Is It Time Yet for Stewardship?by James T. Feezell, PM
Deputy Grand Master
I've often thought we Freemasons have given short shrift to our Stewards. Historically, a Steward was an officer of authority and great responsibility, think the British Lord High Steward, or Tolkien's Stewards of Gondor. Somewhere along the way, Stewards took a low path from right hand of the monarch to sommeliers and inflight wait staff. The lodge Steward, nowadays, often appears relegated to the role of mere Masonic gopher, shuttling candidates within the lodge, and food and refreshment without. In those lodges with real, installed Stewards, and not just Stewards du jour
for a particular conferral, or an empty chair with the collar and jewel draped over the back, the office is more often simply a first dues-paying step on that path to pillar officer, Wardens and Master, where the "real" glamour and power are found, where "the magic happens".
I think it's an unfortunate evolution of the office and its importance; Stewardship may be our greatest responsibility to the Craft and responsible Stewardship our greatest contribution.
It appears to me now may be the time to focus on Stewardship, in the sense of responsible planning and management of our Craft, particularly Freemasonry in the District of Columbia. Collectively, we've enjoyed a helluva decade. Since 2003, we've basked in the media spotlight of Messrs. Brown's and Hanks's explorations of our myriad plots and conspiracies (mostly imagined), as well as Nick Cage's of our vast, hidden holdings of precious gems and metals (sadly, also imagined). In 2011, we celebrated our 200th anniversary, with the attendant fanfare, celebrations, and congratulatory commemorative medallions and breast jewels. In 2012, we raised our Bic lighters and called the band back for an encore to celebrate the first year of our third century. In the past decade, we've commissioned art exhibits, hosted international conferences, founded Grand Lodges across the globe, chartered our annual constituent lodge and minted our annual Honorary Past Senior Grand Warden or Grand Emeritus, twinned ourselves nigh unto exhaustion, and even planted our Grand Lodge banner on distant soils. All pretty impressive for four thousand and some members of our modest planned city of 68 square miles.
Still, we are Free Masons, emulating the operative designers, planners, and builders who founded the Craft, not the bed sheet-clad, perennial revelers of the Faber chapter of Delta Tau Chi. It appears to me it may be time to nudge our brother in the South to set down his column already, roll up our sleeves, and set our collective attention to the business of laying a solid and sustainable foundation for the coming century. A survey of our lodges, constituent, as well as Grand, and their accounts, suggests to me we may be well served by some candid assessment of the State of the Jurisdiction.
The organization that supports and embodies our ancient and gentle Craft may want for some repointing. For cautionary examples of extended hiatus of Stewardship in our Craft, we need not look so far as the "recent unpleasantness" across the Atlantic. Some of the "aggressive" measures our sister jurisdictions have implemented at the corner of Waning Membership and Waxing Overhead ought suffice.
It appears to me the Grand Lodge, the Masters, Wardens, Past Masters, and Past Grand Masters of the jurisdiction, would do well to begin a frank discussion about where we are today, including ritually, operationally, and financially, and how that compares not only to the vision of the Founders of our Grand Lodge, but also our potential as a model of excellence, both in our community and in the Masonic fraternity. Are we, collectively, building and improving, or coasting and depleting? How to close the gaps between our current state and our aspirational? What actions would the responsible Steward undertake?
Reveling in the vineyards makes for a pleasant respite, but it is the quarries and the temple where the great works are built and the great builders are cultivated. Let's undertake the assessment and labor that need be done to place our lodges and our jurisdiction on a firm footing for our tercentennial. If you have ideas, suggestions, or comments, please contact me at email@example.com
. The Grand Master's and my door, phone, and inbox are always open to ideas for the good of Masonry, as well as offers to help labor in their implementation.
