November 2022: Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of Freemasonry
What does it take to maintain a successful Masonic lodge? Energetic, charismatic leaders, sure. A collective spirit of sacrifice and mutual support, definitely. A shared vision or a goal? That helps too. But sometimes you really just need someone who shows up early to make coffee.
The Hiram Award is the fraternity’s way of recognizing those unsung heroes of the lodge. The guy who stays late to clean up in the kitchen. The one who organizes a beach-cleanup day. The one who makes sure the light bulbs get changed and shows up on a Saturday morning to repaint the dining room. These invisible engines are what power lodges forward. And there’s no better way to repay that devotion to the lodge and Freemasonry than through Masonry’s highest honor.
For as important as the Hiram Award is to California lodges, it’s a relatively recent phenomenon—and one that’s unique to our state. The Hiram Award was first given in 1977 at Galt No. 267 (which consolidated in 1993 with Woodbridge No. 131). Just three years later, nearly every lodge in the state had participated in the award.
Now, 45 years later, the Hiram Award remains a cherished part of California Freemasonry—and, to some, a valuable tool to encourage and recognize a distinctly Masonic style of servant-leadership.
This being Freemasonry, the manner of presenting a Hiram Award to a recipient is outlined in a highly detailed and precise ceremony. (To view those instructions, log into your iMember portal and select “Resources.” From there, scroll down to “Lodge Administration,” and then “Awards.”) However, the specific criteria for selecting someone to receive the Hiram Award is fairly vague. So how do lodges know who to honor in this way?
According to that manual, the Hiram Award is for “recognition of a brother by his own lodge for his devoted service to that lodge and to Masonic principles in general. It is intended for the brother who, year after year, displays his devotion without receiving special recognition or special honor.” The California Masonic Code is only slightly more specific: “The lodge may only designate for the Hiram Award a Master Mason who is a member in good standing of the awarding lodge and has served the awarding lodge and the Masonic Fraternity with devotion over and above the ordinary. Service as an officer or as master of a lodge shall not be in itself sufficient qualification for the award nor shall it be a disqualification. The award should be based on what the recipient has done, not what positions he has held.”
Says Jason Harding, Member Services supervisor for the Grand Lodge of California, “The Hiram Award is about saying we appreciate everything you’ve done. It’s not, as the CMC says, just about recognizing the people holding office.”
In short, the Hiram Award is meant to honor members for doing the work that doesn’t usually come with honors. The award manual goes on: “You will find them at labor in kitchens, the coaching rooms, the committees, their churches and communities—anywhere that a true and steady hand of assistance is needed.”
That’s an important point—and one that dovetails especially well with the vision of the fraternity outlined in the 2025 Fraternity Plan. As part of the effort to bring about “the world in harmony,” we want to see Masons as active and enthusiastic participants in helping support not only their lodge, but the community around them. We envision a fraternity of servant-leaders who give their time, money, and effort to make the world around them a little better. That might mean organizing the lodge to volunteer at a Raising A Reader warehouse. Or tackling an improvement project at the local school or park. Or helping revive a Masonic youth order in town.
Or it might just be showing up 15 minutes early for lodge every week to make sure there’s a pot of coffee on.
In each case, the Hiram Award is a powerful and moving gesture to celebrate a particularly selfless kind of Masonic leadership.
Download the Hiram Award program manual on iMember today. To do so, access your portal, then click Lodge Administration, then Awards. There, you’ll find the manual, a nomination form, and information about ordering a medallion and pin for the recipient. A few other tips to bear in mind:
It’s a prestigious honor. So keep it that way. The Hiram Award is the highest honor a lodge can bestow on one of its members. It isn’t a Mason of the Year award, or even a Lifetime Achievement Award. A lodge can only give it once a year—but that doesn’t mean it has to every year. By giving the award judiciously, you will preserve its importance and make its presentation that much more special.
Don’t give it in the dining room. Most Hiram Award presentations, like most Masonic events, often includes a big dinner. That’s great. But as a special milestone in the recipient’s Masonic career, it’s appropriate to bestow it in the lodge room where that journey began. It also gives the presentation a sense of reverence and import.
But make it public. One of the best things about the Hiram Award program is sharing the moment with family and friends. Again, this is the highest honor a lodge can give one of its members, and to be called out by your fellow lodge members is an unforgettable experience for a recipient—and one he’ll want to share with those around him. So invite spouses, family, and colleagues. This is also a great way for people around you to see Freemasonry at its best.
Think hard about what you’re honoring. It’s common that lodges will want to honor the 25-year secretary, or the officer who’s done three tours through the chairs. That can be fine, but the award isn’t only for those who’ve served that way. As a committee forms to recommend a recipient to the lodge master, consider those who have gone above and beyond in other ways, too, and done “credit to the craft” beyond the lodge walls.
Inform the Grand Lodge: Once your lodge has nominated someone to receive the award, be sure to fill out the nomination form and send it to Member Services at firstname.lastname@example.org. That will be signed by the Grand Secretary, and someone from Grand Lodge will then notify the vendors at L.A. Fraternal Supply Company to authorize the purchase of a medallion and pin. (The local lodge must pay for those.)
Stay up to date with lodge business. Here’s your November checklist:
- Along with the lodge, elect officers.
- Meet with the inspector to review your plan for the year.
- Budget for, and prepare to attend, 2023 leadership retreats.
- Consider adding members to the Membership Restoration Campaign.
Senior Warden, along with Executive Committee
- Urge presumptive master, wardens, and senior deacon to perform their Master Mason’s proficiency soon, if not already completed.
- Urge the presumptive master, wardens, and senior deacon to qualify early with the inspector in their office’s ritual.
- Urge respective officers to answer the master, senior warden, and junior warden questions early.
- Identify and approach members for the 2023 Audit, Membership Retention, and any other committees.
- Set 2023 lodge calendar and identify event leaders.
- Continue preparing 2023 budget.
- Finalize your installation date/venue and prepare the installing team.
- Review all candidates’ progress toward advancement.
- Attend the final Secretary’s Association meeting of the year Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. Register here.
- Transmit certificates of election in iMember. Remember, you do not need to mail these physically into the Grand Lodge. They can be given as a souvenir to the installed officer
- Verify your lodge dues and per capita in iMember and, if you haven’t yet, enroll your lodge in the Dues Invoicing Service. Lodges enrolled in this program saw more members pay their dues compared to lodges that did not participate. All lodges that participated last year will be enrolled again this year. Lodge enrolled in the program will be emailed about dues beginning in November. To opt into (or out of) the program, contact Member Services.
Questions? Contact Member Services at email@example.com or (415) 776-7000.
For Your Trestleboard
Masonic Health Services:
Last month, we asked has your lodge received new online-first prospects this year? And if so, how are they progressing?
- We have received multiple online prospects, and some are progressing toward application, others are not - 36%
- We have received multiple online prospects and they are all progressing toward application - 27%
- We have not received any online prospects - 15%
- We have received one prospect and they are progressing toward application - 10%
- We have received one prospect and they are not progressing toward application - 6%
- We have received online prospects, but we have not made contact with them yet - 6%