By Guest Contributor: Bro. Byron J. Collier
As Freemasons we pride ourselves on the antiquity and history of the Craft, but will our ceremonies and ritual in and of themselves be enough to satisfy future generations? The future will demand a better understanding of what it really means to be a Mason through better knowing ourselves and practicing those principles we have all vowed to uphold in our oaths or obligations. I further believe that the silent example of men with integrity who display the moral and social virtues of good men, and who do the right thing for righteousness sake, will prevail and fill the societal gaps created in this new age.
In order for our fraternity to not only survive, but thrive, we must make the welcoming of new members and retention of existing brethren an important part of what we do in Lodge. The experiences of an Entered Apprentice’s and Fellowcraft’s first few months, and a new Master Mason’s first years will determine how they view Freemasonry for the rest of their lives. This is why commitment to mentoring and the sustaining of fellowship is relevant, now more than ever. I believe our Lodges should strive for better masons rather than more Masons.
There’s an old story about a man who was considering offering himself as a candidate to Freemasonry. He selected one of the two Lodges in his local area. After he was made a Freemason a friend asked why he had selected his particular Lodge. His reply was that after interviews with officers from the two Lodges, his selection was easy because one Lodge was very interested in him as a candidate while the other was interested in him as a brother. Which do you think he chose?
Although we make our meetings more interesting by social events and Masonic education, the driving force that brings Masons together is our fellowship when we meet; whether at Lodge meetings or by chance encounters on the street. It does not take very long for a new Mason to realize that he can expect to form new friendships for the rest of his life. However, one of the major dangers comes when the “newness” of the Masonic experience begins to wear off. When a man's attendance becomes irregular or he stops coming to Lodge it suggests that: 1) his priorities have changed, 2) he is becoming overwhelmed with Lodge duties, or 3) something has changed in his life. In order to find out what has changed for the brother, we must be willing and able to engage in open and frank dialogue.
To get to the point of honest and open conversation with our Masonic Brethren we must be closer. We must make a concerted effort to elicit the views and feelings of all members, not just a few. Therefore, if the formality of a lodge meeting impedes input from some members we must recognize that and solicit their opinions at less formal meetings or by one-on-one discussions. It is important that every Brother feel that he is not left out, that the Lodge welcomes his views, and that "has had his say."
One of the more common pitfalls that we must be careful to avoid, is just associating with our perceived like-minded Masons, for we can create what appears to be "cliques." I say perceived because sometimes we don't spend enough time to fully understand all of our brethren. They may be like-minded more than we realize!
Finally and most importantly, we must practice openness and tolerance. Openness to feel free to discuss delicate issues, human issues that are important to making and keeping good relationships. Because we are all different, each of us comes from different backgrounds and each of us think and act differently; therefore, we must get to know one another sufficiently so that we can converse on a level that will promote friendship and at the same time avoid discord. We must also assume an attitude that is completely tolerant of the views and ideas of our fellow Brethren. We may feel that their idea or point of view is wrong, but we must recognize that they have their own reasons for their expressions, and it is not our lot to judge them for that. As people we all say and do things that later we wish we could take back. Well, we can openly try to take them back by being honest with ourselves and try to right those wrongs and to quickly and easily forgive those transgressions by others. I daresay we all know brethren of the Craft who for one reason or another are in some level of emotional dispute with other Masons. Are these disputes really important in the grand scheme of things? I truly believe that good honest discussion would make most disputes non-existent. We each must learn to seek out and accept admonitions and whispers of good counsel from others, and at the very least have some accordance by "agreeing to disagree."
I ask you to consider and to practice that openness, tolerance and to express a genuine interest in your fellow Freemason, the man you call Brother.
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BYRON J. COLLIER has over 20 years experience working in the financial services industry. As Founder of Artemis Capital Group, LLC, Byron has served as its President and Managing Member since 2003. He was a Vice President of Investment Banking with Chicago Investment Group, LLC and held management positions within Global Custody at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc., (JP Morgan), and Consumer Lending at United Jersey Bank (Bank of America). Byron received his baccalaureate degree from Howard University, Washington DC, and continued with graduate studies in International Business and Commercial Finance at New York University, New York, NY.
Byron served on the Business Advisory Board of Datameg Corporation (OTCBB: DTMG) and is actively involved with local community services including his church as Superintendent of Sunday School for the Ebenezer Baptist Church in New Brunswick, NJ. His interest in world history and cultures has led him to extensively study religions, philosophies, and esoteric traditions, which ultimately led him to the Masonic Fraternity.
Byron was raised to Light this past June and is a member of Jerusalem Lodge No. 26, in Plainfield, New Jersey. As a true lover of knowledge, Byron seeks to discover the meaning and Light that is present within the diaspora that is mankind and, applying this Light to his own spiritual path, help others in their journeys.
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