I woke up in a cold sweat. I had been dreaming, and while I don’t normally remember the details of my dreams, this time, the details were quite vivid.
I had died, and my beloved Masonic Brothers had gathered to conduct my Masonic funeral service. As I looked around the room there were quite a few of my Brothers I expected to see, a few I was surprised to see and a couple I didn’t know. In any event, I felt good that there was a decent showing of support, knowing when I was alive, I had been to Masonic services where the only Masons present were the few conducting the service.
The Worshipful Master began,
“I now declare New England Lodge #4 now open to conduct the funeral service of Worshipful Brother Clevenger.”
“Thanks for coming this evening and I know that how all of us hate long, drawn out Masonic meetings, so I will try to get through our agenda as quickly as possible.”
“To begin, would all Past Masters of New England rise, introduce yourself, and give your year of service.”
Eight Past Masters rose, a few adding some comments that they always added and even though every member had heard them before, they laughed at their comments.
The Master then asked that 50-year members, presiding officers of other Masonic bodies, men honored by the Fraternity, and any visiting Brethren also stand and introduce themselves. Of the eight Past Masters of New England, four rose again and acted like they hadn’t just been recognized.
It also happened that New England’s assigned District Deputy had come, so the Master asked him to be escorted to the front of the room and offered him the opportunity to preside over my funeral. He declined but did offer the condolences of the Grand Master, whom he said was in Florida visiting with our Brothers who wintered there. Maybe if I had died in the summer, the Grand Master might have been there in person. Oh well, maybe for the better. It looks like despite what the Master had said about keeping it short; this could drag on.
The Master then proceeded with the next agenda item.
“Brother Secretary, would you read the minutes of the last funeral.”
Oh, boy, here we go.
Our secretary is a great Mason, but he takes his job very seriously. Minutes to him is a detailed narrative of everything that was said. The secretary proceeded at an agonizingly slow pace and concluded about ten minutes later. That bored me, and I was dead. Just think about my poor family and friends who are not Masons.
The secretary then asked the Master if it was OK to read the correspondence he received.
“Sure, Brother Secretary go ahead, but if you can summarize as much as possible, that would be great.”
If the secretary heard “summarize as much as possible,” he didn’t act like it. Another ten minutes filled with information on spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, fundraisers, request for donations, and thank cards for the donations we made last time.
Well, we are now an hour into my Masonic funeral, and I had yet to hear the service. Even though I was dreaming, I do reminder the Master saying this was the purpose we were all here. I guess it’s no different than when I was alive. We gathered as Masons to improve ourselves, understand the lessons of Masonry, encourage and assist each other in applying those lessons. But we always focused the meeting on introducing each other and conducting organizational business and other things as if that was our purpose.
“Worshipful Master, may I speak?” A Brother had risen to be recognized. The Master acknowledges, and the brother begins.
“I know this isn’t on the agenda, but could we take a moment to discuss the roof on the lodge building? For a year now I have been saying we need to have someone look at it. We haven’t done that, and pretty soon it’s going to start leaking and then we have big problems.”
“My Brother,” the Master replied, “I appointed a committee last month to look into it. We will be hearing from them our next meeting, so there’s no need to go into it right now.”
“But how would we pay for a new roof?” The Brother asked.
“Brother, we don’t know if we will need an entire roof, or can we make do with some repair. The committee will tell us that along with the cost. We will all find out next meeting.”
“Worshipful Master,” another Brother shouted from his seat. “I can tell you now about the roof; we have already met with a roof guy.”
No wonder I woke up in a cold sweat, this wasn’t a dream, it was a nightmare. I guess I thought that by the time I died, we would have recognized that meetings like this were not helping to improve ourselves. Little had I thought that they would be so ingrained in us that we would feel compelled to use our meeting agenda in funerals.
Over my lifetime, I certainly read enough articles written by educated and smart Brothers, who pointed out our Masonic meetings were not supporting our purpose. I remember one, in particular, that was dated June 14, 1893 (Read it here). When I die, I’m going to look this Brother up and tell him there were plenty of us carrying on with his message.
For my Brothers still in the trenches. Those who are chipping away at the rough ashlar of the fraternity and doing the hard work that needs doing. Those Brothers who are challenging the status quo, proposing educational opportunities for improvement based on expertise and proven theories, seeing to it that new ideas are executed, even if it means they have to do it themselves.
Keep doing it my Brothers, keep doing it!