My Brothers, as we are in our season of change and are installing the last of our new Lodge Officers. May I ask each of you to consider where you want your Lodge to go. I am not asking you look ahead a year or even five years. Today’s Officers need to establish the direction of march for your lodge into the far future. Discuss with each other the direction, objectives, and what is important to your Lodge’s future. Ask yourselves what you would like to see at your Lodge if you came back in fifty years. If you would like to see a healthy Lodge supporting the community by embodying Masonic Values, some interesting elements go into that picture. What are those things? Ask your Brothers what it would take to get there. Rest assured, everything you specify will require some sort of a change of direction. Membership will certainly be a topic that will come up. What will the numbers of Brothers in your Lodge be in fifty years and what action must you do now to move the needle to get those numbers where they will need to be? Getting good new Brothers into our ranks now will be one area for change. Keeping the Brothers we have is another. Bringing back some Brothers we may have lost should be a priority. Try this. You will be surprised how productive it can be. How will we facilitate the passing of our beloved Fraternity forward to succeeding generations within families? Preserving our past traditions while moving into a much different future will probably be an area for discussion. Community involvement may be discussed. The process of turning over the reigns to a new generation of Masons should be a consideration. You may talk about your Lodge building and the life cycle costs to maintain it for the next fifty years. You may want to discuss the state of your funds. There will be changes that we may only imagine and certainly cannot forecast. Educational research is considering if there will be new ways to learn more efficiently that we ever have. How might that impact our ritual work? If we are open to new thought and honest in these discussions, they all will most likely necessitate a change of direction. Make no mistake, change may be painful just like aging and growth cause growing pains, but we get through them.
Our Brother, Rick Coles, is Professor and Chair of Exercise at Ripon College. He is also the Offense Coach for the Ripon College Football Team and a Masonic leader. When he coaches the young men on the football field, he stresses that when they have to change direction when running on the field they do what he calls a “hammer plant” with their foot. This is to emphasize that the greater the force you use to plant your foot, the greater the force you can push off of that foot to change directions more quickly. The hammer plant also prevents slips, falls, injuries, and blown assignments.
My Brothers, I submit to you as our new Lodge leadership, we all need to adopt a version of the “hammer plant” for our Lodges. As we move into our new terms of office, we need to symbolically plant our foot down firmly and with great force. We need to look to our newest and young Masons and get them involved in the line and share with them leadership of our Lodges. They need to start on committees. Get the experience of solving lodge challenges. They need to learn the ritual work and about the content of our gentle Craft. The younger they are when they do this, the better. We need to help them and guide them to think big thoughts.
We need to honestly look at the brotherhood we practice within our own ranks and get ourselves on a firm footing. I am not so simple to believe that every Brother in Wisconsin is ready to join hands and sing Girl Scout campfire songs. Brothers do disagree. I know there are differences of opinion and personal style. Often that comes out of the passion our Brothers have for our Fraternity. We all also know we have all obligated ourselves to always help, aid and assist and never cheat, wrong or defraud another Brother. There is no place in a Lodge of Brothers for cliques, “opposing camps”, or any form of intimidation or bullying. Find consensus and move ahead. We know we have all signed up to be Brothers first, act like it. So let us all live up to this and hammer plant our foot through the deliberate active practice of Brotherhood. We can use this year’s Installation as the first firm power step we will make in the new directions we need to take to usher in the next fifty years. We cannot afford to have further injury, slips, falls, or blown assignments. Our Lodges were handed down to us from the good Brothers who went on before us. We are obliged to them and to each other. We must pass on stronger Lodges to those who come after us. Brotherly love is the clear difference between Masonry and all the other organizations we could support. What could be more significant?
So, talk about serving as a strong capable Officer Line. Keep your heads up and look to the future. We may not have all the answers today, but if we help grow the right group of Brothers to head things up and empower them with our support, the answers will come. Hammer plant, pivot, and start today. God Bless you all and may He watch over all of our Lodges.