The Grand Master’s March Address to the Craft

Greeting Brothers,

The best times for a Grand Master are whenever he can be visiting with our Brothers and their families.  We do this by attending degrees, lodge picnics, ladies table lodge dinners, celebration dinners, youth group events, and the list goes on and on.  An important event on that list is when a Grand Master can go visit with those Brothers, family members and widows of our departed Brothers that now reside outside Wisconsin.  They’ve spent some part of their life in Wisconsin, where they’ve made some great memories.  They moved on due to retirement or other life changes and now are making new and different memories in a different place.  Even if they’ve moved away, they’re still important to me and to all of us.  We make annual trips to Florida and Arizona and our Florida trip was in February.  The Grand Master meets with attendees, has some lunch, updates them on the Wisconsin Masonic Foundation and what’s going on in Wisconsin, and talks with them about some of their memories and experiences.  We had two great lunches in Sarasota and Fort Myers with some wonderful Brothers, their wives and some widows, continuing that connection with Wisconsin, and I heard some great stories.

My other major travel event this month was to Louisville for the North American Conference of Grand Masters. I was the Vice-Chair of the conference, which didn’t entail a lot of work (since the Chairman stayed healthy during the conference and I did not have to step in) except for chairing the Nomination Committee to select the officers elected to serve for the 2021 conference in Seattle.  The conference and the breakouts were valuable, but I think the discussions we had with the other jurisdiction Grand Masters and other officers during breaks and meals were the real take-aways from the conference.  We had lots of discussions about shared problems and successes and find there are many other ways to peel the onion, ways to evolve our fraternity in Wisconsin.  Remember that this conference will take place in Milwaukee in February of 2022, and we’ll need lots of volunteers to make it a great experience for attendees from jurisdictions all over the world.

Here’s this month’s thoughts along the theme of the Forget-me-not… bringing back old events.  My home lodge, Freemasons Lodge #363, years ago had a very formal table lodge event, with everyone in tux, executing very elaborate movements with the toasting cannons, and done with very good wine and not the cheapest one found at the supermarket.  We evolved away from the event, to something simpler and more casual, thinking we would attract more of the younger/newer Masons.  It was successful to some degree, but we found what the younger members really craved was tradition.  This year the lodge brought back the old event, as formal as we ever did it, and it was very successful, and we had great attendance.  Have those discussions with the older members of your own lodge about events from the “old days”, share them with the new and younger members and I’ll bet something will stir some interest with them.

I’ll share an additional Forget-me-not thought this month but focused on the appendant bodies.  I was invited and been attending or having one of our line officers attend where possible, the inspection events for York Rite Commanderies, and have been having a great time.  I’m being told that it has been a long while since a Grand Master has been at their inspections.  I think it may have not been considered important by some Grand Masters a few years ago to attend major appendant body events, and the invitations stopped coming.  I’ve really enjoyed attending these and other appendant and affiliated body events.  I’ve spread the message that appendant bodies can provide great experiences for our Brothers, that our Blue Lodges need to demonstrate their value just as much as the appendant bodies, to entice our Brothers back to meetings and events.  If you want a Grand Master or some other line officer to attend an event or meeting, just ask.  We can’t always promise to say yes if there is some other event already committed to or us needing to attend but ask and see.

I hope to see you at one of my upcoming visits.  Don’t forget the 17th annual Combined Table Lodge with our Prince Hall Brothers on March 26 at Tripoli Shrine Center.  I’m proud to be a Freemason and I hope you are too.  

Faithfully yours,

Bob Strader

Grand Master