Pie, Coffee and a Side of Education
By Tom Hendrickson-PGM Grand Chapter Education Officer
Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Minnesota
The Royal Arch is faced with new challenges today. We find young men standing at our door step, knocking at our door, that are seeking enlightenment, education, spiritual growth and meaningful experiences. So, we Royal Arch Masons in Minnesota have adopted a method for learning and exploring used by Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb. You see, if it was not for pie, coffee and inspiration we may still be living in the “dark” ages. More on that later.
The young men exploring masonry today are better informed about the craft than some of our current members. They have searched the World Wide Web and mined the vast information that is available there. They watch the History Channel and have seen the countless shows about Freemasonry. They have read books written by Dan Brown and or “Freemasons for Dummies”. These men come to us with a lot of information, some of it accurate, some of it not so accurate, and it behooves us to direct and educate these young men about the true concepts for Freemasonry.
These men also come to us with a hunger to seek further light and enlightenment. We Royal Arch Masons must be ready for that challenge and be ready to help lead them and help them find that which they are seeking. If we wish to attract and retain these men we must have more to offer them than a once a year pancake breakfast, poorly read ritual work, a boring business meeting and another dues card to put in their wallet.
Our source material or curriculum has always come from our Ritual. Our Ritual is important, it offers lessons so a Companion can lead a life that is rich and fulfilling. The Ritual is the vehicle that can be used to install our principals into the hearts of men. However, the words of the Ritual alone, are not enough. It is the meaning of those words that will lead men to live the Ritual’s teachings. Studying the rich history and symbolism of the Ritual is essential to the understanding “behind” the words. It is a treasure trove of symbols and analogies that are worthy of introspection and mediation. Finally, the words contain profound truths and a unique perspective on life for those who are willing to make the conscious effort to uncover them.
I believe, that we , need to consider changing the format that is usually used to present the educational material. For eons, there have been lectures during our meetings to educate on the Ritual. The problem is that the lecture format is passive learning and doesn’t engage the listener. Proof of this can be seen when you look around the Chapter and you can count the number of Companions sleeping or the number you hear snoring.
We need to create a learning experience that engages the listener and makes education a more interactive experience. The lectures can be changed into discussions where the listener as well as the presenter become partners in the journey of knowledge acquisition and sharing.
A concept we in Minnesota have adopted, is that we hold our regularly scheduled business meeting and then have the educational event after. We move the tables into a circle and serve pie and coffee. As soon as the last person is seated the presentation of points in the Ritual or its esoterica begins and discussion commences. So far, the results of this type of leaning has been very positive for us.
First, education is a planned event for every meeting. Second, the discussions last twice as long as our lectures did, signaling much more engagement. Third, attendance is better and new Companions keep coming back. Most importantly, no one is sleeping for they are actively listening, discussing along with earing their pie and coffee. In fact, one night a Chapter even served four different kinds of pie. That caffeine-sugar induced buzz created one of the liveliest discussions I had ever heard on Belshazzar’s feast.
Last year the Minnesota Royal Arch Masons began focusing on Chapter Education very seriously and have been working diligently developing layers of interactive learning opportunities for Chapters. First, the office of Grand Chapter Education Officer was created and made a part of the official Grand Line. Our goal or learning objective is for every Chapter to create an environment in which the Ritual and esoterica are performed, read, and discussed at every meeting. It’s that simple.
To aid this process, we have created a number programs to stimulate interactive learning. I created a program that I present to the Chapters called the “The Royal Arch Game Show”. I have traveled to various Chapters presenting this interactive session which is a parody of a 1970’s television game show. The twist is, that there are questions asked are from five categories; General Royal Arch Trivia, The Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent, and the Royal Arch. It’s fun, entertaining, and interactive plus there are even a few prizes.
Another program developed is called Royal Arch 101. It is a series of written education supplements mailed to the Chapters to be utilized during Chapter Meetings. This program focuses on the basics that are useful for new members but a good reminder for those of us that have been around for a while. This material can be used to supplement and assist out state Chapters to enhance their education efforts.
Our Grand Lecturer, Chris Wendover, has implemented a School of Instruction that is totally different from what you may have seen before. We select a degree and then talk and walk thru it in detail. Action is periodically stopped, so that and details and certain aspects of many of the esoterica meanings within the degree can be discussed. This way action is “stopped” and there is time to answer questions on the how and why of things are happening during that degree. These sessions have been held at various Chapters across the state of Minnesota.
We also are trying to take full advantage of the Royal Arch Mason Magazine Supplement to promote education. Each quarter Minnesota has eight pages that we can devote to communicating with our members and providing educational opportunities.
Lastly, we developed a York Rite Mentor and Advanced Studies Program. We developed a Study Guide consisting of 25 to 35 questions for each of the degrees in the Royal Arch, Cryptic Council and Commandery. There is also a Quest Book for each degree. These are available to members on a password protected page of the Minnesota York Rite web site. We are encouraging the Chapter Secretaries to assign a mentor for each new Companion, utilize the Quest books and to go thru the Study guides together and work at answering the questions.
This study guide model serves two purposes. If the new Companion can understand all the questions then he should have a very firm grasp of all of the knowledge of the degrees. Second, the Companion is then prepared to tackle the Companion Adept of the Temple that is made available by the York Rite Sovereign College. We are planning to host a study group in the fall of 2018, to help our Companions navigate thru the course, while insisting the work must be their own.
More esoterica papers will be appearing this year as we continue our efforts. This is cutting edge stuff for Minnesota.
So how does Thomas Edison come into all of this? Mr. Edison would spend on the average of 16 hours a day working while creating his inventions. Many times he would lock himself away in his laboratory and not come out for days at a time. It is reported, he subsisted on apple pie and coffee while working on his projects.
If Thomas Edison could invent such a ground breaking items such as the light bulb, while living on pie and coffee, just think we Royal Arch Masons can do with some pie, coffee a side of masonic education?