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AnnComm For Dummies: A Primer on the Biggest Masonic Weekend of the Year
Annual Communication, the yearly gathering of California Masons, is nearly here. But do you actually know what goes on there? What people are voting on? Or how the voting process actually works?
If the answer to any of those is “no,” you’re not alone. For all its rich pageantry and ceremony, Annual Communication remains something of a mystery to many people within the fraternity. Lucky for us, we’ve got Director of Member Services and Lodge Development W.B. Jordan Yelinek to act as a cipher and shed light on this important annual occurance.
So What, Exactly, Is Annual Communication?
In its simplest form, Annual Communication is an opportunity for the leaders of all lodges in the state to come together to vote on legislation, elect new Grand Lodge officers, and hear reports from various statewide officers and committees.
Here’s an important distinction: “Grand Lodge,” the governing body of California Masons, refers to a body made up of the leaders of each lodge, represented by the junior and senior warden and master and past masters. Together with current and past elected Grand Lodge officers, this lodge leadership forms the voting bloc that steers the future of the fraternity. Annual Communication provides the forum and opportunity for these decisions to be made.
All of that is the official side of the weekend, open only to Master Masons. However, there’s more to AnnComm than just business. “In recent years, I’ve seen more and more Masons from across the state come to Annual Communication who are not a part of their lodge’s leadership,” Yelinek says. “And that’s great, because there are a lot of things for a lot of different people.”
Among those are a Masonic expo, where vendors from across the country sell all manner of fraternal books and regalia; the Grand Master’s Banquet, a black-tie dinner open to all Masons and their partners, this year held at the Fairmont Hotel; and the Sunday Public Ceremonies and Installation of the new Grand Lodge officers, which is open to the public.
Beyond that, Annual Communication is an opportunity for members from around the state to connect with one another, form or renew friendships, and have a say in the direction of the fraternity. “Being able to actually see how that process works is really inspiring,” Yelinek says.
The Super-Simple AnnComm FAQ
Below is an easy-to-use guide to understanding Annual Communication, Grand Lodge, and how it all works.
Q:What is Annual Communication?
A:Annual Communication is the once-a-year chance for the Grand Lodge of California to conduct its necessary business, including electing and installing new Grand Lodge officers. It is also a chance for lodges and Masons throughout the state to come together and learn what other lodges are doing and to share in a sense of fraternity.
Q:Who can attend Annual Communication?
A:All Masons are welcome to attend Annual Communication. However, only Master Masons in good standing can attend the business sessions, which are spread over Friday and Saturday.
Q:How does voting work?
A:Each chartered lodge in the state has four votes, cast by the lodge’s leadership:
- One by the master
- One by the junior warden
- One by the senior warden
- One collective vote made by all past masters of the lodge
If the wardens and master are unable to attend, an elected representative can cast their votes.
In addition, current and past elected Grand Lodge officers each get a vote (see below for the breakdown on Grand Lodge officers).
Q:What is voted on during Annual Communication?
A:There are four types of legislation that are voted on:
- Grand Master Decisions: Over the course of the year, the grand master might be called upon to offer an interpretation of some passage in the California Masonic Code or other formal regulation. These interpretations are called grand master decisions, and must be voted on by Grand Lodge to become formalized. They require a simple majority vote to pass.
- Grand Master Recommendations: One of the prerogatives of the grand master is that he may, at times, wish to propose new legislation. These proposals are called grand master recommendations, and must be voted on by Grand Lodge to go into effect. If they amend the California Masonic Code or the ritual, they require a 5/6 vote to pass, otherwise they require a simple majority. If it does not, but does receive a majority of the votes, the new legislation becomes carryover legislation, to be voted on the next year.
- New Legislation: Lodge leaders throughout the state can propose new legislation as well. In order to do so, three leaders from three different lodges must sponsor the legislation. In order to be passed during Annual Communication, this form of legislation must receive 5/6 of the vote if it amends the California Masonic Coce or the ritual, otherwise they require a simple majority. If it does not, but does receive a majority of the votes, the new legislation becomes carryover legislation, to be voted on the next year.
- Carryover Legislation: This is the legislation from the previous year that did not meet the 5/6 requirements, but did receive a simple majority. In order for carryover legislation to pass, it must receive 2/3 of the vote.
Q:How many Grand Lodge officers are there?
A:There are 33 Grand Lodge officers who receive a vote. Seven are elected into office, and get a vote for life. They are:
- Grand Master
- Deputy Grand Master
- Senior Grand Warden
- Junior Grand Warden
- Grand Lecturer
- Grand Treasurer
- Grand Secretary
The other 26 Grand Lodge officers are appointed by the grand master. They include the assistant grand lecturers, assistant grand secretary, grand organist, grand tiler, assistant grand organist, and assistant grand tiler. Many of those positions usually serve multiple years. There are also 11 positions that a grand master appoints that serve as a sort of presidential cabinet. These are:
- Grand Chaplain
- Grand Orator
- Grand Marshall
- Senior Grand Deacon
- Junior Grand Deacon
- Senior Grand Steward
- Junior Grand Steward
- Grand Pursuivant
- Grand Standard-bearer
- Grand Sword-bearer
- Grand Bible-bearer
Q:How does someone become grand master?
A:To become grand master, a member must first be elected to the position of junior grand warden. The nomination for that position is made by a committee of current and past Grand Lodge officers and leaders throughout the fraternity who review potential nominees and ultimately make a single recommendation for the office, which gets voted on at Annual Communication. Once the nominee has served as junior grand warden, they rise each year through the offices of senior grand warden, deputy grand master, and ultimately, in Year 4, grand master.
Your October Checklist
Stay on track of lodge business and prepare for important deadlines. Here’s your October checklist.
- Attend the Annual Communication Your vote is important to the future of Freemasonry in California. Special events and some hotels are selling out, so reserve your place today.
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 2020 Audit, Membership Retention, and any other committees.
- Set calendar for 2020 and identify event leaders.
- Continue preparing 2020 budget.
- Finalize your installation date/venue and prepare the installing team.
- Review all candidates’ progress toward advancement.
- 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. Lodges that reach 100% officer giving by October 4 will be recognized at Annual Communication.
- Prepare to send out dues notices and begin collecting member dues, starting Oct. 31.
- If your lodge has employees, file quarterly federal payroll tax form 941 (unless IRS has approved an annual filing of form 944, due in February).
- If your lodge has employees, file quarterly state payroll tax form DE9/DE9C and deposit form DE88.
Questions? Contact Member Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 776-7000.
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Question of the Month
Last month we asked if attending a Masonic leadership retreat strengthened your executive team. Of those that responded:
- 13% - Yes a lot
- 11% - Somewhat
- 7% - Not at all
- 5% - Other (Have not attended one, I was the only one to go in 2017 but I found it very informative, I'm not a Lodge officer, but it's clear that for some Lodges that unless the whole group, Pillars to Sec and Treas., attends and leaves with a solid term calendar & plan, then it is only a social.)