A Message from the Grand Master,
It is difficult to convey in words my feelings of gratitude for the confidence the voting delegates have bestowed on me. Sincerely, thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Congratulations to M∴ W∴ Brother Martin Reinschmidt for a wonderful year and especially for a truly peaceful and harmonious session. It was a blessing to serve you. May you and Janet enjoy a well-deserved break from the regular duties and tasks of the Grand Lodge. Becky and I look forward to being with you both in our upcoming travels.
It has been a forty (40) month journey from first being elected Grand Junior Warden to now serving as the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana. It has been filled with bonds of friendship and fellowship, visits with Grand Jurisdictions outside of Louisiana, travels to Lodges within our state, food, fun, and family. It has however included trials and tribulations, observing brothers choosing sides against each other, and watching the decline of our lodges. We were provided the tools to prevent individual conflicts and personal attacks. Remember the Entered Apprentice’s reasons for joining our Fraternity? To learn, to subdue, and improve ourselves are our purpose. Note that this is an individual responsibility, but one where you will find support from the entire Fraternity, through help, aid, support, and good counsel.
Masonry has changed several times during its history. Lodges were chartered to raise Master Masons and, 40 to 50 years ago, the Lodges took to that task with earnest and zeal. In fact, our lodges were holding special communications, conferring degrees on multiple candidates and increasing their membership rolls at levels never again to be repeated. Masonry changed when the only business the lodge was able to conduct was degree work. Masonic instruction was focused on the progression of the candidates. Masonic education and enlightenment, once one of the foundation stones of the lodge, was lost for the need to confer the degrees on numerous candidates. Masonry changed again, where degree work has declined and our meetings are mere “3M” – minutes, money and in memory. Our senior members remember “when”, but these are the men who were the candidates 40-50 years ago. These brothers remember the degree work, the attendance numbers, their mentors and how active their lodges were. Many of them weren’t exposed to Masonic education during lodge meetings, so they have no experience to help institute educational programs, nor do they see the need for such as they feel the journey in Masonry is an individual one. These beloved brethren wish to have more candidates and participate in more degrees. They don’t readily accept the change to our Fraternity. We need to institute Masonic education, where none has existed; and support current Masonic education in our Lodges. Our members deserve and are demanding something of substance at their lodge meetings. We should leave the lodge knowing something about the Fraternity that we didn’t know before entering. The Lodge should also be a place where the members look forward to meeting with one another and sharing time together. They should receive something of value. We, the Grand and Constituent Lodges, should provide for such.
The Short-Talk Bulletin from the Masonic Service Association is a monthly publication and an excellent means for a Lodge to for their Masonic educational program. I want to scan and then post these bulletins to Lodge secretary portals for their access. Many members, when asked, “What is Masonry?” are unable to respond. When I am asked the question, I provide what is known as “elevator pitch” and sometimes reply, “There are three things Masons will always do and three things Masons will never do. We will never cheat, wrong or steal and we will always assist, aid and support. Do you want to know more?” The standard, “We make good men better” doesn’t really answer the question. Build your own personal reply.
You will see and hear of renewed Membership Development programs to increase our presence online, in print and with promoting our charities. We will take advantage of the generous offers from our Sister Jurisdictions to use their successful membership programs, as our own. The York Rite, Scottish Rite, Shrine, and all appendant bodies depend on us for their new members. We need to partner with the local Valleys, Chapters, Councils, Commanderies and Temples and include these bodies in our Bring A Friend programs.
Many of our aging members are unable to attend their regular evening meetings due to numerous circumstances. Perhaps holding a special communication during daylight hours on a weekend would allow those members to attend. Special communications usually find our wives and family present and actively participating. Their support is critical to a Lodge’s health. Seeing activities at our lodges may spark interest in the Fraternity by those who normally see the lodge dark and the parking lot empty.
In locations where we have no presence, our members are lacking the basic understanding of our Dyslexia Training Program. There are 28 classes in 12 communities, representing 9 Masonic Districts. The average cost per student is almost $2000.00. Information is available on the Grand Lodge website (la-mason.com/dyslexia-program-information/). We have several applications, representing many areas where we do not currently have an established class. Lodges are needed in these areas to sponsor a classroom. The program cost is borne by the Louisiana Masonic Education Foundation; however, the respective lodge is responsible for providing a classroom, onetime expenses for flat screen TV, DVD player, and minor expenses including dry erase board and related supplies. This can certainly be a District effort and not having the entire cost borne by a lodge. We need our brethren to take an active role in our philanthropy, especially with them having the knowledge and understanding to be able to answer questions they may receive from parents whose children may benefit from our program.
Remind each other to resolve the business matters of their Lodges within the bounds of the four walls. Once an issue is allowed outside those confines, the matter can come under the scrutiny of others and may bring unwanted attention and focus upon them. One of the many duties of the Worshipful Master is to preserve peace and harmony in the Lodge, illustrated by his deportment and to be a good example to his Brethren, impressing upon the members of the Lodge the dignity and importance of Masonry. He should act with the determination to administer impartial justice and fairness to all so that peace and harmony of the Lodge be preserved and its prosperity secured. Conflict should not be present in a Lodge. It is imperative that Brethren, who have a conflict with one another, meet together and work through their differences and never carry their conflict into the Lodge. It is the Master’s responsibility to maintain peace and harmony. It is the individual member’s responsibility to refrain from bringing the conflict to the Lodge.
As I mentioned in the May article, there are 10 months until the 209th Regular Grand Lodge Session. The countdown has begun! I look forward to visiting the Districts, Lodges and with each member for whom I call my “brother”.
Fraternally and Respectfully,
M∴ W∴ Steven A. Pence