2011 Report to the Grand Lodge
William R. Singleton-Hope Lebanon Lodge #7
Ryan C. Work, Worshipful Master
This Masonic Year has been a year of celebration, continued growth and education within William R. Singleton-Hope-Lebanon Lodge #7 (WRS7). While October was the culmination of our bicentennial year, it was also a year that looked at new ideas and growth opportunities, and one which strived to go back to the roots and tenets of our Craft. Looking back on our 200 years is important, though it also serves as a valuable opportunity to look towards our future. Throughout this journey, we have learned that by looking back at our own history, both as a Lodge and as a Craft, we are in a better position to strengthen the Craft us as we grow into the future.
Ritual and Education: Improving the Craft
WRS7 continues to have a strong ritual, apparent in the many Past Masters who have lead our practice and education, and even more so by the younger members of our Lodge who have taken up the learning and practice of Freemasonry as their central role.
Our ritual is as strong as our practice and the degrees we undertake to raise new Brethren to light. While in past years we have done several rounds of degrees based on candidates, this year was a change in that the Lodge undertook only one set of degrees. The reasoning behind this was to leave more time for the candidates and brothers going through the degrees to understand the importance of what they are going through, to better educate them, and most importantly, to prepare them not just for the degrees, but their Masonic life. While we raised four brothers in the very beginning of the year, we also launched our 2011 degree class with the Entered Apprentice Degree in March, the Fellow Craft Degree in June and the Raising of our six new Brethren as Master Masons in October. Between degrees, the brethren were asked to attend Masonic Education classes each week at Lodge, which guided them through the previous degree, understanding its teachings and to further memorize the catechism. Prior to the next degree, all brethren were required to recite the catechism and key parts of the degree before open Lodge in order to acquire proficiency before moving forward. Due to the efforts of numerous brethren and our new brethren going through the degrees, the Lodge saw more proficient and readied candidates than in any recent time. There is little doubt this practice will remain going forward, and continue to strengthen as Singleton continues its pride in ritual and degree work.
In addition to the work of our Education Committee, the Lodge also took the opportunity to utilize our time together during Stated Communications to enhance our understanding of Masonry and other general items of interest to the Brethren. For Past Masters night, our new Entered Apprentice Masons sat down with Past Masters to conduct interviews, which they then presented during the Stated Communication.
We also focused on improving and building up Masonic education throughout the year. Early in the year, WB Marcus Trelaine presented to the Lodge on the meaning of the Entered Apprentice Degree preceding our first degree ritual. WMB Akram Elias also conducted a lecture to the brothers on the meaning and history of Masonry in general.
In terms of more general educational activities, we honored our Lodge veterans at our June Stated as part of our Veteran’s Day recognition. During this communication, WB William Harvey presented a lecture on his visit to Normandy, following in his Uncle’s footsteps and bringing the story of D-Day and our World War II Brother’s to light. Later in the year, Br. Mike Reid and Br. Jerry Baskin conducted a presentation on emergency preparedness in honor or Emergency Preparedness Month, offering brothers reminders and ideas on how to better prepare themselves and their families for emergencies and natural disasters.
Charity and Our Community
WRS # 7 also prides itself in its support of one of the main pillars of Masonry, that of charity. Our Lodge was able to provide nearly $30,000 in contributions during the Masonic Year to a number of charities, ranging from Masonic organizations such as St. John’s Mite and the Shiners’ Hospitals for Children, to the Four Diamond Funds for pediatric cancer research and the National Heart Walk in honor of our late brother, Right Worshipful Brother David Balcom. We take pride in the opportunity we have to give back to our community and in helping others.
Outside of monetary support, brothers also serve in a number of volunteer activities within our community. This begins with programs like Hands on DC, an activity organized by Br. Dustin Rawlins, in which brothers, their families and friends go to a local DC public school and make it better for those children who attend. A number of brothers also participated in the Heart Walk to lend their support to heart health. One of the new traditions we started at Singleton was to visit and reach out to our widows. While there is much more we can be doing, this year served as a stepping stone. In doing this, we began periodic visits and calls to our widows, spending time with them at Christmas and giving them gift baskets of needed items. In addition, we continue to undertake an effort to better communicate with them and ensure we have their updated information.
