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Revitalization Project

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    Posted: May/11/2016 at 11:20am

Brethren,

 

My name is Christopher Johnson, and I've decided to undertake a project, the results of which I will gladly publish and share on this site.  As you all know, our fraternity has seen a dramatic decline in overall membership and attendance since the early 1970's.  Our numbers just aren't what they were.  On the converse side of that coin, no other fraternal organization has had the same staying power, influence, wide spread membership, or social impact as Freemasonry has had.  We face a challenge, how do we remain relevant in this day and age without causing any material changes in our Masonic Institution?  To this end, I'd like to ask for responses to the following:

What keeps a lodge successful today?

For me, a successful lodge is one that:

A) Has a steady flow of candidates - at least 5 per year minimum.  That’s one candidate for every two months (excluding the months some of us "go dark") that we have a business meeting.

B) Is financially solvent. That means that money is coming in at a greater rate than money is going out.  Could be from dues, could be from fellowship dinners, could be from community donations, it doesn't matter.

C) Has an active membership.  We all know lodges, or belong to one, that have a core group of between 4 to 12 brothers that do all the work.  That is NOT what I'm talking about.  If you have at least 25% or greater attendance and involvement from your active, good standing, dues paying members, this is to you.

D) Has a positive community image.  If your community looks favorably on your lodge, or your district, if they know you can be a source of help or good will, or heck, if they know you exist! This is what I'm looking for.

E) Have maintained the spirit and soul of Freemasonry.  We are not a cigar club, though we may have cigar nights.  We are not a community service organization, though we engage in community service projects.  We are not a charity group, though we believe in being charitable.  Freemasonry has always been something greater, a fraternity of men making each other, and the world around us better.  We are, or should be, men who work to fit our every action, thought, and belief into the due bounds of our obligations, and who the non-initiated might look at and desire to emulate.  Men who may disagree with their brethren, but do not allow that to color their interaction with each other or their attendance at lodge.

Not all of our lodges will fit into this definition.  In fact, given the decline of membership that we face, it would not be unfair to say that very few of us will.  So, if your lodge is successful at any one of the above metrics, or more, please let me know what you attribute that success to.  My hope is that I'll get a lot of answers, enough to actually dive into the reasons and come up with a Success Plan that my lodge, and upon publishing to this site ALL lodges, might be able to borrow from and revitalize our Fraternity.  I'm sure that we would all agree that to do nothing would result in Freemasonry fading from the world, and the world would be the poorer for it.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Edmund Burke

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sec'yBob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2016 at 5:22pm
I will offer three things I think are important.

One is have good meals, good food, the kind of food you would want to serve to your mother.

Two, have an education officer, and have him present programs about masonry and it history, past, etc.

Three  Don't just have meetings, ie: do business and go home.  If need be, create something to do, get involved in something, make a meeting night where everyone goes to another Lodge to visit.  Have a wives night/dinner.  Have a cigar night [get the idea]
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JohnsonCM1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2016 at 6:05pm
I can appreciate that all these are important.  The education officer is something that I will note.  But I have to ask, don't you feel that the food and programs are something that people can get elsewhere?  There are literally hundreds of fraternal organizations out there: The Odd Fellows, the Rotary, The Forresters, Rosicrucians, Moose, just to name a few.  But Freemasonry was always a cut above, something set us apart. Maybe it was a mystique or the esoteric thought we believe in, I'm not sure.  But our Fraternity has not materially changed - which is good, but we need to stay relevant in today's world.  I'm worried that fellowship, fun, and food are not only "white noise" among the other groups, but that we are also beginning to loose what we were in favor of becoming just another group to join.   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sec'yBob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2016 at 9:30pm
Well you may have a point.
However, I belong to two Lodges.  One has awesome food, holds programs almost every Lodge, has outings to mix with family, has education at most meetings etc.

The other has minimal food, no programs, no outings you get the picture.

The first Lodge has mostly 20 + members at meetings, and tons of participation at outings, fund raisers etc.

The second Lodge has minimal members to open, no programs, minimal participation  and no outings.

I think people perceive that one is more fun and has more to offer than the other.

Just my thought.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BroScubaSteve Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2016 at 8:47am
Nevermind


Edited by BroScubaSteve - May/12/2016 at 9:04am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JohnsonCM1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2016 at 2:13pm
Originally posted by Sec'yBob Sec'yBob wrote:

Well you may have a point.
However, I belong to two Lodges.  One has awesome food, holds programs almost every Lodge, has outings to mix with family, has education at most meetings etc.

The other has minimal food, no programs, no outings you get the picture.

The first Lodge has mostly 20 + members at meetings, and tons of participation at outings, fund raisers etc.

The second Lodge has minimal members to open, no programs, minimal participation  and no outings.

