In metroactive, a Silicon Valley weekly newspaper, there is an article entitled “The New Fraternals” which has really raised my spirits for Freemasonry. The article describes the revival of fraternalism in the Bay Area. The story of Neils Espenship is truly the centerpiece of what is happening in Freemasonry and the broader Fraternal world. He was into the punk scene, and did not join Freemasonry until he was 35. On this blog, I have described the movement of the young 20 somethings joining the Craft but that is unnecessarily and unreasonably narrow. I have noticed in my Masonic travels that it is men in their thirties, forties and fifties that are joining are ranks in greater numbers.
I have a theory about this phenomenon, as men have become older and wiser, they began to see the need for companionship. This desire for companionship cannot be fully realized by one's family or job. The avenues of good cheer and fellowship among non-family and non-coworkers complete the social life of men.
At the Grand Lodge of Minnesota's Annual Communication in Saint Cloud recently, we were fortunate enough to have Worshipful Brother Robert Davis, the 2008-2009 recipient of the Duane E. Anderson National Excellence in Masonic Education Award, who was kind enough to explain the reasons for men joining groups again. However, the main reason for men to join the Craft, and I thought was really driving all this home, was the simple fact that men like to get together.
My favorite quote from the article is actually a word of caution for those guys joining with "confused" motives:
A lot of people go into it now thinking that they're going to be handed the keys to the universe, and get to do all these clandestine, weird rituals," he says. "It's not that at all. It is gonna be you hanging out with a bunch of old men.It isn't only the Freemasons that are experiencing a renewal. The Moose and the Odd Fellows were also featured in this article. I have very little knowledge about the Odd Fellows but I was fascinated by the Odd Fellows Park. In California, the Odd Fellows maintain a housing community. To be allowed to purchase a house in the community, a person must either be an Odd Fellow or a Mason. I had never heard of this phenomenon but I was immediately impressed. Fraternal organizations are built around the idea of community so the idea of building a neighborhood around those great values seems like a no-brainer. (Fun fact, the Bohemian Grove meets only a few miles southwest of Odd Fellows Park.)
We are making a comeback, brothers, and it is how we handle this renewal that will decide where we go from here on out. It use to be that we would ask ourselves, "How do we get members?", now the question is, "What do we do with all these guys joining now?" It is a good problem to have, indeed.