End of another season…well almost

The end of another Masonic season is almost to an end. It seems that the years and in this case the seasons go by more quickly each time around.

As the Sr. Warden this year I have gotten to gain a lot of experiences, some I wanted, some I did not. But I guess experience is experience, no matter how small.

I have been busy forming my plans to take over the world.. err I mean to run the Lodge next year as WM (provided I am elected that is). It always fascinates me the dynamics of any group that I may be a part of formally or informally. The belief in oneself in one’s own abilities can make or the difference, for better or for worse. My determination to make some small improvement in my Lodge and in Freemasonry as a whole is tempered by the fact that trying to make another person, much less 20, 40 or 100 others believe the same thing or even go in the same direction is a daunting task.

So I will pacify myself with the thought of old honest Abe “you can please some of the people some of the time most of the people most of the time but you can please all of the people all of the time?”

What I hope to accomplish is simple.

1) Pride in Freemasonry. Are we making Masons for the sake of Freemasonry or for more dues paying members? The answer in my mind must be we make Masons to better Freemasonry. The more minds that can come together in harmony for a common good or purpose, the better. This extends to the how the members take the ritual as well. It should be something that members want to experience but not a joke. The ritual should be taken seriously and although it can be fun, never taken lightly or slovenly. Demanding excellence from Jr. officers is not a bad thing.

2) Pride in the Lodge. I believe the way members think of their Lodge is directly connected to its appearance, in and out. of course there are some things I would like to do that are beyond the funds of the Lodge for years to come. This is a good reason to speak with the officers that are coming up the line behind you. To voice your ideas and see that if viable and most agree would be a good thing that those “long range’ plans proceed long after I am no longer in the East. Like pieces of a puzzle that we as a group are slowly assembling. Not doing it on the cheap or as a patch to cover some fault. I was always told if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

3) Educating those that want to be educated. I realize that one can lead a horse to water, but one cannot make him drink, but sometimes just finding a way to interest the Brothers in something or some subject that they previously had little or no knowledge in can go along way. I may have jeopardized my election to WM by stating to the membership that I will expect some form of Masonic education to be presented to the Lodge at every regular Stated Communication, with exception only for degrees and the DDGM visit. I also expect my officers to take the lead on this and offer to dig in and do it.

4) Reinforcing Fellowship. I would like to have the tools like visual media and more casual nights once or twice a month at the Lodge for Members and sometimes members and their families. This reinforces the fellowship and the bong that we all share. The tough part is battling the 250+ TV channels, Sat Radio, X-Box, Wii and Netflix is going to be like David slaying Goliath. So I am hoping to have that TV in the pyramid Suite installed and working soon. I belive if we can raise enough to have a fellowship night to cover the expenses of opening the lodge an lights,heat/cooling as necessary we can have an exciting time, just gathering as Brothers to watch a ball game, maybe a movie. Bring in a video game console and have a Lodge Wii bowling tournament, etc. would be fantastic. the ideas are limitless if you think about it.

5) Strengthening the Family. More family events and get the spouses, significant others and children involved. Communal meals can only go so far. I have seen the members bring their families and they all keep to their own tables. Large communal tables so everyone sits with everyone else is the way to go here. Not al the time, but here and then. Once the members families can be a part of the Lodge family, closer and more interactive; this will lead to better and more well attended events. These family members will anticipate coming to the Lodge to laugh and chat with friends and not just wave from across the room at each other. It’s important that all feel welcome.

Fraternally,

Br. Bill

 

Dues that don’t…anymore:

Deconstructing Masonic lodge dues myths and fables

Revised edition, June 2007

Nathan C. Brindle, P.M.

Broad Ripple Lodge No. 643, F&AM, and Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, F&AM

Indianapolis, Indiana

Copyright © 2006-2007 Nathan C. Brindle All rights reserved

A high quality lodge must be paid for — therefore dues need to commensurate with this.”

– The first of the Two Great Pillars of Lodge Epicurean, the premiere “European Concept” lodge

“Masons are cheap, and they love to bitch.”

– unattributed to protect the guilty

Many years ago, Dwight L. Smith, PGM, and editor at the time of the Indiana Freemason, wrote the following in his pamphlet entitled “Whither Are We Traveling?”:

Has Freemasonry become too easy to obtain?

“Fees for the degrees are ridiculously low; annual dues are far too low. Everything is geared to speed—getting through as fast as possible and on to something else. The Lodge demands little and gets little. It expects loyalty, but does almost nothing to put a claim on a man’s loyalty. When we ourselves place a cheap value on Masonic membership, how can we expect petitioners and new members to prize it? “

How, indeed? And Smith was writing on this problem in the 1960’s — nearly fifty years ago.

Fifty years later, the situation has not improved; it has only gotten worse as the worth of our money has devalued and Lodge dues and fees have remained, in large part, numerically the same.

What’s worse, we’ve lost half of our membership since Smith wrote those words. And what’s worse than that, we have a huge cohort of members, well out of proportion to their numbers in the general population, who pay no dues at all because they have reached 50 years in Masonry. (In my Lodge alone these members amount to nearly a third of the total. And I doubt that we are exceptional in this regard.) Forget reforming Social Security — we’ve got a crisis in our own midst, and the pinch is being felt right now.

So why are we facing this monetary crisis? As Al Smith (no relation to Dwight) used to say, let’s look at the record.

1. Lower membership numbers:

     A case can be made that lower membership numbers aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but they do suggest that the     amount of money required to keep the fraternity solvent is going to have to come from a smaller cohort in future. And in all likelihood, Masonic membership numbers will never again reach post-WW2 levels.

2. Lodges are too quick to pull the trigger on non-payment of dues and requests for demits:

    In many Grand Lodges, annual losses from death are beginning to bottom out, but are being eclipsed by suspensions for NPD. And demits are higher than suspensions.

3. More and more members on “fixed incomes”:

     Many Lodges opt to keep dues low because they have enough members paying dues to get by at the lower rates, while trying to protect older members who are on reduced or fixed incomes.

