More Heat Than Light

What Came you Here to do?

By Grand Master Speed Hallman

Every year I look forward to the Wilkerson College Lodge Symposium and Ritual Competition. It never fails to be enlightening.

On June 30, with the sun blazing away at meridian, I was seated among the craft in the cool, rarefied air of the Greensboro Masonic Temple, listening to world-class Masonic speakers and thinking about the richness of Masonic education in North Carolina.

We are blessed. We have Masons who live up to their answer to the question “What came you here to do?”

Thanks to the steady labors of a number of brethren, ranging from newly-raised Master Masons to sitting Grand Masters and Past Grand Masters, our jurisdiction boasts the finest and most comprehensive Masonic education program in the country. With advances in information technology, pent-up demand for quality Masonic education and the energy of brethren who are passionate about the subject, the 21stCentury has seen quantum leaps in the production of new programs in our state. The rest of the country is taking notice.

I’m not saying North Carolina Masons were groping in the dark until our generation discovered Masonic education. The Lodge System of Masonic Education(LSME), issued in 1936, is one of the most impactful tools we have. With LSME, the lodge arranges for a group of experienced Masons to instruct the candidate and new Mason. As the preface to the LSME states, “It is simple, practical and employed under the direction and immediate authority of the lodge. It works where education is most needed and appreciated. The method, when used consistently and intelligently, guarantees positive results. The candidate meets with the committee once before receiving the First Degree; once after the First Degree; once after the Second Degree; and twice after the Third Degree – five times in all.”

Here’s the cool 21stCentury part: Last year the Grand Lodge Committee on Public Relations made the LSME available as a podcast. The text and audio files are on the Grand Lodge website. So is every program described here. Just click on the Educational Resources tab ( https://tinyurl.com/yd7vj3jn) for more information.

Program for Progress, which dates to 1996, distills a tremendous amount of Masonic experience and common sense into a guide for orienting and educating candidates, developing leadership skills for lodge officers, and keeping members involved through communication, continuing education and activities. Every lodge officer should review Program for Progress at least annually, and act on its lessons. It is timeless and it is a goldmine.

Wilkerson College and Wilkerson College #760 were founded in 2002 and are the catalysts for many of the newer Masonic education initiatives that set us apart.

Wilkerson College is North Carolina’s school for Masonic leadership development. Its mission is to help the future lodge master prepare for his year in the east. Wilkerson meets in the spring for three weekend sessions (Friday evening through Saturday afternoon) at the Masonic Home for Children at Oxford, WhiteStone in Greensboro and the Grand Lodge office in Raleigh. Applications for admission are accepted beginning Oct. 1, and deacons have first priority in admission. Students get to know Grand Lodge officers and are able to build networks with Masonic leaders from across the state.

I’ve never met a graduate who didn’t benefit from Wilkerson’s sessions on lodge management and leadership, and who didn’t value the relationships formed over those three weekends. Financial aid is available, and many lodges pay part or all of the tuition. It’s a win for lodges to have Wilkerson graduates in the chairs. We have the data to prove that lodges led by Wilkerson College graduates perform better. Since its inception, 524 Masons have graduated. The shocker is that of 371 lodges in the state, 221 have never sent a student.

The college is named in honor of WB and retired Marine Gen. H. Lloyd Wilkerson, one of the finest men, Masons and leaders I have ever known.

Wilkerson College #760 was formed by the first class of Wilkerson College graduates. They wanted to extend their experience in the college by providing Masonic education programs across the state. It’s a traveling lodge and meets on the second Saturday of the even-numbered months. Speakers and topics are uniformly excellent and program announcements are posted on the Grand Lodge’s Facebook page. The annual symposium and ritual competition are usually held on the second Saturday in June unless speaker schedules dictate otherwise, as was the case this year.

If you’d like to help shape Masonic education programs, if you’re seeking leadership opportunities and if you want to meet like-minded Masons around the state, consider affiliating with Wilkerson College Lodge. The officers and members will welcome your interest, energy and ideas.

A new and powerful player in the education mix is the William R. Davie Leadership Academy. The academy’s sessions are offered on Saturdays in each region of the state, making it accessible to more participants. It offers programs for elected and appointed lodge officers, and workshop topics include finance and budget, the art of chairing a lodge meeting, preparing for the east, and the district officer/Grand Lodge committeeman. I’ve seen the impact of “the art of chairing a lodge meeting” in my home lodge. It works. Programs are continuously evaluated and adapted to student needs. Registration is handled online and the cost covers materials and lunch. It takes a lot of hands to make the Davie Academy work and it, too, would welcome your involvement.

The Speakers Bureau, a project of the Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Education, currently lists 42 speakers who are offering their services to help lodges provide programs that keep members coming back. While some speakers place limits on their travel time or mileage, every lodge in the state can find a speaker on the list who will deliver an excellent presentation. If you’ve developed a presentation that adds light to a lodge meeting, consider offering your services to the Speakers Bureau.

The Middle Chamber,the newest offering from the Committee on Masonic Education, provides an opportunity to explore the rituals and symbols of the craft and improve ourselves as men and Masons. Instructors are specially trained to assist each brother as he examines Masonic rituals, himself and his relationship with Deity. The four sessions include a mix of discussion, self-study and contemplative exercises. The first class, Introduction to Masonic Allegory and Symbols, is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 5 and Jan. 12, 2019. That class is free, and students pay for study materials in the remaining sessions. The full schedule will be published by late November.

There’s more on the website under Education Resources. I encourage you to look at the Officers’ Handbook, the Lodge Self-Assessment Tool, Eight Easy Steps to a Vibrant Lodge Education Program, and the Investigation and Balloting Guidelines. There’s material on Masonic music for our rituals and useful information for secretaries and treasurers. You can find out how to become a Certified Lecturer, how to create a legacy through your will and how to file a request for Masonic funeral rites.

While some of these programs have been around for years, most of the recent offerings are the work of the Committee on Masonic Education. Past Chairman Ben Wallace and current Chairman Tony Rathbone have been tireless leaders, and they’re now fielding inquiries from other jurisdictions who want to know how North Carolina has done so much, so quickly, and so well in the realm of Masonic education. I tip my Grand Master’s hat to them, to current and former committee members, and to the many other Masons who have helped ignite these programs.

Masonic light in North Carolina blazes like the sun at meridian on a hot June day. Your temple awaits. What came you here to do?