March 2022:
Returning to the Ritual

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    Returning to the Ritual

    It's the bread and butter of the fraternity, the stuff that inspires, educates, and bonds Masons together. It's the ritual. When it’s done right, it's a deeply meaningful, profound experience that makes a member for life. But for many, being away from lodge for so long means they've likely forgotten their lines. After all, ritual is one of those things that you either use or you lose. “When ritual is done poorly,” says Grand Lecturer Ricky Lawler, “it takes away from the lessons it’s meant to impart. That’s why it’s so important to do well.”

    For some lodges, it’s been several months—even years—since their last degree ceremony. But the list of prospects waiting to be admitted (as well as members waiting to progress through the degrees) is practically out the door. “Ritual is the tool we use to make Freemasons,” Lawler says. And for many lodges, that tool has gotten rusty. 

    But how can you tell good ritual from bad? For Lawler, he knows it when he sees it. “I judge good ritual on how it makes me feel inside,” he says. “When the brothers are in sync and the recitations are on point, that’s when it starts hitting the soul.” Certainly, the mechanics are relatively straight-forward. Ritual is a combination of floorwork and recitation. But there’s a third element that can transform the event into a deeply moving one. “The best ritual is when the man imparts the lessons in a conversational manner,” Lawler says. “I want to feel like it’s just two men having a chat.”

    Good ritual is so central to the Masonic experience that it shouldn’t be hindered by last-minute preparation or half-hearted effort. “Ritual is how we impart the lessons of Freemasonry—it’s how we share the light with our brethren,” Lawler says. But it’s also more than that. It's devotion in action. “Doing good ritual takes time and effort. That’s time and effort officers are taking away from their family and friends. They’re donating that time to their brethren,” Lawler explains.

    Making the Degrees Meaningful

    Research shows that the biggest differentiator between those who value their membership in the fraternity and stay engaged with their lodge and those who don’t is whether or not they feel they have a meaningful experience at lodge. The ritual plays an enormous role in that—and as such, it’s not just a tool for making Masons. It’s also the tool that keeps the lodge together.

    Taking the ritual experience seriously is therefore a key part of fostering and maintaining a successful lodge. Here are a few tips for getting back into the ritual groove. Hint: they may be obvious, but they’re no less true.

    Practice, Practice, Practice 

    The first piece of advice is obvious: You've got to get your reps in. "Getting back to ritual, it's like we're trying to cold-start an engine," explains Jordan Yelinek, the Assistant Grand Secretary. "Sometimes you've got to try it a couple of times before the engine turns over. But you've got to give it some gas."

    • Practice by yourself. It sounds obvious, but with ritual, practice does really make perfect. Take time out of your day to practice the recitations. Stuck in traffic on your way to or from work? Recite the degree to yourself aloud. Have to mow the lawn? The noise of the lawnmower will drown out your recitations so your neighbors don’t hear you! You get the picture.
    • Practice as an officer line. Make time for your officer line to work as a team going through the entire flow of a degree ceremony. Floorwork is something that is best practiced in concert with your fellow officers and in the lodge setting. This is where the rubber meets the road and you can combine your well-practiced recitations with coordinated movement.
    • Take it in bite-sized pieces. Take this tip from Ricky Lawler: “Don’t try to tackle a complicated section of ritual in one go. Break it down into manageable chunks 

    But First, Start Planning

    Actually, if being out-of-practice is your lodge's biggest problem, that's a good thing. Because even getting to a place where you can focus on the performance itself takes some serious planning.

    • Begin by surveying your lodge's degree needs for the upcoming year. How many applicants are ready to take their Entered Apprentice degree? How many are waiting for the second and third degrees? Don't try to do them all at once. "Give yourself a roadmap," Yelinek says. "And then you can backfill that calendar with rehearsals and practice dates." (For what it's worth, on average, lodges perform about six degrees per year.)
    • Be strategic: The Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft degrees share many similarities. Take advantage of the practice you do for one and schedule your EA and FC degrees close to one another. That way you'll stay sharp and not need to worry about building up to the more challenging third degree until later. 
    • Stick to the plan: Once you've built out a calendar to handle all the degrees you need to perform, stick to it. Don't worry about a new candidate who wants to get their Entered Apprentice degree done ASAP. They'll be scheduled for 2023. And that's not a bad thing.
    • Look for help. We know that life gets in the way; sometimes it can be hard to find a fill-in if someone is away or can't make a degree. That's why it's a good idea to turn to your fellow officers—either at officer schools of instruction events, or at the Leadership Retreats (it's not too late to sign up!), or through your district inspector. In fact, lodges that co-host the degrees often find it to be a fun and memorable time.
    • Look at your bench. Are there Entered Apprentices in your lodge who might relish the opportunity to deliver the charge at the end of another candidates' EA degree? Other members who might like to play a part? Think of the degrees as a way to bring more members into the fold in a meaningful way—and to give the regular crew a little bit of a break. That's a win-win.

    New Resources Just in Time for Youth Orders Month

    March is Masonic Youth Orders Month. As your lodge makes its plans to recognize the members of the youth orders, take advantage of a new library of resources available on The library includes things like logos, articles, speeches, graphics, and templates that you can use in emails, trestleboards, and other updates. You can also submit articles to it, so it will grow with time. Check it out today

    Your March Checklist

    Stay on track of lodge business and prepare for important deadlines. Here’s your March checklist. 

    Executive Committee

    • Schedule inspector’s official visit and examination of the books, due by end of the month.
    • Attend or make plans to attend the Master & Wardens Retreat. Register now.

    Senior Warden

    • Begin preparing 2023 program plan.
    • Begin preparing 2023 budget, remembering to set aside funds for retreat attendance
    • Begin preparing 2023 officer appointments.
    • Begin preparing 2023 installation of officers.
    • Review all candidates’ progress toward advancement.

    Junior Warden

    • Begin tracking 100 percent officer giving to the Annual Fund, with officers setting an example through gifts that represent their capability as well as their commitment to our charitable programs.   And, do your part and give today!


    • Continue to collect delinquent dues from members (were due on January 1).
    • Send list of members with late dues to the master for the Retention Committee.
    • Send any suspension notices.
    • Charity Committee considers remissions.
    • File financial reports with Grand Lodge (unless your lodge uses Intacct, in which case you do not need to submit anything).


    • If your lodge has employees, file W-3 with IRS along with copies of all W-2 forms.
    • File financial reports with Grand Lodge (unless your lodge uses Intacct, in which case you do not need to submit anything).

    Audit Committee

    • Audit lodge books, to be completed by end of April.

    Questions? Contact Member Services at or (415) 776-7000.

    For Your Trestleboard

    Use this content to spread the word about joining the Cornerstone Society and to share resources provided by the Masonic Homes of California.

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    Question of the Month

    Last month we asked how your lodge has reengaged its members. Of those that responded:

    • Regular Lodge Meetings - 85%
    • Extra/additional meetings outside the lodge -  40%
    • More digital communications (email, Zoom, etc.) - 54%
    • Ritual practices/other Masonic meetings - 68%

    Here's your next survey question