Friday, July 14, 2006

Respect During Ritual

In reviewing some old e-mails, I found this message from Dave Simons, Florida Mu Alumni Board President. I though it rated being said again!

Brothers,

I've seen a lot of stuff during initiation.

Bored nineteen year olds tend towards childish behavior in groups for some reason. Picking at candle wax and throwing it at others, trying to cut the initiate in half or knock him across the room (that's all the hint about that that I will give since I don't want to give too much away about our esoteric rites; think about it and you'll realize what I mean), and making fun of a man who can't see what you're doing to him and couldn't do anything if he could see it are all examples of stupidity I've witnessed.

Yes, I'm sure that you can tell I got fed up, and sometimes the possibility of what I'm doing being futile enters my mind. BUT, I've always believed that "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." So as a Brotherhood Development dude, chaplain, and later president I worked at overcoming these hassles and building a chapter where brothers could and would take the basis of our fraternity (the ritual) more seriously.

I worked pretty hard with like minded brothers to come up with ways to accentuate the positive and leave the negative in the dust. I'll share some of the things that I think helped my chapters (I belonged to two after a transfer). Hopefully, "those" guys will either> shape up or get alienated and leave. You didn't need them.

EVERY meeting, a member, the chaplain, or an alumnus should talk for> about five minutes about the ritual. Pick a subject and have your> chapter's expert expound on the passage from the Bible that the password comes from, the meaning of different pieces of ritual equipment, or how the ritual helped you to make a decision in your world this week.

Make the guys participate. Ask questions and encourage same. Don't just preach to a bunch of guys who are hoping that you'll sit back down so they can get the meeting over with and go back to watching football. This has to be interesting to them too. Get everyone involved. Ask> that guy who is always mouthing off under his breath to talk for a few minutes on respect, accountability, and what kind of man the fraternity has made him. Let the chapter see who its real thinkers are. Treat> this seriously and take your ritual to another level of meaning.

Practice the ritual. A team that reads it word for word is just going through the motions. A practiced initiation will not only be> meaningful for all involved, but it will also go quicker.

Involve everyone. Yeah the ritual calls for certain exec board members and marshals and guards to do all the work, but think about all of the other things that guys could do. Preparation in other rooms needs to go on and guards should be posted outside the house depending on your house's situation. This might be the perfect job for Brother Fidget. How about the music? The lighting? There is plenty for those> guys who can't sit still to do.

Invite other Sig Eps. Would your guys behave better if the RD decided to view your initiation? How about an Order of the Golden Heart winner? Even just local alumni that they do not know? For initiation,> we always tried to invite local alumni so that there would be a few older faces in the room.

Share the responsibilities. I invited past presidents to read my part because frankly, after speaking the president's part for a forty man initiation, I would have been hoarse for a week. The look of pride in their eyes is worth it to see them finish and look at you like, "yeah I still got it, AND I still remember it!" This works for the chaplain and VP too. At one initiation, I had two ex-chaplains, an ex-VP, and five ex-Presidents fighting for their turns! There was lots of Sig Ep pride in that room. I also had big brothers be guides for their respective little brothers. This is an excellent way to recruit for your next ritual position election.

And speaking of huge initiations, here's where some of you are going> to give me some heat. One hundred guys in a dark room for six hours gets hot, stuffy, and boring to some. So, I scheduled guys in shifts. I posted two months in advance what night initiation was, what the hours> were, and when each brother was supposed to be there. I divided the ritual into three two hour segments and every brother had to be there for his two hour shift. They could trade by mutual consent and they> could arrange to have their shift changed to allow for work schedules or other commitments. Interestingly there didn't seem to be much abuse of this last feature. One third of the chapter could initiate quicker, and do it meaningfully so that things went pretty smoothly.

One year we tried double initiations; we borrowed a nearby chapter's equipment and did ritual in two rooms. Half the chapter worked in one room with our stuff and the other half worked another room with the borrowed stuff. This went well, but you run the risk of finding someone else's stuff not up to your standards, being poorly maintained or incomplete. PLUS you must plan on returning it quickly and intact.

We also "took ownership" of the ritual. We made it ours. There are provisions for additions to the ritual that are congruent with our ritual's teachings. Local fraternities that have become Sig Ep chapters have incorporated meaningful parts of their old rituals into the new Sig Ep one. It must be consistent with Sig Ep of course. Our chapter was very young and jealous of older chapters with long histories and traditions. We were given permission to add the Star of David to the president's table since several of our brothers were Jewish. We even would allow brothers to enter through a door where a "more Jewish" version of the password's challenge and reply would be given. Two doors with two guards helps get a hundred guys inside for meetings quicker too.

We rallied alumni to help us purchase new equipment to replace worn out stuff. One brother's father owned a costume shop and fixed up our robes nicely. A new Bible dedicated to the chapter was donated. And I personally have tried to locate a War Between the States (Civil> War for you northerners) Cavalry saber to replace the faceless sword that we used when I was in school. I re-enact in a Confederate artillery group so I know where to find the swords; they're just so expensive!

I'd be interested to hear what other chapters have done to help their brothers take the ritual and the initiation more seriously. Obviously if older brothers have problems showing it respect, there is> more to your problem than a posting on a bulletin board will solve. But the ritual CAN solve all of a chapter's problems if it is understood and lived.

Thanks for your interest.