“A TRUE MASON CARRIES HIS WORKING TOOLS WITH HIM EVERYWHERE”
The Three “C’s“ of Life; Choices, Chances, and Changes – You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.
Brethren, our craft has changed, or will have to change – whether we like it or not. To think otherwise is to stick our heads in the proverbial “sand”!!
We’re men – we don’t read maps, we don’t ask for directions, and we don’t read the instructions for constructing IKEA stuff or anything, RIGHT?? And as men, we do like our routines and that means we don’t really like “change!! Maybe, just maybe, Bob Dylan knew all this way back in 1964 when he wrote “Times are a changin”!
I hate to burst your bubble, my brethren, but we have to change in order to strengthen our Fraternity and to survive in the 21st century. We have to change our appearance, our public face, but without ever compromising our core values, beliefs and principles and still maintaining our credo of “Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth”.
Our unfortunate public image as a “secret society”, “black art”, blood rituals, conspiracy theories, illuminati and “world control” are pervasive and MUST be addressed forcibly and immediately.
Here I am – one of “those Masons” and I can’t even control my budget, my investments or my taxes, but I’m supposedly a part of this world control??!! Really??!!
We know these thoughts are ridiculous, but many of our detractors do believe and thrive on these rumours and we have to bust these myths right now and most vigorously!
Yes, with our past behaviour of enjoying the isolated mystery and publicly withheld hidden “secrets” of our Fraternity, we have, unfortunately, brought some of this upon ourselves by allowing the non-masons to speculate wildly on “what on earth goes on behind those closed doors in that building where those masons go to do something that MUST be bad!”
Our Craft originated with the operative, cathedral-building Mason and R.W. Bro. Allan Cassalou, Grand Secretary of California, labelled our change to speculative masons in terms of centuries – the 18th century was “tavern Masonry”, lodges meeting in taverns and taking their names from them. He called the 19th century “Town Center” masonry because Lodges bought prime property right downtown, and the 20th century as “Cathedral Masonry”. It remains to be seen what the 21st century will be called! I hope – and believe – it will be known as the century of revitalization and strengthening of our beloved Fraternity!
We have changed from being mainly Christian in our practices and beliefs to being inclusive of any and all faiths that profess a belief in a supreme being.
Our membership has dropped from 136,000 in 1960 to 34,000 today (the same as it was in 1905!). But now we have about 540 Lodges, whereas in 1905, we had 386 Lodges. In 1905, Lodges averaged 90 members each and we had 22 Districts, averaging 18 Lodges in each. Today, in 2018, we have one quarter of the Masons in 1960, in almost twice as many Lodges as in 1905 and almost twice as many districts. This doesn’t make sense when every mason drives a car on better roads to his lodge. You don’t have to be a “rocket scientist” to realize that this situation is a recipe for financial challenge, if not catastrophe, for our Craft. Again; “sticking heads in the sand” syndrome!
In science, we learned about critical mass – the minimum amount of material essential to creating a reaction – the necessity of having enough energy to create power and sustain a system. Membership is the critical mass of Craft masonry!
On my travels across the province, I have seen many great, well functioning Lodges, but I have also visited Lodges that have barely enough brethren to open a Lodge, even at Official Visits and Installations, due to a lack of critical mass or energy.
Grand Lodge has tried to help failing lodges, at least those that have seen the proverbial “writing on the wall”, with programs that very few ever use and are so overwhelmed by the number of programs that they end up doing nothing!
Masons used to line up to be DDGM’s, and now we are having real problems in finding 41 out of 34, 000 men whose busy lives include long commutes to work, driving the kids to multiple activities, picking the kids up from and driving them to school, making breakfast or supper. These men are still willing to selflessly serve as DDGM’s?
We are offering the Past Master’s Course at the DDGM Orientation sessions to aspirants across the Province and they write a quiz right then and there so they’re done, relieving some of the negativity and stress surrounding the Constitutional requirement to complete the course in order to be eligible for the Office of DDGM.
We keep talking about getting young men into masonry. The “Catch 22” is that those men are beginning careers and jobs, getting married, having kids, helping with kids, looking after aging parents – sometimes they are even single fathers. Are we becoming an additional pressure?? How about targeting middle aged men who are looking for that “something to fulfil them” – men who are settled, the kids are in college or have left home – men who want something more spiritual and visceral in their lives – to belong to “something”?
So, what we can we do??
Well, one step at a time my brethren. Let us regain the focus on WHAT we are, WHAT we do, WHO we are and WHY did we join this organization??
Every – and I mean – every Mason, from our Entered Apprentices to our District Deputy Grand Masters – should make themselves knowledgeable and be able to practice what to say to an inquisitive non-Masons in a five-minute, impactful response to the following questions:
WHAT ARE WE?
Masonry is the world’s oldest and largest fraternity dedicated to personal development which has inspired change for good, in men and societies worldwide, by engaging all generations and communities. Note this last sentence! All generations and Communities!
WHO ARE WE?
Masons are men who represent all races, faiths, ages, occupations, political ideologies and ranks in life. YET, within our Fraternity, we are all absolutely equal!!
WHY DID I JOIN MASONRY?
This is the most impactful and powerful question for a non-Mason and certainly the most important question for him or her. Saying that joining Masonry was the best decision I ever made in my life! Masonry does not make any man better than any other man – but it does help a man to be the best man that he can be!
