The Ashlar Company
For the good of the craft...
To Exist or to Live
TO EXISTOR TO LIVE
(A matter of Lodge Leadership)
This Short Talk Bulletin has been adapted from a pamphlet, issued by
the Masonic Service Committee of the Grand Lodge of lowa, which was
written by the late M. W. Brother Burton H. Saxton, P.G.M. We
appreciate the permission of the Grand Lodge of lowa in allowing us
this "good and wholesome instruction."
The insistent demand for leadership is a wholesome sign it means not
only that the value of constructive work is admitted, but that it
must be planned and directed by individuals who are themselves not
merely willing to cooperate, but who have the ability, through the
cooperation they inspire in others, to produce results.
The votes which elect a Master speak the confidence of the Brethren
in his leadership- a responsibility that should not rest lightly upon
his shoulders, and will not, if these Brethren have made no mistake
in their estimate. The Master, perhaps above all others, should take
counsel of this: "To see how little we can do, is to exist to see
how much we can do, is to live. " In a large measure his officers
should share his concern to adhere closely to this challenging
Adequate leadership is needed in every lodge, regardless of size or
age, for the demands of lodge administration are varied and exacting.
It is recognized, of course, that many of these duties are cared for
by officers other than the Master, but nevertheless he is the
executive head of the lodge and must therefore accept final
We may say that a broad definition of lodge administration includes
these seven major divisions: Finances, Ritual, Masonic Education and
Inspiration, Proper Assimilation of New Members, Conservation of
Membership, Fraternal Welfare and Relief, and Relations with Grand
Lodge. It should be helpful to consider each of these separately.
This department of lodge administration concerns mainly income and
disbursements, assets and liabilities.
The sources of the lodge's income are usually limited to fees and
dues, and, in certain cases, rent on its commercial property, and
interest on savings deposits or securities.
From the net amount of the fees (total collected less that portion
alloted to Grand Lodge) it would seem wise to provide as far as
possible a reserve for emergencies and for relief. If there is an
outstanding debt (mortgage or other), a sinking fund should be
established for its retirement and current interest payments thereon.
Infrequent petitions may make this difficult, but in principle it is
a sound method and should be observed as closely as possible.
The collection of dues presents a more complex problem, and the
requirements in relation thereto should be strictly followed. Besides
collection, there are the matters of remission of dues when
justified, and of suspension for non-payment. The only basis for
remission of dues usually recognized, is actual inability to pay.
Suspension for nonpayment should be enforced when failure to pay
arises from any other cause than the one justifying remission. This
rule is of benefit not only to the lodge, which is thus relieved of
paying Grand Lodge dues by reason of the suspension, but also to the
brother him- self, as his accumulated debt to the lodge might
otherwise be difficult to meet at a later date.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the Grand Lodge portions of
both dues and fees should be segregated and held as trust funds,
since their actual ownership is in the Grand Lodge. In effect, the
subordinate lodge has merely collected these funds for the Grand
Lodge, and under no circumstances should it use them for its own
purposes. Serious complications have sometimes arisen because of
rance of or indifference to this important distinction.
Disbursements affect two groups of charges: fixed and variable. Under
fixed charges (besides Grand Lodge dues and its portion of the fees)
are found such items as rent, taxes, interest, insurance, repairs,
salaries, continuing relief cases, and the transfer of approved
amounts to reserve or sinking funds.
The variable charges may be classified as emergency relief cases,
equipment and supplies,
entertainment, printing, postage, and miscellaneous.
Sound business methods call for the annual preparation of a budget
and rigid adherence thereto. The fixed charges may be closely known
in advance, and past experience should be a fairly safe guide in
estimating those expenses which are variable. The possibility of new
or emergency relief cases presents a difficulty, but any excess over
a reasonable estimate might be drawn from the reserve already
mentioned. A budget has the advantage of requiring advance planning,
fixing limitations to
variable charges, and supporting objections to unwise or impulsive
motions to incur expenses which were not anticipated. If a lodge
finds that expenses exceed income, with no immediate relief in sight,
it should either economize or increase its duesthere is no other
alternative if it is to remain solvent.
One other vitally important financial requirement of efficient lodge
administration is the annual audit of the accounts of both Secretary
and Treasurer. The audit report should go into the situation
thoroughly, taking nothing for granted, giving the facts, favorable
or otherwise, as they find them. If justifiable adverse criticism is
made, steps should at once be taken to correct the fault. Dishonesty
is rarely found, but carelessness occasionally is present, sometimes
working to the disadvantage of the lodge, and should not be further
When any matter of unusual importance arises, such as purchase or
sale of real estate, negotiating a loan, financing the improvement or
erection of a hall or Temple, expert counsel should of course be
consulted otherwise mistakes are easily made and are usually
Since the Ritual is so vital a part of Masonry, it is imperative that
the officers become competent in its use if the candidate is to
realize as he should the significance of the ceremonies in which he
participates. His mind is (or should be) alert to every word, for
what he is about to receive lies entirely outside his past
experience. If certain officers have done their duty, he is not
disturbed by anticipation of anything not consistent with the dignity
and solemnity of the degrees he is keenly sensitive to impressions,
and they can easily be made unfavorable by hesitant, uncertain,
expressionless, or stilted
rendition of the Ritual. It should be exact, for there is only one
right way, and A proper pride will insist on precision. Deliberate
and effective expression will serve to interpret to the candidate
much that otherwise might be confusing. It is quite obvious that this
calls for understanding on the part of the officers themselves.
