Taking Lodge Back to the Table
by Brother Terence Satchell
Throughout my experience in Freemasonry, I have
been able to determine that there is one guaranteed way to increase meeting
attendance and activity among the membership: provide excellent food.
It really is no surprise that food is an
important part of the Masonic experience. In his book
Catching Fire, Harvard-based anthropologist Richard Wrangham
suggests that the act of cooking and eating has made humans evolve into social
creatures. Food is at the center of virtually every social function that takes
place in our society. Humans often get together to have cookouts or go out to
eat. So, not surprisingly, having a dinner as part of lodge functions enhances
the overall experience.
I have seen different methods of providing a
lodge dinner. One way is for the lodge members to cook the meal themselves.
Sometimes, this is largely successful. Some lodges have the Brethren get
together and cook the meal as a sort of social event with great success.
Often, these lodges have members that enjoy the act of cooking and are very
good at the art of preparing food. On the other hand, many of the lodges that
cook the meals themselves produce bland, sub-par dinners that attract little
attention from the members. In these lodges, the task of cooking is thought of
as a chore and often the success of the meal is considered to be directly
proportional to how cheaply it could be provided.
Another method of providing food is to have a
meal catered or take the lodge event to a restaurant. This method requires the
Brethren to either pay out of pocket or provide sufficient funds to the lodge
to purchase such services. This is personally my favorite way to provide a
feast at the lodge. It allows the Brethren to show up and enjoy the meal
rather than show up at the lodge to work in the kitchen. Unfortunately, many
Masons see this as an unneeded expenditure. They feel that it is too expensive
for the Brethren. However, they donít understand that a lodge can often
purchase meals for the members for less than $20 per member per month. I
believe that Masonry is worth $20 a month, but that is a subject for another
Regardless of how a meal is procured, itís
quality must be top notch. If you eat off of paper plates, the experience
feels cheap and unimpressive. It is amazing how the attitude of a lodge will
change when a dinner requires real glassware and silverware. Also, it is
suggested that attire for a meal be at least a shirt and tie, but again that
is a subject for another article.
Now, here is where I am going to suggest a real
change. Historically, Masonry took place at the dinner table. The 1734 version
of Andersonís Consitutions contains a list of General Regulations
which mention how Masonic feasts should be administered numerous times. In
other words, feasting was so important that it was actually included in the
earliest Masonic regulations. In America, early lodges were accustomed to
meeting in taverns and enjoying food and drink as part of their meetings. I
suggest that we must take the lodge back to the table. The lodge room is for
degree work and conducting the regular business meetings, but the table is
where the real Masonic intercourse can take place. Discussion about Masonry
and Masonic education is better digested at the dinner table. The Brethren are
more relaxed and less anxious. In the lodge room, the members often become
restless and are in a hurry to end the meeting. But at the table, the Brethren
are willing to sit and enjoy themselves.
You can hold many different functions at the
table. Hold an official table lodge, invite a guest speaker to make some
remarks, have a round table discussion, or allow Brothers an open forum to
present their views on Masonic teachings. The possibilities are endless. It is
guaranteed that good feasts combined with interesting conversation or speakers
and a quality atmosphere will lead to a more active lodge.
One of the first changes that we can make to
truly improve Freemasonry is to get back to the dinner table. Hold Masonic
feasts regularly and often. Make them classy affairs that the Brethren can be
excited about and look forward to attending. If the Brethren perceive their
time with the lodge as valuable, they will not be afraid to spend a little
money in order to enjoy a dinner with their fellow Masons.
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