English can be a beautiful language. Read the poetry of Bro. Robert Service for some enjoyable examples. On the other hand, it can be ignorantly massacred; I’ve probably been guilty of that on occasion.
But written English can be a touch bewildering, and one needs to look no further than the internet. Without face-to-face contact, one is left to use their own logic to divine the meaning or motivation behind an e-mail or a post. I’ve seen too many unfortunate disagreements among Masons on-line—and I’ve probably been guilty of this, too—because someone misinterpreted someone else’s comment.
Freemasons are told to use the Liberal Art of Logic. Sometimes, they don’t use it all that well.
With this in mind, I note a query in the Ask-it-Basket from Ivanhoe, New South Wales which is in the subject line of this post.
So, let’s answer the question of what goes on at Masonic meetings.
There are, essentially, two types of meetings when a Lodge has a formal session. There are regular meetings. In some places in the U.S., they seem to be known as “stated” meetings. These consists of normal, and sometimes boring, content one would find at the business meeting of any organisation:
• Minutes are approved.
• Committees submit reports.
• Membership applications are dealt with.
• Officers are elected.
Many Lodges, unfortunately, still pretend it’s the 19th century, before things like this could be circulated (and read) well in advance and dealt with. Thus members snooze through endless readings of minutes and ad-libbed, unfocused reports on some social event coming up (if the member is extremely unlucky, he will be forced to endure follow-up questions about things that were already mentioned in the report or have nothing to do with it).
Anyone joining a Masonic Lodge has to know something in advance. They are not just committing to following the principles of Freemasonry in their lives. They’re pretty well being asked to commit to attend meetings which may be drab or uninteresting.
On top of all this, there are:
• Reports on sick members and their families, or those who may need help.
• Masonic education.
In a well-organised Lodge, an annual and varied programme is set up. Presentations, debates or general talks take place on Masonic subjects—history, symbolism, philosophy. All members have a chance to stimulate their minds by listening and, better still, contributing. In a well-organised Lodge, a good presenter doesn’t just wing-it or toss together something at the last minute when it comes to education. And everyone should have a chance to contribute.
And, that’s not all. There’s also:
• The good of Freemasonry.
Members are allowed, within reason, the freedom to bring up anything Masonic they feel should be brought up. Best wishes are also brought by visitors from other Lodges.
The second type of meeting is an “emergent” or “emergency” meeting (some Americans use the term “called”), generally for ceremonial work. This kind of meeting consists of conducting the three ceremonies of making someone a full member of the fraternity (the three degrees). There is also a ceremonial changeover of officers, generally once a year. In some places, this is considered Masonic “work” and it is private. In others, it’s used as an opportunity to let family and friends attend to gain some insight into Freemasonry without revealing secrets (handshakes and so on).
Of course, after both types of meetings, there’s a chance for fellowship, which should be the part of any fraternity. My lodges generally have light refreshments and a beer or two, with toasts to honour the Grand Lodge, visitors, new members and absent brethren.
So, that answers the question.
Or does it?
You see, the question wasn’t “What goes on at Masonic meetings?” It was “What really goes on at Masonic meetings?” And this is where the difficulty of communicating in plain English on the internet comes into play and one is left to use their sense of logic to figure out what the question actually means.
Is the word “really” included because of scepticism about what the poster has read somewhere? Is it someone who thinks there’s more to a Masonic gathering than uninteresting minutes and prosaic fraternal greetings, and I’ll spill the beans? Alas, I’ll never know.
Robert Service never had such problems getting his message across. Then again, he never dealt with the internet.
Frankly, I can’t worry too much about paranoid conspiracy nutbars or the wilfully-ignorant lemmings who buy everything on kook-sites which twist common sense and proclaim something evil is afoot. Suffice it to say, I’ve outlined what really happens at Masonic meetings. Except for one thing. There’s the feeling of friendship that is likely the reason some Masons are willing to sit through the maddeningly dull and disorganised parts. For a man with true friends is a fortunate man, indeed.
Bro. Service couldn’t have put it in more beautiful English.
Oh. He did.