After we help someone learn their lessons we seem to stop being mentors, individuals who help someone learn, and become a group focused on correcting the words we hear and the floor work we see.
I understand that this isn’t something that is seen across the board but I’ve begun to notice a tendency to hand a Brother a cipher book and send him on his way. The expectation is that they will come back, likely at a future rehearsal, and know a specific part. This runs counter to what they’ve recently experienced, working one on one with a mentor. Why the change?
Do we somehow think that once someone completes their Master Mason degree they suddenly know everything contained in our ritual with all of the meanings?
Many do manage to puzzle out what they think are the right words and then get frustrated when they are repeatedly corrected at rehearsal. How many more, I wonder, never get that far. How many seeing page after page of cipher text just say “forget it” and walk away?
I think it’s time to review what we do and become mentors again and don’t leave our Brother, “at the altar.”
If someone is interested in learning ritual it should be approached in the same manner as when they were learning their lessons. The Master, or, if you have one, the Lodge Instructor, should either personally work with the Brother, or assign another who is knowledgeable not just in what the words are but also their meaning. This mentor should also be familiar with any associated floor work so they teach it as well. The work should be about understanding, not just reciting.
All of the best teaching comes in the form of small groups, and the Master/Apprentice working relationship has been working for centuries. Why do we abandon it?
Every single officer in a Lodge should make it a personal mission to train his replacement, to be a mentor to another. So, for example, a Senior Deacon should be working with the Junior Deacon to make sure they know not just the ritual items but all the other things that the Lodge expects from the Senior Deacon. The same goes for the other officers, particularly the Master and Senior Warden as they will be passing leadership of the Lodge from one to the other.
I should note that this shouldn’t be limited to just the officers “in the line,” but should encompass any and all who are interested and might one day take your place. Sometimes a need arises and you never know from where the help will come.
So the next time someone offers to learn a piece of ritual, or is interested in taking an officer’s chair, offer to help them. Please don’t just put a book in their hands and send them on their way.