The Ritual of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity is the primary link that bonds us all together as brothers. It has weathered nearly 156 years since its creation with some changes, yet still contains the same aspirations, convictions, ideals and principles that all initiated members of the Fraternity are expected to follow in their everyday lives.
For some members of the Fraternity, the Ritual is simply a ceremony that one must go through to attain membership – an hour or so of time invested to allow one to receive the SΑΕ badge. Some members witness only a few Ritual ceremonies in their lifetime, while others like to attend frequent Ritual ceremonies as opportunity and time permit.
The Ritual is definitely not meant to be a one-time thing; rather, it should serve as a constant reminder of what eight men wanted us to stand for. The ideals have not changed over time, nor has the bond of friendship which the Ritual espouses weakened. If anything, it has evolved continually and strengthened as the challenges of today far exceed the challenges of 1856. It is also a constant reminder that eight men, all around the age of 18, made a difference in our lives, the same difference our collegiate members make in their respective chapters today. The value of a dream; the pursuit of a goal with determination, enthusiasm and perseverance; and the overall drive of a team of men with such longstanding results cannot be underestimated. The Ritual also reminds us that while some view collegiate members simply as boys with carefree lifestyles, their contributions are just as important and effective as alumni and “seasoned” members of our Fraternity. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg and his dream of social media, as the founder of Facebook®.
A large group of our members, however, are not connected to the Ritual or necessarily think about its teachings on a daily basis. They are our alumni, and they comprise a group of nearly 190,000 men. We need our alumni to step up, now more than ever – whether they serve as an alumni association officer, chapter adviser, house corporation officer, province officer or simply an alumnus who enjoys stopping by a chapter to simply chat, reconnect, share, visit or say “Phi Alpha.”
One of the best ways to reconnect our alumni with our collegiate members is through our beloved Ritual. An invitation to a Formal Pledging Ceremony or, more importantly, the Initiation Ceremony, goes a long way and provides an appropriate gateway and venue to reconnect. It may bring back fond memories for an alumnus of when he raised his right hand and took the formal Oath of Membership. An oath can be a powerful thing, something which makes us pledge to honor our values and precepts. Alumni marvel when they attend the Initiation Ceremony since it immediately triggers chapter memories of years gone by. It reignites the fraternal fire in their hearts and reminds them that brotherhood truly is for life. It also renews their bond and, in many cases, leads to the question “What can I do to help your chapter raise the bar with the Ritual?” The answer to that question and best investment for an alumnus reconnecting with a chapter is to help make sure all necessary Ritual accessories, equipment and robes are present, properly used and remain in good shape. Alumni can easily order any of these items online, have them shipped directly to their home and personally deliver them to the ceremony, then watch as the chapter incorporates its new equipment into the Ritual. This is not about giving money and not about simple material gifts or Ritual props. Instead, the gesture is about visually enhancing the ceremonies and reinforcing the ideals and principles of what our Founders created. By raising the bar, we raise awareness of what the Ritual stands for and what it can do to help guide our chapters along the correct path of the 12 Core Areas of operations. In turn, that awareness can provide a guidepost for their everyday lives – both within the chapter and within themselves.
Gladding is a five-term member of the Permanent Committee on Ritual. He is also chair of the sub-committee on Ritual accessories, equipment and robes. The Ritual Committee can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.