Progressive Ideas In The Face Of Adversity
The following is quoted from a letter dated April 5, 2020 from the Grand Master of Masons of Ohio, Most Worshipful Brother, Keith Newton:
"Effective Monday, April 6, 2020, I hereby issue, by means of this communication, a Dispensation to all Ohio Masonic Lodges to hold their Stated Meetings using alternative methods available on the internet or conference calling. Use of an alternate method is a choice of the Worshipful Master and not a requirement. Ohio Virtual Stated meetings are to include:
A password protected secure tool for members to utilize for accessing a virtual Lodge Stated meeting (e.g. Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc).
An email to the lodge members sent from our Grand View membership program and posted on the lodges Grand View dashboard.
The Worshipful Master or Warden in charge will proclaim the meeting open: “This Stated Meeting is symbolically opened in the Entered Apprentice Degree.”
Conduct business of the lodge.
Fellowship with our brethren.
The Worshipful Master or Warden in charge will proclaim the meeting closed: “This Stated Meeting is symbolically closed in the Entered Apprentice Degree."
Not 24 hours later, a similar edict was issued by the Grand Lodge of Maryland, from Most Worshipful Brother Richard Naegele:
"As such I am issuing the following Edict as a guideline for future communication and business until this State of Emergency is ended: Zoom Conferencing (or similar media sources) may be used in place of a stated communication with the following guidelines:
Notification should be given to all members of a lodge, where practical.
The Grand Inspector must be invited to all such meetings.
Prayer and pledge should be given at opening, when possible.
Minutes for such meeting should be maintained and posted on the Membership Manager. (Titled Virtual Meeting)
Bills may be presented following your lodges normal procedures according to your by-laws.
Petitions may be received and entered in the Membership Manager during these meetings. (Follow-up for reading must be done at first meeting of lodge when permitted Face to Face.)
Background Checks will take place on all new petitions upon entry in the Membership Manager as usual
Investigations may take place using social distancing guidelines set forth by the State. Talking with prospective members is encouraged by phone or “Zoom” type conferencing.
No balloting on petitions may take place (This action requires secret balloting which currently cannot take place in this format.).
Educational presentations are strongly encouraged. A list may be found on the Resources/Forms tab on Lodge Dashboards and under the Resources Tile, Master Mason Header, on My Portal on the Maryland Masonic Membership Manager. Programs are to be appropriate to the degree of Masons attending the meeting.
Catechism instruction and rehearsals may take place in small groups (no more than 6 at a time). These instructional classes must be closely monitored as to guests invited.
For any “Zoom” type conferencing, one Brother must be charged to Tyle the event so uninvited guests are not allowed to participate. Make sure guests use their real names and phone numbers so they are known to the Brother monitoring the meeting."
Needless to say, the actions taken by these Grand Master are nothing short of refreshing and innovative. Yes, I said the the blasphemous word, innovation. It's amazing how many people still think that the business conducted within most "business" meetings is secret and inviolable, and cannot be conducted in any other way than face to face, in a Lodge building after a semi-decent mean in the dining hall.
Should this be the ultimate future of Freemasonry? No, absolutely not. Initiations cannot be conducted in an online, virtual format. Let me rephrase: meaningful and well conducted initiations cannot be conducted in an online, virtual format. I have seen plenty of degrees that were less than stellar, mediocre, and devoid of energy and purpose. I have also seen candidates put through degrees which were solemn, full of mysticism and wonder, and changed the person being conducted through it in profound ways.
But that's not what gets done at a normal Stated meeting. Petitions are read (at a decreasing rate), bills are paid, donations are made, and maybe, once in a while, an education program is performed. All these things are not sacred and inviolable. All these things are the same things that other organizations do, require no secrets, and certainly don't merit the necessity of closed door, archaic practices.
I applaud these Grand Jurisdictions for taking the initiative, protecting their elder statesmen members, whilst still getting the "administrative" parts of the fraternity moving along. Instead of closing doors, these Grand Lodges are opening windows to staying active, and introducing Brothers to practices that occur daily in the business and corporate world.
If the Department of Defense can have secure, virtual teleconferences and transact their business, than the Grand Lodge of Whatever can certainly do the same and get the bills paid and the "Thank You" cards read.
Innovate or Die. People are learning during this pandemic that the maxim "that's not how we did it in my year" is a recipe for stagnation and decline. "Be the Change" (another popular favorite in Masonic circles) cannot have anymore meaning than it does in our present circumstances.
So Be The Change.
~~ FDTL ~~