Now to the subject at hand, in 2008 I was a true believer of the Traditional Observance (T.O.) Lodge or European Concept Lodge, in which the men would dress appropriately, emphasis on education, research, and ritual and of course no more fish fries. Now in Texas this would fly in a couple of places (College Station for one), but they aren't allowed to be called Traditional Observance as the Grand Lodge does not recognize the practice, also some of the TO “ritual enhancement” are not part of our blue lodge degrees which are strictly controlled.
That local hurdle aside, there are lodges in the major metropolitan areas that are European Concept like, formal dress, emphasis on education and good meals. They generally meet once a quarter or once a month at most may have 20-25 members most of whom are active, sounds great doesn’t it?
Sorry, they are nothing more than Past Masters clubs, Past Masters that have taken over a charter of a dying lodge, invited their other Past Master buddies to join. They rarely rotate any of the chairs, never put on degrees and seem to be at times a glorified supper club. If a poor fool stumbles in off the street they are directed to a regular blue lodge, and if someone like myself comes around, I am directed to come back after I sit in the east.
Now as you are reading this and you are a Mason, you might be thinking “Still, that really isn’t a real T.O. lodge”. But, I disagree.
Most TO Lodges that are under dispensation are generally nothing but District Deputy Grand Masters, Past Grand Masters and Past Masters. If you go to any of them that maintain a website it’s pretty clear to see that out of the thirty members 90-95% are Past Somethings save a couple of members that are most likely Masonic legacy’s in some form or fashion. Now to a certain extent you really need these DDGMs, PMs, etc. because they have the experience and to some extent the political clout to start a brand new lodge or transform an existing one, but for them to be the majority of their membership doesn’t seem to be doing much for younger Masons.
A conversation I had with a member of a TO lodge in a jurisdiction that allows TO lodges that I was passing through had a conversation that pretty much went the following way:
Me: “So why have you started a TO Lodge?”
Good Brother: “Because we want to provide a more enriched Masonic experience and a full ritualistic experience”
Me: “How many men have been initiated, passed and raised here?”
Good Brother: “We passed one on the request of his brother (meaning relative), who is a member but none here.”
Me: “Do you plan on initiating your own? Has anyone petitioned?”
Good Brother: “No”
At this point I realized that TO Lodges may come across like the old sayings of the south in the 50s and 60s “You are welcome to visit, just don’t plan on staying”.
Before anyone claims sour grapes, realize that I am asking these questions and challenging this for the good of our beloved fraternity, not to be a dissident, spoiled sport, or jerk. Anyone who knows me personally knows that, I am asking because I think that are some huge holes in the execution this concept, and they need to be addressed, challenging it will in the end will only *hopefully* make it stronger.
I look forward to your slings and arrows. ;)