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valley of the firelands scottish rite brethren gathered for an event

Guest blog by Dwight Damschroder, Valley Secretary at the Scottish Rite Valley of The Firelands.

In 2021, The Valley of the Firelands shared an article outlining the tactics and strategies that helped us become a Valley of Excellence. We are proud to have maintained that distinction and, since our original article, have more lessons to share. We hope our fellow Brothers can take something from the perspectives we share to make their own Valley stronger.

Freemason Officers at the Valley of Firelands
The Valley of Firelands Officers

1. Put Valley Needs Above Personal Desires

We are a Brotherhood, first and foremost, and our priorities need to align with the interests of our members. Initially, we had men volunteer for leadership roles but were soon overwhelmed with the responsibility. We learned the importance and impact of using our Brothers’ skills in a way that best suits the Valley’s needs. That sometimes meant a shift or replacement of a position, and sometimes it meant getting creative in how we leverage a member’s skillset.

In addition, we offer our members regular input to our Board of Directors. All members can present ideas or remedies at any board meeting. As a result, we regularly have more than just voting board members at meetings. Engaging our entire Valley in how we should operate has helped maintain a strong Brotherhood and active member base.

2. Embrace the Diversity of Your Brothers

We really worked to learn the strengths and weaknesses in all our members and actively mentor them, finding creative ways to use their skills and helping them become more active in ways they are comfortable with. In turn, our members have expressed feeling more wanted and needed in the Valley. This feeling of belonging has only helped maintain and grow our ranks.

It’s also important to remember that everyone has ideas. Embrace their approach and listen to their perspective. Many of the activities we’ve begun to offer have come from our fellow Brothers, not necessarily Valley leadership. It’s kind of like a potluck; everyone brings something in. Some bring simple things like chips, while others bring their best dish. In the end, the potluck is a success and everyone has contributed a part and gets to enjoy the feast of opportunities. For example, we have one member who doesn’t participate in our degree presentations, but attends nearly every event and loves being a part of our hospitality crew. Meanwhile, we have another Brother who enjoys participating and acting in degree work because of his love for theater.

Freemasons preparing a Scottish Rite degree presentation
Brothers at the Valley of Firelands preparing for a degree presentation

3. Actively Support Your Local Lodges

If our lodges are in trouble, we, too, are in trouble. Our members must be active in their lodges. If we show that we care about our lodges, the members will see it and will be more apt to join the Scottish Rite.

If your Valley building, like ours, is home to multiple Masonic bodies, you should collaborate with them as well. Joining forces benefits all. We’ve seen the positive results firsthand. We are currently planning to help our York Rite neighbor at our spring festival by doing two degrees of the Royal Arch alongside our 4th and 14th degrees. It builds camaraderie between bodies, expands our Masonic network, brings Brothers together more often, and encourages cross-membership amongst Masons.

4. Cherish Our History While Looking to the Future

If you have been a Mason for any length of time, I am sure you heard people say “we have always done it this way.” That may be true, but that doesn’t mean it’s ideal. What worked 20 years ago may not work today. We might even find that things that worked last year no longer appeal to our members this year!

As we look to preserve our fraternity for generations to come, it’s important we don’t get stuck in our ways. Younger generations have a different perspective than older generations, and that’s OK. It doesn’t, however, mean they aren’t interested in learning. Many of our younger Brothers found their way to Freemasonry because of their interest in its long history. We’ve found these Brothers will pursue what is important to them in regard to education and recognition. So teach them the light they seek about the past, but don’t be afraid to shift course to incorporate their perspective too.

5. Bring Innovation to Degree Events

Speaking of “we have always done it this way,” our degrees are a ripe opportunity for Valleys to embrace innovation. We are actively working to make it so we present all 29 degrees at least once every 36 months. In order to do so, we are using different presentation mediums like radio, table, and video degrees. We still host live degrees, but this has allowed members to view more degrees, as well as engage Brothers who can’t memorize parts anymore and still provide them an opportunity to participate. They love it!

Our members engage in education and history prior to and following degrees as well, which adds even more value.

Freemasons at a Scottish Rite Reunion
Brothers at the Valley of Firelands’ 2022 Summer Reunion

All of these lessons have built synergy in our Valley because everyone is working together. It isn’t about “me” but rather “us.” This perpetuates what we are trying to achieve: continuous improvement.

We have had setbacks and, yes, there are still bumps in the road. But what has helped us maintain our Valley of Excellence distinction is that we try to learn from our setbacks and listen to our members’ ideas. In the end, we, as Masons, typically know what is good and needed.

We are looking forward to continuing to connect, learn, and grow, and we are excited about what our future holds. We welcome all Brothers to visit and witness the Valley of The Firelands in action!

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