The only thing that was unexpected was the passing of another Brother to the Celestial Lodge above. Like the Brother I lost in January, who was scheduled to be my Tiler, this latest Brother came from my old Lodge, Sutherland 174. I knew this Brother well. I signed his Masonic petition. I gave him his three degrees. I taught him his Masonic catechisms, and had the honor and priviledge of raising him to the sublime degree of Master Mason. Along the way I got to know him as a good man and friend who I often broke bread with. We would enjoy a good cigar together, a good joke, and some good conversation. I will certainly miss him dearly. We will be holding his Memorial service at the Lodge on December 28th.
THE STATE OF THE LODGE
In every organization I have been involved with, I have found it important that the senior officer report on the condition of the organization at least once a year. This is similar in intent to the President's State of the Union address. As my tenure is coming to an end, let me see if I can sum up where we stand:
* MEMBERSHIP - 2009 represented a rebound year where we are starting to see our numbers go back up. I primarily attribute this to two things; first, the culture of the Lodge has changed whereby we are enjoying harmony and, as a result, people sense this and feel comfortable in our Lodge, both members and guests. Second, there is renewed interest in the fraternity thanks to books like Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol."
* FACILITIES - Structurally, the Lodge building is sound. This year we have become more energy conscious. Consequently...
- We replaced our ancient interior lights with all new energy-efficient fixtures.
- We are replacing our windows in the Rec Hall, Administration and Library.
This helps to improve both energy efficiency AND security.
Next year, we will need to add insulation in the Rec Hall.
We have also replaced all of the tables in the Rec Hall thanks to generous donations from the Craft.
I can't begin to thank W:.Ken Giesow, PM enough as maintenance man; he has done an outstanding job keeping the Lodge up to snuff. We are also up to code now in terms of fire.
In the not too distant future, we will need to look at replacing the carpeting in the Lodge room, which is original, replacing our kitchen stove, and possibly sprucing up our entrance.
* PARTICIPATION - attendance at Lodge meetings was up a bit this year. The "100 Master Mason Night" was a special evening to remember. We also had several members attend our outdoor degree, training sessions, rehearsals, and the Festive Boards have been well received by the family and friends of Masons.
* FINANCES - We are living within our means (following the budget). Thankfully, we renewed our agreement with Neighborly Care who uses our facilities for charitable purposes. The York Rite bodies also remain a tennant.
Nonetheless, despite our prosperity, I caution the Craft not to rest on our laurels. These are strange and uncertain times economically, and we should never take anything for granted. We should always be deligently looking for new groups to use our facility.
* MASONIC EDUCATION - Our ritual work is getting better but we still need more people to learn the work. We have plenty of older Brothers who know the work, but this needs to be passed on to the next generation of Masons. I admonish our younger Brothers to step up to the plate as it is time for you to learn the work and replace those of us who quietly grow weary.
Other than this, Masonic Education has been a vital part of our program year. In 2009 we updated the Lodge's history book, and invented the "Dunedin Degree" to teach new Master Masons important history, rules and protocol in Lodge, thereby helping them acclimate into it.
* CHARITY - the Lodge continues to support Dunedin Elementary, Dunedin Little League, the Brooker Creek Preserve, the Dunedin Highland games, and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Our "Bikes for Books" program at Dunedin Elementary was a first in our jurisdiction.
* SICKNESS & DISTRESS - We have had only a few Brothers in and out of the hospitals. Fortunately, we didn't lose too many this year. However, I mourn the passing of Bro. Warren Bundy who was to be our Tyler this year. It is hard to replace good men like him. We also lost Violet Bogert to cancer (wife of Bro. George Bogert), both were strong supporters of their Lodge, here in Dunedin as well as New Jersey. And now Bro. Steve Pelicos.
* HARMONY - This is perhaps our biggest asset at Dunedin. Political maneuvering has been replaced by friendly cooperation. This is sensed by others, which is one reason why people want to become a part of our Lodge. As long as we can maintain harmony and work together, we can overcome any obstacle.
* OTHER GROUPS - The York Rite continues to use our Lodge, but I fear their numbers continue to dwindle.
* OBJECTIVES - As you may remember at my installation, my mantra for the year was to be "different," to think outside of the box. We tried many new things this year, such as the Festive Board, the 100 Master Masons Night, the Dunedin Degree, and more. In other words, I hoped to change the culture in terms of challenging the status quo and seek new and imaginative ways for the Lodge to operate, thereby stimulating interest and participation. Did we bat 1.000? No, but we certainly hit a few out of the park and went down swinging on others. We now have a group of Masons, both young and old, whose allegiance is to the Blue Lodge, and plain and simply enjoy each other's company.
I want to thank my officers and the Craft for their cooperation and participation this year. Believe me Brothers, all your efforts, both large and small, have not gone unnoticed. I believe we now have considerable momentum as we approach 2010 and our 100 year anniversary in 2016.
So why did I become a Mason?
I didn't come here because of my father and grandfacther were Masons. They never pushed me in this direction. But becoming a Mason made me cherish my relationship with them more.
I didn't come for fellowship; I already had a lot of friends, all over the world, but I made many new ones as a result of joining the fraternity.
I joined for the nobility of Freemasonry; hoping to find an order of men who relished honor and integrity; and to sit among men whose word is their bond.
But I found this isn't always the case; I have seen a lot of petty and unnecessary political intrique and corruption in my travels through the fraternity. So, in my mind, Freemasonry is an imperfect society.
Not surprising, I am often asked by friends, family, and other Masons, why I continue to do it? Why do I persist in banging my head against the wall? Why not just walk away from it? Again, it's because I believe in the nobility of the institution. I see what it once was and could be again if we only tried. I don't mean just filling out forms and paying bills, or marching around in white dinner jackets, but to practice True Masonry; you know: friendship, morality, and Brotherly Love. We have too many people out there who are consumed with thinking of Freemasonry as nothing more than a club. It's not. Instead, we need more people who want to truly seek "further light."
Keep the faith!
All the Best,
Tim Bryce, PM, MPS, MMBBFMN
Dunedin Lodge No. 192 F.& A.M.
Dunedin, FL, USA
"For the Good of the Order"