4. More and more members being remitted for seniority:

     By this is meant Lodges in which all 50-year members are excused from paying dues, usually by Grand Lodge fiat.


5. Public fundraisers traditionally held to help keep dues low don’t work:

    In many venues, the summer Lodge fish fry and the winter Bean Supper are no longer the big draws that they used to be.

We’ve identified a few areas of trouble. There are unquestionably more, but this paper has to end at some point, so let’s take a look at the ones above in more detail.

1. Lower membership numbers are a fact of life. Every since the 1970’s and the near-total inability of the Craft to attract the “lost generation” of baby boomers (sons of our older members, fathers of our younger members), our membership curve has been heading for the basement, with little or no recovery predicted.

In Indiana, we have recently found that our losses from death have rounded the downward curve and have been slightly lower than in previous years. Annual losses from deaths topped out at 4,077 in 1968 and hovered in the 3,500-3700 range for much of the next few decades. By 2005 they had dropped to 2,507, and have in fact been below 3,000 since the turn of the century.

But this is still a large subtraction for a Grand Lodge that has raised only, on average, 1,626 new Master Masons each year from 2000 to 2005. (That average, by the way, dropped by 40 just between 2004 and 2005.) The Grand Lodge has added in total only an average of 2,723 members (including affiliations, restorations, and “other reasons”) each year in the same period, while losses from all causes averaged 5,032 per year.

Why are our losses continuing to mount?

2. As it turns out, the largest loss of membership other than from death (in Indiana, at least) comes from demits and suspensions for non-payment of dues. Consider the following table:

Indiana Stats

It is clear that while deaths may be bottoming out (remember — they topped out at 4,077 way back in 1968), both demits and suspensions are trending significantly higher.

In the old days, a man didn’t demit or get himself suspended for non-payment of dues unless and until the Lodge had exhausted all means of investigation and remedy. For the man who wanted to demit, it might not have been as simple as “I can’t pay my dues” or “I’m moving out of state and transferring to the Lodge there”. There was always the possibility of disharmony that could be patched around to alleviate the problem. And for the man who couldn’t pay his dues, there was remission, or a generous brother who would step up and fulfill his duty to contribute relief.

Today Lodges often don’t want to go to the trouble. After all, we send dues statements out, and when the dues don’t get paid by the due date, the secretary sends a notice to the members in arrears. Finally, there is a set procedure for the dues committee to follow each month until finally charges are filed and trials held for non-payment. Not all Lodges, however, take heed of the admonishment to contact personally each brother who is in arrears and ascertain if there is a problem — and unfortunately, many of our older brethren consider asking for remission something akin to the mark of Satan. As secretary, I’ve heard “I don’t want charity” far too many times from brethren who know full well that the Lodge is there to help them if needed.

And demits — every Mason has a right to demit. I suspect many Lodges just accept requests for demits unquestioned, even though they are supposed to make personal contact to investigate the brother’s reasoning.

In sum, while annual losses to death are bottoming out, it’s not time to wipe our brow and sigh in relief. We’ve got other problems to deal with that cut into our numbers just as badly.

3. The “fixed income” issue is to some extent quite real.

The fact is, though, that most of our Lodges aren’t charging anywhere near the percentage of household income for dues that they were even 50 years ago. The burden of Lodge dues is not nearly as great for today’s retirees as they were in earlier times. Even a lodge charging $120 a year — as mine does — is asking for only $10 a month to fund its programs.

4. Fifty-year awards are great. They are a landmark on a long and well-lived life, regardless of whether the brothers receiving them have been active members in their lodges. In 1946, Indiana decided that 50-year members should also get something a bit more financially rewarding — they would be excused from paying dues (including Grand Lodge assessments, Masonic Home assessments, and lodge dues) for the rest of their lives — in other words, they would be granted seniority remission. As usual, Dwight Smith had something to say about that, and it’s clear he didn’t think much of the idea:

In the autumn of 1940 when the newly established Award of Gold became available, large numbers of veteran Brethren then eligible were given recognition. After the initial group had been honored, 50-year button presentations were relatively infrequent for several years. When the first list of recipients was published in 1943 it included only 152 names, but each year thereafter the number increased — in 1956, 363; in 1960, 550; in 1966, 920.

When Worshipful Masters C. Clinton Sanders of Benton Lodge No. 521 and J. Clark Griffith of Boswell Lodge No. 486 introduced a resolution at the annual meeting in 1946 asking that 50-year members be excused from the payment of annual dues, Grand Lodge voted approval with apparently no thought as to the wisdom of such legislation and no study to determine its possible implications. It seemed simple enough in 1946 when 50-year members were rare. But within 20 years the number had increased to more than five thousand, and a major financial problem had been created thereby.

Now, in a time when the actuarial tables suggested that very few men would live to the age of 71 (the minimum age for a man to receive such an award, given that at the time one had to be 21 in order to petition a Lodge in Indiana, and in fact the life expectancy at birth for a male in 1940 was only 60.8 years6, this meant both a great deal and not much at all. A great deal in that a man who lived that long probably deserved a special recognition, and not much at all in that very few men ever got the 50 year award and no longer had to pay dues.

Flash forward to 2006. In my lodge, there are about 170 members, 44 of whom have received the 50 Year Award of Gold and are excused from paying dues. That means almost 26% of the members of my lodge are paying no dues at all, and five more will receive the AWG in 2006.

As did Dwight Smith before me, I would suggest that this is untenable, and I’m not alone — the Grand Master of Masons in Indiana recommended at the 2005 Annual Communication that we begin a 10-year process of raising the seniority remission age to 60. (The AWG would still be awarded at 50 years.)

Of course it was voted — if not shouted — down. The general attitude seems to be that 50 year members have “paid enough”, a curious concept given that plenty of men reach retirement (as I myself will) without the faintest chance of ever becoming 50 year members. We will continue to face the reality of ever-rising costs to the lodge that will require higher and higher dues, while significant numbers of our lodge brethren who happened to come into the fraternity years before we did are able to sit comfortably and not pay dues for perhaps 5, 10, 15, or 20 years (or more). In an organization based on fairness and meeting on the level, how exactly do we justify this?

