BETTER MEETINGS AND MEALS
From The New Model Lodge - USA Webpage
Some people have suggested having fewer business meetings, because they are
often so deadly boring. New ideas to make business meetings more interesting,
and to include meals that are fun, can be instituted without changing the number
of business meetings: Hold your business meeting at 7:00pm or 6:30pm (this may
require a change at grand lodge level in some jurisdictions), and then hold a
dinner or festive board with speakers and new candidate introductions AFTER (NOT
before) the meeting, serving only coffee before the meeting for early arrivals.
The meal can be prepared by the stewards and EAs and FCs during the business
meeting or it can be catered and served by the EAs and FCs. This makes them a
part of the activities of the lodge on business meeting night and of the lodge
generally. (I got this from the 1700s lodges!)
This will shorten the meetings because all will want to get to the food and
no one will be already full and, therefore, ready to argue some point of lodge
etiquette, etc. Also, those who really need to leave earlier will be able to
leave before or during the meal. Few will want to leave before or during the
presentations or activities at the meal if it is a fun meal with good food.
It is easier to make a meal interesting than it is to make a business meeting
interesting!! And affording such a meal can be as simple as having a customary
toll of two to five dollars as each brother enters the kitchen or gets in line
to serve himself.
Here is a great suggestion from Ted Berry 32° MPS, Benjamin B. French #15,
Washington DC, AASJ(SJ) Valley of Washington DC, Eastern Star Lodge, Rehoboth,
Do not read the minutes of previous meetings in open lodge. Have them
available for reading either on the internet or copies available prior to the
opening of the lodge. I have seen this done in lodge and it works quite well
in my opinion. It saves 15+ minutes in the business meeting.
Having already discussed "in brief" the "New Model" business meetings, let us
address the "work meetings" where initiation, passing and raising is done.
The meeting should begin as early as possible or practicable with only coffee
for early arrivals, as at all meetings. Most, if not all US rituals contain a
first and second part for each degree. The first part should begin on time and
should end with a "call from labor to refreshment" by the WM through the JW.
The "refreshment" should be a meal, a full meal, prepared and served by the
stewards and _all_ EAs and FCs or catered and then set up and served by the
stewards and EAs and FCs. This makes the EAs and FCs a part of each lodge
meeting no matter what degree it is held on. Also, EAs and FCs could be
"excused" from kitchen duties to watch the "work" of the lodge before serving
the meal at "refreshment".
This also allows those who need to leave early to leave after the first part
of the "work" or during the meal. It also shortens the meeting because it cuts
down on the need for a "smoking break" as the candidate dresses for the second
part of the "work". This candidate dresses as the brothers are being served
dinner and is conveyed into the dining hall as an "honored guest" after the
first part of the "work".
Then, when the dinner is over, the lodge is "called from refreshment to
labor" and the second part of the "work" is presented to the officers and
die-hards who want to stay, along with a few members who would have been lost at
a "smoking break" between the first and second parts but are happy, well-fed
campers who want to stay to see the lecture, etc.
In order to promote masonic education and maintain member interest throughout
the month, educational meetings, with a speaker or activity, such as a festive
board with a theme can be held during a regular work meeting night when no
initiations, passings or raisings are scheduled. These meetings may also be
scheduled far enough in advance to attract a popular speaker or grand lodge
officers, but they should not be scheduled in any less time than needed to be
able to announce the educational meeting during the business meeting preceding
it. This will tend to ensure support and participation. Educational meetings
should be open whenever possible to encourage members to bring friends and
prospective members for introduction to the lodge, and vice versa.
The educational meeting should have the same basic agenda as the business
meeting, with the meeting held before the meal, whether in the lodge hall or in
the dining hall already seated. The meeting could be held as a dinner when a
speaker is the program, continuing the theme of making the lodge a place to come
to have a good fun dinner. Or the meeting could be held in the lodge hall when a
special presentation requires staging or special group participation with the
festive meal held afterward to keep interest increasing and presentation time
When holding only a dinner with a speaker, there is little reason to vary
from the traditional plan of holding the meal and then introducing the speaker.
But remember to get any "business" done prior to the meal to leave the speaker
for uninterrupted "show time" while everyone is full and happy.
