At our last lodge meeting, we began our educational series with a brief survey of our Masonic obligations in the “Ancient Charges” contained in Reverend James Anderson’s The Constitution of Free Masons.
In the section entitled Of the Management of the Craft in Working, we focused on the phrase “A younger Brother shall be instructed in working, to prevent spoiling the materials for want of judgment.”
Imagine this ancient scene
Thousands of operative masons are busily engaged in the construction of King Solomon’s temple. A hurried master stone mason has failed in his duty to properly plan his work. He finds himself under pressure to complete a section of the temple which is crucial to complete the temple’s foundation.
Rather than admit he has erred in his planning, he hastily calls one of his apprentices and orders him to grab a gavel and begin to shape a rough ashlar for use in the foundation. The master then rushes off and leaves the apprentice to complete a task for which the master has not given careful instruction – another error. The master returns a while later and finds the ashlar partially worked on in such a manner that the ashlar is now unusable.
Imagine this modern scene
Tom Hayden stood across the street and watched the cloud of dust rise as the Central City Lodge building was reduced to a pile of bricks, mortar and broken beams. It once was the meeting place of his Masonic lodge and long served as a reminder to the Central City community of the principled and respected men who had contributed so much to the community.
As Tom watched, he began to reflect upon the decline of the lodge and desperately wanted to understand what had happened. He knew that the decline had begun long before he was a member, so he focused on what he had observed that were contributing factors.
He observed over a period of years, the concern for the lodge’s dwindling membership numbers caused the lodge to involve itself in various schemes in an attempt to attract men to join. A number of these of methods had been successful and at times seem to be the answer. However, a huge influx of members one year, always resulted in those joining that year, later losing interest and many not seen again. Tom saw this as a failure to understand and provide these men with that for which they were seeking.
The lodge officers, once strictly held to a process of continued education and improvement, were in the past few years, left to lead in any manner their abilities produced. So, there was strong leadership one year, followed in some cases with several years of ineffective leaders. The main failure of all seemed to be a lack of a unified direction for the lodge and an understanding of what makes a strong leadership team.
The aging lodge building for a great number of years caused a drain on the finances and seemed to be the dominant focus of lodge meetings and consumed the energy of the brothers who were constantly asked to work fund-raising projects for the benefit of the lodge building expenses.
These three factors alone thought Tom, caused the lodge to lose sight of the education of each individual brother in Masonry. The lodge declined because it was focused on creating members and not Masons. It declined by failing to expect a higher level of leadership, which resulted in poor planning. Without effective planning, a sense of teamwork or a unified lodge vision never happened. Finally, the brothers viewed their physical building as their identity and endeavored to preserve it, thus ignoring their true identity; a Master Mason with valuable materials at his disposal.
The Lessons Learned
The old stone Master, erring in his planning duties, caused the apprentice to spoil the building materials by not providing for the apprentice’s proper education. Without proper education the judgment the apprenticed exercised was flawed.
Maybe this master craftsman thought, “it’s just one stone and one irregular stone won’t cause the temple to fall.” Also, he may have thought, “I was careful to select a good intelligent man, he should be smart enough to figure this out on his own.” The apprentice, left to his own designs, used what he knew and did the best he could. However, without the correct knowledge of how the ashlar fit into the entire building, it became unusable and the materials were spoiled.
Tom Hayden’s lodge may have attracted good, intelligent men, but they were not properly “instructed in working” and these men, a part of the lodge’s foundation, were spoiled “for want of judgment.”
Tom believes the lodge brothers, the “lodge materials” when properly instructed, create a solid foundation for the lodge. Proper Masonic instruction leads each man to feel a sense of belonging to a brotherhood. It creates an atmosphere and culture that encourages connection, individual improvement, and excellence in Masonic education and leadership. Proper education produces strong leaders and strong leaders exercise sound judgment.
The Questions to Ask
Is my lodge struggling because its foundation is faulty?
Is it because the materials have been spoiled for want of judgment?