At any rate, the life expectancy of males today is 74.5 years. So here’s a radical proposition: Why aren’t we giving the AWG at 50 years and granting seniority remission of dues after 75 years, when we give the 75 year award? That would put things back very much as they were when the Grand Lodge originally envisioned them. When the 75 year award was instituted in Indiana in 1995, it was clear that the number of Masons making it to that threshold was significant.

This is not to say that they should have, but at the very least we should not grant automatically seniority remission at 50 years without an investigation into whether or not the remission is actually needed. We should be “means-testing” for this, much as the local Scottish Rite Valley currently does, and remission should be turned down if the brother can afford to pay dues.

As with Social Security, we’ve gotten ourselves into a situation where fewer and fewer of us are subsidizing more and more of us who don’t pay dues. And it will be difficult to make those who have fully “bought” into the program see its inherent unfairness. In 1994, there were 14.58 dues-paying brethren for every 50-year member being remitted. In 2004, there were 6.5. Is this program indefinitely sustainable? You tell me.

As for having “paid enough”, well, that might be true if dues money was an investment that would continue to pay dividends for the rest of time. For my part, I believe that Grand Lodges offering Life Membership or Life Endowment programs need to expand their scope, and make it easier for members to join those programs earlier in life when they may be making more money, but also have families to support. For Indiana, my recommendation would be to ease into a program of exchanging remission for life endowed memberships. The existing life endowment program, which allows one to buy in with a single payment or by dividing the full payment into three annual payments, needs to give members more time to buy in. Perhaps there should be a sliding scale of number of payments allowed based on the dues amount (if dues are under $75, 3 payments; dues $76-$100, 4 payments; and so forth; or it could be based on the total amount required to be paid into the annuity instead). To be completely crass and mercenary, but at the same time entirely truthful, it is only with a lifetime endowment that pays off even after a brother dies that a brother can ever truly be said to have “paid enough” to warrant not having to pay dues any longer.

5. Traditional public fundraisers don’t work anymore for many lodges, primarily for two reasons: First, the older generation is tired of doing them and the younger generation wants to be of service to the community, not so much to themselves; and second, because so many charitable organizations are competing for our shrinking discretionary income these days, the public perception of Masonic fundraisers — if there is such a perception — is more than likely that they are just one more hand sticking out palm up.

The damage in this situation is that Masonic fundraisers usually don’t benefit the community at large, but rather, are designed to raise money to fix the roof, or replace the furnace, or paint the lodge hall. Most younger Masons rebel at the thought of becoming cod batterers at the fish fry, or serving up beans at the annual bean supper to begin with. Most older Masons don’t understand why that is — after all, those things are traditions. But the real fundamental misunderstanding is that the younger generation have been brought up in an environment that encourages service to others, while the older generation sees nothing wrong with the public at large helping support the Masonic Lodge.

So what is the obvious solution to these problems? Well, raise dues and fees, of course! I can hear the arguments already:

“We can’t do that! We’ve never had to do that before! We make enough from our fundraisers to get by! Why, dues and fees are too high now!”

Really? Are they? Let’s look at what Dwight Smith had to say about that 50 years ago:

In 1911 Floyd F. Oursler was making ten dollars a week as an apprentice printer. The fee for the three degrees in Winslow Lodge No. 260 was twenty dollars. That was the full amount of two weeks’ pay.

Of course, in 1911 a dollar was worth a dollar, and there was no withholding tax for printers making ten dollars a week, no gross income tax, no social security. Just the same, twenty dollars was two weeks’ pay – all of it. And Floyd Oursler thought enough of Freemasonry to empty his pay envelope twice to enjoy the privilege. Today, fifty years later, the minimum fee that may be charged by Lodges in Indiana has been increased to thirty dollars – and one Lodge out of every five charges the absolute minimum that the law will permit. (If the minimum fee were still twenty dollars, I daresay at least 75 Lodges would be charging that figure.) If the same relationship between wages and fees as prevailed in 1911 were maintained in 1962, Lodges now charging from thirty to sixty dollars would be charging $100 to $150 – and the Fraternity probably would be stronger and better thereby.

MWBro. Dwight wanted lodges in 1962 to charge between $100 and $150 in fees. According to the US Government’s Consumer Price Index inflation calculator that means he would want lodges in 2007 to charge between $685 and $1025 in fees! A grand to petition? Are you kidding?

Why, that’s enough to give a whole sideline of Past Masters sprained index fingers!

And so far as dues are concerned, Broad Ripple Lodge in 1904 charged $4 per annum. We raised our dues in 2003 to $85 (effectively $58.30, exclusive of all Grand Lodge assessments). In 2005 our dues were raised to $90 (effectively $59.05), in 2006 to $100 (effectively $68.05), and in 2007 to $120 (effectively $85.05).

$4 in 1904 was equivalent to $90.36 in 2005, and $93.44 in 2006.

Are we keeping up with inflation? I don’t think so. And at Broad Ripple our dues and fees put us among the top 10 or 15 lodges in the state. Imagine what the Lodge still charging $15-$20 per year, exclusive of Grand Lodge assessments, is doing for operating revenue. (In 2005 there were 8 lodges in Indiana charging in that range; the average per lodge was $47.18.)

Dues are low today because fifty years ago, volume made up for value. When membership peaked in the 1950’s, there were so many Masons that you didn’t have to charge much for membership in order to keep a lodge solvent. And members got so used to cheap dues and low fees that, even as membership tumbled in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, they refused to raise them to at least keep pace with the losses and with inflation — because “we’d never had to do that before!”

Well, brethren, with all due respect: What’s the alternative?

Several years ago, I considered — very briefly — joining a prestigious downtown club here in Indianapolis. I knew from the start that it was a budget-buster for me, but I was interested to see what the dues structure was like. My eyes were opened quite wide. As a resident member of age 37 and above, I would be charged an initiation fee of $3,000. Then, monthly (not annual) dues of $120, plus $15/month for the capital building fund. In other words, in the first year I would be dinged for $4,620, and then $1,620 each year afterwards — assuming no increases in dues.

