Is there a window of opportunity to re-evaluate how we do things due to the current lockdown and the uncertain future ?
The one constant in Freemasonry is change
Dr Jean Theophilus Desaguliers was responsible for creating the third degree around 1725. William Hogarth the English painter was possibly one of the first group of Freemasons to be raised in the third degree in 1725.
Before then, there were two degrees being performed; the Entered Apprentice and the Fellow Craft or Journeyman degrees.
Before there were two degrees, one degree was worked. But not as we would recognise now.
Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723 states that “The most expert of the Fellow-Craftsmen shall be chosen or appointed the Master” – which implies that at this point in time, two degrees are being worked, Entered Apprentice and Fellow-Craftsmen.
Later in the 1738 edition of the Constitutions, the wording had been changed to ‘The Wardens are chosen from among the Master Masons’, suggesting that the third degree of Master Mason had by this time been introduced and the Constitutions had to be updated.
The three degrees as we know them now originated after the United Grand Lodge of England was formed in 1813 by the Lodge of Reconciliation around 1816.
These revised 3 degrees were published in an exposé Manual of Freemasonry by Richard Carlile.
The point being that the Craft ritual has evolved over time. There has been many changes and alterations in the past 200 years.
We could not even begin to calculate the number of different versions of the three craft degrees that exist now and being worked.
Freemasonry promises to be a social fraternity, that is to meet and socialise, to make new friends with like-minded people; for many Freemasons this is the main attraction.
United Grand Lodge Issues a Statement
Lodges (under UGLE) could meet after 17 July 2020, subject to the Government guidelines (laws at the time).
Masonic Hall Companies have a responsibility to make the meeting venues safe and to comply with relevant Government rules at the time.
Members should meet at their own risk, therefore only if they feel safe to do so.
Masonic ceremonies are to be adjusted to facilitate social distancing and to minimise physical contact to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
Only the First and Second degrees to be conducted (that fall within the scope of UGLE). No Third degrees or Exaltations into Holy Royal Arch Chapter.
No festive boards, certainly not for the time being.
If COVID-19 is over by Christmas 2020 and we are all back at our meetings in the new year, I doubt these restrictions will have a lasting effect, and Freemasonry across the globe will quickly recover and it will be business as usual.
However, what if, due to COVID-19, or any other highly contagious virus pandemic which follows, it would not be possible to meet, by the orders of the law of the land at the time, at all during 2021 and beyond.
I know many Freemasons who are 70+. I doubt some of these lodge members will ever see the inside of a Masonic Temple again; certainly not as they once knew it.
Maybe only entering the temple after sanitising their hands, wearing a face mask, sitting one metre away from each other, no drinks at the bar beforehand, no festive board.
It is possible that we may never get back to the way it was.
Membership for Freemasonry requires that we Initiate, Pass and Raise candidates in open lodge.
Freemasonry does not offer degrees by post!
Likewise membership of Holy Royal Arch Chapter requires candidates to be Exalted in a Chapter meeting.
The Masonic ceremonies ( as we know them now ) may well have to be adjusted to accommodate social distancing on a permanent basis.
The wording within the ritual does not need to be altered. The rubric on the other hand will require a complete overhaul.
At this point I would respectfully suggest we could offer a more acceptable solution to a blindfold than sunglasses (the darker the better).
All Masonic Orders, Blue Lodges, York Rite and Scottish Rite, Appendant Orders etc…, need a fully working solution to complete all the ceremonies into and advancement within their Orders. Without that facility, their Order will cease to be.
Overhauling the rubric to allow for social distancing and personal hygiene is the easy part to the new world.
The challenge is going to be the ‘benefit offer’ of being a Freemason, once that socialising is either removed (at worst) or severally restricted at best.
Removing the benefit proposition “make new friends with like minded people” is going to affect both attracting new members and retaining existing members.
It is a fact that for many Freemasons, the principle attraction is the socialising aspect of lodge membership.
If this is removed there is little on offer for them.
Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future
Change Brings New And Exciting Opportunities.
As a result of the current lockdown, does it mean there are new and exciting opportunities for Freemasonry?
That is, as Freemasons we can focus on the teachings of Freemasonry. Getting back to our roots. Making a good man better. Members engaging in personal development skills.
One of the principal benefits of Freemasonry is that we socialise and meeting new like minded people.
If Freemasons cannot socialise at lodge meetings, as we did before the current lockdown, is this now an opportunity to make a change to how we do things?
What changes would you like to see?
Ok, so here’s my, and a few others take on all this.
Firstly let’s look at Covid and it’s associated dangers. If we look at the demographic of Freemasons it is clear that probably 70% and over of them are in the age range and medical position deemed the most vulnerable to Covid. This in itself makes them anxious to go back to Lodge either due to fear or that they haven’t really missed it during isolation.
