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10 Tips to Consider When Writing Your “From the East” Message

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

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.

  1. Choose a topic that helps you explain a part of your goals for the lodge (ex. harmony, retaining members)
  2. Determine the point or points you would like to make
  3. Determine the logical order in which you can best make your point or deliver a sequence of points
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Keep one main thought per paragraph
  7. 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.
  8. Use one word instead of two. For example: use “greener” instead of “more green”
  9. 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”
  10. 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

Looking Toward the East – Lower Line Officers

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

Upper line officers receive most of the press surrounding the workings of the lodge, but the contribution of lower line officers should not be understated or underappreciated.  I’m referring to the Electrician, Inside Sentinel, and Tyler. As my mother-in-law used to say, “Many hands make light work.”  If anything, we don’t utilize enough these important resources.

Except for the Tyler, men who fill these roles are oftentimes our newest members.  They are newly minted, not influenced by lodge traditions and politics, and bring a fresh face to the line.  They have new ideas, new perspectives, and new energy.  Why would we not want to tap their interests and skills for the betterment of the Lodge?  Instead of dismissing their roles, we should celebrate them.

The Tyler is often a veteran of the Craft, someone who wants to stay engaged in the organization of the lodge, but not with the accompanying ritual and day to day responsibilities.  It takes a special person to fill this role, someone who subordinates the privilege of sitting in lodge with his Brothers with that of guarding the lodge room from intruders and welcoming Masons who seek admission to the lodge while the meeting is in progress.  Responsibility for the attendance register is under his domain, ensuring an accurate count of those in attendance. In many cases, the Tyler is a member who never sat in the East, but after years of experience and involvement is a hidden asset to the lodge.  It is the wise Master who taps this invaluable human resource and a hidden leader by virtue of his tenure as a Mason.

Like the Tyler, the Inside Sentinel and Electrician are oftentimes untapped resources.  If these roles are filled with two new members then they can be thought of as the next generation of senior line officers. Treat them as such. View them as potential energy, who, with appropriate mentoring during the coming years, have the potential to gain a wealth of experience that they can draw upon as future Wardens and then as Master.

Leaders are not born as such; they are cultivated, with lots of mentoring and internal fortitude.  It is wise, as someone once said, to act as the person you want to become.  As such, new members serving as Inside Sentinel or Electrician can lead by example, setting a positive image of both Masonry and the line of officers to members joining right after them.

They can also demonstrate leadership characteristics by preparing themselves for higher line positions, if they aspire to do so.  Creating a mental image and vision of themselves serving as Stewards, Deacons, Wardens, and Master is a key trait of an effective leader.  One of my favorite expressions is “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” Being prepared in every way will allow these junior officers to advance up the line when opportunity presents itself.

In conclusion, no matter where you are in the organization of line officers, you have an opportunity and a responsibility to strengthen your leadership skills and demonstrate them wherever and whenever possible.  In doing so, you will bring pleasure to yourself and honor to the fraternity.

British Freemasonry – A Brief Introduction (Part 3)

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

In parts one and two of this Introduction to British Freemasonry you received a brief overview of the Craft in England, Scotland, and Ireland; an introduction to early British lodges; a description of membership grades; and the events leading up to the formation of the Grand Lodge of England.  In this last installment The United Grand Lodge of England becomes a reality, English Provincial Grand Lodges are formed, and the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland follow suit.

The Premier Grand Lodge in London

By 1717, Freemasonry in Britain was flourishing among men in the upper echelons of society.  On June 24th members of the “Old Lodges” in London began to meet as the Premier Grand Lodge, located at the Goose and Gridiron ale house.  The oldest Master Mason, Anthony Sayer, became the Grand Master. Members agreed to meet once per year and partake in a grand feast.  Sayer appointed Grand Wardens, decreeing the three should meet four times per year, although there is no evidence these four yearly meetings ever occurred.

Also unproven is a desire by the Grand Lodge or Sayer to control lodges elsewhere in London.  This changed with his successor, George Payne, who enforced regulations created by Grand Lodge.  Also, other procedural changes began to occur. William Cowper of Horn Lodge was appointed as Grand Secretary, who’s duty was to record minutes of the meetings, the first of which are dated June24, 1723. That same year James Anderson published the first official Constitution of the Freemasons, a combination of The Old Charges documented in the Regus and other medieval manuscripts.