The first year I was a Mason, it cost me $141.50. The year after, $60.

Brethren, we’re selling ourselves FAR too cheaply. Our dues simply don’t, anymore. Our initiation fees are a disgrace to the Craft, and encourage far too many unworthy men to challenge our West Gate. It’s time to raise dues and fees to what the market will, demonstrably, bear. And it’s time to stop automatically granting remission of dues to a significant and growing segment of our brethren. In states that have Life Membership programs, it should be made easier for brethren to get into those programs, possibly by stretching out the number of years over which payments can be made into the annuity.

Otherwise we can look forward to more years of dwindling and mediocre membership, decaying buildings, and lost opportunities. As a member of what was once considered the premier society of gentlemen, that prospect holds no joy for me.

 

Lead, Follow or get out of the way!

Sounds very straight forward in ideology or motto, but what does it mean. Well when applied to Freemasonry, for me it means several things. Before I go into what I think it means let’s talk a bit about Freemasonry, leadership
and volunteerism.

Time is something we learn about as Freemasons right from the beginning of our Masonic life. The lesson of the 24 inch gage should still reverberate for every Mason no matter how many years since he was raised.
Particularly in our present world, submerged as we are in a maelstrom of stimuli and distractions that pull us apart from the essential, where, as noted by Umberto Eco, mass media not only transmit an ideology, but have become an
ideology themselves.  The spirit of serene and academic examination is the last refuge of the thinking man. So
where is this serene and academic examination to happen? Where are these thinking men to be found? Right there in the Lodge room my Brothers.

So where is everyone? I don’t have that answer. What I can say is that the malaise affecting us has deep roots, and perhaps less conscious as well. The angst of our time is comparable to the sensation of someone who is sliding down a hill without being able to slow down, or even being able to see what lies just over the rise. Worse still, he doesn’t know why he is there in the first place.

The ‘future shock’ brilliantly predicted by writer Alvin Toffler more than a decade ago is no longer in the future but a daily reality. Knowledge acquired with great effort in the course of years becomes outdated
and irrelevant in a matter of weeks. No sooner have we learned to use a new computer program, when another one appears, better than the previous one (at least so claimed), certainly different.

The problems at work, in the family, in society have become more severe, the demands more stringent. It can be summed up best by someone who recently remarked, “God is dead, communism has failed, and I myself don’t feel so good!”

So what’s the point? Well here are some of my thoughts.

Let’s go back to that 24 inch gage again. To me another way to break it down is as follows:

What is needed is your Time, your Talents and your Treasure. Your time in just participating, no matter how trivial it may seem to you, even the most minute effort is felt and appreciated by all. Your Talents, in how you can be most useful to the members and society as a whole. We all have jobs or careers and other obligations.  Some manage, some teach, some organize, some build, some fix. To each his talents and in the estimation of things these are some of the greatest gifts a Lodge can receive. Treasure, well that’s an easy one. As we all know nothing is ‘free’ in this world. It takes funds to make the Lodge and the world go round. So what ideas can we glean from all this and what about volunteerism. Well I can summarize it best by going back those old time worn ideas. What are those ideas, transmitted by our Craft, that we believe capable of improving men and the world at large?

To summarize Masonic teachings into two fundamental principles, like the two columns at the entrance to King Solomon’s temple. The first fundamental principle that sustains our institution, more important than charity, mutual assistance, tolerance and all other virtues we cultivate, is simply personal responsibility. To Cain’s anguished question, resounding from century to century even to our day, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ we give a ringing and unequivocal reply: ‘Yes, I am!’

The second fundamental, no less important to the first, is the possibility of finding a common ground, or working together, involving collaboration and developing feelings of fraternal affection among persons with the most diverse backgrounds, with different social and ethnic origins, speaking diverse languages, belonging to different cultures, religions and political factions. Despite all these enormous differences, which Freemasonry recognizes and accepts, it still insists in demonstrating that there is a common level of humanity that binds us all, a joint yearning toward that far
distant goal that makes us fellow travelers on the road of truth.

Freemasonry is not just a philosophy it is a way of life. Brother Fernando Riffo sums it up like this: “Freemasonry teaches us that the philosophical knowledge achieved must not remain, cannot remain simply theoretical knowledge. Masonry demands action in social life, it is all together a system of tasks.” A related thought was briefly noted by Marcus
Aurelius in one of his meditations: “it’s not a matter of discoursing about what a good man must be, but of being one.”

What about leadership?

Leadership is not someone barking orders but all working to benefit the group as a whole.

The best way to express this sentiment is with a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery “If you want to build a ship,
don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

In a sense that is the object of this paper.  To motivate and enlighten, to learn from others and become better individuals, husbands, fathers, neighbors and citizens. In furtherance of Freemasonry’s stated and singular goal: to make good men better men.

Brother Harry Truman once said, “Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”

What is meant by the term leadership? If you look at the literature on the topic of leadership you will find many definitions. I’ve come up with two more common ones, the long and the short of it. Leadership is the exploitation of every opportunity to take people forward towards the common goal, although known by all, often grows dim or gets lost in the challenges and the problems of our day to day operations. Taking people forward!! The short of it; Leadership is the art of causing others to want to do what the leader thinks needs to be done; causing others to want. Causing and want; terms that go together.

Leadership and management, is there a difference? Yes Brethren, I think that there is a significant difference; they are not synonymous terms; they are not interchangeable. The leader inspires, the manager maintains. The leader is the
original, the manager is the copy. The leader does right things, the manager does things right. The leader looks at the horizon, the manager looks at the bottom line. The leader is concerned with people, the manager with form and
structure. The leader paints creatively, the manager paints by numbers.

