"Twin Peaks Lodge No. 32 Oration" Gavin K. K. Wardrope, W. Grand Orator

The Past Master

Most Worshipful Grand Master, Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters, Right Worshipful Brothers, Worshipful Brothers and Brethren all, good evening.

I cannot express my gratitude to this Lodge for what it has given to me in my Masonic Career and I hope that I will now be able to come home and resume my duties and enjoy the fellowship of all the Brethren here.

I wish to spend a few minutes talking about something which only recently I decided has long been neglected and perhaps if we could focus on in the future, all Lodges and its Members will benefit from it.

It is often said that new Candidates are the life blood of Lodges. This, of course, is somewhat true, but they are not everything. I have said this year previously that I would rather have 1 Initiate who actively participated in the Lodge than 10 who were there just to ensure that the numbers look great for the Grand Masters Visitation but took no part in any Lodge function and that within 3 years will probably be dropped from the Lodge Rolls.

I think we could do a far better job of mentoring our Initiates, but that again has already been spoken about.

I wish to take it a step further.

For the Initiate who stays in the Lodge and is encouraged to participate in its functions within a few years will be expected to attain the position of Worshipful Master, but why? I don't recall anything in any Obligation that says you must become an Officer and then become the Master.

So, how do we encourage our Members to become Officers? That answer is easy, but has long been neglected.

I can remember from my own experiences back in Scotland that there was no guarantee that a Member would go up the Officer line, in fact I know several people who had no interest whatsoever and that was fine, there was no pressure put on them, they just wanted to be Freemasons nothing else.

However, we assume here through various reasons, that everyone wishes to be an Officer and they gradually progress either willfully, or through gentle coercion, arrive in the East where they spend a year running a Lodge where, in a great many cases, they are not ready for, or wish to do it.

After struggling somewhat through the year they pass the Lodge over to their successor, gratefully and in a great many cases that is the last they are heard from.

Where do they go? The imaginary Past Masters Lodge or have they been chased away?

Remember that I said in the beginning that I felt something had been neglected; this is it, the training of our Members to become Officers and eventually becoming Masters of their Lodge.

What a waste of talent we have when Past Masters, the highest position a Master Mason can attain, are lost to the Lodge in particular or the Craft in general, what a tragedy that the precept we espouse to all Initiates, the premise of making good men better is suddenly lost. Just think of what a Past Master does for a Lodge.

I certainly would not be in the position I am in without the assistance and mentoring of some fine Past Masters. I have 3 Past Masters who have passed to the Grand Lodge above whose faces I still see when I look around the Lodge and who I am sure are smiling down at me right now.

We are fortunate here in Twin Peaks that several long standing Past Masters still are active and willingly give their time and advice freely, I know I have relied on their advice on more than one occasion and of course there is one, who I will not name, who is here tonight that freely without fail is always there when I need some advice or help, he knows who he is.

Just think of the scenarios where Lodges have not been so fortunate. It is easy to see where Lodges have rapidly slid downhill and under the radar without the guidance of well-educated Past Masters around to steer the ship.

It has been said, with some justification, that the lack of leaders is one of the fundamental reasons as to why our Membership is falling or Members are becoming disinterested.

In many instances Masonry is using for its leaders Brethren who would not be accepted for leadership anywhere else. This is not to cast aspersions against these Brethren. They are good men and good Masons, but Brethren who simply should not be allowed to become Masters of their Lodges because of their inability to perform the duties of the office in a satisfactory manner.

Find a Lodge whose Master and other officers are leaders in the true sense of the word, and you will find a Lodge, in which the Brethren value their membership, participate in the activities of the Lodge, keep their membership active, and through their actions, in and out of the Lodge, attract other good men to petition for the Degrees.

If you look at our ancient counterparts, the Operative Masons we can learn a great deal:

In those days it was no easy matter for a man to become a Freemason. He had to win the right by hard work, technical skill, and personal worth. Then, as now, he had to prove himself a freeman, of lawful age, legitimate birth, of sound body and good repute to even be eligible at all. Also, he had to bind himself to serve under rigid rules for seven years, his service being at once a test of his character and training for his work. If he proved incompetent or unworthy, he was sent away.

At first the Apprentice was little more than a servant, doing the most menial work, and if he proved himself trustworthy and proficient his wages were increased; but, the rules were never relaxed, "except at Christmastime," as the Old Charges tell us, when there was a period of freedom duly celebrated with feast and frolic.

The rules, by which an Apprentice pledged himself to live, as we find them recorded, were very strict. He had first to confess his faith in God, vowing to honor the Church, the State, and the Master under whom he served; agreeing not to absent himself from the service of the Order save with the license of the Master. He must be honest and upright, faithful in keeping the secrets of the Craft and the Confidence of his fellows. He must be obedient to the Master without argument or murmuring, respectful to all Freemasons, avoiding uncivil speech, free from slander and dispute. He must not frequent any tavern or alehouse, except it be upon an errand of the Master, or with his consent.

Such was the severe rule under which an Apprentice learned the art and secrets of the Craft. After seven years of study and discipline, either in the lodge or at the Annual Assembly (where awards were usually made), he presented his "Masterpiece," some bit of stone or metal carefully carved, for the inspection of the Master. His Masterpiece was carefully examined by the Masters assembled and if it was approved he was made a Master Mason, a Master and Fellow of his Craft. Not, however, until he had selected a Mark by which his work could be identified, and renewed his vows to the Order in which he was now a Fellow.

What then, for each of us today, is meant by the Master's Piece?

Is it simply a quaint custom handed down from our ancient brethren, in which we learn how an Apprentice was made a Master of his Craft? It is that indeed, but much more.

Remember, freemasonry is a beautiful system of morals, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. We can learn from the past.

Is it right that we allow ourselves to be presented to lead our Lodge if we have not been prepared as the Apprentice of our Operative Brothers? I am not saying we should wait 7 years but you know if you move up the Officer line starting as a Steward, observing, learning and being willing you will arrive in the East after 7 years, ready to lead, it is worth the wait I can attest to it.

Brethren, following these tried and true precepts that our ancient Brethren followed we can symbolically rebuild our Craft to reflect the splendor of days past and remember it is better to wait and practice than to rush and ruin your own Masters Piece.

Most Worshipful Grand Master, I, once again, thank you for allowing me to say these few words and enjoy the rest of your Visitation.

Fraternally, Gavin KK Wardrope PM Grand Orator June 3, 2013