The ninth in the series of presentations on “Opportunities”
by R. W. Brother Friedhelm Hoffmann
District Deputy Grand Master of South Huron District
Upon his Official Visit to Stratford Lodge #332
Fidelity! All of us say this word three times at the end of each meeting. We say it as a united brotherhood followed by “…and may God help us” including the demonstration of the sign. The importance of this gesture is not lost on me as a simple gesture of ritual. Leading up to “Fidelity” with words …“to put our secrets in the safe repository of our hearts”…..with “fidelity”. We all know, or we think we know, what fidelity means and why we use it. We use it quite frequently just as a sign. Every time there is a prayer or work involving the Volume of the Sacred Law including obligations we have our hand over our heart with our arm in an angle of 90 degrees. (By the way – the sign is not used when we pray before a banquet or when we hold a minute of silence for the deceased.) That is the idea and the ideal. The 90 degree is a right angle that can form a square and is therefore THE angle. The most used angle in building. With ‘The right’ angle, the hand holding or touching the source of life we proclaim fidelity. The heart, the soul and the being is the source of our lives. (If you want to read more please read an excellent study on this by R. W. Bro. Ezekiel Bey, from New York available on a pdf file on the internet).
But more, I want to bring to your attention that we need to know what fidelity means. Surely, we think we know. Fidelity is explained as faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.
We live our fidelity in many ways in our lives. We demonstrate fidelity to our faith, to the person to whom we commit our lives, to family and friends and to whatever we believe. And for us as brethren, we add Masonry.
What I like in the definition is… “The demonstration of continuing loyalty and support.” Our world is more and more inclined to detach itself from fidelity. Fidelity as a word is not necessary understood or practiced by the younger generation. Some say that is an “old” expression. No, it is not! It is as vital now as ever as it stands. Fidelity in our case is believing in to the cause of Masonry. Masonry is built on the architecture that is building a building inside us and strengthening the source of life to which we are loyal. That’s why we are united as we recite and show togetherness as we close our lodges.
Our fidelity needs attention. It needs attention as there are powers around us, (they always were and are), that want to undermine our fidelity to our source of life. There is always someone or something that wants us to distract our focus on the loyalty to our heart and soul. The vast number of different opinions on what is good for the heart and soul, what is good for our lives, are confusing and we find ourselves not finding common ground with our neighbours. We have less and less in common in what is good for our lives and what makes us stronger. Especially when it comes to the Volume of the Sacred Law, there is a growing world around us that disregards, neglects or is indifferent to what comes from there. That should concern us very much. Our free for profit- only- market orientated world where money is definitively dictating our lives. The free market cannot sell the wisdom that comes from within this Volume of Sacred Law. The Volume of the Sacred Law actually works against the profit orientated world and therefore the free market tries to detract from the volume of sacred law ensuring we take the time to make profit on the market. In all goodness that the profit orientated market has, we need to reflect on it to ensure it does not become a negative influence, which perhaps has already happened. It is to the morals, reflections and directions given by the Book of Sacred Law that we in Masonry give our loyalty, our fidelity. It is a hard sell – speaking in today’s market terms. Every time we try to use the usual marketing tools of the free profit -only- market to advertise the goodness of the Volume of the Sacred Law, we fail. No surprise brethren. No surprise! The Volume of the Sacred Law can never be a sell, it is far to pure and was here long before us and will be long afterwards.
Two days ago on Saturday the officers from the lodges, chairmen and secretaries were summoned to attend a district midterm meeting in Mitchell. This was not a business meeting. It was a meeting to have the opportunity to reflect, on a district level, to what we give our fidelity. The agenda included a presentation by the chair of the Condition of Masonry R.W. Bro M. Locke who came all the way from St. Catherine to give valuable information to us on where Ontario masonry is and where our district is, so we know where we fit in the bigger picture, and it showed how Grand Lodge is evaluating the conditions of Masonry.
The morning included a feel for what District role is and what the District can do. It included a very good session of reports from each lodge where they told what goes well, what not so well and what are the plans for the future of the lodge.
When I called the meeting, I wasn’t quite sure what will come out of it. My intention was that we as a district leaders come together and reflect on where we are and a sense where we and Masonry could go. The follow up on the results of this meeting still has to happen.
Brethren, I have to tell you that I was more pleased than I expected to be as I walked out of this meeting. First of all almost all the lodges were well presented and their reports well prepared. During our 3 hours together I think we grew as a district family. It was a very productive, fun and interesting time. What was remarkable for me was that we all listened without judgement to everyone. We all sit in the same boat. We just need to know that there IS a boat. Despite the negative reports that I sometimes get about Masonry; financial issues, membership issues, struggle to get degree work done or whatever, I was highly impressed by the involvement of all participants and to their fidelity to our Craft. Personally, brethren you made my day, my weekend, perhaps more than that. You inspired me to think as I worked on a new speech over this weekend to reflect this. You showed me, showed yourselves, that you are in it for the principles, for the goodness that comes out of the Volume of Sacred Law. You showed that Masonry is stronger than it appears. I felt that common ground we all have that I sometimes have not felt in the past. Surely there are issues of dwindling memberships, financial challenges and building concerns and whatever else. And of course, we sometimes stand in our own way once in a while. We have all our own agendas, stubbornness and egos. That is life. The importance is how we deal with it. If we deal with our issues using the principles we are taught and construct our building of Masonry as we are taught from the degree rituals, nothing can harm us. Nothing. Brethren, we need to trust. I want to remind on the principles of Love, Hope and Faith.
Sometimes a District Deputy can feel lonely and is not sure what is going on. Did I do something wrong that emails are not answered or no responses from phone messages come back? That can make a person in this office sometimes a bit weary or unsure. No complaints, but too often quiet can be interpreted as answer as well. After this Saturday, I knew I do not have to worry and my concerns were of my own creation. Brethren, worries are the worst enemy. It easily destroys Hope and Faith. Especially if we are not sophisticated in Hope and Faith. We easily fall in to the trap of worries. Yes, we need to be concerned, actively concerned in all aspects of our lives. Be proactive. Yes, there is always work to do. There is always a challenge. But we need to trust and let the worries go. It is immensely difficult to navigate Masonry and its principles through the turmoil of our times. We know Masonry and its glory days 50 years ago, but will most likely not happen again. At least not in that form. There is no sense to try to go forward planning thinking to revive the past. We might use the wisdom learned in the past, yes indeed. Everything is changing, and so do we. It will be a challenge to bring the cause of our fraternity into our world. We need to be open minded and make sure our personal agendas ‘how masonry or our lodge should look like’ are not in the way. When we forget to reflect on our work, whenever we miss out remembering our values, our principles of Love, Relief and Truth we step backwards or prevent our craft from unfolding for the future. As our District Senior Warden, Stephen Hern, said on Saturday ‘challenges are opportunities’. I allude to that. And none has the magic bullet, Grand Lodge doesn’t, I don’t and you do not either. But we all together will find a good way to navigate through these times. That applies to masonry as much as it applies to our individual lives. Then only will Love and Hope fuel our faith and healthy loyalty. Only this healthy loyalty will manifest itself in our Fidelity.