So what are you? Are you a leader or are you a manager? Do you paint by numbers or do you paint creatively. Do you inspire or do you maintain? Do you challenge the status quo or do you accept it. As a Lodge Officer, have you caused others to want to do what you think is necessary for Freemasonry. Are you causing others to want to do what you believe is necessary for the survival of Freemasonry. How do you cause others to want to do; to take people forward toward that common goal which often grows dim or even lost in our day to day lives?

This brings me back to the title of this paper; Lead Follow or get out of the way!

We often discuss the participation (or lack thereof) in Lodge events. Bringing together the two main points of volunteerism and leadership at this point seems logical. As important as it is that everyone do his part and live up to the obligations of their office or even the obligation of a Master Mason then when the call goes out for assistance with this project or event, there should theoretically be too many people showing up for the work to be done.  Sadly this has not been the case of late.

So you should be asking yourself, how I can make a difference. I am, at heart, very simple, basic person. Well I have always believed that a problem is only an opportunity in disguise and the best way to begin changing a problem into an
opportunity is at the grass roots. At the basics, if you will.

In small businesses across America, they don’t talk about the philosophies of business, or the magic answer, they talk about the basics – sweeping the sidewalk, greeting customers, dressing up the presentation. They step back and take a new
look at their business – to look at it as if you have never seen it before – get a new perspective – a new outlook.

I believe we should do that with Masonry – and our Lodge. Look at ourselves with a new look – perhaps through the eyes of prospective members or a new candidate. What do they see?

I ask myself this question – where can we begin? The answer to me seems to lie with the bi-monthly Lodge meeting and in fact with all Masonic meetings.

Wouldn’t our problems be solved if we could fill all our meetings with old and new Brethren every month? I think so!!

Now I am going to tell you that it is possible!

If I went out and asked every successful organization the secret of their success, everyone would give me good reasons. Also if I asked every successful business for the reasons for their success they would all have good reasons. But every
one of them, organizations or business uses this secret to guarantee success…. and I am going to give you the secret…. But I can’t just give it to you in so many words. It is too simple. It is, in fact, so simple you might not totally grasp its importance and significance.

So I am going to use humor to etch it in your memory so that every time you wonder
what you can do to increase attendance or membership, you will remember this story and the important message it denotes.

There was this young man who became tired of city life and so he purchased a small farm. A hobby farm if you like. With the farm he acquired three small creatures called piglets. Now in the course of time they grew up into rather large animals. One morning our new and inexperienced farmer found his animals to be acting in a strange and agitated manner. In consultation with a real farmer, he was informed they were experiencing the pangs of anticipated and desired
motherhood. He was informed the solution was to transport his charges to a neighboring farm and acquire the service of a boar.

This, with some great difficulty, he did. The owner of the boar advised, he was to note the reactions of his pigs the next morning. If they roll in the mud, the trip was successful, however, if they were lying on the grass, the visit had not been a success, and would have to be repeated.

It turned out; he had to repeat this laborious process for two more mornings. The third morning when he
went to the barnyard for his morning observation, he found two of the pigs in the back of his truck, and the third in the cab honking the horn!

Now before you get the wrong idea, let me explain. You see my Brothers; our behavior depends on the amount of reward. If a situation is rewarding, we repeat it, and the more rewarding, the more enthusiasm, and if it continues to be rewarding, we continue to repeat it. Take a moment and think about the real reason why you attend meetings, entertainment events, why you like to shop at particular places of business in favor of others.

I believe you will agree it is because of the reason I just stated. In each case you returned and participated because the experience was rewarding, generated a feeling of enthusiasm and invited a repeat. Now here’s the secret. . . .

The Rewarded Mason Enjoys,

Multiplies and comes back! !

How does this relate to our Masonic gatherings? If each occasion is rewarding, interesting and challenging, we will repeat it. If not, we find something else to do.

Times have changed and we have to change our methods. Let’s consider again how times have changed – there’s television – We are bombarded with images of the things that are fun to do – we see all sorts of people enjoying themselves in a
variety of ways – is it any wonder that our young people have strong ideas about what is fun and what isn’t? Look how the work situation has changed. Twenty or more years ago we had the idea that we would get a job, and work
there for life – or if you were born on the farm, you’d stay on the farm – I remember how shocked Mom and Dad were when I came home one day and announced that I was leaving my job. Dad had the same job for almost 30 years. Now our
young people see reorganization, take-overs, mergers, downsizing, right sizing, cut backs, so their outlook has changed.

Our meetings are considered to be retreats of friendship and brotherly love. We must not let them deteriorate into a session to discuss the same type of problems that we meet in daily living. If the atmosphere does not constitute a retreat from the cares of the day, we have missed the purpose. Our purpose is to provide a change from the daily atmosphere, a safe and scared retreat for Brethren tired of the hustle and bustle of modern living spending a quiet evening devoted mainly to the needs of their fellow men. We have to be better prepared. We have to learn how to meet change head on and turn it into an opportunity.

To be successful in this world of ours, we need people – we need each other. And yet, we are living in an increasingly unfriendly society. We are losing personal interaction. As with any organization, we used to have many excuses to
meet. Today we’re turning inward. A word has been coined. We’re cocooning, with cell Phones, iPads, ATMs; movies on demand and online shopping have all contributed to a loss of interaction. We are becoming a nation of people who
would rather stay at home, disconnected physically only to be virtually connected electronically.

Yet I believe men want what Masonry offers. People today appear to be searching for direction, peace of mind. As evidence, consider some of the bestselling books of the last 10 years or so – “Chicken Soup For The Soul” – “The
Celestine Prophecy”, “The Secret” and the Robert Fulgham and John Bradshaw books. These, for some, have become the new Bible.

Masonry can play an important and necessary role for men. Masonry offers true friendship, brotherly love, and solace in time of sorrow or need, a solid rock of morality, relief and truth. We have the responsibility of continuing to offer this to good men. Offering it in a way that will attract, enthuse, stimulate, challenge and encourage participation.

Our notices must be rejuvenated to offer news, to attract and to invite. Questions must be asked of our other assemblies. Do they measure up in the areas of timing, interest, attraction, challenge, variety and reward?

