THE THOUGHTS OF A LODGE SECRETARY
The Lodge Secretary's job is made much harder when there is filing and cataloguing to do. For most of the past twenty years I have served as the secretary of a lodge in a small rural community in our jurisdiction. As I move on to ‘higher honours’ I wish to share some thoughts and perspectives gained from this experience. Accepting and fulfilling an officer position in a lodge is an honour and privilege. Each position has its required duties and if done with enthusiasm can be a very rewarding experience.
The lodge secretary position is no exception. It is desirable that a lodge secretary possesses basic administrative and organizational skills. While having served as a Worshipful Master is advantageous from an experience perspective, it is not an absolute requirement for the lodge secretary position. Many brethren who are not Past Masters and who are well organized do a marvellous job as a lodge secretary.
The duties of a lodge secretary are generally defined in the Book of Constitutions, the installation ritual, and in the by-laws of a lodge. In essence they are:
Liaise with membership - The lodge secretary is often the only contact that members who do not regularly attend meetings have with their lodge. Many of these brethren have been members for many years, live in other communities, do not attend any lodge activities and, yet, faithfully maintain their membership and are very proud of ‘being a freemason’. Most often the only connection this brother has with his lodge is the monthly documents sent to him from the secretary. Hence the monthly notice and accompanying documents must provide the required information to sustain the member’s interest.
A pleasant and strong rapport often develops between such members and the lodge secretary. This is one of the most pleasant and rewarding parts of a lodge secretary’s duties. This rapport, in its own way, provides a unique form of fellowship not experienced by other officers.
A few lodge secretaries issue a monthly newsletter in addition to preparing and distributing the monthly notice. The newsletter is usually very well received and often reported as the highlight of the monthly collection of documents.
The lodge secretary needs to be up-to-date with the presentation of long service awards. While the presentation of these awards may be seen by some to be an insignificant gesture, they are enthusiastically received by the recipients.
The lodge secretary is often the brother who needs to remind brethren of outstanding dues. This can become an unpleasant duty especially if constant reminders are required. An elderly and experienced lodge secretary once told me that you don’t need to remind a gentleman of a debt, but ‘after 30 days he is no longer a gentleman.’ All lodges should have a programme, which involves more than the secretary, to receive annual dues from its members in a timely manner.
Record the Proceedings - The lodge secretary’s specific duty is to ‘record the proceedings.’ He is one of the many officers who assist the Worshipful Master in the organisation and execution of the activities of a lodge. This is a team effort with the Secretary doing his share in assisting the Worshipful Master.
Exchange of information with the Grand Lodge office - The lodge secretary is responsible for the lodge’s part in the two-way communication with the Grand Lodge office. The Grand Lodge office relies upon statistical information to be provided by the secretary in an accurate and timely manner. The Grand Lodge office also expects the information which it disseminates to the lodges of the jurisdiction to be communicated unfiltered through the lodge secretary.
Myths - There are several myths about the lodge secretary position which need to be dispelled. As a voluntary office, it should not mean that he’s expected to do everything. There are many things which a lodge secretary does which can and should be done by others. lodges should examine the duties being undertaken by their secretary and assign some of those duties to others. For example, the preparation and distribution of the monthly notice can be separated into smaller tasks and assigned to others. Preparing a monthly newsletter and being the almoner are examples of other duties which can also be done by others. Being a lodge secretary is not a life sentence.
A slip of the tongue was once made during the installation of a lodge secretary when the brother doing the investiture said ‘for the ensuing twelve years or until a successor is found.’ Brethren should not be expected to be the lodge secretary forever. It is healthy for a lodge to change the person doing the lodge secretary’s duties. Some lodges establish defined periods of time for a brother to hold the office of lodge secretary for this very reason.
No lodge secretary is indispensible to his lodge. As the saying goes, the graveyards of the world are filled with indispensible people. The secretary is only one office and the lodge should not allow, nor expect, too much influence from that office.
Fundamentals - Experience is a great teacher and my experience as a secretary has taught me some particular fundamentals which are very important and need to be followed. Planning is a must.
All successful activities follow the task cycle; plan, organize, communicate, execute and review. All five tasks must be done well for an activity to be successful. The activity will fail to meet expectations if any one of these tasks is done inadequately. Planning is the most important of these tasks and from my experience planning is not done, or is poorly done, by many lodges.
A strategic plan defines a lodge’s purpose and its vision for the future and describes plans and actions to achieve that vision.
A succession plan forecasts the organizational structure of a lodge and provides a timeline for brethren to prepare themselves for their changes in duties.
A term plan identifies specific activities which will occur during a period of time, usually during a term of office. If an activity is planned to be undertaken it has a high likelihood of taking place. In reverse, if an activity is not planned, it will not likely occur.
All plans need to be committed to paper and frequently referred to.
Each lodge should understand the importance of strategic planning, succession planning and term planning and undertake appropriate planning exercises.
The fundamentals of Freemasonry are very sound and do not need to change. The manner in which they are presented needs to be adapted to meet the changing needs of the membership.
Men are freemasons because the activities are interesting, involvement is considered time well spent, participation makes one feel good and they have fun. This hasn’t changed with time. However, activities and practices that served a lodge very well years ago may not necessarily be applicable today. These activities and practices need to be adapted to meet the needs of today’s members, with the expectations of all generations being considered.
The mentorship of a brother going through the degrees or being newly raised is very important. This is the formative period in the development of a freemason and the foundation built during this time will augur well for his future. The adage, the best way to learn is to teach, is very true and applies to being a mentor. Being a mentor is a very rewarding experience. Mentorship programmes are available and their use needs to be promoted.
Every lodge needs to develop an interesting and diversified education programme. Such a programme needs to be written down, meet the needs of the brethren, include the participation of as many of the brethren as possible, and permit dialogue.
Brethren belong to the Craft for these reasons:
• Fellowship (the essence of Freemasonry);
• Development of basic social and business skills;
• Betterment as a person;
• Development of the human spirit and an understanding of the meaning of life.
The first three reasons are frequently referred to and the topics of education presentations. The latter is seldom referred to and needs to be included in our education programmes.