At that point I had already been filling in as the Junior Deacon for several months, had obtained personal copies of my Grand Lodge’s Constitution and Manual, and had had my nose buried in my ritual for a number of evenings. While I’m sure some would find that hard to believe, I knew what it was going to take to be an officer in Lodge. I didn’t need to be told as I had been brought up by a man who, years before, stood before his Lodge as Master, he had instilled it in me. I knew the time commitment I was making, not just in the Lodge, but also out of it, with a book in my hands.
Unfortunately that same focus, that same understanding of what is needed isn’t always conveyed to a Brother before he steps up and becomes an officer, in fact on the night I mentioned above none of the expectations were mentioned to me. There needs to be a clear understanding of what they are going to be expected to do, what the time commitment will likely be, and what they are responsible for beyond what they read in the ritual.
I’ve seen Brothers stop coming to Lodge after taking a chair because they weren’t comfortable with the commitment needed or struggled with ritual because they lacked a good mentor. I’ve seen Brothers step “out of line” just before getting to a Warden’s chair or even just before Master as they suddenly realized that they would be required to know significantly more of the ritual, and be able to speak to the processes, procedures, and protocols needed to run a Lodge.
Now, before anyone starts a flame war, there are times when a Brother needs to stop his progression to becoming Master. I’ve always governed myself by understanding that religion, family, and work, all need to come before my obligation to Freemasonry and I’ve frequently told others the same and reminded them to govern themselves accordingly. There is only so far a cable-tow can reach and it is always better to know that boundary and respect it. I respect anyone that says they cannot attend the next dinner, breakfast, or meetings, so they can attend to a family matter or meet a deadline at work.
So what can we do to help the others stay the course?
First and foremost, go back to being a mentor. Before they say yes to that appointment or accept the vote of the Lodge, someone needs to take the time to explain what is expected of them. Don’t mince words, be straight with them. They need to have a clear picture of what’s expected of them, and also what help they can expect to get. Only by being open about what they are going into can we help another Brother grow by taking office.