There’s the good news I want to leave with you – we can change – we can build on what we have.

What could be the bad news? – I promised I would tell you who is going to do it – well Brethren the answer is in this room and in rooms around our country – interested, loyal, faithful, enthusiastic Brethren who care ! ! I know it’s much like preaching to the choir so to speak. What is hoped is that those here will interact with those that are not and cause them to become interested, enthusiastic Brethren who care.

Can you and I make a difference – Sure we can.

With commitment and action; it will take commitment. We have to focus on our objective – take action – follow through – try another approach if necessary. Whatever it takes – that’s commitment.

There’s always a way if you are committed. And it will take action. Action creates emotion.

Emotion is created by motion – action makes the difference.

We have to be enthusiastic about Masonry. It has been said that, “Nothing of consequence ever been accomplished without enthusiasm.

Finally I’d like to leave you with the top 15 phrases that kill creativity and enthusiasm (and I hope I never hear them).

  1. “No!”
  2. “We’ve tried that before.”
  3. “We haven’t got the manpower.”
  4. “Don’t rock the boat!”
  5. “Great idea, but not for us.”
  6.  “It’ll never fly.”
  7.  “People don’t want change.”
  8. “It’s not in the budget.”
  9.  “It will be more trouble than it’s worth.”
  10. “It isn’t your responsibility.”
  11. “That’s not in your job description.”
  12. “Let’s stick with what works.”
  13. “Get a committee to look into that.”
  14. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
  15. “We’ve always done it this way.”

The value Meal of Masonry

By Bro Cliff Porter

Almost eerie shadows bounced and danced their solemn dance to the candlelight casting its shadows and souls upon the walls of the lodge, the temple. The men moved in silence in a circumambulation around their altar. Dress in tailcoats, their hands gloved the aprons of the finest lambskin.

The Brothers took their seats and the lodge was called to order, the ritual perfect and well practiced. The booming voice of the Worshipful Master and wraps of the gavel calling something forward from deep within everyone that the work at hand was important.

Classical music wafted through the air and hung heavy on the deeper notes, the vibration touching the very souls of the men who sat through it. The business of the night was a discussion of philosophy and it went well.

At the conclusion of lodge, the men retired to the dining room for a tradition Agape celebration with toast, fine food, and fine wine.

The taste of the foods blossomed well with the wine selected for that dinner and it was with bitter sweetness that the Brethren pulled their chairs from the table for the final toast of the evening.

Cigars and Scotch followed as the men discussed their views on religion, politics, and the fraternity well into the night.

The next morning the men headed off to work. Tradesmen of all types, policemen, military, Brothers from all walks of life headed out from their suburban homes to their cubicles, cop cars, and offices to earn a living.

I have the great fortune to belong the lodge described above and so does my Brother, friend, and neighbor.

We often sit together on my porch solving the world’s problems both with a glass of bourbon and I with a cigar. It was during one of these sessions my friend, who is a Fellow Craft, spoke his prophetic words of wisdom about lodge, specifically his lodge experience and one of the reasons Masonry is important to him and should be treated as such.

“You know,” he began with a tone in his voice echoing his contemplation, “my whole life is average, I live in an average home, I have an average job, and I shop at superstores for my average food, my average clothes, and my average television. I love that Masonry is not average. I love that once a month I get treat something special and that I feel special because of it. I’m glad we don’t experience Wal-Mart Masonry. I don’t want quicker, easier, or cheaper. I don’t need my Masonry in bulk with low quality materials.

I don’t want Wal-Mart Masonry that one day of my month.”

He is new to Masonry and his lodge is “special” because we make it so. He does not come from the Masonic experiences most of had when we formed our lodge. He was initiated into our lodge and has “grown up” there. Nonetheless, he hit on something quite profound. How much of Masonry has suffered as we moved to Wal-Mart Masonry.

As tracing boards that were profoundly beautiful and steeped in artistic imagery moved to PowerPoint presentations, as quality wrought ritual moved to stuttered lines from a man moved into the progressive line to quickly, as Festive Boards moved to paper plates and plastic forks, as dressing for lodge meant no holes in your jeans—what disservice have we done to ourselves and to our Craft as we turned to the convenience and cost of Wal-Mart Masonry.

When there is little value placed in the trappings of the lodge, when there is little value placed on the experience itself, when there is more emphasis placed on completing things quickly and with little cost, how can we believe that men will find value in the thing itself, in the finished product?

We are often men of average means, of average lives. I am content to buy my food at the largest store for the cheapest price. I am content to buy my clothes from the sales rack, but should I be content with generic low-cost Masonry?

If we are to believe our own brochures and websites we make good men better. How do we do this by treating everything like it should be quicker, cheaper, and in bulk? Do I really want my Masonry from the superstore with little thought given to its intrinsic and philosophical values? Do I want my morality in a low cost buy six and the seventh one is free?

If we practice our own philosophies then kneeling at the altar of Masonry should be more than a slight distraction before we head downstairs for a ham sandwich with generic mayonnaise and fruit punch because soda is cost prohibitive.

If we practice our own philosophies then changing a man’s life and actually improving him should be thought of as an experience worthy wearing socks that match and having on something more profound than a pair of blue jeans.

We are supposed to invoke the blessing of Deity before our undertakings and yet we approach our Creator with hurried expressions and a distain as we bicker about bills and provide little or no education.

The Craft turned into a superstore of membership at one time. We worshipped at the altar of large numbers so that we could keep our dues artificially low and provide some bang for the buck. Then, as the membership dwindled, the dollars stayed low, and the experience was hacked to bare minimum so that we didn’t “waste” our member’s time. Waste their time—with Masonry…..

The Fraternity can no longer afford Wal-Mart Masonry. To save Masonry we must change our thinking from quantity to quality. It is not about how many men are Masons, but how many men should be Masons. Masonry can no longer afford the quick sale, the PDF petition available for all who might want one.

