Grand Master Gorgen’s September Address to the Craft

Greeting Brothers,

    The pandemic has taught us that nothing is for sure. We’ll never know what the Grand Architect has in mind for us and it can be a humbling experience. Mrs. Gump taught her son Forrest in the 1994 film Forrest Gump about uncertainty when she explained, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”. Masonically, we have the lesson of the Hour Glass teaching the same principle of uncertainty and it adds a good dose of humility. “The Hour Glass is an emblem of human life. Behold! How swiftly the sands run, and how rapidly our lives are drawing to a close. We cannot, without astonishment, behold the little particles which are contained in this machine, how they pass away almost imperceptibly and yet, to our surprise, in the short space of an hour they are all exhausted. Thus, wastes man! Today he puts forth the tender leaves of hope, tomorrow blossoms, and bears his blushing honors thick upon him; the next day comes a frost which nips the shoot, and when he thinks his greatness still aspiring, he falls, like autumn leaves, to enrich our mother earth.” How appropriate are both lessons for us and the world as we wade our way through the pandemic of 2020, and as we can also take a good look at ourselves in the mirror in having to deal with issues of brutality and racism. There is no room for either of those two things in our modern society and also in our beloved Fraternity. My heart, hopes, and prayers go out to all of those that suffer from either or both crises.

    To me the above message, though simplistic, is fairly straight forward. Life has no guarantees. It’s random and 2020 certainly has a whole new selection of chocolates that have a bitter taste for the world and Masonry. So, we need to deal with it! Never give up and never ever stop pushing forward, and never ever stop striving to make a better life for your family, and fellowman. Never stop relying on the Grand Architect for help and guidance.

    Our lodges have been working hard to make the best of what seems like a hopeless situation. The demoralizing effect of non-activity along with the lack of person-to-person interaction can take its toll on us, our families, communities, lodges, and appendant bodies. Thankfully, virtual meetings have been a blessing for filling the gap. For members without the means of taking part in these sessions, we should be checking up on them with a phone call from lodge members or from lodge wellness committees.

    All the technology in the world including a needed injection of education from the Masonic Book Club readings does not entirely lift me from the doldrums of the self-imposed quarantine. Masonry is about bonding and the cement of brotherly love. This happens through face-to-face contact or mask-to-mask. It’s a touch and feel thing, a human thing for all people that the screen time of a computer can never replace. I do not do as well with electronic friends as I do with real in-person friends. Masonic life is about relationships.

    Nevertheless, my Brothers the reality is that some past events and activities might never come back or ever be the same as before, at least not for several months; maybe never, but several months in time is only like the blip on a radar screen when compared to the centuries over which our Fraternity developed. Now is the time to make use of the idle period. “Let’s make hay while the sun shines.” “Let’s strike when the iron is hot.” We need to look at ourselves and find different ways to accomplish our goals using the tools we have in our toolbox. We have candidates in waiting. Keep them close and help them understand the promises Masonry has to offer is well worth the wait and anticipation.

    Explain that Masonry being a lifelong journey of self-assessment and then needed correction resulting in having positive effect on our faith, our neighbor, and our communities in correlation to the Masonic Tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. It is an internal transformation that begins with the degrees. It is a growing process that will not happen overnight. As more time is spent in the lodge with your Brothers, you’ll feel a difference in yourself, and hopefully, the people around you will recognize a change. There’s and old proverb, “Tell me who you go with and I’ll tell you who you are.” Simply put its suggesting that like minds stick together.

    Keep new candidates and lodge members interested by having them help plan projects of relief. Donating to the Grand Master’s Appeal for kids that don’t have enough to eat gives the opportunity to soothe the unhappy, to sympathize with their misfortunes, to compassionate their miseries, and to restore peace to their troubled minds. Remind the new guy that the Fraternity is made up of men who work to relieve the distressed and don’t think twice about it. Have them take part in distributing food at a local food pantry. “Living is giving.” [Morrie Schwartz; Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom] My guess is if you take time to think about it, you’ll probably recognize that you do take part in some or many giving activities. It’s part of what we do as Masons, but the real reward is the unknown. You’ll never know what that gift of time or possessions may have done to change a child’s life. Charity is unconditional love and extends beyond the grave through the boundless realms of eternity.

    Explain to the candidate that the lodge room is a place to find harmony after a day among the frantic activities of the world. It is place that when the door closes, peace and tranquility can be found with men of like thinking. As the lodge closes the meeting, think about taking that atmosphere of harmony out of the lodge and into the world. Masonry promotes peace and tranquility which should always be founded in harmony through friendship and cooperation. Think about the Worshipful Master’s send off to ever meet on the level, stand upright in character and act by the plumb, and always part on the square. It the Masonic benediction for all parting members.

    The mission or calling of the Craft is basically explained in the above three paragraphs. The Wisconsin Masonic Mission Statement in our Strategic Plan is a one-sentence, powerful oratory about the “Masonic” us. I have added it at the end of this article. Becoming familiar with it will assist you and help new candidates and prospective members to understand what we are about. It is a good communication tool to let them know what they are getting into when becoming part of the Fraternity.

    As we make a selection out of Mrs. Gump’s box of chocolates, it will not matter what we’re gonna get. We’ll persevere and use it to take advantage of the positive and squelch or minimize the negative. Someday you may be asked about Masonry, what’s its purpose, and why do you spend your time with it. Replying with the attributes of the Mission Statement might be a good way to break the ice and encourage more questions.

Our Mission as Masons is to promote personal development by reinforcing moral principles, to assist those suffering unfortunate circumstances, and to foster friendship and cooperation among all people.

Remember Masonry starts in the heart.

Stay safe and healthy,

Brother Ken