Later this week our Grand Lodge here in Washington will hold its Annual Communication.
I first attended an Annual Communication upon being elected as a Warden of my Lodge, and I’ve attended every year since. My wife and I both attend, and we both have a great time, making it into a bit of a vacation, and an excellent opportunity to see many old friends, and make new ones.
The thing is though, even if we didn’t enjoy it, I would still attend. I would attend because I’ve felt, since that first one, that it was my duty to attend. It was my duty to attend as an elected Lodge Officer, as it was my duty to attend as a District Deputy, and an elected Grand Lodge Officer.
I knew when I stood for election as Warden of my Lodge that it would be my duty to attend the Annual Communication, and I knew that doing so would result in a not insignificant expense for me. Each year after that, I knew that it was again my duty, and again that duty would come with a fiscal impact to me.
Now in fairness, upon being elected Junior Grand Warden, those expenses were paid for me, by the Grand Lodge, as I moved up through the elected line. But before that, as a Lodge officer, and as DDGM, those expenses were my own, as they will be my own now that I’m no longer serving in the elected Grand Lodge line.
I’ve always thought that it was that way for everyone.
But sometime over the past year, I’ve learned that I was mistaken. Some months ago, I discovered by accident that some of our ‘richer’ Lodges pay for their elected officers to attend Annual Communications.
In the last month, I’ve learned that some of our ‘poorer’ Lodges, including some Lodges that are barely hanging on financially also pay for their elected officers to attend.
I never knew that before.
Frankly, it kind of makes sense to me that our Lodges that are very financially strong do this. They have the resources, so it does the Lodge no harm.
But it is disturbing to me to know that some of our really struggling Lodges are doing this as well. Knowing that they are using extremely limited funds in order to cover the costs for their officers. Officers who surely knew when standing for election that those expenses would be a part of the deal.
I guess in my view, if a rich Lodge wants to do this, that seems OK in my mind. But I think it is quite misguided for a poor Lodge to be doing it.
But, perhaps I am wrong, and perhaps there is a perspective that I’m not seeing.
So let’s discuss it…
Should Lodges pay the expenses for their officers to attend Annual Communication?
I think this goes back to my earlier post around financial planning. In a not for profit: Expenditures + needed Capital project (years in the future) expenses should equal revenue. If you don't have the money to sustain your operations plus keep the facility you are occupying, then something must give.
I can't think of not going to Grand Lodge. And this will be the first time as a PM. If Lodges have funds, then maybe they should take this up for discussion. The Lodges could raise dues or add another fund raiser to help offset the cost to the officers and not drain the resources. But the poorer Lodges will most likely be the smaller ones ran by a small cadre of Brothers that do everything.
I have noticed that many Brothers do not come over for Friday voting on what seems to be a hefty part of our Resolutions. Could the real cost be in the lost of work (salary) or the lost of that 8 hours of vacation time? I am going to look around more this weekend to see if the crowd is getting younger on Saturday.
Each year, the Grand Lodge of Washington hosts two major events, the Lodge Leadership Retreat and the Annual Communication. Both are important events for lodge elected officers, both are expensive endeavors. My lodge covers the expense for three elected officers (SW, JW & SD) to attend the LLR but the elected officers attending the Annual Communication pay their own way. Are the lodges that are paying for their officers to attend the Annual Communication also paying for their officers to attend the LLR? Again, both are important events but spending money (rich or poor) to send officers to the Annual Communication isn’t doing anything for the lodge other than “rewarding” the elected officers. It doesn’t seem any different than a lodge buying lifetime memberships with money that should be used for other things. Any time we can meet as Masons, good things come out of it, but I’ve been to Wenatchee and it’s really not a destination location. If the GL of Washington wants to continually hold their Annual Communication their, perhaps it should consider moving the Grand Lodge there.
I belong to two different lodges. One, while not rich, has been able to afford to send at least 2 officers to Annual Communication for some time. We have for the last few yeare even pitched in a minimal amoumt to help another lodge within our budget.
I'm also apart of that 2nd lodge. This lodge is extermely poor. We barely make our operating budget each year. But when I made a budget for this lodge (1st one in years to have been balanced and passed) I included enough to send 1 officer.
My reasoning is thus. Attendance at annual Communication is required by our code. This makes it Lodge business. If I buy stamps or something in the course of the lodge work as secretary, I get reimbursed. This, to me, is no different. If a lodge can't afford to send at least 1 person to Grand Lodge, what else isn't able to do that it is required to do?
Now, if you have a brother of financial means, who is perfectly fine shouldering the cost of the event, and is able to give up a days salary on top of that, the lodge should be grateful. If it weren't for the lodge assistance in going, I dont think I would be able to attend this year.
