Volume LIXJanuary 2012Number 1

Grand Master's Message

GRAND MASTER'S MESSAGE
Inaugural Address
By Jay W. Smith
Right Worshipful Grand Master
of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania
Dec. 27, 2011


Brethren, Family & Friends

As I ponder the task ahead of me as Grand Master, many thoughts cross my mind. The one that comes up most frequently is: What can I do as your Grand Master to make this fraternity flourish for future generations? My theme for the next two years is, "Freemasonry, Master Builders - Building for Our Future." Many Past Grand Masters have worked hard to advance and grow Freemasonry. Each had his own ideas and objectives for promoting the good of the fraternity, but before the programs could be successful, they fell by the wayside as each new Grand Master initiated his own programs. I intend to continue and expand on Past Grand Masters' successful programs, as well as introduce my own.

The past two years have been an exciting step toward saving our fraternity. I must congratulate Past Grand Master Thomas K. Sturgeon for his foresight and concerns for this fraternity, and for following through with his programs.

As we move forward, each one of us must get away from thinking, "But we've always done it this way." There are some in the fraternity who feel that change is either too slow or too fast, and some who do not want any change at all. Many think it is acceptable to watch the fraternity dwindle to nothing while standing silent. We, as a fraternity, have so much to offer to our members and to the society in which we live.

Freemasonry should not be practiced in the dark or hidden under a bushel basket. It should be practiced in the brilliant sunlight for all to see, so it can be said of Freemasonry: "What an ideal way of life for all to follow!" At no time in history has there been a greater need to understand what Freemasonry is and what it stands for, than in our world today. Throughout our history, we have been challenged time and time again. When we respond to these challenges successfully, we will flourish. If we fail to respond in a positive way, we will go backwards. Through the guidance of the men who have preceded us, we will become well and duly prepared for the task which lies ahead of us as members of this great fraternity. We need to build on the successes of our past leaders and follow through proactively. The future belongs to those who can meet and work through the challenges to come.

There are many in our society who would like to see Freemasonry disappear or become an ineffective organization. We cannot allow this to happen! We must begin today to build for our future!

As we go forward into the 21st century, we, as Masons, must be "Master Builders." In designing my medallion, I wanted to emphasize this concept. The medallion shows a circle of stones held together with a keystone in each quadrant. The circle of stones represents the foundation of Freemasonry and the keystones represent the members and Masonic leaders in Pennsylvania who hold this fraternity together. It also has the working tools of the Master Builders of Freemasonry in each keystone. In the middle, with the square and compasses, is the great light of Freemasonry.

Prior leaders have established foundations and made available many tools and programs for our benefit, and we must accept the responsibility to build on them. In the next two years, we are going to introduce new programs as well as enhance existing ones. We have been given the tools to increase our membership, but many times I have heard that we are a group of uneducated and ill-informed brothers when it comes to Freemasonry. We need to better prepare ourselves to communicate effectively, not only to our brothers, but also to non-Masons. I am creating the tools for educating and maintaining our membership by proposing the following programs:

1.I am establishing a Masonic Internet Educational program for new Master Masons and existing members. The first online educational lessons will be on: the History of Freemasonry, How Freemasonry and Appendant Bodies Were Established in Pennsylvania and Masonic Law. Additional lessons will follow throughout the next two years.
 
2. I am proposing that throughout 2012 and 2013, the Grand Lodge fee of $100 and Grand Lodge dues be excused for all full-time students, ages 18-23 years, attending either a two-year or four-year institution, who join the fraternity. I encourage the lodges also to reduce the initiation fee or lodge dues to attract younger men who attend these institutions to join.
 
3. I am establishing a Master Builders Award for new candidates who complete a specified set of requirements.
 
4.I will continue with the Grand Master's Award program, established by Past Grand Master Sturgeon, for lodges that complete a specified set of requirements.
 
5. In order to honor our Masonic youth leaders, I have designed a Masonic Apron for our youth leaders who are Masonic members to wear when they attend their lodge meetings. For the ladies and non-Masons who also work with our youth groups, we are in the process of producing a medallion that they can wear to show that they are also youth leaders. In 2013, I intend to visit the chapters of the Order of the DeMolay, the bethels of Jobs Daughters International and the Rainbow Girls assemblies and give special recognition to each group. I encourage our members to do the same.
 
6.I am proposing the elimination of new Life and Honorary Memberships (existing memberships will be honored). This will require a change to the "Ahiman Rezon." Currently, a Life Membership costs $1,000 and an Honorary Membership costs $600, which is invested in the permanent fund of the lodge. The income off the investment can only be used for the general operations of the lodge. In today's economic climate, the income from the principal does not cover the member's lodge dues for the year. The lodges should not be burdened with subsidizing these dues.
 