I think people perceive that one is more fun and has more to offer than the other.

Just my thought.




Don't get me wrong.  I wholeheartedly agree that the food, programs, and outings are super important.  Where I live one of our first lodges was on an island, and the meetings were originally to be held on the night of the full moon, in order that tides would be high and adequate light was available for the men to navigate the water at night.  I suppose I am trying to figure out what it was that Freemasonry used to be to men like this, who would take that kind of time to row for however long or the day long horse ride to get to lodge.  What was it that changed, maybe?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote scout Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/13/2016 at 8:04am
I would like to suggest that you read a book called "Observing the Craft" by brother Andrew Hammer. This book addresses what you are seeking to learn and do.  He describes the decline of the craft and what it should mean to us.  He also describes the things that an "observant" lodge should do to reinvigorate the brethren. Briefly, Brother Hammer emphasizes that we should be seeking excellence in three areas: ritual, dress and meals.  I don't want to go into any great detail here, as Hammer does an outstanding job in his book.  For me, it was a transformative experience. Also, Hammer emphasizes that we should be seeking quality over quantity.  In other words, we should work hard to insure that only worthy candidates are allowed through the gate.  Masonry is not for everyone, yet after the war and through the next few decades, we packed our lodge rooms with men who were not necessarily seeking the light as our ancient brethren had intended.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sec'yBob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/13/2016 at 10:28am
Scout

Point well made, and I think very much on target.

I have been to Lodges where the dress was slovenly [at best].
At one Lodge, one guy even had cow doo  on his boots [he was a farmer] but....................

Sloppily dressed, is that maybe a sign of the times.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote scout Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/13/2016 at 12:33pm
Right...a strictly observed dress code creates an atmosphere where the brothers show that our work is special and to be valued.  The meal should be special as well, so as to help lend an air of dignity to the proceedings. Our ritual should be as close to perfect as we can possibly reach.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JohnsonCM1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/13/2016 at 3:56pm
What are your thoughts on a chamber of reflection?  I've been thinking of doing one in my lodge because the imagery of the scull and bones, the alchemical symbols and such (not so much writing out the will and testament, that'd take way to long) would lend an air of......gravitas to the whole initiation, passing and raising, especially the initiation.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote scout Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/15/2016 at 10:52am
Originally posted by JohnsonCM1 JohnsonCM1 wrote:

What are your thoughts on a chamber of reflection?  I've been thinking of doing one in my lodge because the imagery of the scull and bones, the alchemical symbols and such (not so much writing out the will and testament, that'd take way to long) would lend an air of......gravitas to the whole initiation, passing and raising, especially the initiation.
I agree.  I'd like to see this done in our lodge.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JohnsonCM1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/18/2016 at 3:53pm
Anything else, brethren?  I need as much info as I can get so I can make some real data choices and dive into this.  I've had like 10 replies so far across 3 forums, that doesn't seem right to me.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Adept? Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/18/2016 at 6:48pm
This topic has been beat to death, in lodge, in this forum, and other forums.  Frankly, I'm surprised you got as many replies as you did.  Having said that, I really like the chamber of reflection idea.  I think that would be a good thing for all lodges to do.  Of course, the ideas put forth by Sec'ybob above are great ideas.  Not new ideas either... they just need to be implemented.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JohnsonCM1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/19/2016 at 2:31pm
I understand your point of view, but I'm not just looking for ideas.  I'm looking for people who have implemented things and said, "wow, that had an impact on our (insert petitions, membership, financials, fellowship, etc).  Stuff that brothers have actually done.  Then I can start to dig into the "why" of how it worked, find root causes, and see if it's just little things we can do differently, programs we can implement or whatever.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote aogop Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/23/2016 at 6:06pm
A strong lodge is composed of strong membership, and is only as good as it's participation. Try using this with potential members

http://freemason-wa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/6-Steps.pdf

We have one of the strongest lodges in our jurisdiction

Good luck!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote aogop Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/23/2016 at 6:08pm
Using a Chamber could get your Charter pulled in some jurisdictions. I strongly suggest contacting your DDGM first, and have him kick the idea upstairs.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sec'yBob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/23/2016 at 9:28pm
OK  guys,  what is a chamber of reflection,  I have  never heard of this.......maybe I am too new.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote aogop Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/28/2016 at 8:47pm
http://www.hermeticinstitute.org/docs/chamber.pdf

There is a particular degree in the AASRSJ where, (depending on the Valley) you might experience one.  However, having one set up outside a Blue Lodge could be a Code violation, depending on your Grand Lodge. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote edwmax Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/29/2016 at 8:22am
Originally posted by JohnsonCM1 JohnsonCM1 wrote:


....
....