You want the presence of a meal to be a main reason to come to the lodge,
both for the food and the fellowship that accompanies good food. Your lodge must
avoid "cookies or cake and coffee" and develop a reputation for having a good
meal _every_ time it meets. But only coffee for the early birds should be served
before a meeting of any kind.
A meal, a good meal, at _every_ meeting is essential, even if it is only the
Senior Steward's "specialty" hot dogs and beans, with home fries. But the meal
should be prepared and ready for the "refreshment" portion of the evening and
not before any of the meetings start, as discussed above in the discussion of
the Business Meeting.
Lodges should consider preparation of meals before the day of the meeting or
catering the meals to avoid the "stewards in the kitchen" problem that makes
life hard for the stewards and discourages new members from seeking to start in
the chairs. Serving as steward should not be a back-breaking rite of passage, it
should be a chance for the stewards and the FCs and EAs to serve and meet all of
the members on a personal level during the meal.
Even a great Senior Steward can be worn down by two years of starting meals
two or three hours before every meeting. By the time he is ready to be junior
deacon, you may have lost a good officer to "burn out". How many of your lodge's
junior stewards stay on to be senior stewards?
Bro J. R. Martin, MPS, Houston, Texas
Here is some great practical experience from Harry A. Bruno, MPS, Past Master
of Cochran Lodge No. 217, Cochran, Georgia, a lodge that is going great guns!:
On the meals, what we do here at Cochran #217 is this: The meal for the
first meeting of January is prepared or supplied by the WM. Our second meeting
of each month is family night, and each family brings a dish to pass. The
February first meeting is the SW; March first meeting is the JW, etc. This
takes the load off the Stewards as far as cooking, etc. It gives all of us a
different meal each meeting, and each officer only has to do this once in the
With family night on the 2nd meeting night we eat REALLY WELL due to the
ladies bringing their best home cooking. (Hard to beat 3 different types of
Chicken & Dumplings.) The Stewards are still responsible for the K.P.,
supplies, etc. We've been doing this for 10+ years and it works really well.
There is always lots to eat, and the word gets out how well we eat, which
helps bring in a visitor or two.
Something that we've added in the past two years is a program on every
family night. We invite a guest speaker in for a 20-30 minute talk or
presentation. This is not always Masonic, but it is always interesting. We've
had the Local Cancer people talk about Breast Cancer; a Doctor (and his
family) came and discussed prostate cancer; and last meeting we had the
Director of the local "Wings" (Women in need of God's Shelter) talk about
domestic violence. We also invited our new editor of our local newspaper, and
she was REALLY impressed. I think it was a first for her.
I think one of the reasons that we are so busy is that "we've never done it
that way before" is NOT allowed in our Lodge. We'll try most anything once, if
it doesn't fly, then we try something else.
Steve Cohn, MPS, DDGM Waltham Fifth District, Massachusetts has an exemplary
lodge as well:
If you're asking about a regular Blue Lodge with libations after the work
of the evening is concluded, then my Lodge would probably fit that mold.
We are a fairly young, mostly professional, group, and we'll have anywhere
from 35 to 70 at a regular monthly meeting -- even in the dead of winter. We
always have a multi-course catered meal at a very reasonable price -- $10.00
to $12.00, unless it's a special event like a Table Lodge, then the price is
still under $20.00.
Only after the Lodge is closed, which is usually in the vicinity of 9:30
PM, most of us will gather around a table in the dining hall for a collation
of desserts and a few adult beverages. It's not uncommon to have 20 or more
staying after to further enjoy everyone's company. And, after dinner yet
before we reconvene in the Lodge Hall for our monthly business meeting, many
will head into the "club room" to enjoy a cigar for ten to 15 minutes. Then,
it's upstairs for the business meeting and the conclusion of our degrees.
Needless to say, we have FUN. We make the time spent in Lodge QUALITY time.
We make those attending WANT to come back next month if they can. We involve
the wives and families in many of our events throughout the year and try to
make them feel part of the Lodge too. It doesn't always work out, but at least
we are trying!
We may not have much money in our bank account, but we are filthy rich in
terms of brotherly love and camaraderie. I wouldn't trade THIS lodge for any
other. Hope the above helps.
