Archive for September, 2011

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.”

September 2011
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