Saturday, June 07, 2008

Followup - European Concept Royal Arch

Instead of doing a follow-up on our EC Royal Arch Meeting, which has already been done elsewhere online, I want to make a follow up post to the comments which were made on my last post on the subject.

We got mixed response online. The most recent anonymous commentor wrote the following:

I am an Oregon Mason and I can say that there is a small but very vocal clique here that is trying to insist that a tuxedo is the minimum required dress for attending lodge. This appears to be their playground.

Not only is this impractical and expensive, but I believe it steers away from what our Masonry should be about - meetings of men, not contests to see who can outdo the other in finery.

As far as I am concerned, as long as a brother Mason has it in his heart, his fashion choices are his own business.

I want to respond to this at length:

To the most recent Anonymous,

Dear Brother, I am familiar with the "small but very vocal clique" of which you speak. For the record, I'd like to say that I am not part of it. I believe that a man should be able to attend Lodge in whatever clothing he is able to, provided that he tries to present himself in as clean and well dressed a way as is possible. I welcome those who take the time to attend Lodge even after a hard day of work and are unable to take the time to travel home, change, and return before Lodge begins. To me it is more important that they appear at Lodge than that they tend to such minor details. I believe, however, that the Worshipful Master of a Lodge should have the ability to specify what he expects out of his group of officers, particularly the Wardens, and that they should do what they can to comply with the Master's plan for the year.

I will step up and say that I, personally, am the primary instigator of this European Concept Royal Arch endeavor which we are trying to establish in Roseburg. Without my zeal and personal efforts in planning, the prospect of having Royal Arch Masonry in Roseburg would not, at this time, be anywhere on the radar. There have been attempts to revive it in the past, which have thus far failed. I was not involved in those attempts, as I was not a member of York Rite at the time they were made. Most (but not all) of the people involved in this endeavor were likewise not involved in the previous attempt.

What we are working on is a very specific undertaking and is not intended to reflect any policy recommendation on how Masonry as a whole, or in general, works in this area or throughout the state. Many of the ideas actually came from a Brother Master Mason, who is looking forward to joining the Chapter in the near future, and expressed his ideas to me. I agreed with his ideas, and brought them before the Companions that I have been working with, and we eventually found that the principles of Norwood Chapter in Alberta very nearly corresponded to what we had in mind, so we decided to follow their example. At the first planning meeting we had, I am happy to report that ten of us made a successful effort in meeting the proposed dress code, and that the nominated Excellent High Priest (Larry Stokes, who was nominated that evening) has since expressed to me his satisfaction in the dress code and th compliance these Companions have made to it.

I will also say that there were some, perhaps three Companions, in attendance at our May planning meeting who would not have been present at all if our goal was not E.C. They are participating in this because the E.C. is motivational, and they aren't seeking Dual Membership just to have Dual Membership. They want Dual Membership so that they can participate in both an E.C. Chapter and their existing Chapter.

We are a fairly diverse group of Masons, some young, some old, and have come together for the purpose of eventually working the degrees of Capitular Masonry which we love, according to these European Concept principles, which we find personally inspiring. We have in this endeavor Companions from Salem, Eugene, Roseburg, Grants Pass, and Medford, and we do not therefore represent any clique, particularly not any previously existing clique with an agenda. This is a new and young endeavor which we are looking forward to. Those who are complaining here online have simply not come forward and expressed any interest in Royal Arch in Roseburg, and apparently did not respond to the invitation that was sent out on the Oregon York Rite E-Mail Newsletter. Why would we undercut our own ideas in order to accommodate those who won't even take the time to come and participate with us, or talk with us?

We WANT to do something different. We want to have an interesting program, and make it into a more interesting organization. We believe that this will not only help our own enjoyment, but help the organization to be attractive to others so that it will grow. Many Masonic organizations around the state and around the country are failing in their membership goals. Yes, failing. Our numbers are steadily declining. In Grants Pass York Rite bodies we have had more members pass away, or dropped for NPD than we have had new Exaltations. Maintaining the status quo, and not doing anything different, is going to solve the problem! Those who are refusing to support any change whatsoever are putting a death sentence on the Fraternity. We need change. Now, not all change is good. Some changes will help, and others will not. But those who have the guts to try to effect change are at least trying to do something!

So I have two main things I would like to express here:

1. We are not an existing clique who has made this Royal Arch endeavor into our "playground."
Please, don't confuse us with anyone else. We are our own group.

2. I am worried that the comments received on the previous post about E.C. Royal Arch reflect a trend in Masonry where a Lodge, Chapter, or other body is not allowed to have unique "character." Why do some feel the need to enforce in Masonry an attitude of maintaining the lower-common-denominator rather than building upon the interests of the brethren? Should not a local organization be able to have its own style, its own agenda, its own goals?

8 comments:

Justa Mason said...

I found this statement made to you interesting:
Not only is this impractical and expensive, but I believe it steers away from what our Masonry should be about - meetings of men, not contests to see who can outdo the other in finery.

I don't know about Oregon, but a tuxedo can run about the same cost as a business suit locally.

As tuxedos are generally the same, one cannot "outdo the other in finery."

In my jurisdiction, dark business suit or tux is standard dress for a meeting and people are used to it.

Justa Mason

Jose Ruah said...

In Portugal were I live, lodges accept as good the following dress code:

Winter : dark suit, white shirt, black tie /bow

Summer: White shirt, dark trousers, black tie/bow.

It's also possible to wear a long black gown.

During Grand Lodge meetings minimun dress code accepted is dark suit, white shirt, black tie/bow. In some (rare) circunstances such as gala dinner Tuxedo is suggested.

José Ruah
http://a-partir-pedra.blogspot.com

L.J. Tell said...

