An introduction from our Provincial Grand Mentor
In these strange and unsettling times, we can either park and forget Freemasonry or, I hope, look to it for the inspiration it truly is and can be for you.
Over the next few weeks, along with some of my Provincial colleagues. I hope you will allow me into your inbox or onto your social media to express a few thoughts that you might find useful, of interest and perhaps enjoyable.
So, what is Mentoring and why is it so important to the Masonic 3R’s – Recruitment, Retention and Retrieval.
The Oxford and other major dictionaries describe a Mentor, as an experienced and trusted adviser (noun) or to advise or train, especially younger colleague (verb).
A mentor imparts information about his or her own career path, provides guidance, motivation, emotional support. A mentor sets goals – develops contacts and identifies resources.
Mentoring can be part of a structured process or something more informal.
An effective mentor values his mentee as a person, will develop mutual trust and respect and maintain confidentiality and will listen to what his mentee has to say and how he says it and will help solve rather than give directions, he will focus on his mentees development and not try to build a clone.
How close the dictionaries definitions are to our Masonic view and practice of Mentoring.
When anyone embarks on a new phase in their life, be it starting a new job, living in a different area, or joining the Masonic Lodge, there is much that is new or unknown. The uncertainties that can arise can lead to feelings of insecurity and even alienation if not addressed very early on.
Freemasonry presents its own unique set of challenges, the rituals and traditions we take for granted are complex and follow a unique set of rules, which will seem very strange to an outsider, if not properly explained.
It is therefore vital that from the very outset that one suitably experienced and knowledgeable brother takes ownership of ensuring that the new Freemason is introduced to the order in a controlled and supported way so that his first few years in the craft become an enjoyable and intellectually fulfilling voyage of discovery.
Mentoring, however, is not just about new initiates. The process of personal development, which is an intrinsic part of the Masonic experience poses continuously changing challenges to a brother as he advances, firstly through the progress of officers and then hopefully to the Chair of his Lodge as Worshipful Master. Mentoring has a vital role to play in ensuring that every member is supported and encouraged to achieve his own personal goals in a manner which recognises his own personal aptitudes and balances his needs with those of the Lodge, thereby avoiding stress, pressure or feelings of coercion.
Getting to the Chair of the Lodge is not, however, the end of the mentoring story. After many years of frontline involvement and being in the thick of running the Lodge, the recently retired IPM can be left feeling that he is being cast aside, with no meaningful role to play. This is where the Lodge Mentor can play an important part in helping a more senior brother prepare for life after the Chair by encouraging him to acquire the skills and knowledge he will need to succeed in one of the administrative offices such as Secretary, DC, Treasurer, or even Lodge Mentor or, if he has not already done so, to explore the Royal Arch.
The bottom line is that the purpose of mentoring is to retain members in the long term. Retention is achieved by ensuring that brethren are encouraged to grow and develop at the speed and in a manner with which they are comfortable, so that they enjoy Freemasonry to the full.
It is important for the Mentor to get to know and understand the mentee, it is not a one size fits all.
Whilst the natural mentor is the mentees proposer or seconder, there are instances when that might not be appropriate, if either is : –
not being able to attend the Lodge regularly for valid reasons
a new Mason himself
an experienced Mason with an office in the Lodge and therefore does not have sufficient time
in these cases, it would be better to have another suitably qualified brother to take ownership of the mentor’s role, not to subvert the role of the proposer and seconder, but to support their efforts.
Whether you are or have ever been your lodge mentor or have recently proposed or seconded a new brother into your Lodge, I hope the above will resonate with you in some way and will provide you with some extra tools in your Masonic box.
To all Lodge Secretaries and Chapter Scribes E, please could you forward this blog to all the members of your Lodge / Chapter and if any Brother or Companion is without email, perhaps it could be printed and posted to him.
To our next merry blog – and please keep well and safe!
Sincerely and fraternally,
Provincial Grand Mentor
31st March 2020
A New Brother’s Mentor
This is the second in this occasional series and initially I’d like to thank all those who responded to the first with generous words of encouragement.
In my first blog I gave you some thoughts about what a Mentor is – in this I’d like to share some ideas about actions you as a lodge mentor, a proposer or just a fellow lodge member might want to follow in encouraging and supporting a new candidate – most are obvious – many you will automatically carry out – but some you might just have forgotten…..
During the pathway process you will have been open and honest with the new member and encouraged him to ask questions – you should continue and foster that process.
In these first stages a new member will form lasting impressions of Freemasonry based on his early experiences. These stages are concerned with understanding mutual expectations and it is important to manage those expectations by delivering what has been promised and avoiding unpleasant surprises.
For his Initiation ceremony ensure your candidate arrives in good time as he will have paperwork to complete and fees to pay; ensure that he is correctly dressed; black or dark suit, white shirt (no T-shirt underneath) black tie, black socks, black shoes; inform him that he will be asked to remove all his jewellery, money and metal objects explaining that this will enable him to truthfully answer certain questions that will be asked of him.
Make sure he understands that this is an experience shared by every Freemason, the world over, and is meant to be uplifting, inspiring and above all enjoyed.
When discussing the ceremony of initiation strike a balance between telling him too much and not telling him enough. Too much prior information may damage the experience, too little may leave the candidate with unnecessary or uncomfortable apprehensions.