MASONIC EDUCATION AND INSPIRATION
The quality of our Masonry cannot rise above the level of our
thinking, and our thinking is not likely to rise above the level of
what we know.
Since any study of Masonry must be purely voluntary, the least that
can be done for those who display any interest whatever is to make
available authentic material, with counsel as to its selection and
use. Admitting the voluntary nature of any such study, be it light
and incidental or serious and sustained, all possible encouragement
should be given to make at least a beginning, trusting to the appeal
of the subject in due course to plead its own cause.
To speak of the study of Masonry is to speak of unlimited
possibilities. This, however, should not dismay even the newly made
Mason, for he is at liberty to attempt much or little, and to choose
whatever subject or subjects he prefers. Our historical background,
both Operative and Speculative, is not only one of intense interest,
but is necessary to a better understanding of all other phases of
Masonry therefore, regardless of later preferences, it deserves
Symbolism is another important subject that requires investigation,
since it deeply concerns our moral, philosophical, and ethical
principles yet many of our symbols call for interpretations far
beyond the brief and obvious definitions commonly given, and to
neglect these is to miss much of the essential spirit of Masonry
There are other phases that may be explored with profit: (a) the
development and spread of
Speculative Masonry over the worldfor until we realize that the
Craft is a world-wide Fraternity we have not sensed the strength and
possibilities of its influence (b) religious and political
opposition, both here and abroad, past and present (c) Masonry in
our own colonies (d) Masonry in the formation of our govern-ment
(e) a study of the lives of famous men who were Masons (f) the early
history of the three degrees (g) how we got our Ritual. These by no
means cover the entire ground, but their studyor even a thoughtful
reading of one or more of the best authorities on the various sub-
jectsshould greatly deepen one's respect for the institution of
which he is a part. If our Craft is worth joining, it is worth
understanding the better the understanding, the greater
appreciation, appreciation leads to usefulness, and upon the useful
Mason the future of the Fraternity depends.
PROPER ASSIMILATION OF NEW MEMBERS
This is a matter of first importance, but one which, unfortunately,
has not always received the attention it deserves. The newly made
Mason is an assetbut also a responsibility. It is taken for granted
that the degrees have been conferred impressively and that he has had
simple help in posting. He has been made to feel completely at home
in this new relationship, and has already sensed a fraternal spirit
new to his experience.
But his actual knowledge of Masonry is at best very limited rather
let it be called an impression. When he became a Master Mason, he
crossed the frontier of what was, in a large sense, an undiscovered
country. He has entered into what should be regarded as a life
relationshipa serious step in any case. The remote beginnings of
Masonry, its stability through the centuries, is spread over the
civilized world, its religious and political tolerance, the history
of its opposition to tyranny in any formare all these and more to
remain to him a closed book? This question cannot be dismissed
lightly if our implied obligation to him is to be fulfilled.
The candidate should be informed of the vast reservoir of Masonic
literature available to him through the Masonic Service Association.
To encourage him in the use of this collection is to point the way to
a greater appreciation of the Fraternity with which he has now become
identified. He has been told that "Masonry is a progressive science,"
but this is meaningless to the individual unless he shares in its
progress. He may have initiative, but direction and counsel are
necessary and clearly his right.
The process of assimilation cannot be complete until the new member
has been given something to do. Not only does this make him feel that
he is a fully "accepted" Mason, but it is to a certain extent a test
of his mental attitude as well as of his ability. Even a slight (but
early) participation in some activity of the lodge will seem
important, or at least welcome, to him, for he is thereby made to
realize that he "belongs"a heartwarming discovery.
CONSERVATION OF MEMBERSHIP
Broadly speaking, a member who was worth getting is surely worth
keeping. Some loss is inevitable, aside from deaths but, if combined
losses were steadily to exceed initiations, eventually Masonry would
disappear. This theoretical possibility is mentioned only to
emphasize the vital importance of conserving what we have, and
conserving it to the utmost of our ability. We cannot legally solicit
petitions, but we can and should use every legitimate means to avoid
even the smallest loss of desirable membership. For example, no
worthy brother should be allowed to forfeit his good standing if he
is actually unable to pay his dues. His pride may keep him silent,
but the Secretary or some
other member aware of the difficult situation should be able to
satisfy himself of the true state of affairs and recommend remission.
There may be borderline cases which should be referred to a
committee, and a personal interview will often clear up the matter of
delinquent dues when carelessness or indifference accounts for the
It should be presumed that those who have been suspended for
nonpayment will, in the course of time, be willing and able to
petition for reinstatement. These cases should never be allowed to
drift indefinitely, for the longer they remain out of touch with the
lodge, the greater the chance of losing them permanently. Carefully
planned efforts should be made at intervals to close up the ranks,
and experience has shown that surprisingly good results are possible.
