Today is the Feast of St. John! On behalf of Nick and myself, I extend to our brethren in the Fraternity greetings and warm wishes for every success in the New Year.
Today or very soon in jurisdictions around the world officers in Grand Lodges and subordinate lodges will be installed, assuming new duties and responsibilities. I am rather fond of the Scottish tradition of talking not about “officers” but “office bearers,” subtly reminding us that the man is not the office, but only occupies it for a time, carrying its burdens and responsibilities on behalf of the Craft, and passing it to the next man in his turn. Too often, Masons fall into the trap of conflating the office and its present occupant and acting based on personalities.
Too, we have all seen the man installed in some office whose dignity and privileges he allows to go to his head. Masons accord tremendous deference to the office of their presiding officers. But it is to the office, not to the man, that those honors are rendered. It is too easy when being called by honorifics and addressed with respect and deference to forget that it is not you but the station which you occupy for just a moment in time that is being honored. When you leave that office, what you will take with you no more than what your actions have merited while you occupied it.
So, to officers, and most especially presiding officers, I offer this observation. Kindness — charity — in all your actions as an officer will best serve the Craft and earn for you a desirable reputation among your brethren. The notion of the servant leader is something of a fad in the profane world today — but is a model that Masons have long sought to teach and to emulate. Remember to express your thanks to your brethren for their assistance, forgive readily, take the serious parts of Freemasonry seriously, but on no account take yourself too seriously.
To those being installed as Grand Officers, I offer warm congratulations. Your service to our beloved Institution is greatly appreciated. It is, however, good to remember that nothing that happens in a grand lodge is essential to Freemasonry. Freemasonry existed before grand lodges. Grand Lodges were created to serve the Craft and just as officers in subordinate lodges should remember that the candidates and the brethren on the sidelines, so should Grand Lodge officers remember the general membership.
In the end, all of us who have or soon will assume an office should remember that we are all brothers, on the level, and always conduct ourselves as such. So… I propose a toast, to the fraternity:
To all poor and distressed brother Masons wheresoever dispersed over the globe, may swiftly find relief and safely find their way home if that should be their desire.
To the fraternity!