At one time, there was an eastern American grand lodge that was arguably one of the strictest Masonic jurisdictions in the country when it came to standing by its strong traditions. Their state has a very, very different and distinct ritual than any other jurisdiction in America, based largely on Antients work from the 1700s.
As a result, the typical ritual “exposures” that were published throughout the 1800s and later, based on Preston-Webb working—as much to benefit struggling members and officers with their memorization as they were to “reveal” any Masonic secrets—were always useless in their state. They were one of the last grand lodges to print any sort of ritual learning aids of any kind, and their ritual remained strictly transmitted from instructive tongue to attentive ear until the last decade. As any Past Master from there will tell you, the Master is run ragged by their ritual, since he almost never sits during meetings, and does the vast majority of the speaking roles throughout all of the degrees—including almost the entirety of the 2nd Section of the MM. The last time I visited, they also still required all officers to dress in tuxedos, and numerous other demands on their members that other jurisdictions either never did, or no longer do.
Yet, despite their rigorous reputation as the tough tradition guys on the Masonic block, they have almost always been one of the largest Masonic jurisdictions in the country in terms of both membership statistics and number of lodges. So, their stringent standards, enforced for more than two centuries, certainly didn’t scare off potential new members who got spooked by what was required to belong and be active.
Well, times have changed. Their grand lodge began publishing a fully spelled-out ritual several years ago (entirely skipping the single-letter cipher period that most other jurisdictions used for many years), and their long-cherished mentorship between men who spent weeks and even months working with each other to learn their enormous Master’s parts, and others, has rapidly faded away as new members simply study on their own, alone, from a book now. Their stodgy, old grand lodge, once a longtime, noble holdout for tradition, sure came into the 21st century, all right.
So, someone sent me a link last night to their newest foray into the modern age as they attempt to dig up new petitioners: a merchandise incentive reward program.
You know, as in, “Sign up a new member, and earn some free Stuff!”
It has come to this. One wonders what their Antient forebears would have said.
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