Masonry Today


Masonry Today

Masonic Spring Workshop  1990  Part Two  

Bro. Myron Lusk

Brethren, my job is to speak to you on the subject "Masonry Today."
As I see it, your job is to listen.  If you finish your job before
I finish mine, please have the courtesy not to leave the
auditorium.

"Fagin" in the wonderful musical, Oliver, sings an amusing number,
I've Been Reviewing The Situation.  Well, I've been reviewing the
situation of "Masonry Today," and it is not so funny.
     
Our membership is declining. Average age is increasing. Attendance
is down. Filling the roster of Officers is difficult.
Amalgamations are becoming more frequent. Lodge buildings are being
sold. There is concern about the finances of Grand Lodge. Some
church leaders are condemning our Order.  Alas, alack! Alas, alack!
Woe is me! Perhaps we should just heed the words of another popular
song of years gone by, Let's Call The Whole Thing Off.
     
Have I got your attention? Are the "hackles" standing up on the
back of your necks? I can hear you gritting your teeth from here.
Good for you! Good for Freemasonry!

Freemasonry has weathered many a storm before.  It will continue to
outlive dictators, demagogues, persecutors, slanderers and
ourselves.  Masonry's truths can never be silenced.  Remember the
devastating blow the Craft suffered when the "Morgan Incident"
scandalized our Order. A man, named Morgan, who may or may not have
been a Mason, supposedly intended to publish and expose of the
"secrets" of Masonry.  He, mysteriously, disappeared from Batavia,
N.Y., in 1826.  Masons were blamed.  Rumour had it that he was
spirited across the border to Canada and killed.  Later research
indicates he may have taken a boat which was shipwrecked in the
British West Indies or Cayman Islands. Facts are sketchy. There are
many fanciful descriptions of the event that we can only view as
conjecture.  But, Morgan did vanish. Subsequently, a wave of
anti-masonry swept the United States.  There was even an
"Anti-Masonic Political Party" which ran a slate of candidates in
Fe deral elections.  Things looked mighty grim for our Fratern ity.
The Grand Lodge of Michigan suspended labour in 1829.  Subordinate
Lodges were ordered to do the same.  All complied, with the
exception of the youngest Stoney Creek Lodge. It continued for
several years in the home of one Brother Millerd.  Anti-Masonic
fervour was so intense that neighbours quarrelled and families
divided.  Brother Millerd's church became so outspoken that, for
the sake of peace, he asked the Lodge to move.

Through all this turmoil persevered a faithful Tyler, Bro. Daniel
B. Taylor. Every meeting night he would set up the Lodge, light a
candle, place it in the window, fire up his pipe and sit down to
read. Even if no one came, he would wait until the usual time to
"close the Lodge," blow out the candle, lock the door and go home.
Brother Taylor continued this dedicated vigil in solitude until, in
1841, the furore of anti-Masonic sentiment subsided.  The Grand
Lodge was then revived. Darkness had been dispelled by the enduring
faith of our Brother Taylor.  Problems today are not so black and
white.  They are complex and insidious.  We are feeling the heat.
Great heat is what puts the temper into fine steel.  From the fire
of love for Freemasonry we must forge the Daniel Taylors of
"Masonry Today."

There is nothing wrong with the foundation of Freemasonry.  The
beautiful messages of morality we are taught in our magnificent
ceremonies are pertinent and timeless.  We do not need to reduce
the eloquence of language therein contained to common
conversational text.  Its grandeur elevates us to an uncommon
level.  We are on the right track.  But, as Arthur Godfrey said,
"Even if your are on the right track, you will get run over it you
just stand there."

Instead of worrying and wringing our hands, lamenting our slow
demise, we must look at ourselves.  We must take courageous action,
now.

What can we do today? Masonry encouragers us to think for
ourselves.  We have grown too inward and self-serving.  The
landmark of "Secrecy" has become distorted, misused and
misunderstood.  Do not think that I advocate the divulging of
signs, tokens or words. I hold as sacred the solemn Obligations we
take to preserve our modes of recognition.  However, if the world
at large is kept ignorant of what we profess and the quality of men
who serve our Lodges, we are doing nothing more than patting
ourselves on t he back and telling each other what fine fellows we
are.  If we do not recognize this failing to communicate with the
"profane," we may shrivel to a small, elite group of old men headed
for extinction, or at least insignificance.

Referring once more to a musical play, the question is asked, "Why
is the Fiddler On The Roof?" No one knows. The blind answer is,
"Tradition." The public secrecy we practise is not tradition.
Freemasonry used to be very visible.  Cornerstone layings for
public buildings were done by the Masonic Lodge in full regalia.
Grand Lodge Installations were covered by the press, with names and
pictures of the Elected officers being printed.  Our benevolence
was well known.  The Masonic Lodge was held in high esteem by the
public.
     
Today, the average person does not have the slightest notion who we
are, what we stand for, or that we even exist.  For all they know,
we might be the same as the Ku Klux Klan or some cult. What
happened? Who said we can't tell the world about ourselves? It is
time we show some common sense and discretion in educating the
public as to the noble purpose of Freemasonry.  I am proud to be a
Mason.  You are proud.  Why should we be reluctant to tell
non-members of our love for the Craft? Our reticence is utter
nonsense!

