Wor. Bro. David L. Riley is the 135th Past Master and former Secretary of Amicable Lodge. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whatever prayers are offered at the installation of a new Master of Amicable Lodge, I can assure you that one prayer on that occasion is guaranteed from the Master himself: “Oh, please don’t let me make a mess of this” (or possibly some emphatic version thereof). When the lodge is delivered into your custody and care, you become extraordinarily aware that even the healthiest and most vibrant lodge is a delicate creature.
You will sometimes hear more esoterically-minded Masons speak of the egregore of the lodge. What they mean is that as a lodge matures and men pour themselves into it with unity of purpose, it develops a sort of collective, group mind. The small traditions that are unique to that lodge, the love of her members, and her history combine to create—whether you prefer to think of it literally or metaphorically—a living thing that stands apart from the members themselves.
That life, as we can see in the number of lodges around the country going dark, is a tender thing, a shoot easily nipped by the slightest frost. Lodges die for many reasons. The community around the lodge may change so quickly that the lodge, unable to adapt, loses touch with the world outside its walls. The members of the lodge may become so entrenched in the past that they fail to plan adequately for its future. The lodge may become too inward-looking and allow its membership to age, dwindle, and at last disappear; or it might become too outward-looking and, neglecting its own members, dilute until it fades away like a passing shadow.
The fact is, lodges die for many reasons, but they live for only one: the love of each generation of Masons for their lodge. It is this love that commits the lodge to posterity for the next generation. Nothing less could inspire the care, devotion, and attention that a thriving lodge requires.
All of us refer to Amicable as "my lodge." And when we speak to the Worshipful Master, because of the unique responsibility entrusted to him, we may refer to her as "your lodge." But, in truth, Amicable Lodge belongs to no man now a member; if anything, it is we who belong to her. Amicable, like every lodge, has been given to us in trust by the generation of Masons before us with the serious and solemn obligation to deliver her safely to the next generation—and in better condition than when we found her.
In modern American Freemasonry, the pernicious and dangerous idea has arisen that the sole duty a Mason owes his lodge is the mere payment of his dues. This notion has, in my opinion, killed a good many lodges. As Masons, paying our dues is a foregone conclusion and a requirement for continued good standing but is insufficient to discharge our real duty.
Nearly as dangerous as this is the wholly absurd notion that a lodge may live off of the gifts of the past and absolve its current members of paying their own way. Past generations gave generously to their lodges so that Freemasonry would be delivered into our hands with the rich heritage and abundant resources it deserves. But if we deplete these funds when we have the ability to maintain or even strengthen them, then we squander our patrimony like Esau, who traded his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of porridge. I cannot think of a single greater betrayal of those who have gone this way before us, who also had bills to pay and families to feed.
Each of us must give what we can to keep Amicable Lodge strong, vital and improving. For one, this may mean making an additional financial contribution to the lodge, above and beyond his dues payment. For another, it may mean a contribution of his much-needed time and talent. And for all of us, it means attending the meetings of the lodge whenever our cable-tow will permit it.
We are fortunate to be the sons of a lodge with a truly storied past, a vital present, and future as bright as the light of her sons’ hearts. Whatever you can contribute to the life of Amicable Lodge, today or tomorrow, whether large or small, time, treasure, or talent, I urge you to do it. It is on the love of her sons alone that Amicable Lodge has ever fed, grown and thrived.