Some Thoughts for Incoming Masters

My pleasant task today, is to address these few remarks to our younger Brethren, in an attempt, to help them all prepare for their forthcoming year in Office, as Master’s of their Mother Lodge. For many Mason’s this is the pinnacle of their Masonic career, and I would encourage all Brethren to plan their year well in advance. We all have our different interests, and your year as Master, gives you the opportunity, to make your own individual contribution to the ongoing history of your Lodge.     So Brethren, what do we have to consider as we approach the chair.

Some years ago, I was involved with the annual Incoming Master’s meeting chaired under the auspices of The Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim. Much to my surprise, many of my pre-conceived ideas about incoming Masters were changed as we held an intense discussion with a group of prospective Masters, in the comfort of the Provincial Grand Lodge-Room.  Some of the main points which came out of these discussions were :-

1.   Education in most Brethren’s minds equates with competence in the working of the Ritual.  Masonic Education, when it is considered at all      was usually associated with a lecture or slide-show by the late  Rt Wor Bro George Powers, whose name was synonymous with  Masonic  Education.

2.   The day to day control and working in the Lodge is usually left in the capable hands of the Lodge Secretary.

3.   The average Master does not plan his year in Office and deals with matters arising in a re-active manner. In the event of unscheduled items arising, or queries on matters of Grand Lodge Law he will normally defer to the guidance of the senior Lodge Members present.

4.   Lodge of Research – Had vaguely heard of this Lodge, but most were uncertain of its role and function. In some cases Brethren consider it to be an elite body similar to The Grand Lodge of Instruction.

5.   Provincial Grand Lodge – Must be attended once throughout the year to comply with Provincial Grand Lodge bye-laws. However I’m  glad to report that more Brethren are now coming along to Provincial Grand Lodge meetings out of interest rather than necessity.

6.  Class of Instruction – something to be attended between October and January in preparation for Office. Regretfully once their Installation has taken place, most Brethren tend to drift away.

7.  The Grand Lodge of Instruction – The body charged with responsibility for Ritual matters within The Grand Lodge of Ireland. They have one open meeting per year in The Mount Masonic Hall, which is only for ritualists.                                          

And finally

8.  The Grand Lodge of Ireland – An elite body for the discussion & debate of management matters which are generally supposed to not concern the average Mason. It is also assumed that these meetings are usually meant for Provincial Grand Lodge Officers, and other senior Masonic Brethren.

Well Brethren, are your views the same as those that you have just heard.
My first piece of advice to you all, is that whatever you do, take your time and enjoy your year in the Chair. As you sit here today looking forward, it may seem like a long period of Office. However I can assure you, that once you are in that Chair, time will really fly, and for that reason, you should take every opportunity, to think about what you want to do during your year.

Now let me give you all a few thoughts that you might like to mull over. What do you want to do to mark your year -  Bring in some new Candidates, Hold a social function for the Ladies, Vary the content of the Meeting to include guest speakers. Brethren all of these things are possible, but they require both Forethought and Planning. By the time you approach the Chair, you should have a good idea of the make-up of your Lodge, and will know if the Brethren will support your ideas.

A Coffee morning may not be a big seller in a rural area, whereas you may get lots of support for a Barbeque or a Ladies Night. Always consider the logistics of your Proposal, Who will do What, Is there sufficient support, Will you take the lead. If your answers are  all positive, then approach a few of your Lodge Brethren informally and tell them what you hope to do, get them on board, before  presenting  your proposals in Lodge, once you have considered all the implications. Brethren, What I am suggesting is in no way Rocket Science, but a well thought out Proposal, with support from a few key Members  of your Lodge will always do better than a half  baked suggestion.

I think that at this stage I should say, that I do not expect all of you to
come up with a range of innovative, revolutionary new ideas for the Lodge in your year of Office. I would however hope to encourage you all to think about what you, as Individuals, hope to achieve from your year. And I will say it again, because I believe that it is very important – Take your Time and Enjoy Yourself.

Now lets consider some of  the points that we heard earlier. And where
better to start than Masonic Education. Now Brethren I’m not for one minute suggesting that we all go back to School, but I hope to encourage you to become slightly better informed as to what we do and why. The local Class of  Instruction will show you all how to carry out your workings properly, in accordance with the rulings of  The Grand Lodge of Ireland.  Today, I will try  to tell you a little about why we do the things that we do.

For example . . . Why do our Lodge-rooms have black and white carpets?

“ To illustrate in a very visible manner the daily struggle between good and evil, Light and Darkness, Heaven and Hell  in the life of the average brother. We should always remember that when we follow one, we become lost to the other”.

Why must our Lodge Warrant be on Open Display at the front of our Lodge-rooms during our Meetings ?

“ As an obvious sign to all present that they are at labour in a Regularly Constituted Lodge of The Irish Constitution, authorised by The Grand Lodge of Ireland to hold meetings and initiate Candidates”.

Why does The Master sit in the East?

“ Now Brethren, I’m not going to spoil your big Night, this early in the season.”

However I’m sure most of you get the gist of my explanation. We in the Irish Lodge of Research do many things. We look back into our History, as an Order and as a social phenomena. We consider the surviving Symbolism and Artefacts of our Order, and occasionally we speculate on The Way Forward. Our meetings are open to all Master Masons, and I hope to see you all at one of our future Lodge of Research meetings, which  are widely advertised on this site, before they take place.