The principle of conservation of membership deals also with matters
wholly apart from finances. It has to do with the interest of the
individual in Masonry itself. In the section devoted to the proper
assimilation of new members, the importance of giving them something
to do was strongly emphasized. This sound principle should be applied
with equal care to those older brethren-that is, older in point of
membership-who have no official duties and perhaps no place on active
committees. The problem of attendance is constant, and bears some
relation to conservation it is reasonable to suppose that members
who are given a chance to be directly useful in lodge affairs will
take more interest, and that interest will impel attendance
furthermore, a member whose interest is sustained by lodge activities
in which he has even a small part is likely to value his good
standing more highly
than if nothing is expected of him.
The Master has heard time and again that one of his duties is to "set
the Craft at work." He must, of course, decide what should be
attempted in his particular lodge. It is presumed that he has had
some official responsibility prior to his advancement to the East,
and that he has profited both by observation and experience. He is
likewise familiar with the diversity of interests and capabilities of
many of his brethren. Given these advantages, plus some definite
ideas of what needs to be done
(and anything which will benefit the lodge is a need), he is ready to
set the machinery in motion.
The newly elected Master is soon conscious of the fact that the
responsibility of leadership, heretofore viewed from some other
station in the lodge, is a reality which he, himself, must meet and
discharge-and with credit, if he is to justify the confidence of his
The diversity of interests always present in any group must be
recognized. This will point the necessity of diversified types of
meetings if satisfactory attendance and cooperation are to be
secured. This varity is wholesome. Monotony is deadly-and it may
safely be attributed to lack of initiative, or to insistence on or
restriction to some one activity in which only a few may be
interested, or to a sadly inadequate understanding of Masonry itself.
FRATERNAL WELFARE AND RELIEF
While Relief is the second of our three principal tenets, Masonry in
no sense guarantees indemnity for physical or financial misfortune.
It does, however, impress upon the individual member at the outset of
his Masonic career the profoundly important principle of Charity.
While this obligation is accepted
individually, it is clear that some well-defined plan must be adopted
by the membership as a whole if relief is to be administered
Few, if any, lodges escape the necessity of contributing funds for
the relief of unfortunate brethren or their dependents. It should be
remembered that such relief is primarily the responsibility of the
lodge, and that the Grand Lodge Charity Fund should not be called on
for help unless or until the lodge has exhausted its own available
The sympathetic and the practical should be equally blended in the
approach to all such cases. Moreover, the term "Charity," as Masons
use it, is not limited to emergencies that simply require immediate
food, shelter, or clothing it embraces continuing relief when
necessary, as in event of serious accident or illness it may even
include certain welfare work, rehabilitation of families, supervision
or at least kindly counsel in the problems of education of minor
children, and assistance in finding employment. It should not be
forgotten that the knowledge of sincere interest on the
part of his brethren is cheering and stabilizing to the one who is
facing grave difficulties. This
interest should be made very plain to him, for an encouraging word is
often powerful in its effect. While on this subject, it is suggested
that not all the anxieties of our brethren are financial, and that a
tactful expression of genuine concern for his welfare may be
gratefully remembered long after you have forgotten the incident.
RELATIONS WITH GRAND LODGE
Grand Lodge is usually referred to as an event-the Annual
Communication-rather than as an organization which functions steadily
throughout the year the latter sense is the one in which it is here
Because of the many points of contact with Grand Lodge, both Master
and Secretary should become familiar with the Code-at least with all
those portions relating to lodge administration. No car owner would
for a moment consider starting on an unfamiliar tour of the country
without a road map nor, having it, would he fail to consult it-in
advance-at every point of uncertainty. This very simple and
obvious principle applies, especially, to the Master and Secretary in
the conduct of their several duties. "The Book of Constitutions you
are to search at all times"-a sentence from the ceremony of
installation of the Master, and a significant one.
There are two Grand Lodge officers with whom the Craft is frequently
in contact: the Grand Master and the Grand Secretary. The former
presides over the Grand Lodge at its Annual Communication, and also
(in person or by duly appointed representative) at special
communications, such as dedications, corner-stone layings,
constituting newly chartered lodges, funerals, and any other
occasions wholly under the supervision of Grand Lodge. He issues
dispensations for the formation of
new lodges. Upon request, he renders opinions for administrative
guidance of the Craft, and decisions on points at issue-the latter
subject to later review by the Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence in
most jurisdictions. With certain exceptions, he appoints all
committees, boards, and non-elective officers. He may arrest the
jewel of any lodge officer, or the charter of any lodge. He may
"convene, open, preside in, inspect, and close any lodge in the Grand
Jurisdiction, and require conformity to
Masonic law and usage. " He is "to exercise and discharge the
executive functions of the Grand
Lodge when it is not in session" is an indication of his
responsibility and authority.
There is much correspondence and consultation with the Grand
Secretary during the course of the year, yet in many cases of legal
nature such inquiries would often be unnecessary if the Master or
Secretary would consult the Code instead (this likewise applies to
similar questions sent the Grand Master).
Remember, if you don't see the Ashlar "A", it's not authentic.
By Brothers, For Brothers & always For the good of the craft...
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