|Volume 3, Issue 12||February 13, 2013|
Understanding Our By-Laws
As far as I know all Lodges have a set of By-Laws which spell out certain requirements set by their Grand Lodges and their membership for their government, and as such the Brethren composing that Lodge must govern themselves by such rules in order to maintain order.
Our Constitution covers the principles of our Institution while the By-Laws dictate specific procedures for operating our Lodges. The By-Laws describe the operating procedures for the governing of our Lodges in an orderly manner.
Our Uniform Code of Bylaws is the same for all the Lodges except for the places where individual Lodges have added amendments to such By-Laws as long as they do not contradict the provisions in our Constitution.
The Lodge can add to the By-Laws as long it does not contradict the Constitution and Uniform Code of By-Laws and subject to the approval of the Grand Master, of course the By-Laws also contain how to amend them which is much easier than amending the Constitution. The Uniform Code of By-Laws language in itself cannot be amended without submitting Legislation and final approval by the delegates at the Annual Communication.
Our By-Laws are so important to the governing of our Lodges and consequently our institution that we ask all Candidates to examine our By-Laws before entering our Lodges. This demonstrates the high degree of importance placed on understanding our By-Laws for the government of our Lodges.
There are many important rules in the Uniform Code of By-Laws of great importance one of them is the Standing Committees required to operate a Lodge which encompass the following aspects of the Lodge; Finances, Vigilance, Petitions, Masonic Education, Board of Relief, Charity, Lodge Property and Investigation as needed.
These committees are important in order to understand the financial status of the Lodge, maintain order, interview potential members, educate the current and new members, help, aid and assist our Brothers, maintain and improve our Lodge buildings and cause an investigation into the character of every petitioner.
It would be impossible to operate a Lodge properly without the benefit of these committees and yet many of the Lodges ignore them, don’t appoint, and in many cases don’t even know they are required or exist. In the course of the last seven months and reviewing the reports from all of the Lodges we have seen the lack of knowledge from the Masters and when closely inspected we can see the devastating effects when these committees have not been appointed or the members have not performed their duties.
I have found that many Lodges do not understand or have not read the duties of the Finance Committee and its important function when it comes to safeguarding the finances of the Lodge; this is assured by conducting an audit each year of the previous year’s financial transactions of the Lodge. The fact the Treasurer is our Brother is not a reason not to perform the audit, in fact since he is our Brother he will welcome the audit in order that the Lodge may have a better understanding of their finances, and assure themselves of the transparency of which their finances are being handled thereby giving everyone piece of mind.
This is followed by the lack of knowledge in understanding of the function of the Vigilance Committee, which when charged with the performance of their duties should understand that their protection of our laws and making sure that justice prevails is paramount to the relationship they may have with a Brother. Ignorance of the law on their part will tend to discourage the Brethren from the moral precepts this Institution enjoins.
Many of the Lodges have no understanding between the Petitions Committee and the Investigations Committee and this causes that first and initial contact with the candidate not to be made and misses the opportunity of the Brothers of this committee to converse with the candidate about Masonry, himself, and what he is about to join. The reasons why he wants to join, does he have the essential moral characteristics mandated by the Craft, this committee is charged to see that the supplemental sheet is filled out by the petitioner and to make sure that the signers are contacted These inquiries need to be completed before the Petition is received by the Lodge. This can eliminate any potential candidates not worthy of this Institution, and provide additional information to the Investigation Committee.
Masonic Education is required to be conducted every month and it’s seldom carried out or recorded in the minutes of the Lodge as mandated by the regulations. Mentoring is part of this Committee for obvious reasons to educate our new Masons, this mentoring is also required to be recorded in the Lodge minutes and almost never done. Failing our Brothers in their quest for further enlightment, it just doesn’t seem right but our failure to properly carry out requirements of this committee is evident by the lack of knowledge of the Brethren that compose our Lodges.
The Board of Relief is often not understood nor its important duties fulfilled nor do the Lodges have the necessary funds to assist the Brethren because of their lack of foresight to prepare for this unfortunate circumstance. All too often I see the makeup of this committee not according to the By-Laws and just as often its purpose misunderstood. This committee’s sole purpose is to help, aid, and assist our very own Brothers.
Our By-Laws requires the Charity Committee under the direction of the Worshipful Master to set aside a portion of every meeting for a lecture, talk, or discussion of Masonic or Community Charity or charitable endeavor and the members of the Lodge urged to contribute to such charities, announce them in their trestle board if Lodge has one. Allow charitable groups or organizations to use our facilities at cost or below cost and encourage the Lodge and Brothers to contribute to one or more community charities or charitable endeavors on an ongoing basis and last but not least to advise the Board of Relief in regard to fraternal need and assistance of any Brother.
Next to last of the Standing Committees is the Committee on Lodge Property, this committee will be responsible for setting the rules for the use of the building, arrange schedules with other groups if any to avoid conflicts, make recommendations for Lodge improvements and maintenance of the building and grounds, under the direction of the Worshipful Master and Lodge. Negotiate agreements with other organizations using the Lodge property and see that the rules of the Lodge and Grand Lodge Rules and Regulations are enforce.
And last but not least the so ever important Investigation Committee which will look into the character and standing of any petitioner for the Degrees, affiliation, reinstatement, dual or plural membership. The members of this committee shall investigate independently and submit a written report to the Lodge. Once the report is accepted by the Master and Lodge the Committee is automatically discharge.
As you can see our By-Laws and the requirements of these Standing Committees are there so that we can better operate the different facets of the Particular Lodge. it is incumbent that our Brothers know and understand the requirements of the Particular Lodge By-Laws in order that they conduct themselves accordingly and when called upon they can perform their duties as proficient as possible for the benefit of the Lodge and the Brethren they serve.
We must remember that our Brothers have placed a certain amount of trust and confidence on the Brothers charged with the duties of serving on these committees and any other position in the Lodge and failure to perform to the best of our ability in any of the capacities we may have been selected or elected to serve will tend to discourage the Brethren and the Lodge weakened or destroyed.
My Brother, I cannot emphasize enough the importance the By-Laws of the Lodge have in the governing of it and the importance of you as a member understanding them in order to perform your duties. If you do not have a set of your Lodge By-Laws request one of the Secretary or you can look at the Digest of the Masonic Law of Florida to look at the generic version which cannot be changed. However your Lodge may have added optional rules to the By-Laws in which case you may need a copy of any additional material.
As a member of the Craft I encourage you to acquire a Digest of Masonic Law and become familiar with our Rules and Regulations that you may not want for proper instruction and can fulfill any obligations and commitments enjoin on you by your Brethren and/or Master.
Respectfully and Fraternally Submitted, I remain your most humble servant
Jorge L. Aladro
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