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Master's Remarks
by Worshipful Rob Windel PM


Freedom and Freemasonry

    Over the years much time and effort has been expended analyzing this Ancient and Honorable institution. She has been poked and prodded by those that would modernize, stylize, and simplify her. Those who seek to mesmerize and entice potential suitors have veiled her in the esotic garments of magic and mystery. While those who want to market her have stripped her naked and proclaimed that she has nothing to hide. Yet despite all the magic and marketing one truth remains, when Freedom is besieged Freemasonry thrives. When oppressive tyranny and ignorance threatens, the Fraternity grows. When Masons stand for what they believe our Craft becomes relevant.

   One need only look at our national history. When the American Revolution and the concepts of freedom, equality, and justice swept through the thirteen colonies, Freemasons took the lead. Yet, in the years after the war of 1812, when economic troubles and political expediency took the place of principle, anti-masonry grew and the craft crumbled.

   The “Friend to Friend” monument at the Battle of Gettysburg stands as a striking testimony to the resurgence of the love affair Americans had with the fraternity during their long national nightmare. Yet again, in the difficult years of economic challenge, reconstruction, and isolationism that followed the civil war the fraternity again struggled until called on.

   During WWI and WWII, America witnessed the rise of the Masonic Heroes, like Eddie Rickenbacker and Audie Murphy and two generations that understood what it was to pay the ultimate sacrifice for Freedom. Following WWII, the Cold War again pitted the forces of Freedom against tyranny and American Freemasonry continued to thrive until economic crisis, political graft, corruption, and an unpopular war permitted jaded secularism to supplant the principles of our founding Fathers.

   The lesson of history is clear. When freedom is beset Freemasonry flourishes. Today, our freedom faces a significant threat, but the call to action is not as clear as our Fathers' was. The threat is not a nation state or a political ideology; it is a culture of terror and resultant fear, which seeks to deny us our most basic freedoms. In the new period of challenge the questions our lodge, and indeed the wider fraternity, must answer is:

   Will we actively stand for freedom, equality, and justice or have we become so insular that we see ourselves as a sanctuary, where all we speak of is lodge business and fraternal relations?

   Do we actively offer this latest generation of American, who comes to our door seeking to find his individual patriotic and civic voice, an exciting, diverse, and comfortable place to learn and study the philosophy and principles upon which the United States was founded, or has the “political” polarization of American society rendered any discussion of those principles unacceptable in the lodge room?

Using a Strategic Plan as a Trestle Board to Erect a Speculative Lodge 

The purpose of a lodge vision statement and strategic plan is to provide the Brothers a unified vision or definition of the roles and goals of the lodge for the foreseeable future, usually a period of at least five years. While the lodge vision statement is clearly articulated on the Lodge Vision Page.   The strategic plan begins by breaking that vision down into its five principle elements. They are Lodge Leadership, Finances, Fraternal Endeavors, Masonic Education, and Community Outreach. The symbolism of Freemasonry naturally lends itself well to the building of an allegorical temple or lodge. 

Laying the Foundation

The foundation of every American Blue Lodge is its ability to honorably perform the ritual. The Brothers of S.W. Hackett understand that, "We create the experience" and that the experience is the brand. Freemasonry offers its candidates and members a tremendously intricate and beautiful tapestry of ceremony and tradition and we know that the greatest thing we can do four our Brethren both new and established it is to treat the ritual with due respect and ensure that all degree nights are special for both the candidate and sideliners.  The ritual is, indeed, the foundation upon which the lodge stands.

The Five Pillars of Lodge Leadership

The scholarly men of Athens created the first three most beautiful pillars by distilling and capturing the essence of nature and philosophy. So too our first three pillars of leadership represent the primary functions of the officer corps. The Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns represent leadership development, Fraternal Endeavors, and Masonic Education. 