Secondly regarding social boards, it has only been advised that we don’t have a social board after a Lodge meeting. Maybe this is because of sitting close together while eating, maybe due to not knowing the catering hygiene situation. We don’t know exactly.
If this isn’t handled carefully, it could signify the end of Freemasonry as we know it, maybe even the end of Freemasonry completely.
BUT what I can say is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. For the past couple of years, myself and some others have been trying to consecrate a new Lodge, based on theatre and entertainment in our Province.
Initially this was met with disdain and there was a lot of red tape put in our way. We soldiered on and have over 40 people signed up on a petition ready to join.
I received a message last week that Province would now like us to take over the warrant of a dying Lodge due to Covid and also having a very elderly membership.
This will be one of many Lodges facing the same situation.
The good thing. Let’s brighten up freemasonry NOW, let’s make the changes, let’s not let Lodges die.
Forget official social boards, let’s have some fun in Lodges, let’s get people in and then let’s go out for dinner afterwards. What’s the difference, better to have a party than a funeral.
If it is not broke, why fix it?
Why should we allow masonry to succumb to the virus by changing it into something it is not?
The FB is part of it and I dare even say an important one. If you take it away for good, you remove an important social aspect and an old tradition.
Change is great if it serves a purpose but change just for the sake of it does not make sense and may have undesired effects.
I think it is sad if we allow a silly little virus the power to change our little piece of history of which we have elected to be custodians.
We need to ensure that future generations can enjoy ALL aspects of masonry for another 300 years at least so let’s not make it into something it is not just because we may have to adapt it for a little while.
I agree that the ritual is the most important aspect but the festive board is part of us and I for one would not like to see it go permanently
All Masonic Affiliated Organizations Should Step Back And Review Their Purpose And Mission.
They Have Had Their Opportunity To That During This Period Of Time.
Freemasonry Goes Way Beyond The Four Walls Of The Masonic Lodge Room; And Goes Into The Community And Throughout The World.
I think it’s time things got back to normal. I have not worn a mask in probably 6 weeks, and am pretty much ‘done’ with the scare-fest.
There are some places where people are getting sick, but those places are mostly highly congested areas with a lot of international travellers. Common sense needs to return. Let’s eat.
What purpose does Masonry serve if the fellowship and togetherness are removed ?
Do we become a group of people who travel weekly or monthly to a building, have a business meeting to discuss everything that is not happening in our lodge ?
Have a degree that we have all seen or conferred hundreds of times ?
Initiate a new member into a fraternity of men who are removed and distant from one another ?
Where is the brotherhood and fellowship and togetherness in any of that ?
If we lose the personal connection, then we also lose the nucleus that cements us as brothers. We become just another group to pay dues to once per year.
This is not my idea of a good time, and not the Masonry that I love. It is certainly not the Masonry of my grandfathers.
Socialising is of course very important, particularly for those, who someone once, perhaps unkindly, referred to as “knife & fork” Masons.
However, I think most would agree that the ritual ceremonies are most important, and provide adequate opportunity to ‘socialise.’
Perhaps the more important issue is, how do we get back to performing ritual in a meaningful, and safe way, in an organisation which has always eschewed innovation (at least in theory)?
Why change anything it is what it is because of tradition
You don’t change tradition, technology perhaps but not tradition. This too shall pass and we will be free to meet once again in the future soon, or we go underground.
No changes i like it the way it is.
Everyone who says Masonry shouldn’t change hasn’t studied how much it’s changed.
I think it also depends on whether the Masonic hall or building decide they can financially re open or whether the Inshurance cost and cleaning would be to high.
There is a group of us who would al be happy to return to start things rolling again as we have three firsts to get through but are waiting on:
1 the hall directors to decide if they will re open and when
2 confirmation the planning for the ceremony’s and rehearsal don’t take away that part as the current guidelines for me would take something away from it and I’m sure there are safe ways to carry out a ceremony without changing too much.
Also the hall for the festive board can hold 100 people so with what I guess would be a skeleton crew to begin with you could still have a festive board but easily socially distance. But again it all comes down to the hall.
If the suspension is partly lifted, it is so that Lodges can conduct “admin” business with those few Br. who feel up to braving the risks (e.g. take a taxi into town and stay well away from each other in the building).
Thinks like Degree Ceremonies and Festive Boards do not fit into this picture: not while there is no vaccine for all…
The guidelines for “emergency” Firsts and Seconds, silly sunglasses and all, are an attempt to help Lodges get on with growing without discouraging Candidates or new members.
Well done, I say… (in one of my Lodges we find a Candidate and Deacons willing to go with such a “watered down” ceremony, perhaps going for a Fish & Chips afterward, while in another the consensus is to let Candidates wait and to only open and close, without most of the members…).
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