Soon, the makeup of the Grand Lodge, particularly the Grand Master, began to reflect British nobility. This stayed so for several years, causing people to view the Grand Lodge as a meeting place for society’s elite leading to the decline of operative influences. Freemasonry began to reflect the social status of the men who financed the construction of the medieval cathedrals instead of those who labored to build them.

Provincial Grand Lodges and the United Grand Lodge of England

As the Premier Grand Lodge in London grew in stature and power, its authority with provincial lodges grew also. Although some lodges, like those in York, resisted being associated with the social elite at Grand Lodge, most however did not. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, cities grew and wealthy industrialists, wanting to be perceived as gentlemen, sought out Freemasonry. Soon, urban membership expanded while rural membership decreased resulting in the death of some lodges.

Attending lodges near places of employment became more the exception than the norm. Gradually, members began to meet in temples and halls, rather than drinking establishments, inns, and coffee houses.

As the number of lodges grew, it became increasingly harder for the Grand Lodge in London to manage and govern the provincial lodges.  Simple communication was difficult due to the geographic dispersion of the increasing number of lodges. To remedy this, Provincial Grand Lodges were created along county lines and charged with constituting new lodges.  Then, in 1813, the United Grand Lodge of London was formed with King George’s son, Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, as its first Grand Master.

The Grand Lodge of Scotland

As in London, four old Scottish lodges gathered on November 30, 1736 to form the Scottish Grand Lodge with William St Clair elected as its first Grand Master. His ancestors are credited with building Rosslyn Chapel and his family prided themselves as heads of Scotland’s Masonic movement.

It did not take long for Kilwinning and other Scottish lodges to rise against each other in dissention over historical precedence.   In 1743, Canongate Kilwinning Lodge in Edinburgh, without authority from the Scottish Grand Lodge, began chartering lodges in Scotland and then America.  The Jacobite cause brought about additional friction and it wasn’t until 1746, following the Battle of Culloden, that Masonic wounds were mended.  All saw the benefit in apposing the English as a common enemy.

The Grand Lodge of Ireland

In the Emerald Isle, the Earl of Rose became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge in Dublin on June 26, 1725 and Freemasonry quickly spread, with some lodges going off on their own. A year later a rival grand lodge, The Grand Lodge of Munster, arose in Cork, but lasted only until 1733, bending to the authority of The Grand Lodge in Dublin. The rouge lodges also submitted. In the early 1800’s The Grand Lodge in Dublin survived a challenge by the Grand Lodge in Ulster, resulting in what we know today as The Grand Lodge of Ireland

“From the East” Message – A Forgotten Leadership Tool

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.

  1. Choose a topic that helps you explain a part of your goals for the lodge (ex. harmony, retaining members)
  2. Determine the point or points you would like to make
  3. Determine the logical order in which you can best make your point or deliver a sequence of points
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Keep one main thought per paragraph
  7. 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.
  8. Use one word instead of two. For example: use “greener” instead of “more green”
  9. 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”
  10. 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

Freemasonry – A Safe Haven from the Madness

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

It is three days after Christmas and naturally, like most others, I look ahead to all the possibilities of a new year and new beginnings. But I can’t help but reflect on the year about to end, and oh what a year it has been.  I also reflect on what Freemasonry means to me.

The economy is strong, yet many still fall through the cracks.  Unemployment is low, yet minimum wages can’t keep pace with inflation.  Social media companies exchange our personal identities to enrich their bottom lines. The Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 653 points one day and rises 1086 points the next. The federal government is closed, yet our legislators can’t reach across the aisle and agree on a timely solution.

But those aren’t the saddest of problems. Refugee children die at our border. Police officers and citizens are shot in the streets at alarming rates. Terrorist attacks have become normalized, anesthetizing our senses. Social justice issues continue to impact millions.  Opioid and fentanyl misuse indiscriminately and abruptly take the lives of loved ones regardless of age or socio-economic status.  Stories of sexual abuse by priests and men in power persist. People continue to kill each other over religion and territory.

Sadly, most of this is not new; it has been going on for generations. The 24-hour news cycle and the increasing capability of technology at our fingertips create opportunities for just about anyone to push their hidden agenda, sometimes with tragic consequences. As I watch the evening news each night, I thank God for the inspiring stories of human kindness ending each newscast.