Don't get me wrong.  I wholeheartedly agree that the food, programs, and outings are super important.  Where I live one of our first lodges was on an island, and the meetings were originally to be held on the night of the full moon, in order that tides would be high and adequate light was available for the men to navigate the water at night.  I suppose I am trying to figure out what it was that Freemasonry used to be to men like this, who would take that kind of time to row for however long or the day long horse ride to get to lodge.  What was it that changed, maybe?


These old Lodges were usually referred to as 'Moon Lodges' and met on or near the full moon so members could see while returning home whether walking, riding a horse or by boat.   So the trip to and from the Lodge would take about 15 to 30 minutes.   Therefore, these Lodges were located within town and villages.   Members which lived a greater distance attend Lodge on the trips into town for supplies and usually stayed overnight before returning home.   

You said " I am trying to figure out what it was that Freemasonry used to be to men like this ..."  You also have to remember the time period to which you refer had no radios, TVs, or move theaters.  So early evening hours were spent visiting the neighbors, tavern, church, or Lodges/Cubs rather than sit at home watching 4 walls.

Fellowship is the key.   A Lodge where the members show up a few minutes befor opening and leave immediately after closing, has NO Fellowship.  The Lodge is boring!

I would guess that 60 to 70% of Lodge membership can not recite their obligations.  But this does not make these members any less masons than the members who can and can confer the degrees. Fellowship is what ties all the members together. But Education or entertainment (Masonic or general) cannot be ignored.

 All the suggestions above are good.  But it will take time to get members who haven't attended Lodge for awhile to return.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote edwmax Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/29/2016 at 8:27am
Originally posted by JohnsonCM1 JohnsonCM1 wrote:

What are your thoughts on a chamber of reflection?  I've been thinking of doing one in my lodge because the imagery of the scull and bones, the alchemical symbols and such (not so much writing out the will and testament, that'd take way to long) would lend an air of......gravitas to the whole initiation, passing and raising, especially the initiation.


You need to check with your GL about adding this to the ritual.   Due to most GL's Uniform Works it will not be allowed.

However, this doesn't stop you from writing and making an education presentation on the Chamber of Reflection to the Lodge.


Edited by edwmax - June/29/2016 at 8:28am
"Until you realize that your viewpoint is incomplete and that's '_' viewpoint is complete, only then can you become teachable in the Mysteries of '_'."





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sec'yBob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/29/2016 at 10:25pm
Can  someone tell me what a chamber of reflection is.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote droche Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/29/2016 at 10:53pm
Moon Lodges still exist- I belong to one. I like the fact that meeting as our "ancient" brethren did gives us a tie to the past. My lodge has resisted some pressure to change to a standardized meeting time. The subject comes up from time-to-time and the vast majority of members of my lodge are not in favor of changing. The moon lodge is one aspect of my lodge's culture which most of us feel makes us unique. I would consider my lodge a successful lodge. We have dinner before every meeting. We sponsor a Rainbow Assembly. We sponsor two blood drives a year and assist several community groups in their various endeavors. We sponsor a golf tournament every year. We do good ritual but don't take ourselves too seriously. I agree with Ed that fellowship is the key. Cliques must be kept to a minimum or eliminated if that is possible. Lodge activities are important. Just having a business meeting and doing only degree work will turn people away. I think lodges and Masonry are successful when members are able to become part of something larger than them. When it comes to a "successful" lodge, so much is intangible. What makes one lodge successful may not work for another lodge. Its a very difficult question to answer.

As far as Chamber of Reflection goes, I've only vaguely heard of it but I think it is used in the Grand Orient of France (which is not recognized by mainstream Masonry) and is a small room adjacent to the lodge room where a candidate reflects and meditates before taking the degrees and is supposed to help him understand better what he is about to go through. That's all I know about it. There is probably more to it.  


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GrimoireA3 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/30/2016 at 10:06am
Originally posted by droche droche wrote:

As far as Chamber of Reflection goes, I've only vaguely heard of it but I think it is used in the Grand Orient of France (which is not recognized by mainstream Masonry) and is a small room adjacent to the lodge room where a candidate reflects and meditates before taking the degrees and is supposed to help him understand better what he is about to go through. That's all I know about it. There is probably more to it.



The Chamber of Reflection was extensively described in Dan Brown's book:   THE LOST SYMBOL which is how I became familiar with it. I thought it was only a concept.

I was very surprised when two years ago I took the tour of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge here in Boston on Tremont street (Mon. thru Fri. 10-4) and I was taken into an actual Chamber of Reflection. Very cool space. I was told that the Chamber is used for initiation and allows the newcomer to mediate on why he wants to become a Mason, then he spends time putting his thoughts on paper (or even writes a will)on a table that is stocked with icons (candles, skull, incense, barley, etc.). None of that was present during the tour.