The Fraternity must learn to value itself, so that others might see value within it. The tough thing about making Masonry valuable is that it takes effort. Meetings can’t be thrown to together, meals can’t be nuked, and Brothers can’t be raised in an afternoon with no memory work.

We love to hail Freemasonry as the home of our Founding Fathers….well, then work to make it the Masonry they would have revered and let’s leave our value meal days behind us.

Time to build?

Freemasons of today are familiar with the names of many men who wore the apron of a craftsman and whose names history recalls for other accomplishments. Washington, Lafayette, Irving Berlin and a host of others have been compiled in list after list of men whom we are proud to call brother. However, there are many names that are omitted from such lists and it is a shame that few Masons of today are conversant with their accomplishments.

One such name is George L. Schoonover and it is to this name that I dedicate this inaugural edition of Masonic Magazine. Who was Schoonover you ask?

M. W. Brother George L. Schoonover was, at one time, the Grand Master of Masons in Iowa, but it is not this role in our fraternity, for which his name should be remembered. In 1913, Brother Schoonover was a Mason who was impressed with the fact that there existed, among America’s then three million members, a large number of men whom were truly students of Masonry. These eager brethren truly were filled with a desire to know what the craft was all about.

As a result of this, Brother Schoonover created a national organization to assist these students. That society was called the National Masonic Research Society and was made up of individual Masons from all over the United States, but also other countries. The Masonic fraternity has not seen the likes of anything like the NMRS.

For an annual membership of $2.50, the member would receive answers to any Masonic question he could ask, advice on avenues of research, assistance in forming Masonic study clubs and best of all, 12 issues of the greatest Masonic publication to ever see print.

That publication was called, “The Builder” and ran from January of 1915 until May of 1930, when the Great Depression forced the society to cease publication. Over its 185 issue run, “The Builder” would provide some of the greatest Masonic research ever crafted. Many articles ran over several issues and were book length features. Articles ranging from Masonic history to detailed pieces on Masonic symbolism were common to this great periodical.

One can not help but wonder what the face of Masonic education would be like today had the economic times that wiped it out not occurred. For any brother who has read an old copy of Brother Schoonover’s publication and compared it with the publications put out by many Grand Lodges today, the realization of how far we have slid in educating our members is all too apparent.

Fortunately however, the many brilliant articles that filled 15 years of “The Builder” are available today thanks to dedicated Masons like Brother Dave Lettelier of Phoenixmasonry.org who has, in his online museum, nearly ever copy ever published in digital format. Many of the articles from “The Builder” are also arranged as part of MasonicDictionary.com, a new website dedicated to providing easy to access information for modern day students of Freemasonry.

But is the time right to start “Building” again? Brother Schoonover started the NMRS and “The Builder” because he saw the new Masons joining the craft were eager for knowledge. What of today? As much as we ring our hands over membership, there is plenty of evidence to show that the generation of Masons joining the craft today is looking for knowledge. Sadly there seems to be little of it.

Where is this generations Mackey, Newton, Gould, Haywood, Ward or Wilmshurst? Where is this generations, “The Builder?” Today we are lucky to have the Masonic Service Association of North America’s Short Talk Bulletins. However, this publication, in recent years, has seen a decline in the number of bulletins on symbolism and an increase on pieces on the famous Masons previously mentioned. This is not the fault of the MSANA, for they publish what they are given. Sadly the Mason of today seems to have no more time to research our craft than he does to attend lodge. This must change and those of us who are able to change it must do so.

The time is now to educate our newest members. The time is now to start “Building” again. If this publication can be a small contribution towards that effort than the effort of bringing it to press will have been worthwhile.

As a closing word and a bit of trivia, M. W. Brother Schoonover, who started the NMRS and “The Builder” is also considered the founder of the MSA, now called the MSANA. Isn’t it odd that so great a Mason is remembered by so few? I hope this editorial will in some part set this right. Perhaps someone ought to do a Famous Mason article on Brother Schoonover.

From: http://masonicmagazine.com

What’s in your reading stack?

Recently on an on-line forum I often browse, the question was asked, what’s in your reading stack? Now since this forum is primarily a Masonic research forum, its goes without saying that there were many responses to this topic from many brothers around the world.  As I thought more about this I couldn’t help but wonder how many local lodge members actually read Masonic works.

Now some would ask “who has the time to read anything, much less read Masonic texts”? Well I would ask any brother, “how can you not”? If you are serious about Freemasonry and want to be better Masons it is not optional really. I would not expect every brother to read every book about Masonry there is, but there should be some amount of reading about the Craft required from every brother. I guess some would call it lodge education. What ever the name it needs serious attention.  In this age of fast paced, get the info in 2.5 seconds or you’ve lost your audience, it would do every Freemason good just to sit and read one Masonic book a year. Even if you just read here and there or for 1 hour a night or even once per week. What is missing from this world and from Freemasonry is that few take the time to stop and look around.

I am all for the fellowship and camaraderie before or after communications and on special occasions. I just believe it should be more than that. All newly raised brothers need to be mentored not just in memorizing the catechisms but in the rich history and what Masonry has meant to brethren over the centuries. Freemasonry has an old and wonderfully colorful history associated with it. I for one really enjoy learning about it and will continue. I would urge each lodge to begin a formal lodge education committee and even if its just a few of the brethren getting together at the lodge or at another brother’s house to discuss Masonry. That’s all it really needs to be. As things progress, a more formal setting could be adopted and as interest grows so will understanding of the Craft as well as brotherhood. This is especially important to new brothers as I feel that they would benefit the most.

many brethren I have spoken too agree, at least to some degree, with what I am saying now. Will all agree? Most likely not as we are all individuals and we all have opinions. I guess the bottom line is that I think that I have found that there are Masonic  secrets and I would like to find as many as I can before I leave this world. Those secrets are for each Freemason to find and store in his heart. Freemasonry means something different to each brother but it is a common bond of friendship and brotherly love that makes it so special.

There is so much information out there that one could spend a lifetime studying it. But that’s the point is it not? The search for more light. No one person has all the answers a new brother would require. It takes all his brethren to guide him through all that Freemasonry has to offer.