To cope, each of us must find rays of hope in our own lives.  Family and friends, faith and religion, meditation and yoga – all provide means to filter out the world, focus our minds, and center us.  But what else do we have at our disposal to positively influence our lives? Well, Masonry of course.

When we speak with a man unfamiliar with Freemasonry, we need to convey the therapeutic benefits of our ancient organization.  We must explain that once a month, in lodges all over the world, men of different backgrounds, beliefs, and persuasions gather in numbers small and large, to silence the world outside.  We need to convey that Freemasonry does not replace his faith or religion; it compliments it.  It does not compete with his beliefs; it expands them. It is not a waste of his time; it is a worthwhile investment of time in himself, his community, and the world.  And, it is a much-needed safe haven from the madness outside the four walls of our lodge rooms.

Each time we meet, tiny ripples of hope spread within and without us.  It’s an opportunity to lower our blood pressure, meditate on the tenets and lessons of Freemasonry, and connect with those who share our Masonic journey.  The apolitical and areligious nature of our Fraternity fosters harmony.  Our charitable nature fosters empathy.  Our universality fosters a sense of community. In short, we must paint a visual and tactile image of Freemasonry so non-Masons can better understand and appreciate the rich benefits of association with likeminded men.

The real secret of Masonry is not what happens behind closed doors; it’s the lifelong gift of self-reflection, self-improvement, and the hope one receives when he takes that first step toward the East and ultimately the perfect ashlar.

Happy New Year and may the blessings of God shine upon you.

Masonic Spotlight: Brother Evan Weisenfeld

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

Masonic Maven has always maintained that, in practice, organizational leadership differs from corporate leadership.  In an organizational environment, like Freemasonry, effective leadership is more about persuasion than coercion, and consensus versus authoritarianism. Sharing this belief is Brother Evan Weisenfeld from Rabboni Lodge, Westwood, Massachusetts.  Evan has rich experience in both environments and agreed to share his experience for the benefit of others.

I first met Brother Weisenfeld at a Masonic Open House in 2015, when we spoke at length about his interest in Freemasonry, his profession and family, and his commitment to improving his community of Medfield Massachusetts.  I immediately connected with him and mentored him as he began his Masonic journey. Within his first year Evan attained the Master Mason Rookie Award, granted by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.  Without hesitation Evan became fully engaged in our lodge and inspired me to assist with the Medfield Foundation’s annual “Angel Run”; a race that helps provide the foundation with financial resources in support of local people in need.  As an active member of Rabboni Lodge and President of the Medfield Foundation, Evan inspires everyone with his humility, enthusiasm, boundless energy, and positive attitude.  He is truly a leader in every way.

Born in Queens, NY, Evan moved to San Diego at age 11, where he attended La Jolla High School. In his junior and senior years, he attended Beverly Hills High School, graduating in 1985. Evan’s introduction to organizational volunteerism started in high school where he spent four years on the year book staff. Each year he assumed increasing decision making and leadership responsibility, eventually becoming co-editor in his senior year.  With complete responsibility for the yearbook design, these formative years served as an inspiration and foundation for future professional and organizational leadership roles.

At the University of California, San Diego, Evan continued his organization involvement, serving in student government, as Chairman of the Student Union Board, and as President of his Fraternity.  This experience exposed him to a variety of people.  It afforded him opportunities to serve on committees and school related initiatives, including master planning. Most of all, he began interacting with student campus leaders. His college experience taught him the difference between a decision made by committee and one made by an individual leader with ultimate responsibility for the outcome.

After college, Evan found himself in the San Francisco Bay area managing and turning around an underperforming photo copy store. It was here he gained management experience, responsible for hiring and firing staff, training, and other personnel issues.

Always looking for the next challenge and location, Evan eventually became Managing Director at Zentropy Partners, a web development and design company in Minnesota. Responsible for 10 direct reports and 90 employees overall, he was responsible for business development, strategic planning, account relationships, and external clients.  Then, in 2000, Evan and his wife, Susan, moved to Medfield, MA with their children Craig and Alyssa.  Evan had been offered a position as Vice President of Interactive Communications at Fidelity Investments in Boston, where he managed a 30-person team.  His responsibilities were similar as those at Zentropy Partners, but on a larger scale.  The move to Medfield did not just allow Evan to change jobs and expand his professional career, it also led to an opportunity to apply his organizational skills in new ways.

