How many times have you been told ‘You should get out and visit?’ It must be the most used snippet of advice on the Masonic circuit. This sagely advice is offered to all new advances, it’s a must-say in every visitors’ toast and response, and the Provincial Rep waxes lyrical about it at every installation. In fact, it’s said by just about everyone at one time or another. Undoubtedly, the ability to visit other Lodges is one of Masonry’s great attributes. Not only do you meet new friends, you also maintain or rekindle existing acquaintances, and you learn a lot about how other Lodges work. Plus, let’s be honest, you have a good time into the bargain.
But is it really a bargain nowadays? For starters, it takes lots of that precious commodity, time. We all know it’s hard enough juggling work and family commitments, because “r” Elvis has to be at dance class for 7pm, and Harley-Ann at kick-boxing no later than 6.30, five nights a week ….. and on it goes. Timetabling this lot takes the genius of Euclid and the Patience of Job. If you’re working, it’s a nightmare, knocking off early to make sure your pride and joys get to their extra-curricular activities on time needs precision planning and an extremely sympathetic employer.
Perhaps it’s not as much a problem if you’re retired and the kids have moved out. Although that’s doubtful at today’s house prices, as they’re probably still living at home and you’ll be carting the grandchildren to their evening classes. Or maybe you’re at home all day getting on everyone’s nerves and your partner may be glad to see the back of you for a few hours’ visiting? But, even then, you’re probably on a fixed-income pension and need to watch your finances, all of which brings us nicely to the next major consideration of visiting, the cost. Assuming, god-forbid, you don’t rely on public transport and have to timetable Lodge start/finish times with the No. 57 bus, filling your car for even a trip to your own Lodge, at today’s obscene fuel prices, makes you gulp. Add to that, you’ll probably want to pay for your meal, buy the odd drink, make a donation to the alms fund, and maybe have a flutter on the charity raffle. It all adds up.
So, you see, visiting today requires a fair bit of commitment, and that’s the point of this diatribe because this year’s Provincial Grand Overseers have, between them, visited every Lodge in the Province during their term of office. That’s 44 (or 45 if you count turning up at Lascelles a week early!). Now the uncharitable may pooh-pooh this, saying it’s less than one a week. But consider the majority of Mark meetings are crammed into the autumn and spring silly seasons, and not evenly distributed throughout the calendar. Also, the Prov.G.M.O. and Prov.G.S.O. (Eddie and Andy respectively) are both members of many different Orders and hold office in most, including being Treasurer and Secretary in their own Mark Lodges. And before the Provincial Grand Secretary dives for the BoC and, like one of his perfectly pedantic predecessors, screams ‘You can’t do that!’ Edward is Secretary of Old York and Treasurer of Aries, and Andy is Treasurer of Old York and Secretary of Aries. Furthermore, these dedicated Overseers didn’t down tools and put their other Masonic commitments on hold whilst they went off visiting. They all met their obligations, are still in employment*, not yet in the divorce courts*, and have managed to visit all the Lodges in the Province, thoroughly enjoying every one. They’re even considering buying a camper van to make travelling easier in the future. Perhaps that’s the cue for another Channel 4 documentary?
Now I don’t know if this is a record, but it’s certainly a fantastic achievement and a lesson for us all. So don’t think twice about visiting other Lodges, just get out and do it.
*Details correct at time of going to pressby Inky