September LOI: Where’s the PowerPoint?

By Christopher Rooney |

This has been written by the new director of the Lodge of Instruction (LOI) program, R.W. Michael Jarzabek.

As the Masonic year begins anew, old patterns will predictably repeat themselves. Business suits and tuxedos will be pulled from the closet. The dates on the calendar will fill with events such as installations, stated meetings, and degrees. Many will follow the form as they have in years past. One activity, while mostly still the same, will have one important difference. LOI will not be taught by PowerPoint.

With good reason those previously developing the content of LOI used PowerPoint so that across the jurisdiction the content would be the same. It can be an efficient tool to ensure the same message is heard throughout many diverse audiences. Tools such as this, built for standardization work. They worked when the famous Massachusetts Freemason, Roswell Lee, allowed Thomas Blanchard to employ his repeating lathe in the Springfield Armory thereby ushering in the Industrial Revolution. They also worked in the fraternity. In fact, they have been a core element of the Fraternity from its earliest days. Landmarks, Constitutions, Ritual, and Modes of Recognition are all more or less standardized tools to ensure regularity. Regularity itself being central to who we are as an institution.

So, why not continue their use? Because all lodges are not standard nor should they be. While they may share many commonalities, lodges are independent communities with differing needs. To meet those needs we will replace the “modules” with “exercises” meant to stretch the minds of those that attend LOI. Don’t mistake this to mean we will abandon standardization altogether. In many of the excercises we will use Grand Lodge materials from the past, present, and future to deepen our understanding of a subject. What will be different will be the methods we use to transmit this information. Over 20 years ago, in his vision for the Fraternity, Most Worshipful Maxwell alluded to the use of active learning to educate the craft. Right Worshipful Larry Bethune recently pointed out to me that the meaning the word education is to “draw out”. This year we will employ active learning methods with the intenation of “drawing out” the greatness that is within the hearts and minds of the Masons in our jurisdiction.

These ideas and methods are not new. Freemasonry is founded on the use of symbolism and allusion as teaching methods. These are but separate branches of the same tree. Our fraternity has at its core a belief that the improvement of a good man can change the world. We are going to trust that process this year. Hopefully the Craft is up to the task.

You will find the materials for the September LOI posted on MassMasons.org. Please review them to prepare for the exercise. The topic is budgeting, however, you will not prepare a budget. The object is not to learn “how-to,” but rather, why. The method will challenge some to learn new ways to think and communicate in a group setting. I hope that you find it equally challenging and rewarding.

If this sounds like the Freemasonry that you have been looking for, please consider attending your LOI. Your Fraternity, your District, and your Lodge need you.