Evan immediately got involved in the community by joining, with his wife, the “New in Town” group, designed to help new residents become engaged in the Town of Medfield.  Next, he joined the Medfield Coalition for Public Education, which provides system-wide support and academic enrichment for Medfield schools. Soon, Evan served on the Medfield Trust Fund Commission before joining the Medfield Foundation.  In all his Medfield related organizational roles, Evan was able to apply his accumulated professional and organizational leadership skills to improve the Town of Medfield for years to come.

Evan believes that the skill set one needs to succeed in organizational leadership is like that of corporate leadership, but there are also important differences.  For example, both require someone who works well with people and possesses strong communication skills.  But in an organizational environment, where committees are the norm, one must be able to build consensus and strive for the best outcome for all, even if it does not reflect your own opinion. In corporate environments, even though consensus building can be a valuable skill, ultimately the leader is accountable.  Staff members can contribute opinions, but it is the leader who must decide, not the majority.

Looking back on his professional and organizational careers, Evan was most inspired by those who demonstrated strong people skills.  Not only were they great individuals, they were also great leaders, possessing strong listening skills, trustworthiness, and the ability to break down roadblocks to ensure success.  Personally, Evan expressed admiration for Reverend Martin Luther King, sharing his philosophical beliefs and respecting MLK’s total commitment to a cause.

With Evan’s consistent dedication to helping others in his community, it is no wonder he sought out Freemasonry. Although he was always curious about Masonry, it was his mother’s excellent care at the Masonic Health Care Center in Elizabethtown, PA that impressed him enough to seek membership in the Fraternity.  In 2015, due to radio publicity, Evan attended the annual open house in Westwood, MA and there began his Masonic journey. Evan is a true example of the kind of person Freemasonry wants to attract, and it is up to the lodge and the Fraternity to make Freemasonry a worthy endeavor for all.

The Word: Ashlar

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

Albert G. Mackey, in The Lexicon of Freemasonry, notes the following short description of ashlar: “Free stone as it comes out of the quarry.” – Bailey.  The Masonic Apprentice learns of the Rough Ashlar and the Perfect Ashlar during his first degree.  The Former representing a stone in its rude and unworked state, direct from the quarry; the later a stone made ready for use by the builder, perfected by the hands of a skilled worker.  In practice, through education and expansion of knowledge, the Mason metaphorically journeys through life, from his rude state at birth toward that state of perfection we all hope to attain, fully realizing that perfection is unattainable until we enter the celestial lodge above.

Contributor Corner Series: The Weight of the Collar

Author: RW Glenn L. Kubick, 2017

The overall design of the various collars that distinguish each Lodge officer are quite similar, except for the specific emblem suspended from the bottom.  Likewise, the actual weight of each officer collar is similar. The difference in the weight comes when the Master’s collar is placed about your shoulders when installed as the Worshipful Master of your Masonic Lodge.  Suddenly, the symbolic weight of the collar and the very real weight of the responsibility of the Master’s office conspire.  At that very moment this realization can be exhilarating, overwhelming, and almost incapacitating, all at once.

Whether you meticulously worked your way up through each of the chairs, learning about Masonry and preparing for this day; or you took a more accelerated route, in an instant you realize you are now the leader of your Lodge. At this very moment you suddenly possess tremendous power.

To a large extent the decisions you make may potentially and greatly influence the path of your Lodge long into the future.  Some men welcome the challenge and are eager to test their mettle; others are unsure of their ability to lead the group and are initially intimidated by the position. For the new, and yes, experienced Masters, the words of our Brother Harry Truman ring true, “the buck stops here”.

While there are many voices surrounding the Master, the ultimate voice in determining what transpires is and should be his own.  The best defense against the potentially crushing weight of responsibility is confidence, preparation, and planning.  Those that fall behind are destined to chase the curve and will find great difficulty digging themselves out of the hole in which they now find themselves.  Those that plan and follow that plan will be in better stead to tackle the nuisances of the position, thus having the opportunity to enjoy and grow with the experience.  Just as it makes no sense, while learning to swim, to jump unaccompanied into the deep end of a pool, it makes no sense to take on the responsibility of Master without proper preparation.