My Lodge pays for gas, lodging and registration. Since the attendee is going to eat anyway, food expenses are on him. Of course, the other thing that's on him, if he isn't yet retired, is the lost work day. As others have commented, if the Lodge has the budget for their representatives' attendance then so be it. If they don't have adequate funds that's a problem that's likely bigger than Grand Lodge costs.
Beyond hard dollars, scheduling a REQUIRED communication such that many brothers have to forego a day's pay or use a vacation day is quite unfair, particularly since the schedulers' costs are covered by Grand Lodge (a good office never eats until his men are fed). I'd prefer a format in which Saturday would be reserved for legislation and make that the required day. If a brother really wants to show up on Friday for the various thank yous, congratulations, and other Masonic pageantry then nobody's going to stop him. And to make sure the scheduling works please just send us an email with all of the various reports that are read aloud. These measures would trim overall Grand Lodge costs and optimize everyone's time expenditure.
I agree with others, that if the WMC requires attendance by at least one pillared officer each year, then the lodge should pay for it. Where I draw the line is the food. The first year I attended I made the grave mistake of buying lunches and dinners, and found them wildly expensive and terrible. The lunch was a small bowl of tomato soup and a garden salad, for which I had paid $25 dollars. I learned my lesson from then on. After paying my registration fee, I look for the cheapest hotel within walking distance of the convention center, which is usually a motel down the street. I am not hung up on fancy places to sleep, as long as it is clean and has an ice machine, I'm fine. I can dine out then wherever I want and there are plenty of wonderful choices that serve better food for at least half the cost of what we're getting charged by the convention center.
For the LLR you are sort of stuck with the package deal, but up until a few years ago, wasn't too expensive for what you got. Now, the cost has doubled if you want to bring your spouse/SO.
In both cases, I feel it's necessary for the lodge to include in the budget to send at least three members to the LLR, and the pillared officers to the Annual Communication. The LLR is an investment in the lodge, and the Annual Communication is dictated by the WMC for attendance.
For my going to the Annual Communication I don't expect the lodge to reimburse me for food and gas, just the hotel and registration, so the cost to the lodge this year is about $300 dollars. For the LLR, the lodge budgets a set amount, if I spend over that, then I bear the cost.
It's been talked about before here, but only about half the lodges in our jurisdiction make any effort to send folks to the LLR, which I feel is a grave disservice to the craft.
I went as a JD my first year and as far as I know we pay for the gas and it is a long 4 hour drive each way but I still think the Lodge must have enough to pay for that but I don't think that is ever brought up.
And I made all 3 proxy votes that time.
This year I will be the SW and the WM will be there early and I will be with our Secretary/Treasurer with a JW proxy.
I guess if the Lodge paid for everything I would even talk the wife into going for the entire weekend and we wouldn't have to start that long drive when the rooster crows and it would be closer to noon for me.
I really doubt if I could make that long trip next year and I will be in the East.
Sure hope the weather is a lot cooler this time.
This year, the Grand Lodge Annual Communication will be at my expense. I will be taking a vacation day and driving back and forth from the Tri-Cities both Friday and Saturday. I am not planning to attend any dinners. However, I am fulfilling my duty to my Lodge and do not expect any compensation.
If you want to know where a person or a group land on an issue, a great test is to follow the money.
"Tradition is just peer pressure from those before us."
Having never attended an Annual Communication 'yet' I'm going to fly blind on this, but want to lend my Masonic two cents. There are a few things at play here after reading the article, and the comments. I agree with others that voting should be moved to an electronic means. Grand Lodge knows who is eligible for voting, and who is not, easy to set up a Google Form and email it out to those allowed to vote, doesn't need to be anything fancy. Links can be provided to each resolution being looked into so the Brothers can read them and decide before casting their vote. To help prevent 'voting fraud' it could be sent as an email the day before the Annual Communication is to be held as most Brothers will be on-site by then. For those that 'reject technology' whelp, we'd need to figure that out.
When it comes to Lodges paying for elected officials to go, if the Lodge can afford it, great, let them pay. I feel that all Lodges should have some sort of viable income outside of investments, and annual dues (also most Lodges need to raise their annual dues to begin with, but that's another topic). For the Lodges that don't have the funds, there should be a form that they can fill out and it's sent to the Grand Lodge, and the Grand Lodge can then pay for them (trust, you know that they can pay for it) to attend as far as a room. Gas, food, other expenditures should need to be for by the people attending.
As for moving the Annual Communication to another day (Saturday) while it might help some, it would help all, I know many people who work on Saturday's so it would still be a lost day of using PTO, or missing out on work. To this comment, there isn't a right answer, BUT I think moving it to Saturday would help.