Thursday, April 9, 2009

Keep Your Tools Sharp

The following is a reprise of a message I shared with several Alaskan lodges a couple of years ago:

I am a woodworker. Over the past ten to fifteen years, I have been honing my skills and have achieved a modicum of success making small pieces of wood out of bigger pieces of wood. Along the way, I have gathered together various special tools that have greatly enhance my ability to craft wood.

Sharpen, maintain, and practice
Some of the things I have learned about woodworking, over the past several years, are that my ability to do good work is dependent on the quality of the tools I use, the condition in which I maintain them, and the amount of time I spend practicing their use.

Freemasonry is a bit like woodworking, in that we have tools that require our attention and continual use, so as to advance the principles of Freemasonry and grow our fraternity. Some of the tools we use are physical objects like the Great Lights of Masonry and the other furniture of the Lodge, including the Lodge building itself. Other tools are more esoteric like our Working Tools and Masonic ritual. Some of our tools are even more obscure than our ritual and may be hard to recognize as tools at all. Among these tools are our Newly Made Masons.

Furniture of the Lodge
When you walk into your Lodge, are you met by a cheery atmosphere, where the building is fresh, clean and in good repair; where the Masonic regalia are well maintained and the visitor aprons and candidate robes are clean and pressed; and where the interior is bright and inviting? Or, on the other hand, do you find your Lodge dark and uninviting, where there is a musty odor associated with age, the paint is cracked and peeling, the floors creek, and the regalia in obvious need of repair? If the latter is true, it is time to address the needs of your physical tools. These tools are critical to creating an inviting atmosphere, where your members and potential members will want to come and participate. We need to sharpen the appearance of our Lodges, keep them well maintained, and practice habits of regular cleaning and maintenance.

Working Tools
We are all ambassadors of Masonry. Those outside our fraternity know us by how we dress and behave. As such, we should heed the lessons taught to during our various degrees and sharpen, maintain, and practice the use of our “Working Tools”. Treat everyone you meet with honesty and respect, subdue your passions, and practice the principals of diligence, temperance, prudence, and discretion. Likewise, each initiate knows us by the manner in which he is received during his degrees. Therefore, our ritual presentations should be sharp in their performance, the text should be recited as written with decorum, and each degree should be well practiced. Masonry can and should be fun, but levity and humor have no place in the presentation of our ritual. Remember, we are trying to make a positive impression on our candidates.

Newly Made Mason
Don’t forget our newly raised masons. They are tools with which we can use to attract even more men to Masonry and grow our fraternity. They are the future of Masonry and will soon become its leaders. However, they need as much, and in some cases, even more attention than all of our other tools. We need to sharpen and hone their knowledge of freemasonry, so that they may carry on our heritage. We need to maintain their enthusiasm for our craft by involving them in all aspects of our lodges, and we need to solicit their ideas and support for improving our lodge activities. We can no longer leave them sitting on the sidelines, while we continue our business as usual. Finally, we need to practice patience and understanding for their issues and concerns and provide them with guidance and mentoring in order to sustain Freemasonry as the preeminent fraternity in this country and the world.

Final thoughts
There is an unwritten law in woodworking that I have finally convinced my wife is true. (She says that I have hoodwinked her.) The unwritten law is “Every new project requires a new tool”. This rule applies to Freemasonry, as well. We need to be continually on the lookout for new tools to assist us in spreading the principals of Freemasonry. Rely on your newer Masons and learn the new technologies that sprout up daily to communicate Masonry to your communities and the world. And, don’t just keep the new tools and ideas to yourselves, but share them. Finally, when you become skilled at the use of the new tools, remember to keep them sharp.

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