WHAT DO MASONS DO TO BENEFIT SOCIETY?
Masonry serves and supports individuals, families, organizations and communities through Lodge, District and Jurisdictional programs – like our Masonic Foundation of Ontario’s bursaries to every Community College, $1.3 million dollar raised in four years for Prostate Cancer Research, contributions to “Help to Hear” and Cochlear Implants, Parents Action on Drugs, Autism Spectrum Disorder and shelters for women and children, etc., etc. Our Masonic Foundation of Ontario gives out over 8 million dollars a year, yet it is our biggest secret!!
WHY DO WE MEET IN LODGES?
Our Lodges are sanctuaries from the hectic and turbulent “fake news” world around us. In our Lodges, we can socialize in comfort, enjoy fellowship, contemplate and learn in harmony, away from the prying eyes of the world.
WHY ARE WOMEN NOT ALLOWED IN MASONRY?
We are a fraternal organization, of and for men! We support men’s needs, beliefs, values, gentlemanly behaviours and this in no way detracts from our respect, appreciation, interaction with, and love for, our wives, partners, girlfriends and families.
Our Masonic branding is stale and non-impactful. Bumper stickers saying “to be one, ask one” means nothing to non-Masons if they don’t know what the symbol of the Square and Compasses stands for.
R.W. Bro. Joe DeMello, an esteemed member of our Public Awareness Committee, has developed a very exciting Power Point presentation on Branding that the Deputy Grand Master really liked and will be assessed further for application.
The Website Manager and Team Leader, V.W. Bro. Dan Hutt, is aggressively revamping our GL website for ease of navigation as well as updating regularly, in a timely manner, and allowing the public areas of access, while also having restricted areas for Mason’s only.
The current website landing page shows (and certainly no offence to anyone) a dignified, silver-haired white man, with strange looking blue and gold stuff on his formal attire. While we, as Masons, can identify with this picture of our Grand Master, it means nothing to a non-mason and can easily give the impression that masonry is a group of “elderly, white men” and may, indeed, send an incorrect message to interested applicants.
Other jurisdictions, such as U.G.L.E., the Grand Lodge of Scotland, Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and the Northern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite website have landing pages showing Masons of all ages, actively enjoying one another’s company while engaged in various social activities within and without their lodges.
The U.G.L.E. “Inside Freemasonry” videos on Netflix/Smithsonian Channel are excellent and I encourage you all to have a look if you have not done so already.
Our DGM has made arrangements to procure some of the graphics and video material from the Northern Scottish Rite Jurisdiction “Not just a Man – Reclaiming the Soul of Freemasonry”.
The time for pamphlets on Masonry is over and done, and W. Bro. Milan Cobanov, Team Leader of Facebook Technology, is working on attractive apps for disseminating information on Freemasonry electronically.
V.W. Bro. Graham Bryce, another excellent member of the Public Awareness team, has devised “The Community Engagement Toolkit” with suggestions for engaging our communities in various themed activities for each month of the year.
This public service is essential as our new Masons will generally come from our local communities – except for those making enquiries via the internet.
We used to know all sorts of family members, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbours, etc. who were Masons or knew Masons. Everyone in the town knew who they were and where the Masonic Temple was located.
In our anonymous society (especially in urban areas), we don’t even know who our next door neighbours are, let alone if they are Masons!
While Scottish Masonry sometimes still frowns on pins, rings and bumper decals as identifiers, we, in our Jurisdiction, should be wearing them proudly and letting everyone we engage with know that we are proud to be Masons. These identifiers should, hopefully, generate questions from non-Masons, such as “What is that ring you are wearing?” or “What kind of pin is that?” And, around the water cooler, don’t just say, “I went to a meeting last night”, tell them, “I went to a Masonic meeting last night and it was great!” We should use these opportunities to talk about our fraternity!! In the words of PGM John Green – “Be proud of who you are, be proud of what you do, be proud to be a Mason”.
We have to stop being depressed and side lined by the “numbers game” – the loss of membership due to age, death, non-payment of dues, demits, etc. is inevitable but, as W. Bro. Andrew Hammer stated in his Grand Master’s Banquet Address last July, we must focus on the quality of the Masonic experience in Freemasonry, the wonderful happiness of feelings of friendship, respect and brotherly love for our fellow masons and mankind in general. That is what attracted us to Freemasonry in the first place, NOT a desire to do ritual work!
R.W. Bro. Steven Hearn has shared some of his excellent presentations on the need for public awareness with me and I sincerely congratulate him on his forward-thinking vision on the power of public awareness in strengthening our Craft in our Lodges, Districts and Jurisdiction and hope that he inspires his fellow DDGMs to follow his wonderful example in doing the same!!
Remember, Public Awareness is NOT just about attracting and recruiting new members, it is about our manifesting our very presence to the world at large – that is remembering that every act we do is putting our “best foot forward”!
“To enlarge the sphere of social happiness is worthy of the benevolent design of a Masonic Institution and it is most reverently to be wished, that the conduct of every member of the fraternity, as well as those publications that discover the principles which actuate them, may tend to convince mankind that the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race?”George Washington, 1793
“Courage is the first of human qualities, because it is the quality which guarantees all the others”