MWBro Bro James Ratchford was born September 3, 1956 in Kentville, Nova Scotia. He was an “army brat”, and as his father was transferred about he was able to travel Canada, with stops in New Brunswick, Ontario and BC. He settled in Alberta in 1978 and worked in the restaurant industry. It was during this time that he met his best friend and wife, Lorna, and they have been married for 34 years. They have two daughters, Melissa and Heather; a son-in law, Kris; and a grandson, Marius.
In 1990 James returned to school to obtain his business degree. It was while attending school he met a man who would have a great influence on his future. RWBro Brian Robison became his friend, his business partner – Brian and James ran a tax services business together – and, most importantly, his sponsor into our beloved Craft.
James was Initiated in June 1996, Passed in July and Raised in August in Rockyford Lodge No. 123, and has served as Worshipful Master five times. He affiliated with Zetland Lodge No. 83 in 2014. Drumheller Lodge No.146 granted him honorary membership in 2010. He is a Royal Arch Mason, and has served as First Principal of Otuskwan Chapter. He also serves on the Executive Committee of Grand Chapter, and was its Auditor. He belongs to Cyprus Preceptory No. 33 of the Knights Templar, where he is a Past Preceptor. He is also an active member of Cryptic Rite Masons, the Red Cross of Constantine, the York Rite College and Knights Templar Priests. He is also a member of Al Azhar Shrine, where he served as director in 2010 and in 2011 was Commander of the Tin Lizzie Corp. In 2006 he was DDGM for Dinosaur District under MWBro Rex Dawson. He served on the Board of General purposes as Vice President and President and as the Chairman for the Finance committee. He was elected Junior Grand Warden in June 2013.
We Are the Leaders of the Craft
“Leadership is about
Submission to duty
Not elevation to power”
Gordon Tootoosis (as Cecil Delaronde in the TV series”Blackstone”)
As we progress through our Masonic career we will have many opportunities to take on different offices, with different roles and responsibilities. We sometimes accept these without really understanding the duties associated with the office. The Lodge, however, expects that we are able to fulfill all the obligations of that office. If this scenario sounds familiar, you should not be surprised to hear that some of us should have said “no” to accepting the office.
This problem is particularly serious at the Worshipful Master level. We have many people who, because of their personalities should not be pushed through the progression to become the Master of the Lodge. We all have seen members pushed because the Past masters do not want to face another year as Master of the Lodge. Once the Master is in place, then the Past Masters, the officers and the members of the lodge stand and rail against the quality of the Master.
If you wanted to be a leader you should have accepted the shortcomings of the Brother and advised him not to go on to Worshipful Master. It is the responsibility of every member of the lodge to carefully select those who will lead, direct and nurture the health of the lodge.
Those members who do not have the ability to be Master have much to offer a Lodge and we should use their talents to the benefit of all the Brothers. I was fortunate to have a Brother approach me just after I had been raised and kindly advise me that he would be happy to help anywhere in the Lodge but he was not prepared to become the Master. To his word, anything that had been asked of him he fulfilled with humble service.
My Brethren, lack of leadership is the downfall of every organization. It is the responsibility of each member to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, to better enable them to assist the management and growth of our Lodges, Districts and Grand Lodge. We are blessed in our Fraternity to have Brethren who are great teachers, orators, cooks, bartenders etc. These Brethren know what they have to offer and we should accept them for who they are. We need to assist them in developing those special skills so that our beloved Craft becomes a place of acceptance for all. If we fail in accepting our Brethren for what they have to offer, we will be looking at the demise of our Craft. I hope we all believe that we can rise above our differences and place the good of the Lodge above forcing those into positions they should not go.
If a Brother desires to become a leader in any area of the Craft, then how to we train them? Is it done by just going through the chairs? That’s the usual progression, but Brethren that is an error on our part. We need to provide them with a course that will make them a better leader and more effective communicator. The problem lies in developing such a program. We are fortunate to have the Lodge Officer Training Program to assist in our understanding of our lodge duties. However, we need to go further. We need to offer a program dedicated to leadership.
I have been fortunate to discover that the Grand Lodge of Ohio has created such a program, and we have been given permission to use it. It is the duty of each and every member of the craft to immerse ourselves in this program and discover where we can best assist our beloved craft. It can be found at www.freemasonuniversity.com. This site focuses not only on being a leader but on lodge management, budgeting and running meetings that will attract members to attend. If we fail to use the tools provided we have failed our members, Lodges and Grand Lodge. But above all we have failed ourselves.
George Tootoosis, portraying Cecil Delaronde said” leadership is about submission to duty”, and I agree, but leadership is also a duty to our membership, our Lodges our Districts and the Craft in general. It is also our duty to accept each of our members for their special talents and not to push them into areas they should not enter. Let us become the developers of talent and be the best counselors for our brethren. My brethren, it is our duty to discover our talents and become the leaders in that area. By focusing on these skills we become better men, fathers, husbands, employees and Masons.
Remember we are all leaders, but not necessarily Masters of our Lodges. We own a duty to each and every Brother in our Grand Lodge to know ourselves and know the limits of each other so that we may become a true and faithful servant to our beloved Craft.
Remember my brothers:
Thank you for the trust you have placed in me. I hope that I can meet all that is expected of me during my term as your Grand Master. Also, I hope that you can meet the expectation the craft is placing on you. Lead where you can, submit and obey where you must. And may the Great Architect give us the wisdom to accept our duty and responsibility to our craft.
MW Bro James Ratchford