I do not intend to say much more about The Class of Instruction. We all know the pivotal role they play in preparing Masons for the important Duties of Office. Their contribution can be summed up in one word – “Confidence”. By guiding you all through your forthcoming duties you become much more accomplished in the transaction of same and you will quickly begin to enjoy that satisfaction that comes from knowing that you have given of your best. A great reward Brethren for the small pittance charged, by the Class for your attendance.

I know that most Class Leaders strive to instil a love of Ritual in their Members, in the fond hope of putting together a team to exemplify in front of The Grand Lodge of Instruction, at one of their Open Communications. Indeed there may be some in our midst, whose dream as Master is to lead such a team from their Mother Lodge. If so Brethren, you are indeed fortunate in the support that is readily available from the members of your local Class of Instruction.

Now the time has come to be more contentious. One great worry
of all incoming Masters is his ability to retain and deliver the Charges to his Officers during his Installation. And here I will differ from my esteemed Brethren in the Class.  The most important book in the run-up to your year of Office is undoubtedly “The Laws & Constitutions of The Grand Lodge of  Ireland”. This is a book that you should all have at home, and have read through at least once. Now I’m not suggesting that you read it like a John Le Carre novel, but I do recommend a programme of reading, section by section over a period of time, so that you are generally familiar with the content, and know how to find out the regulation on a given topic. In here you will find written down all of the Charges that you will require, and if you feel unable or unwilling to try and recite these charges from memory, it is perfectly acceptable to read these charges from your Laws & Constitutions.

Make sure your copy is the latest version, and make sure that you have read over the Charges on a number of previous occasions, so that on the night, your delivery is Clear, Lucid and easily understood. And just to be clear, let me explain what your Charges are. They are a job specification, clearly laying down the duties and responsibilities of your Officers. For example in the Senior Wardens charge we are told –

You are by the consent of this Lodge

Elected Senior Warden thereof for the usual time
In consequence of which I Invest you with this Collar and Jewel
As the Insignia of your Office         Observe the Jewel is a Level
To denote to you, in its moral sense That in the original state of Mankind
All were meant to be on a Level   
And morally speaking, May be deemed so still,
And in its Masonic Sense
That you are to maintain the original principals of Equality
Without subverting the distinctions necessary,
In the concerns of The Craft.   Your early and regular attendance at your
Lodge   Is particularly necessary, in order to assist
To the Utmost of your Power and Skill     In the Good Management Thereof.

The point here Brethren, is that it is more important that what is said is clearly understood, rather than a garbled delivery is given. The wording used  is concise and easily understood, so that all present understand the roles and responsibilities of the Officers concerned. With a little preparation and application from You, these  can be succinctly delivered.  As Master you will be expected to attend one meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge during your term of Office. Can I just say that I hope you will come along oftener, and play your part in the government of our Order. Do all you can to encourage your Provincial Grand Lodge Representative to attend the Provincial Grand Lodge Board of General Purposes and give him the opportunity to bring back his reports to Lodge, helping him to keep all of our Brethren well informed. Now I would also remind you that your Lodge Representative attends the Board as the Representative of your Lodge, so ifthere is some issue concerning the Lodge, do not hesitate to ask your rep to raise the issue at the next Board meeting, after which he report the outcome straight back to the Lodge. Occasionally your Representative is asked to vote on matters important to both the Province and The Order. He should be seeking the Lodge’s view prior to casting his vote, as his vote, is, in effect, the Lodge view on matters.

Then finally Brethren we come to The Grand Lodge of Ireland. The top of our Masonic pyramid. In Ireland we are very fortunate in that we have a very approachable Grand Lodge team, who do their utmost to provide a service to the Brethren at large. It is however up to you as Master, to play your part in supporting the actions of your Grand Lodge. Now I wonder, how many of you have ever read, or indeed heard read extracts from the Minutes of The Grand Lodge of Ireland. These have been sent out after every Grand Lodge Meeting, to every Lodge Secretary since the early part of 1995. They should keep both you and your Brethren informed of the main developments taking place in Grand Lodge, and if you haven’t seen these before, then I would suggest that you seek them out in the future.

Most Master’s try to attend one  Grand Lodge meeting during their year.
In previous years it used to be the John’s Day meeting in Winter, but from this year, I expect the John’s Day meeting on the 24th June to become muchmore popular. Other Masters contact Grand Lodge and organise a bus tour down to Dublin for a guided tour of the premises. Others again opt for the opportunity to hold an Emergency Meeting of their Lodge in the Grand Lodge Room itself, a room seeped in Masonic History. I will say at this point that I have been fortunate enough to have sat in the Grand Master’s Throne in Moleworth Street, and it was one of the truly unique experiences of my Masonic Career. Only two other experiences come close and they were the Master’s Chair in Tuckey Street, Cork, and The Excellent King’s Throne in the Grand Chapter Room in Molesworth Street.

Brethren, What I am trying to say, in my own halting manner, is that you can, with foresight and planning do something, that is special, to you, in your Year of Office. And if I can achieve no more today, I hope that you will all go home this evening and reflect on my comments.