So, how do you learn to swim prior to jumping into the office of Master? Consider the following:

  • Attend and understand the lessons learned in The Master’s Path
  • Know and understand your Lodge By-laws, the Grand Constitutions, and the Masonic Protocol booklet
  • Read and understand the book, “Duties and Responsibilities of Lodge Officers and Committee Chairmen”
  • Learn from the example and advice of your Past Masters
  • Understand the nuances of your Lodge and its membership

By following the above recommendations, you will be better prepared to carry the real and symbolic weight of the Master’s collar.

R.W. Glenn L. Kubick, 2017

The Treasurer

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

Money makes the world go around and like it or not it is required to operate your Lodge.  As such, the stewardship of lodge operating funds should be placed into the hands of a competent, dedicated, and trustworthy member.  The work of the Treasurer is done mostly outside the lodge room – he has just a small piece of ritual and does no floor work.  But, don’t let this fool you into thinking it is just a token position – it’s not.  Without an effective Treasurer working behind the scenes the functioning of the lodge will suffer and the Master will have one less person to help fulfill his goals for the year.

Like the Lodge Secretary, the Lodge Treasurer position requires the right person with the right experience and the right disposition.  It requires someone with financial, technical, and interpersonal skills. Ideally, it requires a man experienced in the Craft. As such, this is not an entry level officer position.

This article describes the experience of preparing for and serving as the Treasurer, as told from a variety of sources, including Wor. Brother Michael Slyman (12 years as Treasurer of Rabboni Lodge, Westwood, MA) and Wor. Brother Robert P. Shedd (18 years as Treasurer of West Roxbury – Dorchester Lodge, Westwood, MA).  It also describes the skillset and personal traits one must have to be effective.

This article does not, however, discuss all topics that may be of interest to some Treasurers, such as investments, insurance, and payroll.  Nor does it discuss in detail all the associated roles and responsibilities, although a dynamic list exists on MasonicMaven.com. Please note that a thorough explanation of Treasurer roles and responsibilities is available through training provided by The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.

Lastly, although not always explicitly stated, this article also applies to the Assistant-Treasurer.

Carefully Filling the Position

Like the Secretary, a member may suddenly find himself the Treasurer of his lodge when, for a variety of reasons, the position suddenly becomes vacant.  During these times an Assistant-Lodge Treasurer should be able to seamlessly move into the position.  If your lodge does not have an Assistant-Lodge Treasurer, you should seriously consider filling this position.

Given the Treasurer role is best filled with someone with a financial background, it may be difficult for some lodges to fill the position with a qualified person. If this is true, then those lodges should request guidance from Grand Lodge. However, if a man is adept at learning new material, he can learn the financial concepts required to fulfill the role. This may take time, which is why lodges should have a succession plan in place. Lodges should fill the Assistant-Treasurer position with either a qualified man or someone who can effectively learn the required financial concepts.

Skills and Traits

The following material describes some skills and traits to consider for those seeking to be the Treasurer or for a nominating committee to reference when filling the office. 

Honesty, Integrity, and Ethics

Above all else, the Treasurer MUST be a man of the highest honesty, integrity, and ethics, given he is entrusted with protecting the financial well-being of lodge operating funds.  His duty, per his obligation, is “to take charge of the stock and other property of the Lodge, receive all moneys, keep a just and true account of the same, and pay them out by order of the Worshipful Master and consent of the Lodge”. He is vetted by the nominating committee and voted on by the lodge.  As such he has won the approval of the lodge and they expect him to be a man of the utmost character and the faithful steward of lodge funds.  Violating this trust is a serious matter and should not to be taken lightly.  Serious infractions can subject someone to charges of fraud or embezzlement, complete with all the associated legal ramifications and possible suspension from all the rights and benefits of Freemasonry. Any man who has the least bit of doubt as to his personal character, that may in the slightest way compromise the lodge’s trust, should not assume the role of Lodge Treasurer or any other position involving lodge finances…period.

