Relighting The Torch: Did The Rule Change Snuff Out The Flame?

By Rick Reichert, Grand Senior Warden
Hancock Lodge No. 311

Previous winners of the Relighting the Torch awards are finding themselves struggling to accumulate acceptable hours. Grand Lodge is rigidly enforcing the rule change enacted at the 2009 Annual Communication. Has the rule change snuffed out the flame on the torch?
According to Don Newman, Deputy Grand Master, “I’m seriously considering doing away with the program altogether. It doesn’t seem right to reward lodges for doing what they should be doing anyway.” However, there is still time to turn the rule-change hurdle into a significant win, especially for lodges that have not been competitive for this award in the past. There are fifteen $1,000 awards for which few lodges has yet qualified for the 2011-2012 year.
Complete details are posted at but here is the essence: Do something charitable as a lodge-led endeavor with enough hours to qualify for the award. To level the playing field, smaller lodges are required to perform less hours than larger ones. The reward, however, is the same regardless of lodge size. This can be a significant boon to the smaller lodges and they, likely being in less populated areas, are most likely to succeed.
The rule change is that the hours accumulated must be a lodge-led effort. Individual charitable volunteer hours and supporting another charitable organization, although encouraged and the right thing to do, are not counted for this award. The spirit of this award, and the reason for the rule change, is to build the image of your lodge and the fraternity as a whole.
Internally, we know we have been Herculean with our quiet philanthropy. Our religious teachings tell us that any boasting of our giving is its own reward and cannot serve as treasure in heaven. Promoting good works done by a group of men who display brotherly love, relief and truth is not boasting. By not making ourselves known by the good works we do deprives the community the knowledge of how to seek that charitable support when needed and most importantly, it denies potential brothers the knowledge of how to seek out like minded men and join them. Hiding our light under a bushel basket is helping drive our fraternity into obscurity.

The rule change was made to align our good works with the Image goal of Vision 2020, our strategic plan. Making our good works visible, accessible, and significant are required to meet our strategic goals and ensure the solid future of our Craft.
The litmus test for lodge-led is simple. If the lodge did not participate in the charitable effort, would it continue anyway? If the answer is yes, it is not lodge led. So what can a lodge do? First, look at your own membership. Whoever said charity begins at home was right. In any group of men, there must be some cause near to the heart of at least one of them. Once the need is identified, attaining the requisite hours is the next step.
The 300 member lodge must have 300 hours. That’s one hour per member or 10 hours for 30 members. Whether you do the effort all at once, like a toy-building workshop for the underprivileged children in your community at Christmas, or spread out by providing a pool of free on-call handyman for services made available to seniors that can’t otherwise afford to winterize their homes, meeting the time requirement is certainly achievable.
The response to a lodge-led effort like these would put your lodge in the forefront of your community’s mind when they are in need of a charitable service you perform. You’ll be building up the image of your lodge, bring unity to your charitable efforts, and put your lodge on the map for men who are looking for a way to give back. The community response will be, “That’s what the lodge guys do in our town – and it is great thing!”
Hook onto something like that and making the hours will be but a mere side benefit to the many other rewards your lodge will reap. Your torch flame will burn most brightly.