The 2015 DeVotie Ritual Institute concluded its fifth year with more than 250 attendees for the program. Over the course of the event’s history, nearly 1,000 members have traveled to the Levere Memorial Temple to learn more about the Ritual that binds and connects all of us. This program has grown at an impressive rate since, for the past three years, we reach capacity before the registration date has passed.
The Fraternity Service Center staff is often asked, “What’s the purpose of this program?” or “Why spend time and money on educating members on the Ritual?” or “How does this program relate to the mission of the Fraternity?”
The answer is simple. There is nothing more central to the Fraternity, nor worth the time and money, as educating our members in the Ritual. If a chapter is using the Ritual to educate its members, if a member is living the values of our Ritual, if a member inspires others through their actions driven by the values of the Ritual, then that chapter is more likely than not going to experience the problems and challenges we see happening to groups across the country.
It is when action is not aligned with our values that we have a problem. The DeVotie Ritual Institute seeks to instill in members a renewed excitement and zeal for the Ritual as well as to apply what is learned when they arrive at their home chapter. If the fire of the Ritual is truly ignited at a chapter, what an attendee finds at the DRI will inspire him to strive for an even higher goal.
This philosophy is not new. In fact, the inspiration for the format of the program dates back to the great John O. Moseley:
“In closing, at the 1935 School of Instruction (now known as the John O. Moseley Leadership School), Brother Moseley referred to the fireplace that representatives had visited in the Tower Room of the Temple. In addition to serving as a mecca for SAEs all over the country, the Tower Room is intended to represent the heart of Sigma Alpha Epsilon geographically, so the room and the symbols that the room bears represent that which is the heart of the Fraternity, its spirit and its philosophy.
With its inscription, “How Can I Warm Thee if Thy Heart Be Cold?,” the fireplace within the Tower Room represents fraternity. The Fraternity is a warm, glowing, bright fire. We lead many up to that fire, but they are not warmed because they do not bring to the fireplace that which can be warmed. There stands the inviting fireplace, which typifies fraternity life. It is ready to warm that neophyte who stands before it; it is ready to make him happy.
In ancient Rome, there was a central hearth in which a fire was kept burning constantly. Throughout the empire in each individual home, there was an individual fire that also kept burning. There is a hearth in every chapter house that should be kept burning, just as these individual hearths were kept burning throughout the empire.
Unless the fire is kept burning brightly in your own hearthstone, it cannot warm the hearts of our members. When they come to the Tower Room, the central hearth, which is kept burning constantly, cannot warm hearts that are cold.
If the inscription is changed slightly, it applies to keeping the individual fires burning in each chapter house and to the responsibility of each member who attended the training school to keep those fires of principle and of philosophy burning. To these representatives who stand before it, the fireplace in the Tower Room should read: “How Can I Warm Thee if My Hearth be Cold?”
If the fire of the Fraternity is kept burning in each chapter, he who stands in the Tower Room will be warmed by that which he finds there.
Being held annually at the Levere Memorial Temple, members often experience our building for the first time. Most of the days are spent in sessions and seminars, discussing not only the literal meanings of components of our Ritual but also how the Ritual still is applicable today.
The DeVotie Ritual Institute is more than just a lecture. Attendees use critical thinking to take components of our Ritual, like our Oath, and determine what we are promising to do and how those ideals can be used more directly in the chapter. In addition, the program content is unique. Attendees won’t find a lecture on the etymology and connotations of our unwritten forms or a lecture on the pre-history of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at a province event or at another Sigma Alpha Epsilon educational program.
Members generally aren’t sure what to expect, and some often think that it will be just a boring lecture on the Ritual in the Temple. What they find is often just the opposite. In the words of Chris Ellbogen from Wyoming Alpha, “The DeVotie Ritual Institute takes brothers back to their roots and brings them closer to the traditions and practices as originally envisioned by our Founders. This information, coupled with the experience of the Levere Memorial Temple, demonstrates our common heritage and how our Fraternity is different from the rest.”
So what are the direct takeaways, you may wonder? Not only will attendees who participate in the program leave inspired by the Temple and the discussions on the Ritual, they also will network with members from across the country and leave with specific, quick five-minute lessons that they can provide to their chapters during a meeting.
If you’re interested in attending the DeVotie Ritual Institute, please note that there is space in the program for both collegiate and alumni members, though the alumni track is much smaller in scope and attendance. Details on the program and dates for 2016 can be found online at www.sae.net/dri.