As the lodge mentor or his proposer, you have a duty to guide, assist and generally encourage him as he progresses through his own Masonic journey.
Before the ceremony, if possible, introduce him to the WM and JD and after, find an early opportunity and take time to discuss the ceremony, his views and reactions, not necessarily at the social board but certainly within a few days of the meeting, as in the days, weeks and months following Initiation, the new Freemason will reflect on his experiences and consider whether or not his expectations have been met, exceeded or possibly disappointed.
Remember to continue to support in the early stages. The ceremony of initiation will have made an impact on the new Freemason and he will be likely to remember it for a long time. At this point the new Freemason is at his most vulnerable, a significant proportion of new members leave the craft within two years of initiation, often before becoming master Masons if he perceives either the ceremony or the actions of Lodge members to be anything other than positive or if his expectations are not met.
The lodge mentor, and proposers have a small window of opportunity to respond to all early reactions, to address any concerns and to provide the support that the new Freemason needs.
Remember how you felt when you first joined the Lodge and how you benefited from a warm welcome, a smile and kind word from an older or more experienced member.
Imagine yourself in the new Freemason’s position. What might help this comfort and confidence?
Spend time with a new member at each of his early meetings and get to know him better, both in the Lodge and at the social board. Introduce him to other members and visitors and use names to help him and them remember without embarrassment.
If no one is sitting with a new member, move over to keep him company. Ensure that he is not left alone, uncertain of what is happening or what he is expected to do.
You should also encourage him to read a nugget, deliver a piece of ritual and in due course take office and at each juncture check that he is ready and not being pressured.
We all want our new made brother to progress through the offices to the Master’s chair and stay in Freemasonry until age or infirmity prevents it. Surveys by UGLE have identified that a percentage of new made Masons leave because they did not fully realise what they were joining or did not understand what is happening in the ceremonies. We should do everything possible to help them prepare; help them understand; help to get the most from their Masonic experience; and help and support them to develop as Masons and members of our Lodge, our Province and the wider Masonic
May We All Meet Together
Hello again Brethren and I’d like to thank the many who have contacted me with their good wishes and support for this Mentoring Podcast initiative.
In Freemasonry, we often say without much thought. “Happy have we met….
And ….To our next merry Meeting”
and as a Dame Vera has been singing for nearly 80 years and reiterated only recently by her Majesty the Queen, “We’ll meet again…. but, at the moment, we don’t know where and we don’t know when !
During the current COVID crisis, from UGLE to the newest initiate, everyone is doing all they can by way of communication and the dissemination of information. Brethren are probably receiving more emails, texts, and phone calls than they ever have to ensure that no one is being overlooked, missed out or forgotten both socially, physically and financially.
The spirit of brotherhood within Freemasonry is alive and well.
However, if we assume (not unrealistically) that it may be 2021 before private lodges are able to function as before, as a member of the Province’s Recruitment and Membership Strategy Group, our fear is that as this is the first time ever in our long history that we are unable to meet, and as the cement which binds the Lodge together is the regular meeting of its members, there is a real danger that lodges may crumble and that, deprived of regular Masonic activity over a long period of time, some members may cease their membership, having a knock-on effect on lodges and their viability.
So, what can we do to prevent this situation arising?
I know that a number of lodges have already held successful Zoom gatherings; last week my Column Lodge No.5813 held a Zoom 9 o’clock toast. 21 of our 24 members “zoomed in” and whilst I am sure that since lockdown many of us will have communicated with many of those present individually, both over the phone and possibly using FaceTime, what jumped out from the screen was the palpable and almost physical enjoyment that the brethren were having at seeing us all ”meeting” together again.
So, my proposal, which has been submitted to and received the full approval of the PGM, is to support the Districts to provide/facilitate a means whereby as many private lodges, who wish to, can run a Zoom Lodge Meeting with Masonic content that they can use as the focus for the meeting, should they so choose, to reinforce the value of membership, and help maintain Masonic communication, whilst giving benefit to the brethren, as otherwise the meetings would soon become masonically meaningless.
We have been given access to a growing list of easy to download podcasts that can be used to provide a focus for a private lodge to use in any of the designated 3 degrees and this has also been extended to the Royal Arch.
Using the team of District Mentors and other volunteers, we are offering private lodges the opportunity of holding Zoom meetings on their normal Lodge evenings which will incorporate Masonic Podcast material of their choice. This would be provided to the Lodge Secretary for his further distribution to the Lodge members. This practice could also be continued through the summer months.
The podcast would only be available to the Lodge and its members on that night, but could form the focus to enable the members to see and meet with each other via Zoom – and again we would facilitate these Zoom conference meeting in the (increasingly unlikely) event that one or more of the Lodge members did not have the IT know-how to do so themselves.
The onus to use this facility is with the lodges and no pressure is being put on any Lodge to follow this format.
This communication is being sent to every brother in the Province via his district team and Lodge Secretary. I hope that Lodge Worshipful Masters, Secretaries and as many members as possible will discuss this initiative, and if you want to “give it a go” please contact your District Mentor or me directly for further information and hopefully to set up your next Zoom Lodge Podcast Meeting
I know we’ll all meet again. Brethren, hopefully, “… Some sunny day “.
And thank you for listening!
Jo Glass | Provincial Grand Mentor | May 2020