Monday, February 23, 2009

One-Day Ritual Class

I just read a discussion thread on The Masonic Society Forum regarding a One-Day Ritual Class being planned for Western Massachusetts. All of the comments to this event on the forum page were negative and echoed comments I recently heard during the Conference of Grand Masters in North America. Those who responded complained that Masonry is being cheapened by One-Day Ritual Classes, where we are merely making members not Masons. One commenter lamented “. . . why don't we just hand out dues cards in specially marked boxes of crackerjacks”.

Our Alaska Masonic Code allows the Grand Master the option of authorizing a One-Day Ritual Class, but it does not specify under what conditions such a class may be allowed. In recent years One-Day Classes have been held in our jurisdiction to:

1. Help lodges clear their books of EA and FCs languishing on their rolls for several years without progressing through the degrees, and
2. Help give a boost to struggling lodges, in very remote locations, which have candidates but do not have enough members to confer the degrees.

What I have noticed is that, when a One-Day Class has been offered in our jurisdiction, a number of our candidates who are eligible to participate choose not to for fear that they will not enjoy the true initiatic experience offered by normal progression through the degrees. Also, few, if any, of those who do participate in One-Day Classes become active members of their lodge. There is little evidence that these Masons have continued on the journey of self discovery, of spiritual and intellectual growth in Masonry.

What is the benefit to Alaskan Masonry then, when we create Masons who have not had the opportunity to cultivate an understanding of what Freemasonry is through a process of ritual presentation and the art of memorization; who have not had the value of continued Masonic study impressed upon their minds? Does it simply arrest the loss of membership to our lodges and create more dues paying members to help maintain our lodges’ bottom line? Does it help grow our lodges in our remote communities, so that they will become self sustaining?

I believe that our lodges will grow only when they create an atmosphere where the practice of quality ritual becomes the rule rather than the exception, where our lodges are involved in and recognized as a valued assets within their communities, where our lodges have programs of mentorship and continued Masonic education for their members, and where the lodge members enjoy the fraternity and fellowship provided by the lodge and want to actively participate in its activities. I also believe that we are doing a disservice to those that we bring into Masonry through a One-Day Class, if we do not see to their continued Masonic development.

I invite all Alaskan Masons to comment on these thoughts.


  1. I absolutely agree. In fact, as a new MM I have studied much, and read many books on Freemasonry, but the FOUNDATION of our institution I firmly believe for the initiate is the Ritual, those things that have been passed down from our Ancestors relatively Unchanged.

    To take that away from an initiate is in my opinion taking away from him the lifeblood of Masonic Lodge--the ritual--which is interwoven in everything we do in Lodge; and gives him rather a shell of the real thing.

    How can it possibly allow any kind of member retention, or even Masonic appreciation when nothing about a One Day Class is most definitely NOT..."As all brothers and fellows have done before"???

    If these One Day Classer's are not following the most basic and honest of foundations of our initiation as Masons passed down for generations; how can they be truthfully called "true and lawful" brothers? I'm genuinely asking here, I don't know.


    Andy Flack

  2. I think they have their use as a tool, but a tool to be used judiciously in a case like you mention with a remote lodge and few members, etc.

    They should definitely not be standard operating procedure.

    The process of coaching and learning the work has the benefit of not just teaching proficiency in the degrees, but also as initial questions are answered new questions are raised.

    It's important to have that time between degrees to reflect on what it all meant. I think when all the degrees are conferred at once the opportunity for that reflection is lost.

    I wouldn't see them as any less of a brother for having received the degrees in this manner, but I feel they may have been inadvertently denied an important aspect of the ritual in that it doesn't take place only in the lodge, but in the mind.

    I think it's vitally important that anyone receiving the degrees in a one day session like this to be involved in the lodge through assisting in degree work, set up and tear down of the lodge room- anything- in some manner as soon as possible so they can begin getting the idea that there is more to it than words, handshakes, and getting to wear some jewelry

  3. I agree MW Bro. Bo. I believe ritual is the way Masonic teachings are meant to be communicated. An initiate needs to experience the ritual for himself to understand it's meaning.

    It wasn't very long ago that it was I who was "GMHA" and was raised by my Brothers. I'm glad I was able to experience the degree for myself instead of reading about it or watching another initiate. It would not be the same.

    The work involved in doing the proficiency is part of the journey to light in Masonry. It was hard at first, but I kept reminding myself that all Brothers before had done the same work, and work is what Masonry is about. Executing a good PL in Lodge in front of my Brothers gave me a feeling of accompishment and pride that I would have not experienced in a one day class.

    As a new MM, I can only speak for myself without the wisdom of more experienced Brethren. One-day classes don't make sense to me; the new initiate misses out on too much and the Fraternity risks getting members instead of Masons.

  4. I know of only one person that's been through the one-day class and stuck with it. All the rest are nothing more than revenue to the GL. This was the GL's intent and completely misses the point. It's a relief to hear a GM call foul on this issue.

    Better to have fewer actually contributing than a hive full of worthless drones.

    To Tom - one still has to deliver a PL if they want to move up through the chairs.