Tonight is my first official visit and it is my pleasure to be the representative of Grand Lodge in South Huron District with your trust in me to be so. This first visit provides the opportunity to outline some of the work that the district is planning. We have already heard this evening, through all the various chairmen’s work, what some of the program entails. These are steps to revitalizing Masonry and its work and its purposes in our district.
I plan 11 speeches, one for each “Official Visit” that will tie together our goals in masonry (at least I hope so). The primary heading for this year is ‘Opportunities’. Under this heading, today‘s theme is entitled “Vision”.
When I say Vision, this is not just a dream for today or sometime in the past. It is a vision that has in mind nothing else but a continuation what the past District Deputies have already done. It is nothing more than a DDGMs duty to embrace and to support masonry in lodge and masonic life, especially in these unsure times. Unsure times in our lives, where life is taking us, where the world around our individual lives impact our activities; and our peace. Changes in our society on many levels immensely influence organizations like ours. That is why it is so much more important today than probably ever in masonic history to embrace the masonic vision.
Now I am usually a pragmatic person and people with too many visions, or dreams, do not appreciate it when I say “you have vision problem – go see an eye doctor”. I am talking about visions that are not laid on the foundation of unrealistic and unreachable terms but on terms that are reachable. 3 degrees for each lodge should be an attainable goal. If not, perhaps we should have further conversation. A “Brother to Brother- Friend to Friend Project” or a “Cornerstone Project” are steps that not just dreams but will build on existing visions of Masonry. Those who want to reach a realistic goal with great vision must take a lot of little steps to reach it. Taking steps too big could make the achieving of the goal more difficult.
Then there is the vision of making “good men better.” The Grand Lodge supports this vision. I quote: “Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world. Its members share a common goal of helping each other become better men. Its body of knowledge and system of ethics is based on the belief that each man has a responsibility to improve himself while being devoted to his family, faith, country and fraternity”. This is a vision of endorsing, supporting, communicating and practicing many principles like – and I am quoting again – “purest morality, peace, harmony, brotherly love, relief, truth, faith, hope, charity, fraternity, liberty and equality”. These principles and attributes we claim are ‘pure and perfect’. We didn’t make them up. No, these principles have been anchored in our society for centuries. These principles are known to all people in society today, or they should be known. But never in history have these principles been challenged in our society as they have been in the last 50 or more years. In slow motion these principles appear less known and less taught. The shift in society, in how these principles are taught and communicated, is different than in history. When society had a very solid common understanding through all levels in society, lodges could pick up new members on more common ground and work to foster and go more deeply into the named principles. It was – and is – a compliment to how we grew up in general, in our education and more so reflective. Reflection is what grows our inner strength. Reflection and practice of principles, going to meetings, meeting others, listening to education, doing the work of degrees, being involved in actual charity work, just reflecting on what we do in our lives is what develops the cornerstone where our heart, soul and mind finds its base. That’s one of the reasons why we need to constantly work on the cornerstone.
Today we find ourselves in a society that is not only diverse, but challenges these principles in many ways – not necessarily intentionally. When our forefathers started Masonry 300 years ago, the main focus in their life was faith, hope and charity. It wasn’t economy or having stuff. Life and death were close friends at that time for various reasons. Faith and practicing faith was at its cultural new high after the Reformation and its impact on society that we celebrate this month the 500th time. That is completely different today. We can celebrate 300 years of masonry; but we need well to understand that life, life feeling and circumstances were completely different to what we know today when masonry was initiated. It could be interpreted that economy is replacing what we worship. What I want to ask is the question: “Do you believe in a supreme being”? If asked 300 years ago (or perhaps 100, 50 or even 30 years ago) and asked today might have a completely different understanding of the answer given. And that is not an attack on economy or, God forbid, on politics around it, don’t get that wrong. No, this is just an observation. The vast amount of different opinions on subjects can be confusing. The confusion of what morality is, what faith is or could be, what love is and what hope is. What we actually hope for is, for me, in our current diverse society is hard to find that common ground that we perhaps believe exists. But that is just my observation, others might add or have different experiences. But brethren, what I want to tell you is that I do have my issues to find the vision of our society. The present society of fear through threats and events is of course not helping. It shows actually that we are vulnerable to any threat as we are not strong enough and did not learn true principles in our lives. Fear is moving in when we do not have established principles like faith, charity and hope. How should we know what that is if we did not learn it or it is just limited?
Economy translated in buying and selling does not do a thing to help our issues. We know that out of personal experiences. Who has not been challenged in family life, work life or life in general? We cannot buy Hope or Love or Charity. But the cornerstone of our inner strength has hope practiced and knows how to apply it. That is why we, as Masons, the moment when we leave our visions behind and become distracted and become repetitious in our work, we become frightened and we lose our vision and focus and start just maintaining. Like we would in life when things go south and our own lives vision becomes blurry – we are in just survival mode. We, as Masons, take the principles of this world of good man and make them understandable – pure and usable. This means for us that as Masonry stands in midst of this wonderful storm of confusion we have the opportunity, I repeat the opportunity, to stand steadfast, to hold on to the pure principles in a changed world but without ignoring the changes. To have perhaps fewer members for good reasons but that should not worry us. Worry will distract us from the good we can do. The challenges of our time should give us even more motivations to build masonry not frustration and dimming the light. But the light is shining above us all and we need to trust in the book of sacred law, not the bank statement, but the Architect of the universe. Let us become stronger every day in practicing masonry. Masonry is good for us and good for anyone that is in this world. There is a lot to do. So let us build our cornerstones to be good examples in our society and open our blind eyes. As we just come out of the Thanksgiving celebrations and reflect upon what we are actually thankful for, we can be thankful to be a mason, we can be thankful to know about principles and having a vision. We can be thankful to get tools for life that no one else has and we can help others that help in return helps ourselves. We can be thankful that we are part of this society with a strong cornerstone and thankful for having the energy and the opportunity to live the principal of the order out there in general life. But we all need to keep in mind that visions need to stay practical. No enthusiasm should be greater than the sober passion for practical reason.
Thank you brethren.