BETTER MEETINGS AND MEALS
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, Mass:
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
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 afterword to keep interest increasing and presentation time decreasing.
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 uninterupted "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 develope 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 year.
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 examplary 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
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
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
board was held next door to Freemason's Hall in the Connaught rooms. This was
November of 1990 when I was master of Texas Lodge of Research. The second visit
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
me up at my sister-in-law's house and took me back to his house. We then walked
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
much. When we arrived I left my apron and white gloves in their locker room and
went to the bar where the deacons were serving drinks. My friend had a mixed
and I had a Coke. We spent about thirty minutes there before everyone went
for the meeting which, of course, was done in the 1st degree. After the meeting
went back to the bar where some picked up a drink to take to the festive board.
stayed with my Coke until the eleven toasts. Red wine gives me a headache and,
though I just sipped a little at each toast I did wake up with a slight pain in
back of my head. This procedure was typical of each of the five Lodges, away
London, that I visited. I really had a wonderful time and I never noticed
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 net.
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
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
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
Once again, if you have a lodge that is going fine without these changes, GREAT! We want to hear from you and, perhaps to include your ideas in our next revision. Please contact the website editor by clicking HERE.