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.