can also simply print one of the pages from this website about one of Freemasonry's many symbols to discuss with the brethren.
Worshipful Master's Duty: Masonic education shouldn't be dull or boring. There are many fascinating aspects and topics within Freemasonry's history which your members are hungry to learn. Your prime duty as Worshipful Master is to feed them.
Preparing For the East: Minimizing Your Anxiety
Control the Meeting: The Master who is ill-prepared looks ill-prepared. If a Past Master must whisper each and every move to the Master, the Master does not have control of the meeting. If the Master does not have a planned agenda each meeting, how can he carry it out?
A lodge senses devotion and understanding from the Master. The Master who has studied his work and outlined his plan for each meeting can relax, smile and enjoy the proceedings. Conversely, the opposite is also true.
Ask The Secretary To Summarize Correspondence: Meetings can quickly become unraveled when correspondence and Grand Lodge communications are read word for word.
Kindly speaking to the Secretary to request a short summarization creates a tighter, more positive meeting and one which is easier to control.
No one likes to stay late because the Secretary had an hour's worth of mail to read to the lodge. In the interests of a positive experience and increased peace and harmony, seriously consider asking your Secretary for short summarizations.
Some lodges guard against lengthy meetings by convening two stated meetings each month...the first is held to conduct lodge business and the second for a program. Of course, this depends upon the amount of degree work needing to be performed.
Degree work should also be placed onto the Master's calendar for all to be informed. One easy way to create and utilize the lodge calendar of events for members to be able to check at the last minute (without calling other members) is to create a public calendar as part of a Yahoo! (or other) e-mail address.
Set up a Yahoo! (or other) e-mail address as "ABC_Lodge_No_123@yahoo.com" The contents of the e-mail address is only viewable by those who need to use it to disperse group e-mails to members. The calendar, however, can be made public for all members who have internet capabilities.
This reduces wasted time on the part of certain members who receive excessive calls from other members attempting to ascertain the details of scheduled meetings, degrees, etc.
Lodges which have a website may also choose to create such a calendar on their site for quick and easy access. This is also helpful for family members who can check the calendar and integrate event dates and times into their own personal calendars. This helps to increase attendance at open meeting events, as well as keeps family members "in the loop" as to schedule planning.
Preparing For The East: From Planning to Execution of Duties
Well thought out preparation and planning result in good execution and control.
Good execution results in stimulated interest in lodge affairs.
Good attendance is the natural result of stimulated interest...all of which begin with Preparation and Planning.
Good Execution and control do not just "happen". They are pre-planned. You can choose to run your meeting or can choose to let the meeting run you.
Preparing for the East does not mean "iron fist" control. It means by planning each meeting intelligently, choosing topics diligently, being conscious and ever vigilant of time-wasting activities and communicating effectively with each committee that is in charge of segments of the necessary lodge duties, each member feels and exerts a responsibility for the overall well being of the lodge.
Organization: Once this organizational aspect is put into place, it reduces the pressure on the Master to be responsible for each and every facet of the lodge's functioning.
Masonic Education: Once ongoing Masonic education is put into place, the lodge becomes a dynamically empowered "beehive" of activity with each member knowing, understanding and seamlessly executing their functions within it.
What About Next Year? Continuity among line officers is required to sustain an increase in attendance. Nothing kills the momentum of a great year quicker than the failure to follow up with another up-tempo year and then another. This is where the inception of a Warden's Club can be very beneficial. More on it in a moment.
This regenerated enthusiasm from year to year becomes contagious. Word spreads about the positive experiences enjoyed in lodge. This results in increased attendance which feeds on itself. The Masonic light of Freemasonry burns ever brighter because the Master spent his time wisely preparing for the East.
Keep the Momentum Flowing: How can you, as Master, help your line officers begin preparing for the East and keep the momentum which you started, snowballing forward into the next year...and the next?
Here is a suggestion to help lodge officers begin preparing for the East.
Preparing for the East...The Warden's Club:
- To help and assist Junior and Senior Wardens in learning the ritual associated with the higher chairs.
- Develop and improve relationships between lodges by facilitating knowledge and communication between officers sharing the same duties.
- Provide the Senior Warden with the necessary knowledge (ritual & charge) for ruling efficiently on Day 1.
- Develop interest and participation within the district.
All Senior and Junior Wardens within a district and all Past Masters who would be willing to share their experiences.
A small group of Wardens with at least one Past Master or ritualist assembled around a table or close by each other, cipher book in hand. Each Warden assumes a role in a play of “Ping Pong Ritual".
By hearing and repeating ritual back and forth, (ping-pong) over and over, ritual can be learned more quickly by everyone who participates...and everyone benefits.