Prepared by: W Bro Philip Hall, Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies.
As well as making our meetings fun, relevant and timely, the objective of this short publication is to set out some suggestions for all brethren to consider for their lodges. The hope is that implementation of some or all these ideas could result in attracting and, just as importantly retaining, keen and able men to this wonderful hobby of ours. Some ideas will suit you, others will not; it is neither a rule book nor a dictat. The ideas have been plundered from many experienced Brethren who all recognise and embrace the importance of particular traditions in our lodges. It must, however, be acknowledged that this modern age of communication brings challenges as well as benefits, and to attract men used to a diet of instant communication we should consider adapting. Social patterns have changed and ‘spare’ time is considered at a premium and is precious.
Please read, consider and implement if you wish, but above all continue to enjoy your Freemasonry in Warwickshire.
Preparation before the Meeting
- The Lodge D.C. should plan for all Lodge Offices and their duties to be filled several days before the meeting and advise the substitute brethren well in advance.
- The minutes should be circulated with the summons and brethren should be encouraged to pay for meals by internet banking in advance.
- Dress code should encourage work suits for most meetings with morning and dress suits reserved for installations and special events only.
- Plan to start the meeting no earlier that 6pm and finish no later than 10pm on weekdays.
Lodge Meetings – ‘The Admin’
- Remember the lodge should be open at 6pm not processing in at 6pm.
- Is a procession necessary? Many lodges don’t anymore reserving it for installation and special events if at all.
- Do not read minutes in full. Ideally circulate them previously or if absolutely necessary then précis them only.
- Generally minimise the salutes. Consider only saluting newly appointed or promoted brethren at the first opportunity and at Installations only salute the Presiding Officer. Or if there are lots of ranks then only salute the most senior.
- Avoid ballots on installation nights. For elections (e.g. the Tyler) prepare the voting slips in advance and place on seat.
- Combine deferred items of business i.e. Items 6, 7, and 8 will be deferred.
- Consider removing items on the summons that date back to a bygone age and are no longer done. i.e. To read the summons convening the meeting etc.
- Consider circulating the Almoner’s and Charity Steward’s report by email with the minutes.
- Alms are nearly always collected at the Festive Board so why is it on the summons?
- Keep the reports at the 3 risings to a minimum. Circulate what you can, summarise what you can’t and read when you must.
- Plan and rehearse ceremonies – a vibrant and well attended Lodge of Instruction is a key to success. There is no substitute for the hard work of learning the ritual so that it is skilfully and meaningfully delivered.
- There should be only one designated prompter. A job not to be underestimated as it requires concentration, sound judgement and good eyesight.
- Consider sharing the ritual to involve Junior and Senior brethren. This makes for an easier learning task and the benefit of participation strengthening the sense of belonging.
- For Initiations, the Secretary and Treasurer can complete the formalities with the candidate before the meeting.
- Use the time when the candidate retires to restore his personal comforts to deal with further admin on the summons, but do not run a ballot at this point.
Installation ceremonies (usually the longest!)
- Still start at 6pm but plan for the work.
- Get the Master elect to try on the apron to ensure it fits prior to the meeting.
- Lodge DC to check al preparations in advance of the meeting.
- Consider only saluting the Presiding Officer. This will usually be done by the escorting Prov. D.C. in any event.
- When the WM thanks his outgoing officers do so briefly and with them in their places, placing their collars on the backs of the chairs.
- When the E.A.’s, F.C.’s and M.M.’s retire they should do so without saluting or perambulating and escorting mentors should do the same.
- Is there any real need to ‘Call Off’ the lodge during the inner workings? Similarly is it really necessary for all installed Masters to greet the new Master? All this eats a lot of time and a lodge DC needs to be alert to this.
- When Lodge officers are being re-appointed consider doing them collectively. Perhaps in a line in front of the WM?
- The Lodge DC will find it far easier to collect the officer to be appointed together with the collars, columns and wands if he does not carry his own wand!
- Working tools do not need to be presented in full to a new Master, particularly a previously installed one. Appropriate words can be used instead.
- It is also advisable to resume the lodge in the 2nd and 1st degree for installation night. This is timely and reduces the pressure on the new Master.
The Festive Board
- A newly appointed DC should familiarise himself with the role prior to accepting the office, including the conduct of the Festive Board
- There should be no more than 15-20 minutes between the Lodge meeting ending and the Festive Board starting. Drinks should be pre-ordered before the meeting or a few prepared perhaps by the Tyler in readiness.
- The Lodge DC is central to an efficiently run and timely festive Board. Planning in advance is crucial for the whole event.
- Ideally there should be no more than 4-6 wine takings. This reduces disruption and allows for a more convivial meal. They should be planned and agreed by the WM and DC in advance. Generally it is not appropriate for the WM to take wine with any brother or group for whom a formal toast will be proposed later in the evening
- Stewards should serve wine in good time for the first wine taking after the first course.
- D.C.’s should avoid the ‘LOST HALF-HOUR’ that regularly occurs after dinner. Liaise with the caterers re. clearing away, use the time to sell raffle tickets, almoners appeal and coffee. Catering staff do not need to leave the room other than for formal toasts.
- Speeches should be short and sweet. 2-3 minutes maximum for both proposal and response. Humour is good but smutty and inappropriate jokes are disrespectful to all present.
- Consider only proposing the toast to the WM in full at the Installation and perhaps his last meeting. At other times just do the formal toast. Similarly if there are very few visitors the WM could welcome them during his response and then a short response is all that’s required.
- Aim to finish by 10pm. This allows those who have some distance to travel and reasonable finish time and those for whom a late night is difficult the chance to get home at a reasonable hour.
It is no coincidence that Lodges with strong memberships and a diverse age range tend to be efficiently run, have an inclusive ethos of belonging for the brethren, have strong social calendars which involve partners and non-masons alike and above all enjoy a sense of fun. Modern media plays its part in many ways. Lodge Web sites, Facebook and Twitter are now common in Freemasonry. Did you know for instance that U.G.L.E. has a Twitter feed reporting on Quarterly Communications almost as it happens? A modern approach in a modern age.
or from the booklet published by Provincial Grand Lodge entitled A Guide for Lodge Directors of Ceremonies