Accounting Fundamentals

Some people are not good with numbers and that’s okay.  They may find other suitable roles in the lodge. With that said, you don’t need to be a CPA, an accountant, a banker or a financial planner to serve as treasurer; but you do need a basic or working knowledge of accounting.  Balancing a check book, debits and credits, “T” accounts, balance sheet, and profit and loss statement should not be foreign terms.  Although there are software packages to streamline the treasurer’s work, he needs to understand what is fundamentally happening behind the scenes. There are plenty of resources to reference if you would like to strengthen your understanding of accounting, including books, seminars, formal classes and online material.

Accuracy and Attention to Detail

Accuracy and attention to detail are two key traits of an effective and competent Treasurer.  Simple mistakes can have a negative impact that cause confusion and may impact the successful operation of the lodge. This is especially true for lodges that are not blessed with a hefty checkbook balance.  The Master’s budget impacts programming and errors in managing and accounting for receipts and disbursements may cause the Master to cancel or significantly change a given activity.  Most importantly, repetitive errors contribute to the lodge members losing confidence in the careful stewardship of lodge finances.

Organization

Along with the Master and Secretary, the Treasurer must be organized.  He must keep track of receipts, invoices, vouchers, tax forms, reports, etc.  Doing so helps him stay on top of all the work that crosses his desk.  Doing so facilitates a lodge audit and streamlines Grand Lodge and tax reporting.  Doing so helps the Master measure his progress in running the lodge.  Everyone has their own organization system; no one size fits all.  It is important to find a system that works best for you.

Software applications take the drudgery out of common accounting and reporting activities. However, they won’t automate every step, thus requiring a reliable set of personal organization skills.  To acquire these skills, get a good book or check online for useful information.

Timely Recordkeeping, Audit Trails, and Reporting

The Treasurer is responsible for not only maintaining timely records that accurately reflect the financial operations of the lodge, but also for providing an accurate audit trail.

Another entity is typically responsible for investments, which may very well provide the operating income under the Treasurer’s management.  Although the treasurer may be an ex-officio member of that entity, his primarily concern is fundamental – the well-managed daily financial operations of the lodge.  As such, his activities include, but are not limited to, paying bills; signing checks; making deposits; and processing associated paperwork like receipts, invoices, and bank statements.

As you can see, a significant amount of data must be managed and reported, and it is the Treasurer’s responsibility to do so. Therefore, a software package like Quicken or QuickBooks, or a simple spreadsheet, are key recordkeeping tools.  However, using a software accounting package or spreadsheet application may not be intuitive for everyone, so personal or formal training may be necessary.  If so, the time taken to learn at least the basics of these tools will reap dividends downstream, especially during the lodge annual meeting, tax reporting season, and lodge audits.  These are over and above the benefits the Master derives out of knowing, month to month, how he is performing against his budget.

Understand Checks and Balances

When it comes to money, no one person should handle everything; there needs to be a process of checks and balances. For example, the Secretary receives requests for payment from vendors and members.  This is in the form a bill or invoice, either of which should be accompanied by a voucher. The Finance Committee (often comprised of at least the Master and Wardens) approves the request and signs the voucher.  Then, the proposed payment is voted on by the lodge.  Lastly, assuming approval by the lodge, the Treasurer cuts a check and forwards payment.  By incorporating a pre-defined and approved process of internal controls, the lodge is following generally accepted accounting principles adhered to by every reputable company and organization. It’s easy to cut corners, with the Treasurer being pressured into making a quick payment without proper authorization.  This is risky on several different levels.  Better to work with the Master and vendors to anticipate expenses and have the proper paperwork at the ready to provide a thorough audit trail and to support a sound process.

Conflict of Interest

Under no circumstances should there be a hint of conflict of interest on the part of anyone handling funds on behalf of the lodge.  For example, two or more members of the same family should not be part of the approval process. Also, employees of a financial institution, depending on their position and company, should think twice about serving as the Lodge Treasurer. In fact, some major financial firms require employees to divulge their outside associations to prevent the perception that in fulfilling their outside role they somehow represent the financial firm. When in doubt, be extra cautious.

Tax Compliance

There must be an awareness of the lodge tax requirements, the required reporting timeframe, and the requisite forms.  One such filing is IRS Form 990, filed annually by an organization exempt from income tax. This article will not delve into the recordkeeping and filing of this form; Grand Lodge can provide the necessary guidance.  Another consideration is the tax implications of compensating certain lodge officers for their time.  Lastly, there may be local and federal tax implications associated with ownership of a building by a building association.

