ACTIVITY – BROTHERLY LOVE – COMMUNICATION
Much has been written and said about Masonic Renewal in North America. Many jurisdictions are implementing programs and urging their constituent lodges to embark on renewal programs.
“There is an urgent need for focusing on membership, making meetings interesting and good communication within the Lodges and the community… If we are to keep their attendance, we must convince them that we have something of value and interest for them.”~ M. W.Bro. Bruce Porter Masonry in Manitoba, No., 1994
“Masonic Renewal then, as it is necessary and, as it is to be achieved, is from the `bottom-up’ – a grass roots effort to which every Brother can and must make a contribution.”~ W.Bro. Juggi Uppal Grand Lodge of Alberta Bulletin February 1995
I believe that however compelling the arguments for Masonic Renewal are, unless individual Lodges embrace the program and personalize the process to one of Lodge Renewal, the Fraternity will continue to suffer the consequences of an aging and declining membership.
It is very easy for us at the jurisdictional level to endorse the Masonic Renewal Programs, provide materials applicable to our respective jurisdictions and recognize and praise the efforts of individuals and Lodges. If, however, Masons in their own Lodges do nothing but read the materials and acknowledge the efforts of others, meaningful change will not take place.
The Masonic Renewal literature indicates that:
- “The Fraternity need not make any changes in its fundamental beliefs or in what it offers a member in order to grow.”
- “The fellowship and fraternal needs of men are among the strongest and most compelling reasons why men would join any organization.”
- “The Lodge must recognize how important the family and the community are to the member and must find ways to satisfy these needs in the Lodge.”
- “The fraternity needs to recognize that the needs of more youthful members contrasts significantly with the needs of the older members and it should accommodate those differences in the plans and strategies the Lodge develops.”
- “Members who have not yet determined their real interest or satisfaction in Freemasonry are most easily influenced by Lodges interested in their welfare and in their satisfaction . . . Since a man’s principle reasons for joining include; fraternity, fellowship, community involvement, family involvement and leadership, the Lodge should move to have him become involved in these areas immediately.”
- “Leadership development opportunities and opportunities to lead are important needs of future members.”
There is no doubt that some things must change if our Fraternity is to flourish. However, no Grand Lodge can dictate change; in fact, no Lodge can dictate change. The Brethren of each constituent Lodge must see the need to change and then personally embark on a program of Masonic Renewal.
Michael Fullan, a noted educator, has stated that: “Only when individuals take actions to alter their own environment is there any chance for meaningful change.” He goes on to state that “change requires top down and bottom up actions.”
J.I. Goodland, who writes extensively about restructuring the education system, has observed: “Renewal – whether of ponds, gardens, people, or institutions – is an internal process, whatever the external concerns and stimulants. It requires motivation, dedication, systematic and systemic evolution, and time.”
The task of Masonic Renewal is daunting to most of us. I propose that each Lodge be challenged to do something. The challenge must be devised in such a way that immediate results are evident (measurable) and that success at that level leads the Lodge to attempt more ambitious undertakings. Lodges should concentrate their initial efforts in the areas of planning and holding more activities, fostering Brotherly Love, and by improving the frequency and quality of communication from the Lodge to its members and their families.
Every Lodge should be challenged to plan a new activity or re-institute an activity that `hasn’t been done for years.’ The planning should involve as many as possible: new members, spouses, widows, inactive members; all can contribute ideas and many can contribute some time to bring the event to fruition. The purpose of the new activity should be to bring the Lodge family together. It is not necessary that the event be newsworthy, raise money or be associated with membership recruitment. Consideration should be given to activities that don’t necessarily take place in a Lodge hall or that occurs in the evening.
M. W.Bro. Bruce Porter, the Grand Master of Manitoba, in the January 1995 issue of “Masonry in Manitoba” addresses the meaning of Brotherly Love in Freemasonry. He defines the practice of Brotherly Love as “to act with a true desire to seek the good of our brother, our neighbour and our fellow mortal…It is something we do (or not do) as a deliberate choice and of our own will, because we have consciously decided that this is what is required of us.”
The Masonic Renewal literature suggests that the most frequent reasons stated by potential members as to why they might join Masonry are the opportunity to meet other people and engage in community service, charity and friendship.
Lodges must understand how important friendship and fellowship are and how important it is for the Lodge to be engaged in activities that foster Brotherly Love. There are many opportunities to initiate programs in this area. A Lodge may wish to initially restrict itself to internal initiatives such as regular visitation to sick and shut in members, their spouses or widows. Get well cards and birthday cards might be sent. The Lodge might wish to initiate an activity involving member’s children or grandchildren. In many instances, Brethren would welcome a hand about their homes or gardens.
Visitations to other Lodges are also a possibility. Every Lodge could resolve to organize a visit to a Lodge that its members normally do not attend. That simple initiative could lead to many hours of fellowship.
More ambitious Lodges may look outside the Masonic fraternity to demonstrate their desire to be of service to the community. There are many opportunities for Lodges to participate in one-time or ongoing community projects. The emphasis should be on personal participation by Lodge members.
Every Lodge should review how it communicates with its members and their families. In this day of telephone answering machines, word processing, fax machines and VCRs, is it realistic for Lodges to mail out one sheet of paper, badly typed, with a fill in the blank for the dates for the meetings of the Lodge for the next two months? We must remember that in some cases the monthly (or bimonthly) notice is the only communication a member has with his Lodge. Communication should be two way. Members should be asked to provide their opinions on initiatives being considered by the Lodge. Lodge newsletters could report on a recent activity, provide short biographies of members and acknowledge the accomplishments of members or their families in the community.
The responsibility for improved communication should not be borne by the Lodge Secretary alone. No doubt most Lodges would have at least one member who has access to word processing equipment and a photocopier. Perhaps an inactive member would design a newsletter, help stuff envelopes or become a member of a telephone committee.
I have heard some say that if a Mason wants to know what is happening in his Lodge, then he should attend its meetings! That statement makes no sense to me whatsoever. Certainly we want members to attend but they should not be penalized if they do not. Communication is the key to revitalizing our Lodges. It will encourage the Brethren to retain their membership and will hopefully lead men to petition Lodges to become Masons.
I realize that there will be no quick fix for Freemasonry. I’m not completely convinced that it “is broke”! The fraternity has survived nearly three hundred years by embracing its mission of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Masons have adopted new ways of communicating as technologies have changed. Masons have created concordant bodies to meet their Masonic education and philanthropic needs. Masons have demonstrated an ability to survive in totalitarian states. Masons continue to reflect a caring attitude toward each other and their communities. Grand Lodge Officers must assist their constituent Lodges to examine their current programs and modes of operation. Every Lodge is capable of and must contribute to Masonic Renewal. Lodge officers should be encouraged to introduce changes, however small, into the life of their Lodges.
These changes will lead to a renewed pride in membership by the Brethren. Masons who are proud of their membership are the Lodge’s best ambassador. Freemasonry is embarking on an exciting journey. I believe that we are capable of meeting the challenge.
~ R.W.Bro. Richard A.H. Brown, Senior Grand Warden, Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan