Since participating in the "Table Talk" on Masonic Central, I have been thinking long and hard about an idea that slipped out during recording. The idea of whether the Fraternity needs to focus heavily on the past. I mentioned that we need to focus less on Ben Franklin and George Washington and more about the future. Oddly enough, last week, Brother Ed King posted an article called “The Old Webmaster and much needed change.” Let’s just say I was shocked.
In the article, he states that a young Junior Warden (not to be egotistical but me, maybe?) wants to change the way in which the Lodge is run, such as raising dues, making men wait longer for degrees, and focusing on making the ritual great. The Old Webmaster states that maybe there is something wrong at home. What, what, what, what?! Attempting to change how the Lodge is run, but it is the individual brother's problems at home?!
There is no lying that Freemasonry is in trouble; our numbers are declining and we have tried different programs to bring brothers into the Fraternity. Grand Lodges are attempting to bring us back to glory with some succeeding well while some are failing miserably. Yet, the problem has nothing to do with the Lodge, but an individual brother and his problems at home?
I would like to focus on what we, as Freemasons, must do in these trying times. During the Golden Age of Fraternity, our numbers swelled, we built Lodges and massive buildings and charities galore. It is no accident that the tallest building in Chicago from 1890 to 1895 was a Masonic building. After World War II, membership in civic organizations boomed as they had during the Golden Age. These were times of great building.
During these crests in membership, we built huge institutions and great projects. Then, the Fraternity would hit a trough and it was by maintenance that we stayed together just as any great structure but lately, there has been little preservation paid to these great buildings, both as institutions and as actual physical presences. We have entered a rut, but the dream is not lost.
Even in talking of gloom and doom, there are flickers of hope. In my Grand Lodge, we are seeing a resurgence of Masonic interest. My Grand Lodge has donated $65 million dollars to the University of Minnesota for the Masonic Cancer Center, the largest gift ever for the University. Grand Lodges, such as my own, are discovering the power of the Internet yet we continue to hear that the old ways are the best ways.
We do need to make changes, nevertheless. Many Lodges are still dying throughout the country and their buildings are being sold off without a second thought. Many Lodges continue upon old worn-out programs without understanding the expectations of new brothers. Instead of covering our eyes and saying that everything is okay, we need the facts brought to light. Freemasonry is an ancient organization yet it has been so successful because it is able to morph and change with the times while maintaining its basic components. When the Masonic Lodges began to meet, they met in taverns. Afterward, in the United States, the rise of the temperance movement made what was once a normal part of Lodge life, alcohol, completely banned in many Grand Lodge jurisdictions. Even today, these temperance laws are still on the books in some Grand Lodge constitutions.
It is time to get our heads out of the sand and assume that Freemasonry will weather the newest storm as it has before. Unlike what happened during other low periods, the maintenance to our great creations has not been kept up; if we aren’t careful, we are doomed to fail.
The brothers of my Lodge and I developed some suggestions we want to see in Lodge. These suggestions to maintain and continue the greatness of our Fraternity are:
1. More Masonic Education
2. Strong Ritual
3. Meals before Lodge
4. Mentoring of New Brothers
I have only listed four proposals that my brothers and I thought of but we have many more. Honestly though, the desire to change things does not mean problems at home or that it is a substitute for something missing in life, brothers seek change to make the Fraternity their own, to make Freemasonry better and to maintain what we have already built. Masonry is a progressive science and if we are to survive, we must adapt. If we don't invite young brothers into the fold, they will be "Waiting on the World to Change".