Part three of our MEGHP’s 10-part commentary on ideas to rejuvenate and restore our Grand Chapter — and local Chapters — to positions of prominence, growth, and general enjoyment with the Craft. These are based on Texan Brother Lance Kennedy’s, “10 Propositions for Texan Freemasonry.” You can read his whole article here.

The third installment in this series talks about leadership structure. Brother Kennedy entitles this section of his essay, “Leave the Gavel Be.” It seems Masonic politics (oh my!) has been taken to a new level in Texan Freemasonry and while the situation doesn’t seem to be as critical here in Illinois as it does in Texas, the general concept of the situation is the same; it’s something I’ve seen over and over again in my visits to Chapters (and Lodges and Councils and Commanderies….).

In almost every Masonic organization (heck, almost every organization period), the presiding officer is a one- or two-year position. The secretary (or recorder) position, however, almost always spans many more years, even decades. Often times, the secretary becomes much more familiar with how the organization is run and thus tends to become the de factor “head” of the organization, at least from an administrative standpoint. The presiding officer too often allows leadership to fall to the secretary, rather than taking on the responsibility himself — a responsibility that he was elected to do.

How many times have we seen our Masonic meetings controlled by the secretary? He determines the order of business. He handles the minute-by-minute pace. He controls what is brought up, discussed, and — in some cases — decided on. Now, there’s a need for a well-organized and experienced administrative officer. He keeps things moving along. He safeguards the interests, assets, and purpose of the organization. He helps things to run (most times) more efficiently.

But a presiding officer who surrenders control to a secretary is one who is merely along for the ride. A strong presiding officer will devise a plan for his year, one created with the input and agreement of all of his officers. He’ll know to look to the Secretary to help him to implement aspects of his plan, at least from an administrative standpoint. But he won’t give over control of the organization to his secretary. He’ll be in control, keeping members interested, active, and part of the overall gameplan.

How do you keep in control of your Chapter as High Priest? Simple. As a floor officer (Royal Arch Captain, Principal Sojourner, and Captain of the Host), you are watching what is working in the Chapter and where there are opportunities for improvement. When you move up to Scribe, you begin to put together your plan as High Priest and get buy in from those above you in the Line as well as your junior officers. As King of the Chapter, you are finalizing your plan, maybe implementing the things you need this year to make your term as High Priest easier. Above all, you — and your Chapter — needs a plan.

Your Chapter should have a 3-, 5-, 10-year plan that sets certain goals:

  • Budget and Financial Concerns
  • Membership and Growth
  • Ritual Preparation and Exemplification
  • Mentoring and Retention
  • Masonic Education
  • Fundraising and Events

These are just some of the basic topics that should be covered under these multiyear plans. Your plan for your year as High Priest builds off of previous plans, fits into overall, multiyear goals, and helps those coming behind you to implement and realize their plans as well.

Is a strong secretary or recorder an asset to you as presiding officer? Certainly. No question about that. But simply surrendering your year over to him because you don’t have a plan, the time, or the desire to be a leader is no excuse. If you didn’t want the job and don’t care enough about your Chapter to move it forward with momentum, don’t run for election.