7. I am asking every lodge to establish the Grand Lodge mentoring program for new candidates. I am asking that a brother be assigned as a mentor for one year. This will help our new brothers to become more involved in the working of the lodge and its activities.
 
8. The new ritual manual is now two years old, and the lodge officers have had a chance to use it. It is now time to expand it by adding the rest of our ritualistic work to make it complete. We will add the following: Business of the Lodge, Examination of a Visitor, the Table Lodge and the Procedures for the Election and Installation of Officers. For the first time, all of our ritualistic work will be in one place. There will be no more questions in regard to our ritualistic work.
 
9. I would like to see more day-time lodges formed for our senior members and for those members who work night shift who cannot attend lodge meetings in the evening. This could be accomplished by taking a lodge that is struggling and making it into a day-time lodge or by forming a new lodge entirely. (See p. 16 for more information.)
 
10.I am asking that each lodge have one open house a year during 2012 and 2013, and I suggest that it be done as a district-wide initiative. I am also encouraging the use of a Friend to Friend program as part of the open house.
 
11.Each district will be required to have a one-day class in the fall of 2012 and the fall of 2013 to welcome new candidates in this expedited fashion. By accommodating their busy lifestyles, we hope to attract good quality men to join our ranks. If you know of a family member, friend, neighbor or coworker who fits this description, please be sure to tell him about this opportunity.
 
12.I intend to continue the "Help for Our Heroes" program, established by Past Grand Master Steve Gardner and supported by Past Grand Master Tom Sturgeon, for as long as we have men and women serving in our military overseas. I have asked Col. and Bro. Harris Brooks and Bro. Harry Rutter to continue to oversee the program. I would like them to explore new ways in which the Masons of Pennsylvania can help our service men and women. Through your efforts over the past four years, we have contributed more than $450,000 to such programs as the calling cards, hospital visits for families of wounded heroes, and our baby showers for expectant military parents.
 
13.I also will continue the "Call to the Craft" program. The Grand Lodge will continue to fund this program, and I expect every lodge to participate. There is no better way to communicate with our brethren. I am also going to expand the program to include our Masonic youth groups, in order that they may also better communicate with their members. There will be no expense to our youth groups.
 
14.The Random Acts of Kindness and Community Involvement programs are working and will continue.
 
15.Finally, in 2013, we will be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Masonic Children's Home at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown. This celebration will be Oct. 5, 2013. My charity initiative for that year will be the Masonic Children's Home, and I encourage every lodge to take part. I would like to see each lodge contribute $1,000 to the Masonic Children's Home during 2013 and present the contribution at the December Quarterly Communication of that year.

As you can see, we have some work ahead of us; but, in 2013, I am planning a 14-day trip to Alaska, which will entail a train excursion and cruise. In May of 2012, the final dates (end of July/early August) will be established along with final pricing. An outline of our trip will be presented by Holland America during Autumn Day at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown on Sept. 22, 2012.

Before I close, I would like to share some thoughts.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Past Grand Master Scott Stoner. Bro. Stoner was a very close friend and a mentor throughout my Masonic career. The day I told him I was being recommended by Past Grand Master Ron Aungst to be the R.W. Junior Grand Warden was a day I will always remember. Whoever thought Lodge No. 551, a small lodge in Mount Joy, Pa., would have the privilege of having two of their members serve as Grand Master of this great fraternity? Bro. Stoner was very proud to be a member of this lodge, and I am proud as well. When I think of this marvelous journey I am about to embark upon, I remember how I looked forward to Bro. Stoner being by my side. Just three months after my installation as Junior Grand Warden, I lost this close friend and brother to an illness that he fought for many years. Brother: I think of you and the counseling you provided many times during my Masonic travels.

Never in my Masonic journey did I think that someday I would be Grand Master of Masons in this great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I know that Bro. Scott is looking down from Heaven above and thinking, "You have a job to do, and you better do it right!" I have every intention of doing the best job possible as your Grand Master.

In closing, I would like to express my appreciation to each of you here today; to all of our guests, who honor us with your presence; and to the brethren of Ashara-Casiphia Lodge No. 551 for their support. I am also very proud and honored to serve as Grand Master at the same time that my son, Bro. Steven Smith, is serving as Worshipful Master of our home lodge.

At this time, I would like to thank my wife of 50 years, Nancy, for her love and support throughout my Masonic career. I would not be standing here as your Grand Master without her by my side. You often have heard the phrase, "Masonic Widow;" many nights, she was just that.

I look forward to serving as your Grand Master for the next two years, and with all of your support, we will have a successful journey.

Thank you.

Respectfully & Fraternally,
R.W. Grand Master

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