The Lodge Secretary should be well-versed in all the above areas. If he lacks the necessary understanding, then he needs to educate himself. As indicated, he should start by contacting Grand Lodge for guidance. Another option is for the lodge to retain the services of an accredited CPA.

Budget Process

Based on training and experience the effective Secretary can provide valuable input into the budgeting process. This is especially valuable when the presiding Master is inexperienced in creating a budget to support his activities for the year.  Experience will allow you to better serve the Master and lodge by allowing you to look ahead at possible recurring events, lodge history, and lodge traditions.  Doing so will help ensure funding is available in a timely fashion.

Time Management

Effective time management is a skill that is professionally and personally transferable.  As the Lodge Treasurer you must be aware of the time sensitive nature of the role.  You can’t afford, for example, to pay bills past the due date or to reimburse members after their credit card payment is due; the former can be costly and the later is rude.

Also, the government and Grand Lodge are strict when it comes to submission of annual returns (reference the Grand Constitutions Sections 351 and 352), reports, payments, and forms.

Effectively managing time can be a challenge and if that is true for you it is wise to seek ways to acquire and implement sound management skills.  Once again, consult a friend, a well-written book, take a seminar, or check online for a process that works for you.

Interpersonal Skills

Managing someone else’s money requires the ability to calmly discuss sensitive issues and problems.  Maybe it is working with the Master on his budget and trying to make ends meet.  Maybe the Lodge Treasurer is not doing his job, causing you to miss timely payment of bills.  Maybe one of the members has real concerns about how lodge money is spent and comes to you for answers.  Each of these situations require tact, patience, and flexibility.  When deciding if being the Secretary is right for you, consider your ability to work with others to meet the needs of the lodge.

In Closing

Serving as a Lodge Treasurer is a fulfilling role for the qualified person.  He supports the lodge and the Master, in that order, by serving as a reliable and trustworthy steward of lodges operating finances.  This article provides points to consider by those seeking to serve his lodge in this capacity.  In addition to expanding one’s knowledge and skillset through mentors, books, classes, and online, Grand Lodge also offers treasurer training and a Lodge Treasurer online portal. As early as possible, take advantage of all resources at your disposal to increase your effectiveness in office.

Lodge Treasurer – Skills, Personality Traits, Roles and Responsibilities

Richard H. Ryder, 2018

The following is a dynamic list of potential skills, roles, and responsibilities for a Lodge Treasurer.  The lists are not to suggest that every Lodge Treasurer possess everything listed, but rather to raise one’s awareness of areas for self-improvement. This list is not exhaustive and will be periodically updated.

Some of the items below were derived from the Lodge Treasurer Training Presentation developed by R.W. Donald H. LaLiberte and R.W. Kevin J. Willis, conversations with current and past Lodge Secretaries, and personal experience.

Roles

  • Time Manager
  • Recordkeeper
  • Bookkeeper
  • Accounts Payable Clerk
  • Confidant
  • Advisor
  • Leader
  • Organizer
  • Bookkeeping Application Software User

Skills and Personality Traits

  • Honest
  • Trustworthy
  • Ethical
  • Integrity
  • Detail orientated
  • Organized
  • Patience
  • Relationship building
  • Accuracy and attention to detail
  • Time management
  • Budget creation and management
  • Ability to prioritize
  • Ability to organize large amounts of data
  • Sound judgement and discretion
  • Working knowledge bookkeeping software and a spreadsheet application
  • Basic understanding of sound accounting and bookkeeping practices
  • Basic understanding of applicable tax compliance, requirements, and reporting
  • Understanding of applicable Grand Lodge reporting requirements

Responsibilities

  • Effectively manage lodge finances, demonstrating the utmost integrity, honesty, and ethics
  • Consistently follow generally accepted bookkeeping and accounting internal controls
  • In a timely manner, accurately process transactional documents
  • In a timely manner, accurately maintain detailed financial records
  • In a timely manner, accurately provide Lodge and Grand Lodge reporting
  • In a timely manner, accurately comply with all applicable tax requirements
  • Avoid potential conflict of interest
  • Assist the Master in creating and maintaining his budget
  • Assist the Lodge trustees and finance committee in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities
  • Comply with all auditing processes and requirements