Introducing the Obligation Renewal Ceremony

Ceremony gives lodges an opportunity to reengage longtime Master Masons

The average length of a Master Mason’s association with the fraternity is 46 years in California. How much do most of us remember from 46 years ago?

That, at least in part, is the idea behind a new obligation renewal ceremony whereby Master Masons, some of whom may not have heard the degrees in years, can come together as a group to renew their commitment to the principals of Masonry. “We thought the idea of a recommitment, a renewal, would be healthy for Masons,” says Junior Grand Warden Randy Brill. “It’d help remind them why they first ponied up.”

Brill, along with past and current grand lecturers Jack Rose and Ricky Lawler, outlined the ceremony several years ago, but thus far have only put it into practice once, at Consuelo Lodge No. 325 in Escondito. Inspector Tom Handel, whose district includes the San Diego area, helped organize that ceremony, which took place on a Saturday night after a group dinner. “We kind of turned it into a ‘Rusty Trowel’ night,” Handel says. “I actually think the two go really well hand-in-hand.”

Whereas stated meetings at the lodge typically attracted 20 or so Masons, Handel says, the obligation renewal ceremony, which also included guest speakers during the dinner portion, brought out triple that. “Some of the guys who were there hadn’t been in a while, and the others were really appreciative. A lot of people told me, ‘I’d forgotten about that’ about something in the degrees, so it definitely accomplished its purpose.”

The ceremony involves current and past lodge masters and progresses through each of the three degrees. For longtime Master Masons and those whose lodges don’t frequently confer degrees, it can be one of relatively few opportunities to actually hear the degrees and be reminded of a Mason’s obligations. Says Brill, “One thing we tend to forget is that there’s a progression [through the degrees]. Each one builds on the one before it. Lots of guys don’t go to every degree, so they may not have heard an obligation in 10 years.”

Brill and others liken the ceremony to a marriage renewal of vows—a useful and moving rekindling of a sacred connection. “Part of the pitch is, as a Master Mason, how serious is your commitment?” Brill says. “How much do you remember? This is about strengthening yourself in Masonry, and it’s healthy for a lodge and its members. Once you go through that ceremony, you certainly come out more aware than you were when you went in.”

Lodges interested in holding an obligation renewal can find the text of the ceremony in the Member Center under Resources and Publications, or contact Member Services at (415) 776-7000.