   The Doric is simple and strong and in this vision statement represents the leadership of the lodge.  The fact is that the overwhelming majority of both civic organizations and corporations fail because of an inadequate supply of qualified officers. While all lodge leaders have limited time and energy to devote to a civic endeavor; a well qualified and devoted line of officers can draw on synergistic competency to achieve greater results for the membership. Training the officers is vital to the long term viability of the lodge. We have worked together to build a special lodge and no man should arrive at the oriental chair ill prepared to lead and without the supporting line of officers to advance the strategic plan.  We must be committed training the line by clearly expressing expectations, providing the necessary leadership training, and empowering through meaningful tasking which builds experience early in their tenure.

The Ionic column, has been adopted through the ages as a symbol of justice and government, represents our Fraternal Endeavors. As a lodge our customers are the members. It is not members of the public who may, or may not, ever come to our door. To that end our programs and attention should be directed to caring for the needs of the Brethren and their families both in and out of the lodge. In the lodge by assuring that the Brothers find an inviting atmosphere, where discord and institutional politics never threaten the peace and good fellowship which prevails amongst the Brothers. Understanding that efficient, well thought out programs and attention to detail increase the value of the lodge experience. Out of the the lodge by presenting family based programs and a social network that demonstrates the importance of our families. If we advance the strategic plan  what we do for our members and their families will be the greatest advertising investment we make.

 The Corinthian Column was the most beautiful and in a scholarly society it would serve to reason that this pillar represents Masonic education. It is a core mission of the lodge to provide Masonic Education. We have found that our Brothers come for the mysteries. The Lodge should provide a coherent Education plan to explore the Craft, its symbols, and teachings. We should remember that Masonic Education is not limited to the study of speculative architecture. One of the strongest attributes of the Fraternity is that is does cause true friendship to exist among those who may have never met. The life experiences and knowledge of the Brethren represent a living bridge which spans generational, racial, ethnic, socio-economic, and professional divides. Hence, Masonic Education should also seek to draw on the individual knowledge and experience of our membership.

To these the Romans added two ...

 The Tuscan which is more plain...This roman column represents a simple truth and there is nothing plainer than the financial requirements of the Lodge. Without financial solvency a lodge cannot keep its doors open to serve the brothers. For 82 years men, just like us, have contributed to and managed the interests of  our lodge. It is the leadership's sacred trust to administer the finances of S.W. Hackett Lodge and to be good stewards of our resources. As a small lodge we need to break the differentiation-cost paradigm and find creative ways to increase value of the lodge experience without increasing the draw on resources. We already understand that respect, attentiveness, and attention-to-detail does not cost a dime. 

 The Composite, which is more ornamental, if not more beautiful, than the Corinthian… Philanthropy is the natural duty of the enlightened. Our Brothers and Candidates want the Lodge to make a difference in the community. There is no more striking evidence of this than our November stated meeting, which is the most popular among the Brothers, because they know they are making a difference by providing gifts and food to needy families with children. Community Outreach is of tangible value to the Lodge. 

When considering the five pillars of leadership, we recognize that there is a division between the ancient and original orders and those added later. The Brotherly Love, sense of family, and our quest for Masonic Light represent the core duties of the fraternity. Those added later… The stewardship of resources and the administration of community outreach represent the collective will of the Brethren and are the domain of a competent leadership. The divisiveness of debates associated with routine administrative concerns undermines the prevailing peace and good fellowship in the lodge room. 

The membership's role

     It is upon the foundation of ritual that the five pillars of the leadership are erected and it is these representative pillars which support the circle of friends and brothers that is our membership. Their collective weight and influence serves to stabilize those supporting pillars and the resultant cement of Brotherly Love and affection unites the speculative lodge into one common mass.

 The value of the designs

 If any of the pillars of leadership are neglected or poorly cemented an inherent weakness in the speculative lodge exists. For as Allen E. Roberts (1974) writes,“…there must be much more than pillars in the art of architecture. Buildings are erected stone by stone. The stones must be chipped away until they are suitable for use. Properly mixed cement must be used to hold them together. But first of all there must be a plan, a goal to reach for.”