Here in Oregon, our Grand Lodge has recently approved an optional, alternative progam to the standard Candidates Lectures (also known as Catechisms) that are used to demonstrate a Candidate's Proficiency with a Degree before moving him on to the next degree. This is a good program that has existed in our Jurisdiction for a while as a way to increase our knowledge of Masonry, but has up until recently been an optional additional activity including a written test, that one may participate in, rather than an alternative to the traditionally required Catechisms.
The option is left to the Worshipful Master of the Lodge to decide to take or leave. I want to say: If this or anything similar crops up, leave it alone. It may be very beneficial to do BOTH the Lecture and the Test. But to drop the Lecture serves No Good Purpose.
IT seems that this was originally touted as a way to encourage people to (or at least to avoid deterring people from) becom(ing) Candidates for the Degrees of Masonry. It was as if this would make us get more members. (A concern, that I feel, may be misplaced to begin with.)
From inside the Fraternity, we have a skewed view of this process. We realize that candidates DO have to recite these catechisms. Most candidates do not. They have never heard of any such thing, until they are already in the door.
What this may do, is move people who are stagnating on the EA degree up to Fellowcraft and Master Mason more quickly. This would allow them full fellowship and participation with their Lodge. I see this as a noble goal. But, if we are trying to make them our Brother, shouldn't we be willing to spend time with them -- enormous amounts of time, if that's what it takes -- to help teach them the Catechism? I've never seen a Worshipful Master reject a proficiency when the Brother gives it his sincere effort and demonstrates that he has learned as best as he can what was required of him.
Masonry is largely ritualistic in its teaching form. Ritual has bonded us together since time immemorial, and it will be ritual that keeps us together for another one. Fraternal orders and social clubs come and go, but Masonry lives on. If we want to be like all the rest, we need to be prepared to go, to perish at some time. If we want to continue living, we need to keep with that thing that sets us apart from the rest, and provides our strength and support. That type of harmony is obtained through having a common experience, a common bond, with common cares. Lets have the rite attitude about this: I am speaking primarily to the younger generation of Masons, like myself (I am 25). Be careful not to destroy that which our ancient Brethren so carefully preserved for us.
(Also, be careful and serious about who we ballot in to Lodge, so that we continue to get men of good character.)
Steps to the Endowment.
4 months ago