Pete Martinez, PM, Texas Lodge of Research AF&AM, "and a couple of others",
sends in this great story:
When I was visiting lodges in England I enjoyed the festive board at each
of the Lodges I attended. The first Lodge I visited was Quatuor Coronati and
the festive board was held next door to Freemason's Hall in the Connaught
rooms. This was in November of 1990 when I was master of Texas Lodge of
Research. The second visit was in 1995 to a Lodge in Chippenham where my
wife's sister lives. I had met the Secretary in 1990 and kept up a
correspondence with him during that time. He picked me up at my
sister-in-law's house and took me back to his house. We then walked to Lodge
and he explained it was safer because the laws on DWI/DUI were strong and
strictly enforced. The walk was al little less than half a mile so it wasn't
too much. When we arrived I left my apron and white gloves in their locker
room and we went to the bar where the deacons were serving drinks. My friend
had a mixed drink and I had a Coke. We spent about thirty minutes there before
everyone went upstairs for the meeting which, of course, was done in the 1st
degree. After the meeting we went back to the bar where some picked up a drink
to take to the festive board. I stayed with my Coke until the eleven toasts.
Red wine gives me a headache and, even though I just sipped a little at each
toast I did wake up with a slight pain in the back of my head. This procedure
was typical of each of the five Lodges, away from London, that I visited. I
really had a wonderful time and I never noticed anyone that overdid the
spirits. I can't wait for my next visit in May next year.
[A festive board AFTER the business meeting and during the "refreshment"
period between the two parts of the degree work should work, even without
alcohol. As masons we rarely drink alcohol in public, but we seem to have fun
anyhow. Maybe if we all sang some songs....? Ed.]
Mark T. Ronn, PM Tyrian Lodge #246, Garden City, Kansas, DDGM 39th Dist of
AF&AM of Kansas, 32° KCCH, and Secretary of the Southwest Kansas Scottish Rite
Club, sends these experiences:
As the Sect. of our local area's Scottish Rite Club one of my many
challenges is to come up with programs and educational speakers for our
monthly meetings. I also had some luck as Master of my Lodge in increasing
attendance. No "tub-thumping" intended here! I just wanted to emphasize that
the following simple things worked for us.
One thing I think has been mentioned before is that having a program will
get people into your Lodge. It really is that simple. As to where to get these
programs there are a lot of great ideas, but one that bears repeating is to
get on the phone and ask people. Not everyone can be reached and not
everything can be accomplished on the Internet. Remember that a lot of the
people who will do great things to help you do not have or want access to the
Our Grand Lodge and the head offices of all of the appendant bodies in our
state (Kansas) are happy to steer anyone who calls toward appropriate
speakers. Our Grand Lodge even has a special "Speaker's Bureau" and they will
send a speaker or presenter if asked. This covers my state but try the Grand
Lodge or Scottish or York Rite offices or the Shrine in your area. Even if
there is no formal group available that provides speakers or presenters, I
would imagine that the people at that office might have suggestions as to
someone in your area who can do a program. I have found is that this is easy
to do, it only takes a phone call, it's inexpensive, time efficient and above
all, it works! I have seen a direct correlation (in both appendant body
meetings and regular Lodge meetings) between attendance and having a special,
educational program. It's also okay to have a speaker or program once in a
while that isn't strictly Masonic but just of general interest.
However, people will not attend your special, Masonic education
presentation (or regular Lodge meeting with education included) if they do not
know about it. We really have to publicize what we are doing. Whether you use
postcards, phone trees, news-letters or something else, people respond to
notifications. I have been told by some; "We shouldn't have to invite people
to come to Lodge". Well, be pragmatic. If we let them know about it and they
come, isn't that more productive than lamenting the fact that they should have
come on their own but didn't?
One last thing and it's a simple one. People like to eat and they like to
combine two or more things together in today's busy world. Take advantage of
this fact. Have a meal before your Lodge meeting or educational program. If it
works for you, try it on a regular basis. If your Lodge doesn't have the
facilities to prepare a meal, meet at a local restaurant. Again, if your
Brothers know about the meeting, Stated or Special, and they know they can
have dinner with and enjoy the company of their Brothers, more of them will
show up. It really works.
The above ideas have worked for us. Keep trying. Just because something
didn't work once doesn't mean it won't work this time. And keep trying new
things as well as the old favorites. It really is up to all of us
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