G. Ken HackneySetting up the audio-visual equipment for a seminar is the OVERTURE Chairman, G. Kent Hackney (right), Deputy Chief of Staff, and co-workers David O. Meachen (left) and Trish M. Oakley.

Masons from hundreds of Lodges in Pennsylvania came together in a series of eight Lodge leadership and management seminars held during the Fall throughout the state. "In the Fall Series, we met with more than 1,400 Masons, representing 92% of all Lodges in our state," said G. Kent Hackney, Deputy Chief of Staff and Coordinator for the OVERTURE Program.

According to Hackney, the seminars built upon the success of the OVERTURE Series in the Spring and were aimed at those who participated in the first series of seminars. The emphasis of the Fall series, however, was aimed at the more practical help for the attendees and were more focused on lodge management than on leadership.

Conductor Series Benefits

The Conductor Series included significant discussions on the difference between being lodge leaders and the Worshipful Master or manager of lodge activities, events, procedures, and protocol. Hackney explained, "We were really very interested in giving participants help in the day-to-day concerns of being a lodge officer and being responsible for a wide range of activities and events associated with the Lodge. At the same time, we did not want them to lose sight of the fact that, as the leaders, they also were going to have special concerns with membership, community, family, and planning for the future."

R.W. Grand Master James L. Ernette spoke positively about the Conductor Series, saying, "It has had a dramatic effect on the leaders of our lodges in ways that we in Grand Lodge can recognize and appreciate. As much as anything, we believe that they now understand that their Grand Lodge is a partner in their growth, a resource of people for them to turn to in times of need, and a source for information systems, and products that can be helpful in their responsibilities in their lodge."

Communications Stressed

Among the highlights of the seminar were the discussions and presentations of ways in which more effective communications could help the lodge not only to increase the likelihood of member satisfaction and involvement, but also to stem the losses of members who do not remain active after becoming a Master Mason. Hackney explained, "The intent is to provide each lodge with a series of letters -- correspondence, reminders, thank you notes and other ideas -- on disk that can be used with new members, with members who appear to have lost interest, with members who are about to be suspended for not paying dues, and current active members."

This program, which will be sent to all participating lodges, will include a disk with the letters that have places for the writer to add the Mason's name, address, and other important information. With the program, the secretary of a lodge, the membership chairman, or other interested members, can easily create customized correspondence for members, thank spouses who have helped, welcome a member into the Lodge, and encourage his pursuit of the degrees, all using a program that will print on lodge letterhead.

The program, tentatively called "ComPak" will be sent free to all lodges who sent at least one representative to the Fall Conductor Series, and will be available to other lodges that request it.

"Change Management" Stressed

Participants were excited -- and a bit surprised -- to receive a copy of a neat little book filled with helpful ideas for them on change. "Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson, MD, was distributed to each Lodge. This new book, which became a best seller on the Wall Street Journal's "Best Seller List" the first week it was released, was used in Pennsylvania for the Conductor Series before it had been released nationally. Dr. Johnson had visited Grand Lodge during a recent trip to Philadelphia and was impressed and amazed at what he discovered there. "His book," Hackney said, "has delighted every Mason we know who has read it, and many have said, 'This must have been written about us.'"

Success Stories Encouraged

Each Conductor Series seminar was opened with success stories from participants. During that brief but exciting period, Masons told of things they had tried in their lodges, of things that had worked as a result of the OVERTURE Series, and of the materials they had been using. One theme that came across often was the need for planning. In fact, many attendees said that it was the help they received in planning that was a determining factor in their successes.

Spring '99 OVERTURE Developed

In 1999, lodge leaders, including new Junior Wardens, will be invited to return to a new series of seminars designed to improve lodge leadership. The focus of these seminars, however, will be programmatic in nature, and more of a workshop than before. Masons who attend will be given practical suggestions and real help in designing, implementing, and maintaining two or three programs in their lodge, all aimed at creating a more interesting, vibrant, and relevant organization. The 1999 OVERTURE Program will be new and not a repeat of last year's program.

The dates and locations for the Spring seminars are:

Feb. 13 - Philadelphia

Mar. 6 - State College

Mar. 20 - Titusville/New Castle

Apr. 10 - Pittsburgh (South)

Apr. 24 - Pittsburgh (North)

May 8 - Harrisburg

May 22 - Bethlehem

June 5 - Wilkes-Barre

Again in 1999, Grand Master Ernette is offering an opportunity for lodges whose representatives attend both the Overture and Conductor Series to earn $500 for their Lodge.

Grand Master Ernette, the elected officers of the Grand Lodge, and everyone involved in the OVERTURE Program, thank those who attended the seminars and those in their lodges who made it possible. It is sincerely hoped that the skills and techniques offered will be used in the lodges and will help Masonry in Pennsylvania reach the goal of zero net losses.

In the programs section of this website is still more information about Overture. Check it out, click here.