Occasional Irregularity – Guarding the West e-Gate

 

 

As a “new” Mason of just over 1 year I have had a wonderful journey so far and have met many wonderful people along the way. I don’t think words can convey just how enthusiastic about the Fraternity I am. Although in my new found zeal for the Fraternity I have also found possible pot-holes in this road.

             Early on in my Masonic career, if a year ago can be considered a career, I did what any 30 or 40 something computer professional would do when considering getting involved with an organization. They head right for the Internet and begin searching in earnest. Some people are know-it-alls and others, like me, are perpetual wanna-be-know-it-alls. My wife has told me on several occasions that I am a virtual Fort Knox of useless information, although on several occasions that useless information has come in quite handy. I read as much as my life permits these days, which is not nearly as much as I’d like to. At this stage I am still digesting much of what I have learned so far. So much for the background stuff.

            Well as this is about dis-information I was reminded about some of the so called information out there on the Internet, we all know that everything on the Internet is true, don’t we? The first two websites I stumbled across before joining the Craft were Bro. Ed King’s Masonicinfo.com and Freemasonrywatch website. These two drew my attention more than the rest because of their diametrically opposed views to each other. As I read further I quickly realized that there were elements out there that would publish anything about which they knew nothing for their own skewed reasons. Now I am not really surprised by this being a person with common sense and I am no newcomer to the Internet. After reading though these and many other sites I thought I had finally become a quasi know-it –all and wanted to share a few thoughts about Internet e-Masonry.

            So while on-line one day I find a Masonic forum and I thought, great I can discuss masonry with people from all over the world. Well I began reading a few posts and the posters all seemed on the up and up. I submitted for a username and password and away I went. Curiously I never did receive that username and password. I suppose the GAOTU was watching out for me. As I read further on still not able post due to never receiving the email from the forum to do this, I began to get a gut feeling as it were. Many of the posts linked to several blogs and other posts that belonged to the nefarious, clandestine or otherwise irregular groups I had read about on another website.

            So what would have happened if I’d not read about the antics of these folks somewhere else and recognized them for who they were? What if I’d gotten sucked in by the piped piper like the poor Brothers in Ohio? What if I’d said something I ought not to have? Here in lies the problem. I can list a large list of websites that look really fancy and claim legitimacy, but these days things can change in an Internet minute. What follows is more of a guide to brethren and interested non-Masons who are getting involved in on-line Masonry or e-Masonry as it were. Of course there are no hard and fast rules out there as I alluded to earlier. If there was one simple and steadfast piece of advice I would give it would be to follow your Grand Lodge’s guidelines as to ‘regularity’. That being said if you come across any of the multitude of websites and forums I have found in just one short year and you follow you obligations with regard to caution when speaking about Freemasonry on or offline you will have a better experience overall.

            One thing you will find is many different opinions out there and that can lead to confusion, especially for a new Brother. When and if you journey on-line you will surely know what I mean. In the last several years alone there has been a proliferation of ‘irregular’ groups out there that present themselves as ‘regular’ or ‘mainstream’. Some are very upfront about their associations others are not. Most on-line forums, which are for discussions about a specific subject like Masonry, are not tyled and may have regular, irregular or clandestine Masons as well as profanes reading and posting on these forums or bulletin boards. In other words you really don’t know who you are talking to on-line. On-line personas or monikers can be changed and even forged to fool the unsuspecting. There are some forums that do their best to keep the membership to regular or mainstream Masons. Even this may present a quandary to some Masons. For example the membership of a forum may contain members of PHA lodges. If your GL does not recognize PHA Grand Lodges would you be breaking you obligations by participating in an on-line discussion with this Brother? This is a question that is still up for debate. As an example of an on-line forum there is the Sanctum Sanctorum web forum. When a person submits an application for a username and password the user is asked for their lodge membership, lodge name and Grand Lodge as well as a contact at your lodge to verify your membership. This is about as good as it can be done on the Internet. Another forum is a paid subscription to The Masonic Society, from their website:

            “All members must provide assurances to Administrator that they are Master Masons in good standing with a regular Lodge in amity with a member grand lodge of the Conference of Grand Masters of North America. All forum members must identify themselves in their registration by full name, lodge affiliation and location – no anonymous postings will be allowed.” 

This is just another way of being cautious. Of course all discussions on these forums are to be kept in a civil tone and nothing should be discussed, in said forum that would be said in a tyled lodge.

            As I said earlier regularity can be a tricky subject but with the right information you can make the right call on who you choose to have Masonic discussions with on-line. Another point I have tried to make is know who you are talking to. Was the person you are talking to introduced to you by a known brother? When making my foray into e-Masonry I read posts from persons who claim regularity, but engage in decidedly un-Masonic behavior on-line. One good place to start is Bro. Ed King’s website, Masonicinfo.com. Here you will find a fairly up to date list of people that have been known to engage in this type of behavior. In conclusion the best practice or advice is if you are unsure check with your Grand Lodge or your lodge Secretary, who probably knows more anyway.

 

 

 Always keep you common sense about you when reading anything on-line. While writing this article I was also watching the news. An interesting piece was reported about student and how they cheat and how teachers are fighting plagiarism. One of the teacher interviewed made and interesting comment. When asked what he recommended to his student when doing research he responded by saying “do not use the Internet for serious research or for research cites or sources, as it is unreliable and nearly impossible to verify statements and their originators”. In other words, the Internet is great for some background information or opinion pieces but not the best breeding ground for factual information. Use your best judgment in what to believe. Go to your local library and read a book about it if you want to get facts. A list of some of the websites I have found to be pretty safe places to find information about Freemasonry are listed below. Again check the fact for yourself if in doubt, never take any one persons opinion as fact.

 

 

 

Partial list of referenced websites:

http://www.themasonicsociety.com/forum

http://thesanctumsanctorum.com

http://www.masonicinfo.com

http://www.freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/anti-masonry_faq.html

This is just a short list and these links will link to other reputable information.

 

 

 

 

 


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