I was very interested in Masonry before I got involved with it. I had read a number of books (I suppose mostly fiction) about the works Masons did and so on. They seemed to catch my eye, Masonic accomplishments.
I eventually petitioned, and I went from being a candidate, to an EA, to a Fellow of the Craft, and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. It was a journey that changed my whole life; and I am never going to be able to forget the values that the craft imparted over to me that we continue to teach.
But over the years, I have become concerned for my brethren. This was initially bred within me from my initiation, and onward until today. There are many things that Masons are generally fearful of happening to them and the fraternity as a whole, and over the course of time I often thought I was wise enough to find a solution for our situation.
No matter what I could think up myself, or came up with talking to other people in the fraternity, everything seemed to fail or fall short. I have been frustrated beyond dismay and gone even to personal woe (as many others have) about how we are going to grow as a fraternity and maintain our status as the great glorious sons of light that we are.
I feel this way because I believe so firmly in the values and the sacred origins of the Freemasonry; that it has the right to live on through the rest of the earth’s mundane lifespan, and into eternity.
In my own thoughts, I found no sure solution for any of our widespread problems; no concrete answer in any of my research or meditation. Finally, finding no solution, I eventually came to the point were I had to humble myself and pray to God about it. I had prayed about what we could do as a whole. What where we missing and where should we look to find what we need in order to overcome all of the contemporary issues of our order.
I asked how we could overcome all of our problems and trials that we were going through, because it doesn’t seem fair or right that the fraternity be suffering in the manner that it is suffering. That it has the potential to be so much greater than what it is at this point of our worlds history. That we can be doing so much better, and giving more good back to the world.
The following epistle is a result of that prayer, and it is to every Freemason, Master Mason, Past Master, Right Worshipful etc., across the world- to which I am humbly making certain suggestions with regards to how we continue to function within lodge meetings, as a group, within the public eye, and towards one another as brothers within the fraternity.
As far back as I can remember I have heard about concerns over retention, membership, public perception of Masons, etc. etc. I have heard brothers sincerely try to think up answers to these problems, and fumble with how they could apply these solutions at a local level. Or they get blocked by some institutional measures that are as unforgiving as they are stubborn. Because these problems pose a very strict and real threat to our organization, they obviously bred a certain amount of fear within my own soul.
After all my deliberation, I myself had almost lost all hope that there is any way out at all, or that I can by myself do anything about what’s going on throughout our fraternity in the world- that it is very much a possibility that we may decline into the dust as everything else in this world does, never to live again.
In my prayers, I believe I have found the answer we need. The simply solution I have to offer is that we pray to our Heavenly Father about it. More importantly, that we pray to our Holy Father as a brotherhood about how to solve our fraternities problems and issues.
We often go through our meetings doing rituals and ceremonies- these are all important and fairly essential to our order. Let me be very clear when I say that I am in no way suggesting that we make alterations to degree work, or alter words, etc.; Ritual is the backbone of who we are. However, the spirit of God is the animating force of Freemasonry– the real muscle that gets the work done. The spirit of God is the spirit of truth; and if we do not explicitly seek to invite the spirit of God into our lives and our lodges, over the very matters that stress and concern us, it will be something we dearly regret.
Men left to their own devices will never get to where God needs them to be. A man’s wisdom alone is not sufficient to do the Lords work.
We repeat with one another the verses from Matthew 7:7 “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall opened unto you, ask and it shall be given you.” I think it is about time we start applying this message to our lodge meetings more frequently. A ceremonial prayer that is given to open and close the lodge is not enough for us to survive. We are men of God and we very much require the bread of God to live- and that means that we have to beg and plead for it. If we want to have bountiful blessings from God, we not only need to be openly grateful for what we already have, but ask him for more of what he has in store for us.
If we do not knock, if we do not look, if we do not ask, nothing will be given us. This is exactly the situation we are in right now, brothers.
In my travels I met up with a colleague of mine. We were working on a group project together with a few others. Every one was having a hard time coming to a firm decision about how to conclude our operation. To my colleague, I suggested that we offer a group prayer- saying maybe this would help guide us is what we should do.
Within the split second after I finished my sentence, it was openly rejected. I was told that praying would not help and that the only thing that mattered “was a persons ability to make decisions.”
Now, this philosophy may hold sway for the faithless or in secular groups, but remember we as Masons are obliged to pray to God in all our troubles; In matters of the lodge, and in our affairs with our brethren.
Now, I am not suggesting that there are no brothers praying for the good fate of freemasonry. I am suggesting that there is simply not enough effort being given to prayer as a whole. And by prayer, I mean real prayer; which is heartfelt communication with the Grand Architect of the Universe- which extends beyond scripted or a ceremonial aspects of our lodge. Every brother should take it upon himself to pray for his lodge and his brethren in private, and every lodge should have specialized, inspired prayers for degree work, stated meetings, and education.
The sacred volume from which we base our ritual work states “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions.” [-Matthew 6:7] Inspired, creative, and unique prayers for our services will behave as a gradient for the spirit of God in a way that ritualized prayer will not. The ceremonial prayers we use are sanctimonious, even essential to the moral teachings we implore through our ritual. But they will not be enough for us to have honest and continual communion with God.
Our heritage is threatened with drying out and dying like a withered reed. Soon there may be nothing left of us but old wives tales and cock-eyed magazine articles. If we want to succeed as a fraternity (which is God’s) it is sufficient that we pray using our personal thoughts, inspiration and emotions to express to him our concerns as a brotherhood. And then we need to be humble enough to submit to his will and be inspired and guided by his holy hand, to do what he thinks is best in his great and holy work.
