Concept Statement for the Valley of the Firelands
The founders of the Valley of the Firelands (VOF) instituted the valley in order to address the needs of current or former SR members in the 16th Masonic District and environs. They acknowledge that a new SR valley must be different from existing valleys in spirit and operation lest the new valley suffer the problems currently facing all SR valleys.
This Statement will present the Core Values of the VOF and the primary operating concept – the SR Journey - by which those Core Values are demonstrated.
The Core Values of the VOF are:
A new member upon receiving the 4th degree or an affiliating member who has yet to receive all degrees, is classified as a Master Traveler. The member may then progress through all remaining SR degrees but is not required to do so. All members are encouraged to serve on committees of the valley and to serve the valley programs.
Upon completion of all degrees, the member is classified as a Master of the Journey and is recognized for the achievement and entitled to wear the Red Delta 32 Pin surmounting the Double Headed Storm Eagel of Lagash.
The Scottish Rite is identified as a rite or degree system beginning with the three Symbolic Degrees. The Symbolic degrees are foundational for the degree system of the SR. However, the Symbolic degrees are jurisdictionally and historically separate from the degree of the SR system.
The VOF will re-integrate the SR with the Symbolic lodges within its footprint through various programs and activities such as :
VOF participation in Friendship Nights/Mixers
VOF programs and reunions at local lodges
Sponsorship and participation in fundraising, charitable and social programs conducted by the 16th district
Local lodges will support VOF ritual activities through lodge adoption of degree presentations.
The Valley seeks to restore that which was lost by examining the development of the SR and drawing from that development best practices and traditions. The progressive system of degrees reflects the traditional method of degree conferral. The emphasis on education reflects the goal of making members better men. The use of the Black Cap recognizes both the equality of all members, uniformity in a common purpose and a tangible reminder of our sacred activities. The SR was once rich in material culture and the use of caps, jewels, sashes and other paraphenalia among members will restore internal recognition of who can best work and best agree.
The more recent tradition of local lodge or special interest sponsorship of degree work will be restored and encouraged. Ideally, every degree will have a lodge sponsor or an affinity group sponsor such as Senior Demolays, first responders, lawyers, etc.
Less tangible but perhaps most important is the restoration of that fellowship that characterized early Freemasonry based on small groups of men who knew and cared for each other. The small scale of the valley should support this approach. Fellowship events should be designed for an inclusive, quality experience.
The development of the member through use of the SR systems of degrees and its philosophies and traditions is the primary purpose of the SR. The bare conferral of degrees alone is only the initial introduction of a member to the framework of what the SR is. Degree conferrals – through whichever format – will be accompanied by educational sessions developed around the degrees and tailored toward the needs and abilities of the member. Few men are philosophers: advanced or esoteric subject matter should be carefully presented.
All candidates will receive presentations on the basic principles of the SR. Master Travelers and SPRS will be offered a basic home study program that must be completed for advancement to KSA. This education program is adopted from the VOT KSA.
In order to increase the member’s knowledge of the degrees he is asked to absorb, the post-candoris education sessions will occur immediately before or after the Dramatic work. This will assist the member in retaining and internalizing the meaning and message of the degree even if the message from the stage is, for whatever reason, ambiguous or the member distracted. Moreover, the member comes to his own conclusion on the message of the degree by his own analysis using his own viewpoints and world experience.
Members should be more than a name on a list and a revenue source. The younger generations have grown up with the expectation of “mass customization”. Because the primary purpose of the SR is development of the man through education, the VOF must be able to know its members and tailor programming to their interests.
At initiation or affiliation, members’ personal data, Masonic experience, interests, skills, capabilities, and commitments are assessed and captured within a Member Profile (MP). The VOF though a contact manager will update the members status periodically. The data is shared internally with the committees responsible for maintaining contact with the member and advising the member of his status and degrees not yet received and opportunities to receive them. The MP will also track the members support of valley activities, attendance and leadership experience.
Mentorships will be established to maintain personal contact with new Master Travelers during their initial years .
The SR Journey
The SR Journey is a systematic and integrated offering of the 29 SR degrees as part of a multi-faceted pathway of Masonic learning and experience which demonstrates the Core Values.
The following is a non-exclusive list of the several purposes and benefits of the SR Journey:
1. Re-establish the brand value of the 32ndDegree and SPRS.
2. Incorporate more scholarly (but accessible) material relating to the degrees and to SR history, philosophy and culture as applied to current members.
3. Provide a better understanding of the progressive nature of the SR.
4. Create a sense of achievement and personal development in members by recognition of Journey progress.
5. Relieve demands on limited stage and cast for more difficult productions
6. Offer all 29 degrees (in Dramatic, Study or Table formats) in a defined and relatively brief period of time.
7. Encourage greater and “flatter” member participation in core valley activities.
8. Integrate social, fraternal and family aspects into the more abstract process of receiving the degrees.
The Valley schedules the complete 3-4 year program in advance. The plan includes degrees, education and fellowship events. This allows better preparation for degree work and describes the Journey for the candidate. The plan is evaluated and modified as needed based on experience.
In order to provide members the opportunities to complete the Journey in a reasonable time, the valley will advise members of opportunities to travel to area valleys to receive degree work. Conferrals at host lodges is encouraged.
Valley events should be based on a quarterly schedule. Quarterly reunions will feature elements of ritual, education and fellowship. For example, a quarterly reunion might consist of a an evening or morning session featuring the presentation of degrees (in any of the 3 formats), member education and an agape dinner. Quarterly meetings will match up with quarterly meetings of the 4 bodies and the valley board. In addition to quarterly reunions, the valley will sponsor and present related fellowship events such as mixers, Highland Games and Feast of St. Andrew.
The degrees are may be presented in any order. Designated milestone degrees, e.g., 14th , 16th and 31/32, must be presented in a special format accompanied by recognitions. Moreover, the 31/32 degree and the creation of SPRS should be offered not more than once a year. The 31/32 degree must be presented in the context of a heightened event that reflects the high value of the degree and the recognition of those members who have completed all degrees.
Progress in the Degrees.
Members should receive recognitions at the beginning and end of his Journey and at signficiant waypoints in the Journey, e.g., 4th (Black cap, journeyman’s collar or sash), 14th degree (elu ring), 18th (real rose), 32nd(black cap embellishment, pocket jewel, watch and fob, etc .) and Red Delta 32 Pin. Related is the 32nddegree event which must be of such quality as to impress the candidate (further, it is hoped) and reward and acknowledge his labor in completing the Journey such as a nice dinner with wives and families, photographs of member and publication of the achieve in the community.
Degrees are received in 3 formats: Dramatic, Study and Table.
The Dramatic Format is the traditional stage presentation in an appropriate venue with appropriate sound, lighting and properties. Dramatic includes receiving degrees in other Valleys which should be encouraged as a social and networking exercise.
Study Format is a participatory, group discussion method involving the reading of the degree and related materials (to be developed) and participation in discussion about the degree focusing on the candidate’s personal understanding of the specific message and application to his own life and experience. These are a more developed version of the post-candoris sessions currently used in the VOT after Dramatic portrayals. We contend that a member gets far more from reading and discussion of a topic than passively watching a stage work. Post-reunion interviews confirm this. This will also require a certain liberality with the possession and use of rituals by members.
The Table Format is a new concept. The degree is read in a small group, non-stage setting, without a requirement for memorization. It is akin to a radio play where the candidates receive the degree primarily though the sense of hearing. Sound effects and limited properties may be used. This has the advantage of better reception of the message by the candidate and allows more members to participate in the portrayal due to reduced memorization requirements. An education session accompanies the degree.
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