The Leader May 2021

Contents

And…. We’re Back! (Almost)

It’s been more than a year since the Masons of California last held in-person stated lodge meetings, degree conferrals, or other gatherings. At long last, that wait is nearly over, as Grand Master Arthur Weiss declared that lodges in most counties may at last come together again with certain precautions in place.

And while lodges are eager to hit the ground running, there’s still some legwork to be done to ensure the health of all members and comply with all state, local, and fraternity regulations. That includes forming and executing a hall safety plan, among other things—something that requires forethought and communication. But Masons know what’s on the other side of all that organizing. “It’ll all be worth the effort,” says Brien Lynch, master of Conejo Valley No. 807, which happens to be Grand Master Weiss’s home lodge. “We’ve been waiting a year to see each other again in lodge, and now we finally have the green light to do so.”

An Ounce of Prevention

For weeks leading up to the Grand Master’s directive, the members of Conejo Valley No. 807 had been meeting via Zoom to discuss whether they’d be able and willing to satisfy the various steps required in order to reopen in person. “The overwhelming response was yes, we’d be willing to go to most lengths to get back together,” Lynch says.

Simultaneously, staff at the Grand Lodge of California began forming guidance for what a safe return to in-person lodge meetings would look like once the state lifted regulations for counties in the lower risk tiers. Once those orders came down, Weiss and others at Grand Lodge were able to finalize a directive governing what steps would need to be taken to hold lodge meetings, degree conferrals, and other Masonic events, and issue further guidance on how to meet those demands.  

The steps are straightforward—but important. And in places where local city or county guidance supersedes state regulations, lodges must defer to those rules. (Look up your county here.) Typically, a lodge planning a return to in-person meetings must satisfy the following conditions:

  1. The lodge master determines that the county they meet in permits in-person private meetings and events, and if so, whether there are any additional requirements mandated beyond the state’s guidelines.
  2. The master concludes that in-person meetings and events can be held safely and in compliance with Grand Master Weiss’s directive.
  3. The hall association (in consultation with the lodge) prepares and implements a written COVID-19 prevention plan. (Template provided)
  4. The lodge prepares a defined guest list for each meeting or event. Only those on the guest list may attend an in-person meeting. (It is recommended that lodges prepare a method to add to last-minute guests to the list prior to an in-person meeting.)
  5. The lodge creates a seating chart based on the guest list to provide as much physical distancing between attendees as possible.
  6. The master appoints two officers to check the required COVID-19 documentation of each attendee before admission. The documentation required is either proof of full vaccination (plus the two-week waiting period) or a negative test result during the last 72 hours.
  7. The master ensures that all requirements and guidelines of the state (including the state mask mandate), county, Masonic directive, and the prevention plan are adhered to.

For Conejo Valley No. 807, Lynch and other lodge officers determined that there was sufficient interest from the members who've been attending Zoom meetings for the past several months in returning to in-person meetings, and that the lodge would be able to comply with the directive.

That decision wasn’t necessarily unanimous—and Lynch says some members may not be comfortable with the new requirements or able to satisfy all of them. That’s OK, though: When they’re ready to return, the lodge will welcome them back with open arms. Or, rather, an elbow bump.

The next phase of planning included meeting with the lodge’s hall association to put together a COVID-19 Site-Specific Prevention Plan. That plan is still being worked out, but it’s safe to say that lodge will look a little different when members of Conejo Valley return in June. There will be two rows of sideliner seats to ensure maximum distance between people, and all officers will be wearing white cloth gloves, with hand sanitizer throughout the lodge room. “But the important thing will be that we are back together,” Lynch says, “and doing it in a safe manner.”

Throughout this process, Lynch says that keeping lodge members in the loop has been paramount. Lodge leaders have used their typical Zoom meetings to discuss the return to lodge, as well as email and the lodge trestleboard to communicate with those who haven’t attended virtually. “Communication is key,” Lynch says. “Although the master is in charge of the lodge and in charge of the reopening plan, the membership should have a say in the process.”

Reminders and Masonic News

Registration Is Open for 2021 Master and Wardens Retreats

Now more than ever, lodges need your leadership. This year’s Master and Wardens Retreats, open to all lodge officers, are being held two ways: In-person, June 11–13 in Irvine and June 25–27 in San Ramon; and virtually every Tuesday and Thursday in July. Space is limited at the in-person retreats, so secure your spot by registering today.

 

Coming Soon: The Surprising Connections Between Freemasonry and Scouting

Join us for the latest Online Masonic Speaker Series event May 20 as Tony Harvey, the 2012 Prestonian Lecturer, discusses the historical, present, and future relationship between Masonry and the scouting movement.

 

Member Services Q-and-A

Lodge secretaries and assistant secretaries are invited to drop in on Question and Answer Time with Member Services, a series of monthly online sessions via Zoom where they can ask questions and get important updates from fellow officers and the Grand Lodge Member Services team. The next session will be held Wednesday, May 19, 2–3 p.m.

Your May Checklist

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

Executive Committee

Senior Warden, along with Executive Committee

  • Register now for the 2021 Master and Wardens retreats!
  • Identify and approach members for 2022 open elected and appointed officer positions 
  • Identify and approach members for the 2022 Audit, Membership Retention, and any other committees.
  • Set calendar for 2022 and identify event leaders.
  • Continue preparing 2022 budget.
  • Set installation date and approach installing officer, master of ceremonies, and chaplain
  • Review all candidates’ progress towards advancement.

Junior Warden

  • Register now for the 2021 Master and Wardens retreats!
  • Continue tracking 100% 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.

Secretary

  • Send list of members with late dues to the Retention Committee.
  • Send any suspension notices via certified mail.
  • Provide necessary information so Charity Committee can consider remissions.
  • Begin reviewing roster for accuracy in preparation for the end of the Grand Lodge membership year, June 30.

Treasurer

  • By May 15, submit IRS form 990 and FTB form 199 (unless your lodge has previously agreed to have Grand Lodge prepare and file these forms). Please contact financial services at (415) 292-9170 for any questions.
  • Lodges not using Intacct should submit their annual financial statements to Grand Lodge by May 15.

Hall Association

Questions? Contact Member Services at memberservices@freemason.org or (415) 776-7000.

For Your Trestleboard

Use this content to spread the word about the Distressed Worthy Brother Relief Fund and MCYAF’s expanded telehealth services. 

Distressed Worthy Brother Relief Fund

MCYAF Telehealth

Question of the Month

Last month we asked how often does your lodge post to its social media pages. Of those that responded:

  • Infrequently (weekly or less often) - 38%
  • Almost never (once a month or less often) - 29%
  • Often (several times per week) - 18%
  • Never (no social media presence) - 15%

Here's your next survey question.