Nothing less than this will ever be acceptable.
As an example, I would like to dive into history, with the founding of our great American nation. Ours is a foundation of religion and spiritual freedom. Many of our founders themselves were brothers in the craft. Our foundation in God is not an accident nor is it a matter that we should take lightly. And the advice our Founding Fathers have with regards to prayer is something that we should remember to keep close to our hearts at all times.
Benjamin Franklin spoke about very potently about the power of prayer. He says; “Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this…I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business” (Constitutional Convention Address on Prayer, emphasis mine)
Brothers, we are that empire; That empire of men united by a bond of faith and honor like no other before it, or can come after it. However, we can longer foolishly live on as a fraternity believing that anything less than constant heartfelt supplication to God will allow us as to shine as such a bright light to the world again in our lifetimes.
From what I can tell all lodges are suffering from similar ailments. I have been to a number of meetings in several different lodges, read articles by other Masons across the country in blogs and magazines; all of which express similar concerns about membership, retention, or other political matters within their lodges, which also deal with the general welfare of the fraternity as a whole.
The problem that is right in front of our face, as it stands right now, is that when we meet we are paying more attention to the ritualistic organization of our own structures, than paying honest homage to God.
Invoking the spirit of God through prayer alone has the power to inspire the faithful hearts of men and cause momentous changes to happen through out the world. I would motion to say if we had earnestly been praying as a brotherhood for the guidance of God’s spirit, we would have already found the solutions to all of our problems, and we would not be in the situation we are in at this moment. And if we continue to fair ourselves to important or mighty for prayer, and have no need to constantly supplicate to Heavenly Father, we will deserve our fate as an institution.
I think it is fair to say that many lodges never volunteer prayers for specific issues concerning the welfare of our fraternity. I haven’t heard ’em. This may be different for your lodge, but in my experience most of the time we only remind one another to do our prayers in a routine way when we talk about the sick and distressed, or to fulfill some ritual capacity. Both of which are necessary, but they are not enough for us to grow as an organization.
Without inspired prayer, our faith, hope, and charity will suffer.
Once we make inspired prayer a standard within our walls, we will be well on our way to making the changes in this world that we need to. But in order to do that we have to humble ourselves to be able to accept answers we might not of thought of, or that we even like.
If we have a dispute in the lodge that turns into a ruckus, it should be the duty of the worshipful master (or any brother Mason in the lodge who feels so inspired, for that matter) to slam the gavel, and stand up and call for the lodge to bow their heads in prayer to invoke the guiding spirit of the Holy God to calm their hearts and minds and find a way to best settle the dispute.
This should also be applied to solve disputes between brothers outside of meetings. I can guarantee you that if this is done and these men truly have their hearts after God -which I know they are- our certainty for solving issues will increase one-hundred, or even one-thousand fold.
I have seen the opposite happen, where God was not called upon to help solve disputes, and it has been the cause of much hurt and strife within our brotherhood. Brothers, let us not follow in the foot steps of our own vanity, and let us meekly bestow our concerns to Him who has created us, and cares for us.
We should have meetings in lodge to discuss subjects that concern the fraternity (of esoteric nature, history lessons, or contemporary issues like member retention). In these meetings, the chaplain may be used to invoke a unique and inspired prayer to fit the needs of the meeting. How and when this takes places is up to that lodge and what their Jurisdiction allows. If some institutional measure is preventing this work from taking place, the brotherhood of that lodge should seek the proper channels to ramify those measures and make room for inspired holy prayer towards the Almighty Father.
The lodge could also ask someone within the congregation to the inspired prayer. This may help foster a sense of community and brotherhood, and may also aid in invoking membership participation. The prayer itself would invoke a spirit of learning and tenderness that is required for men to be edified by the spirit of God. It would strengthen and enliven us to greater ends then we could ever hope to achieve on our own.
As a side note in closing this article, with regards to the matter of receiving members and retaining them: I have read many articles about the history of membership in America. They often they point to two bursts in membership: One that was in the 1800’s, to which it is accredited to the efforts of Albert Pike; and another in the mid 20th century, to which a lengthy explanation is given to credit world war II veterans in the United States of America flooding the fraternity looking for a similar brotherhood after the war ended.
These are both plausible explanations, but let us cut the scholarly-secular interpreation out of it: God himself, and the spirit of God within Masonry, is the sole reason why Masonry exists and it attracts men to become Masons– for good men to become better men. That being said, it should be the sole concern of every Mason that God’s spirit is genuinely sought after and kept within Masonry. Without that spirit, we as a people will die off.
I don’t mean to offend anyone here -I am in the same boat as the other brothers- but I will be forward when I say I carry the suspicion that the Grand Architect himself has given us afflictions to frustrate and confuse our minds -and our cause- because to a degree we have forgotten who he is, what he wants us to do, and that he is their to nurture and help us- and that it is our duty to call on him, in times of trouble as well as in times of plenty.
How do you think God would feel if an organization of his own children -which claimed to be after his own heart- did not ask him, the Grand Architect, how to get things done the way he’d needs them to get done? What charity work to focus on; what methods should be used to receive and retain members?
How foolish we must be in thinking that we can do this without his aid and guidance.
So let us ask God, in unity, what we are to do. He will not leave us helpless and has not abandoned us. Encourage every man to do the same, if he is so concerned for his lodge and for the welfare of his brethren. Pray every one in private and in gatherings, and share this message: that we shall call upon him, to whom we owe it all, in our trials and tribulations as fraternity.
Bro. Travis Scott
Brandon Lodge #114