Jeff,

I'm a Most Excellent High Priest of a Royal Arch Chapter in Pennsylvania. If you find ritual interesting, I have no doubt that you would find ours fascinating as its run off a completely different system of conferral.
In any event, I'm not really here to discuss ritual, I'm here to discuss a European Concept Chapter.
Pennsylvania in some ways has beaten you to the punch.
We have two traditional observance Blue Lodges which are European concept and mimic what you are trying to run. Generally, they are reserved for guys who were high ranking Grand Lodge officers and didn't mind shelling out expensive dues to be a part of a T.O. Lodge.
What may be more favorable is the approach that the Royal Arch Chapter in Pennsylvania has taken.
The Grand Chapter has set up Mark Lodges which are invitation only bodies similar to what you are trying to create. The qualification for membership is that you are a Companion who desires to make a solid contribution to Capitular Masonry in general. All of the meetings are held in the Mark Degree. The Mark Lodge rather than being an elite cliquish group of guys, which is how you appear to be coming across to the other Companions is a reward for hard work on behalf of Capitular Masonry. If you would like to learn more e-mail me at lchaimkmr@yahoo.com

Magpie Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff said...

Magpie,

Thanks for your comment, it is well received. But, in "real life" (i.e., not online) we have had no negative or fearful response at all. In fact, we have received warm support from everyone and even have a couple of Grand Chapter Officers involved in the new Chapter. Our talk about E.C. has actually created interest and curiosity, and provided a teaching opportunity in some cases. We are also soon going to be formally adopting a set of "Guidelines for the Operation of the Chapter" in similitude to Lodge Epicurean's "Guidelines for the Operation of the Lodge", which will state our E.C. (and other) goals in a written form. We are on-track to receive our Charter at the York Rite Grand Sessions coming up in April.

If we had been receiving a response of fear, negativity, or doubt of our intentions, then I would agree that your suggestions would be an elegant way to handle the situation. Fortunately, that is not the case, and clearer thinking and brotherly love has prevailed.

Jeff said...

L.J. Tell,

First, I apologize that I didn't see your comment at first, but at least I'm responding now.

Concerning the Lodges you spoke of you mentioned both European Concept and T.O. Those are two entirely different things (although with some points in common); so, which system are those two Lodges in PA implementing?

In reference to being "beaten to the punch" by Pennsylvania, I'm not sure what you mean. We are well aware that there are numerous E.C. Lodges in existence around the world, and perhaps Mark Lodges as well. There's even another E.C. Lodge here in Oregon. But, what we're talking about is an E.C. Royal Arch Chapter (meaning, a group that opens on the Royal Arch Degree for its stated convocations), of which there are only two to my knowledge at this date:

Norwood Chapter #18 RAM in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada is the first European Concept Royal Arch Chapter in North America. And, Meridian Chapter U.D., Royal Arch Masons of Oregon which will be the first in the United States, unless another is chartered this year prior to us receiving our charter in April.

You said, "The Mark Lodge rather than being an elite cliquish group of guys, which is how you appear to be coming across to the other Companions is a reward for hard work on behalf of Capitular Masonry." I don't know where you get the idea that we are coming across to the other Companions as an "elite cliquish group of guys" because that is not the case. We are hard-working Companions with some lofty goals in mind. We may have been the only Chapter in Oregon who has conferred all four of the capitular degrees individually (not by taking our candidates to a festival) this year, although I could be proven wrong on this. This "clique" idea has arisen online by a couple of individuals who have never even met us and have not seen any of the work of our Chapter directly. The original commentor referred to a clique of Masons in Oregon trying to insist that it is not acceptable to wear less than a Tuxedo to Lodge. In other words, this clique idea has something to do with the wearing of Tuxedos. I am not part of the group pushing for that in Lodge. I have myself attended Lodge in slacks and a polo shirt before, although it was my regular habit to wear a business suit on most occasions, and as Worshipful Master I have chosen to wear a Tux along with my wardens this year, but my Lodge permits brethren to wear whatever they like as long as it is clean. Now, back to the Chapter. In our actual dealings with other Masons, we have been supported and encouraged in our efforts. I've never seen outside of these two threads, the type of negativity that I received from the post which this one was a follow-up to. I get the impression that what we are seeing in these threads is merely some "old business" belonging to the "Anonymous" commentor who signed his name as "Treehorn" being aired in this thread, which actually has nothing to do with our particular endeavor. In fact, Treehorn's comment appeared to be about his experience with Blue Lodge, and I do not know whether or not he is in fact a Royal Arch Mason, or claims to be such. So, there are no other "Companions" to my knowledge that have perceived our efforts as being cliquish. Treehorn was just blowing off steam about some conflict he had already had somewhere along the line.

Justa Mason and Jeff Naylor left positive comments more along the lines of what we have received in our face-to-face engagements with other Masons. Meridian Chapter does not have a public relations problem; as I said before, we've been doing a lot of hard work, and at this point, we've been blessed to receive an overwhelmingly positive response from the Most Excellent Grand High Priest, several of his Officers, and even from the Most Illustrious Grand Master of Cryptic Masons of Oregon. (After all, by growing Royal Arch Masonry we are providing more membership for the Cryptic Councils and Knight Templar Commanderies as well.)

I do appreciate the comments, and I would like to know more about the Pennsylvania Mark Lodges, how they came to be in existence, and so forth.

Anonymous said...

I find the whole concept of EC intriguing. If we are not doing anything different to attract and retain members then we already know the outcomes. I applaude any Lodge or Chapter who will take the initiative to make decisive change to build our beloved craft. Chapters in Ontario, Canada only confer 3 degrees but they are done individually and the candidate is the most important person for those 3 meetings. However you practice the craft, we must focus on our new members and make our existing membership enthused and interested enought to come to our meetings. Kudos to Meridian Chapter on their initiative.

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