There has been some concern regarding the continuation of Degree work once this crisis has passed. Some Masters are worried that they may not have enough meetings remaining, in order to complete the planned Degree cycle during their term in office. This problem is compounded by the fact that nobody knows when this crisis will subside, and Lodges are able to resume labor.
I would like to offer a possible solution. Once we can safely return to labor, I will assemble degree teams and schedule an Entered Apprentice and a Fellowcraft Degree. Hopefully this will provide Masters with options regarding their remaining agendas and will give them some flexibility with their Candidates. Our Grand Master has expressed his support and has offered the assistance of his office if necessary. In addition to this, I would like to offer a few recommendations and ideas.
To the Worshipful Masters: Challenge the Brethren of your Lodge to learn a new part of the Ritual. Task three of your new brothers to each learn one of the Charges. Have your Officers learn the ritual and Degree work for the next chair they plan to occupy. Set up virtual rehearsals with the brethren of your Lodge, (assuming all are qualified on the Degree being rehearsed). Assemble a team of your Past Masters and have them learn the Past Masters’ Degree.
Many Masters and Secretaries are asking what is allowed regarding virtual ritual practices. Let me clarify this for you. Brethren are allowed to rehearse ritual and degree work and hold catechism rehearsals for their qualified brethren. I would like to be afforded an invitation to these. I have included a "best practices" for using Zoom at the end of this article. Please contact me if you have any questions or need clarification.
To the Senior Wardens: Complete the Code and Leadership tests. These tests will require you to devote a fair amount of time and energy to them; often more than you think. They are available on the Grand Lodge website under the member resources section. The reference material is also available in the same section. Additionally, start practicing for the Ritual Proficiency oral exam, (Section 83). Contact me if you need help or have any questions. I am looking into setting up a virtual interactive training course for these. Only Senior Wardens or Junior Wardens who intend to be Masters of their Lodges next year, will be invited to attend. Please let me know if this interests you.
To the Lodge Officers: Take the time to perfect the opening and closing ritual and the Degree work of the chair you currently occupy. If you need assistance, contact me.
I hope these suggestions help. I look forward to the day when we are able to resume our labors. Thank you for all that you do for the Craft, for your Lodges for your Brethren and for your communities.
Christopher K. Mahaney
Recommended best practices for virtual Masonic instruction
Based on a request from the Grand Secretary, Most Worshipful Bro. Jeffrey D. Russell, please see a brief summation of some of the issues around ZOOM and some best practices.
Zoom is an American video-conferencing software company, that previous to the COVID-19 pandemic, saw about 10M daily users (December), that number has ballooned to 200M daily users (free and paid) in March.
Typically used for conferences, press announcements, etc. has become an incredibly popular way for people to stay connected with family, friends, and business partners. With that exploding popularity, we've seen the following issues in the last couple of weeks:
- Third-Party Agreement. Zoom, in its user agreement, writes out they will send data to Google. It has now come to light that users' data is also being sent to Facebook and can include the following regardless of if you do or do NOT have a Facebook account.
- Time on the platform
- Device used to access the platform
- Analytics of the call (number of users, etc.)
- The growth in popularity has seen an uptick in the amount of users "trolling" open calls. That means, people will search for random zoom conferences (with open links that have been put on social media) and share their screens with obscenities, pornography, or just generally annoying behavior.
- In an effort to grow its business platform and assist co-workers with finding each other on the platform, Zoom makes all usernames for a particular domain name searchable and easy to find. An example, if everyone at the Grand Lodge had a Zoom account with their @dcgrandlodge.org email, you would be able to search usernames and find them automatically.
Takeaways and best practices:
- If you are to use a zoom meeting, do not put the link on any PUBLIC platform; share it only with members via a trusted source: email, text message, etc. Even then, establish a password that ONLY members would get.
- Decide the time it becomes necessary to "lock" the zoom meeting. This can be done in the "participants" box in the room. At this point, no users, even with the meeting ID and password can join.
- Due to the ability to screen record, I would NOT recommend showcasing any of the signs or salutes of a Lodge.
- Virtual Lodge meetings are not allowed.
- REMEMBER that candidates can go over their catechism with a brother over the phone. It is not necessary to FaceTime or use a third-party app like Google Hangout, Facebook Messenger, HouseParty, Zoom, etc.