I am going to “Piggy Back” om the Most Worshipful Grand Master’s Report as it has been another “I’ve never seen that before” type of a year. I was also able to attend a few Longevity awards, District Master training in Pierre (which we did a hybrid in person/virtual format), Mid-year meeting (again, we did a hybrid in person/virtual format), Degree work in Spearfish Lodge, Virtual Masonic Civility forums about the Racial unrest, a Table Lodge in Spearfish with the Grand Master of Masons in North Dakota, a chance to advance degree in Rapid City and all of Mt. Rushmore Lodge #220 regular Lodge meetings and degree work.
I also believe that while some Lodges are doing well, there are many Lodges that are struggling and have used the Pandemic as a time to go “dark”. The pandemic has negatively affected our Craft but, I think coming out of the Pandemic will be harder than shutting down because of it. I worry about how hard it will be for our smaller Lodges to get back up and going.
I, as the Grand Master does, believe “Masonry is Local” and that each Lodge needs to focus on what is important to them in their community. I also believe that a Lodge is composed of a constitutional number of Masons, duly assembled. I am not sure I agree that Masonry requires a quorum to do our work. Right now we have a man-made barrier created in our constitution that prohibits our smaller Lodges from doing work. If our Lodges are based on the Landmarks, and our Landmarks are contained in our “Ritual,” over the years we have made our bylaws too restrictive for Lodges to work in their community. Although, there are a couple of provisions in the bylaws which I think can help Masonry in our Jurisdiction: Occasional Lodges and Square and Compass Clubs.
Our bylaws and traditions require us to have 12 elected and appointed officers and statistics show that nationally only 10-20 percent (if we are lucky) of the membership is active in a Lodge. How many members do you have to have to keep your Lodge operating according to the bylaws?
However, what if your Lodge merged with a neighboring Lodge? Chances are one of towns will lose its Masonic “presence.” We cannot lose Masonic presence in the small communities of our State, if we can help it.
What if however, we smartly look at a locality, Lodge Building condition and demographics of the town and use one of the alternatives already present in our Grand Lodge bylaws.
Example: Lodge “A” has 15 members and 6 members are active. Lodge “A” cannot have an official meeting. Lodge “B” is 30 miles away and has 100 members. Lodge “B” has 15-20 active members, enough to have regular meeting and all their officers. What if, Lodge “A” merged with Lodge “B” and Lodge “A” created a Square and Compass Club? Lodge “A” could maintain a presence in their community, retain their bank account/property (if agreed upon with Lodge “B”) and be officers in Lodge “B”. Lodge “B” would gain 15 members (not a huge burden for a secretary) but now have 6 active masons to assist in the running of the Lodge. Lodge “A” and Lodge “B” just need to agree on the terms and like the Grand Master said in his article “it is important to support our neighboring Lodges.”
Masons used to travel great distances to their and other Lodges, which was essential due to low populated areas. Make your meeting an event that people want to travel to attend. Have events in conjunction with your stated meeting. Think out of the “Box.” Change your meeting date if necessary. Get out of the thinking, “This is the way we have always done thing!”
I would like all the Appended/Dependent/Concordant bodies of Masonry to work together. Like the Grand Master Stated, The days of being just a Shriner, just a York Rite or Scottish Rite Mason or just an Eastern Star member are in the distant past...Now is the time to get back to Lodge and start building what we want Masonry in this Jurisdiction to be for years to come. I plan on creating a Masonic membership council with the hopeful help of the Masonic Bodies in order to create a meaningful campaign to attract Men to the Fraternity. We should be proud of the work all our Masonic Bodies do and we should all be able to benefit from the men we could gain from what that work should attract.
It has been an honor to serve as the Deputy Grand Master. I have had the opportunity to meet some truly great Masons over the course of this year despite the Pandemic and look forward to making more connections this upcoming year. My Brethren, as always, continue to search out Light, be the Light and shine your light as Masons.
Jeffery P. VanCuren
Deputy Grand Master / Grand Master Elect
Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of South Dakota