Richard H. Ryder, 2018
As the Lodge leader the Master must inspire the brethren, motivating them to support him and the Lodge. During the monthly communication he can use the East as a podium for promoting his goals, encouraging the sidelines to support him and his yearly agenda. But that only reaches those who are present. What about those who are not? Well, that’s where his From the East message comes into play.
Too often Lodge Masters miss this chance to promote their goals, motivate the brethren, and praise members for their accomplishments. A Master has ten opportunities during his year in the East to get everyone’s attention, but often may default to commenting on the weather, mentioning something in the news, or addressing lodge activities that should appear elsewhere in the notice. Don’t get me wrong, mentioning a cold snap as a quick ice breaker is fine; as is emphasizing an important event. But these should not be used just to fill up white space. The Master should devote a vast majority of his message to moving his yearly agenda forward, encouraging the brethren to get on board and explaining how they can do so.
In February 2017, I wrote a Maven’s Journal article titled, Leaders are Visionaries – Lessons from Lincoln. In it I stated “in addition to the simplicity and clarity of his vision, Lincoln took every opportunity to promote it, during speeches, writings, and in conversation. Lincoln preached a vison and continually reaffirmed it.” Lodge Masters need to think and act like Lincoln, using their From the East message to promote and reaffirm their vision.
Not everyone is a creative writer – I know that. A Master’s message need not read like Emerson, Thoreau, or JFK. But I do suggest that each Master should dedicate an hour a month to writing about some aspect of what they want to accomplish. This requires him to first define goals for the year – three goals are a typical number, but, of course, you can have more.
For example, if you want to increase the sidelines, write a message about why that is important to the Lodge and the Fraternity. Explain what each member can do and how the onboarding process works.
Maybe there is dissention in the Lodge. If so, reinforce the tenet of brotherly love and harmony.
If you want to reach out to the community, explain the benefits – community awareness of Masonry, demonstration of community spirit, goodwill, and the possibility of attracting new members.
So, how can you divide up the year to improve your messages?
First, start the year with a welcome message, a list of your goals, and why you selected them. Second, end the year with a summary of how much the lodge accomplished and praise individuals who went above and beyond. During the rest of the year devote a few months to promoting your goals. Devote a few messages to the tenets of Freemasonry and how, by following them, the lodge can improve. Maybe devote a message to attracting and retaining members and another to a mid-year update on how the lodge is progressing. Before you know it, you can have your messages all queued up and ready to go.
If you know what you would like to say, but can’t seem to put your thoughts on paper, seek someone who can help. Another Brother would be ideal, but if you know someone outside of Masonry who is a gifted writer, ask them to help you craft your message. If they enjoy writing I am confident they will enjoy the experience.
To help you get an idea of what I recommend, review the following 10 suggestions and also go to MasonicMaven.org , where you will find three From the East messages I wrote during my two years as Master.
10 Tips to Consider When Writing Your “From the East” Message
The following suggestions will help a Lodge Master improve his From the East messages. The ideal is to use each of these in your messages. However, sometimes, maybe due to the topic or space limitations, you must cherry-pick a subset. You can be the judge. Also, anyone can use the following suggestions to begin improving their writing skills, regardless of the topic.
- Choose a topic that helps you explain a part of your goals for the lodge (ex. harmony, retaining members)
- Determine the point or points you would like to make
- Determine the logical order in which you can best make your point or deliver a sequence of points
- Frame your message in three stages
- THE INTRODUCTION: after some icebreaker comments recognizing someone’s contribution or something significant event in or outside the lodge, deliver your message. If space allows your next paragraph might be an introduction to your message, where you briefly tell the reader why you are writing about the topic
- THE BODY: the body of the message provides the details, where you elaborate on your points. If you have several points, and if space allows, you may want to dedicate one paragraph to each point, writing them in an order that culminates in a concluding thought or charge to action by the brethren
- THE SUMMARY: if space allows and if appropriate, use the last paragraph to summarize your main points, using keywords or thoughts. Be sure to keep it concise. This is a way to let the reader end with your main takeaways.
- Keep your sentences as short as possible, but not so short that your message reads like a children’s book. Proper use of commas, colons, semicolons, and dashes help break up thoughts or effectively combine related thoughts. Lists also help to break up thoughts in a sequence that helps the reader better understand your message.
- Keep one main thought per paragraph
- In each paragraph, get to the point and keep to the point. If what you want to say does not significantly add to your message, consider not using it.
- Use one word instead of two. For example: use “greener” instead of “more green”
- Use an active versus passive voice. For example: use ‘will’ instead of “going to”; say “The Secretary read the minutes of the meeting” versus “The minutes of the meeting were read by the Secretary”
- Write your message in three steps:
- First, write freely, but be conscience of the flow; this gets your thoughts on paper, unrestricted by sentence structure, paragraph structure, grammar, etc.
- Secondly, go back to the beginning and modify your message by streamlining sentences and paragraphs, selecting better or fewer words, improving spelling and grammar, resequencing paragraphs, etc. Start to be aware of how your message will be read so that the reader is not wondering what you are trying to say. Use an online tool to check spelling, syntax, and grammar. But remember, these tools are not foolproof, so always proofread your message or ask someone else to do that for you.
- Thirdly, read your message one last time from top to bottom as if you were the reader, making minor changes to perfect your work. You can also add your message to an online tool that reads your message aloud, thus hearing your message as it might be read by your audience