Bicentennial Celebration: 200 Years of Lebanon Lodge
We are proud that with Lebanon’s chartering in 1811, Masonry has held steady within Lebanon Lodge for the past 200 years. We are hopeful that our brethren 200 years from now will look back and see the cornerstone we have maintained, built upon, and which we continue to strengthen. Our 201st year is close at hand and, with it, the beginning of an even stronger future.
History & Preservation
During our bicentennial year, the Lodge began a review of our history, including the recording a registry of items throughout the Lodge Hall. During this time, the Lodge approved and went about preserving and restoring a number of aprons of Past Masters, including that of William R. Singleton, as well as the restoration of the original charter. We also digitized a number of photographs and items as part of the slide presentation which was completed for the bicentennial banquet. This preservation and recording of our history will continue through the establishment of a history and archival committee by our Senior Warden.
For our bicentennial, the Lodge decided to celebrate through a series of events for family and friends, centering on history and social activities, and culminating in a bicentennial banquet around our original charter date in October. With planning and dedication, we were able to hold a successful Bicentennial Banquet on Saturday, October 15th at the Organization of American States, attended by nearly 100 brothers, family and friends. This banquet served as an opportunity to remember the past through a slideshow and presentation of photographs and Lodge memorabilia, as well as celebrating our future with the raising that morning of six new Master Masons. The Grand Master was also in attendance and congratulated the Lodge on 200 years and wished us many more successful years to come.
American University Cornerstone Laying
As part of our bicentennial celebration, the Lodge was also honored to contribute and be a host Lodge of the Grand Lodge cornerstone laying ceremony at American University on March 1, 2011. This event was the first time in decades in which a new cornerstone has been laid in our Grand jurisdiction and we appreciate Bro. Rawlins’ hard work in making this event a reality.
Among other things, our Lodge continues to grow in social outreach and activities, bringing our families, wives and increasing number of children into Lodge events. This year, we strove to plan some new activities, as well as traditional activities and some surrounding the history of our Craft. The year began with a Lodge trip to Philadelphia where brothers, friends and families received a tour of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, visited Reading Market and the National Constitution Center. In May, the Lodge brethren held a festive board at the Scottish Rite Center, which was the reintroduction of a Singleton tradition that has been at lapse for some years. In June, the Lodge took a trip to see the Washington Nationals play, with Masonic day at the ballpark. We also continued a Singleton tradition, holding our annual Lodge crab feast in July. New this year, the Social Committee also planned a monthly brotherhood social at various locations around the city, which helped serve both as a time to get together outside of Lodge, as well as recruit and meet new men interested in Freemasonry.
Leadership Transition Planning & Lodge Organization
There was an emphasis placed this year on including all Lodge officers in bi-monthly meetings to look at upcoming events, budget expenditures, charity and other general items. This approach not only helps to bring new ideas into the Lodge, but also promotes participation by a broader number of brethren and helps with leadership succession. The more brethren who are aware of Lodge and Grand Lodge processes, issues and activities, the better our future officers will become.
As part of this effort, we also began an ongoing effort to strengthen our committee structure. The various committees established within the lodge should serve a variety of purposes, including maximizing lodge effectiveness and including members in helping steer the future of the lodge. To this end, the Lodge produced a committee guide that outlines committee missions, areas of jurisdiction and helps educate new brethren as to how they can participate in the Lodge.
Growing and Strengthening the Craft
Sometimes, in looking back, you are helping to look forward. There is a need in Masonry for tradition, values and a deeper knowledge about the Craft. New Masons, increasingly younger within our Lodge, have expressed increasing interest in looking at the past as a way to grow in the future. Singleton Lodge #7 has taken up that focus, strengthening ritual, guarding the west gate, and strengthening our ties to our family, friends and community. We continue to bring in new brethren, worthy men, into our Lodge and have created a strong officers line and education program that will only help strengthen us in the future.