I assumed that all lodges and all Freemasons would be very familiar with a Chamber of Reflection.
Please Note: I am not a Mason. And also, I am not an anti-Mason!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote droche Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/30/2016 at 1:05pm
OK now I am baffled. Massachusetts to the best of my knowledge does not use Chambers of Reflection in Blue Lodge degrees. I was unaware that there was one in the Massachusetts Grand Lodge building.Mea Culpa. I am going to have to ask around about this one.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote droche Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/31/2016 at 8:25pm
OK I did some research. Apparently the Chamber of Reflection in the Massachusetts Grand Lodge building is used in the York Rite. Since I am not in the York Rite, I would not be familiar with it. I think I can safely say that it is not used in any Blue Lodges in Massachusetts.
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I'm going to plug my site and say to check out this link for some thoughts on this matter: http://www.travelingtemplar.com/2014/05/masonic-reformation.html
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote windrider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/03/2016 at 3:07pm
When I was Senior Warden, I called the members who had not been attending for a while to find out why. The answers ranged from "I got cancer" to "We moved" to "I wasn't getting anything out of the meetings." The only thing I had a chance of addressing was the last.

I travel a lot on business and visit lodges whenever I can. One lodge I visited was in Boca Raton, Florida. They had a most unusual format for their meeting that I enjoyed. They started the meeting untyled and welcomed anyone into the lodge room. They had some welcoming remarks from the Master and a few announcements. Then the Master asked for the "Masonic Minute" which was a poem read by (if memory serves) the Senior Warden. After that the Master asked all non-masons to leave the room and the meeting proceeded as usual. 

I decided to use the Masonic Minute idea in my lodge. I asked the Master if we could start doing it but he never got around to it. Same with the next Master. When I was installed in the East, the Masonic Minute was one of the first things I intended to implement, which I did. The results were beyond my wildest expectations.

First, I announced the idea in my remarks at the installation and let the brethren know that I was not going to be the only one doing this. I wanted everyone to bring something they found inspiring to be read at lodge. One brother told us about the Masonic meaning of the Forget-me-not. Another gave us a talk about Masons during the Civil War. I read a few things from Carl Claudy's Old Tyler Talks. Our Marshall, who always said he liked his position because he didn't have to memorize much, started reciting Masonic poetry at every meeting. He even learned all the charges! 
The Masonic Minute was so successful that it was adopted by our district's Lodge of Instruction.

This and the general quality of our ritual and the fellowship after our meetings has made us a very successful lodge. My biggest problem now is the ten candidates we have coming in September.  One of those candidates is the son of a past Master of another lodge in the district. I asked him why he didn't bring his son to his lodge and he said, "He will have a better experience at your lodge than mine." 

The secret to a successful lodge, in my opinion, is: doing the best ritual you can; giving the brethren permission to bring their best to the lodge; good food; open and welcoming fellowship; and strong, gentle leadership. 

When you are sitting in the East you will know how you are doing by the number of men on the sidelines of your lodge. You will know you are doing well by the number of men your brethren bring to lodge as candidates. You will know you are doing really well by the number of brothers who decide to affiliate from other lodges. 


Edited by windrider - August/03/2016 at 3:15pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote droche Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/03/2016 at 6:03pm
A lodge I visited regularly in Salisbury, New Brunswick, which has since merged, always had a 10-15 minute block at every stated communication dedicated to Masonic history or trivia. I always that this was an excellent way of breaking up the hum-drum of business and getting members to come to the meeting to learn something new. Almost all members I know have a thirst for knowledge of the Craft and most lodges and districts don't provide it. I'd like to see more lodges do something like this.
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Quarryman
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Location: Missouri
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sec'yBob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/03/2016 at 7:31pm
Several years ago, I [on my own] took it upon myself to learn and study Masonic education/history

I offered to come to Lodges and present this information.  A few took me up on it, but nothing after that.
Everyone said they enjoyed the presentations, but it seems they all got too busy and now I don't get called anymore.
Understand, I don't NEED to be called to do this, but I offer.  It seems that other Lodges are too busy, have other things to do, want to go home early etc. and education is not high on their list.

I find having something else to do makes the night more enjoyable.

Raised 2001
PM Crestwood-Anchor #443
PM Meramec #313
DDGM Dist. 24
Lodge Education Officer
Missouri Lodge of Research
O.E.S. Chapter 129
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eagle-751 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/04/2016 at 4:47pm
Here in Ohio Lodge Education is part of every stated meeting. 8 Lodge Education topics approved by Grand Lodge is Mandatory.  ( I believe it's 8 anyway ) So we are covered by having one each stated meeting... 
Past Master ( 2014 - 2015 )
Riddle Lodge No. 315
24th Masonic District
Grand Lodge of Ohio
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