Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

20 May 2007

Teaching the Ritual

Bro. Tom Accuosti, of the Tao of Masonry, posted the following comments regarding my being appointed the District Ritual Instructor here in the 17th:

Yes! Another ritual dude on the blogscape! That's excellent news, Bro. Chris, and personally, I'm very happy for you.
In Conn we already have "plain English" books - the task for me is getting some members to actually open them up and look at the words.

I understand precisely what he is talking about. The 17th, and I believe Maine Masonry in general, has been struggling to develop its new generation of ritualists. Some of our programs have been successful while others have been significantly less so. The Schools of Instruction moved during the last several years from a recitation of the ritual words where the intent was to cover as much material as possible in the shortest amount of time, to a deeper exploration of the ritual and its meaning. This shift from a quantitative to a more qualitative experience was good for those Brethren who were already attending and it helped birth some of our new ritualists. I fully intend to continue that transition by emphasizing that both the words and their meaning are key when I am called on to assist lodges.

With all of the wonderful changes to the Schools of Instruction, the one missing ingredient is the attendance of more lodge officers. In talking with R.W. Bro. Steven Nichols, Grand Lecturer, and reading through the history of the Grand Lecturer in the archives of the Grand Lodge, I have come to the realization that the Schools were established to reduce the load on the Grand Lecturer and his assistants. Now that each District has a District Ritual Instructor, a return to an older style of education might be a good idea. The traditional mechanism was for the Grand Lecturers to go visit the lodges and spend evenings going over the ritual with them. I hope to reawaken this practice by visiting lodges on their Stated Communication nights. After the lodge is closed, I will sit down with any interested officers and brethren to review whatever part of the ritual they desire. I was pleased to have Hiram Lodge in South Portland invite me to review the Middle Chamber lecture before my appointment as District Ritual Instructor. Hopefully, this will be the first of many such tutorials.

One program which has met with less success has been the Certified Ritual Instructor program. In my personal opinion, a major reason for this has been the principle of Brotherly Love. This is an idea which is close to the heart of every good Freemason, and none of us wants to hurt someone's feelings. Unfortunately, too much love can dilute the value of the thing being sought. In more blunt language, people who should have never earned the Certified Ritual Instructor card did and their lack of true knowledge and skill made the certification of less value. Lest anyone feel like I am talking about them, I am not. I am speaking of myself. The first time I took the test I should have been failed on the Entered Apprentice Lesson II, since I missed two more words than I am allowed. The kindly District Ritual Instructor and District Deputy Grand Master, two men whom I hold in the highest regard, felt that I should pass regardless likely due to the Brotherly Love they bore for me.

With the post of District Ritual Instructor it now falls to me to certify ritualists. I plan, at the Inspections and Schools this year, to tell the Brethren of my District that I will hold us all to very high standards, so that when a Brother says, "I am a CRI for the 17th District" everyone will know there is a truly skilled ritualist. I also plan to certify in one degree at a time, based on something I saw and was very impressed with in Florida. At the Schools I will introduce the Certified Ritual Instructors and try to have them added to the suite at Inspections. The idea here is not just to add yet another honor, but instead it is twofold. First, I do want people to feel like they are really earning both the certification and applause of their Brethren by virtue of genuinely hard work. Second, to circulate the identities of these men, so that the budding ritualists in the District will know who to go to for help with their ritual.

Like all ideas, these may well fail, but they may also help to produce the next generation of ritualists in the 17th District.

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