Why would any worthy man want to become a member of a Fraternity he
knows nothing about? Perhaps he has heard uncomplimentary
references to our "secret society." Is it only for rich people? Is
it for influential executives or politicians? Does it cost too much
for the ordinary working man? Is it prejudicial in nature? Does it
revile religion? Why can't we tell the world what we really stand
for? Is it "Tradition?"

There is a very humorous story told about Winston Churchill
regarding the subject of "Tradition." When he was made Lord of the
Admiralty, Churchill set out to modernize and re-organize the Royal
Navy. It had become dangerously obsolete, both in thinking and
equipment. The "Old Guard" were appalled by the changes he was
instituting.  They angrily declared that this young upstart knew
nothing of the "Traditions" of the Royal Navy. When confronted with
this change, Churchill stated, "I certainly do know the tr aditions
of the Royal Navy.  There are three, and I will name them for you:
Ruin, Sodomy and the Lash!!"

This story illustrates what I am trying to say. Many matters that
have become practise are imposed for selfish or opinionated
reasons. They have no real relationship to the purpose or welfare
of the organization. They precipitate crisis!

To survive and grow we must have new members. I do not suggest that
we should solicit on street corners or hold membership contests.
However, a discreet, controlled public relations program can be
developed. The need for such effort is undeniable.

During the summer of 1988, the Masonic Renewal Task Force was
established in the United States.  The sixteen members were Grand
Masters, past Grand Masters and Leaders from the Shrine, Scottish
Rite, York Rite and Masonic Service Association. They engaged a
national survey company (Barton-Gillet) to determine the prevailing
attitudes of both the public and our own members toward
Freemasonry.  The results of this survey were printed in the May,
1989 issue of the Northern Light magazine, the official publicat
ion of the Supreme Council 33 Degree, Ancient and Accepted Scottish
Rite of Freemasonry, Northern Jurisdiction U.S.A. I have also
obtained a videotape presentation of the survey from the Masonic
Service Association, entitled: A Report on the Findings of American
Attitudes Toward Joining Freemasonry. A copy of this tape was
presented to each Grand Lodge in the United States. I will, gladly,
make my copy available to the Grand Lodge of Alberta.

The survey represents an average of the American male population.
Among non-members surveyed, about 30 per cent said they were
familiar with Freemasonry; 23 per cent not very familiar; 36 per
cent knew the name only; 11 per cent never heard of the
organization.  When asked about their possible interest in joining,
only 2 per cent were definitely interested; 22.2 per cent maybe
interested; 25.3 per cent probably not interested; 50.5 per cent
definitely not interested.  When asked which ideas of Masonry were
least attractive or unacceptable, the majority responded that they
did not know.  About 10 per cent replied that they thought the
Fraternity was too clannish, secretive or ritualistic.  Asked to
name a word or phrase to describe Masonry, the largest single
response was that they did not know, and 14 per cent said,
secretive.  Recommendations of the survey company were mainly
directed to more communication with the public and our own members,
particularly the inactive ones, who comprise two-thirds of our mem
bership. I strongly urge our Grand Lodge to seriously study the
valuable information revealed.

Today's society is not what it was during the great growth years of
our Fraternity.  We now have more two-income families and more
distractions competing for men's time. People are more mobile and
pleasure seeking, with a greater move to health and fitness
activities.  We used to draw membership from specific workplaces.
The Lodge was a social centre.  Now, business and community
functions are more fragmented.

We can easily see that competition has made the theory of the
"better mousetrap" no longer viable. The packaging, advertising and
promotion of an item is often more expensive than the product
itself. In the final analysis, the quality of the product may be
what retains the customers, but the first objective is to attract
the customer.  About the only business that makes money without
publicity is the Mint!

Masonry is not a business. However, unless we conduct our affairs
in a more practical, business-like manner, we will continue to be
in trouble.  We must accept the fact that there is great social
competition.  It is tough out there!

Our competition is not the concordant bodies. I feel the
condemnation of Masonically related organizations for alienating
the loyalty of Craft Lodge members is futile, unfair and
self-destructive. It is my personal observation that those who are
active supporters of concordant bodies are also among the best
workers in their Mother Lodges.  Should we not be proud of the
90,000 Shriners who, in 1989, paraded in Toronto and contributed
$1,000,000 to the Burns Hospital? Is that bad for Craft Masonry?
The Scotti sh Rite Charitable Foundation of Canada achieved a
$3,000,000 level in their Capital Fund for 1989.  The interest from
this Fund is given every year to sponsor study and research in the
field of Mental Retardation and Alzheimer's Disease.  Can that be
bad for the Masonic Lodge? I think not! The absolute reality is
that members of concordant bodies are Craft Masons. The welfare of
Craft Masonry is vital to those organizations.  Let us live in
amity.  "Let the world see how Masons love one another. "

Using the concordant bodies as "whipping boys" for our ills reminds
me of the story of the protective mother who was entering her son
in school. She advised the teacher: "My Harold is very sensitive.
If you need to punish him, slap the boy next to him.  That will
frighten Harold and he will give you no more trouble."

Let's cure our own ills and stop blaming others or our own problems
and failings.  We must spend our energies educating non-members and
lending finding ways to re-activate present members.  That is no
small task, but we can start by finding out why they become
inactive.  We can determine what would make the Lodge more
attractive to all our members.
     
We must, individually and collectively, communicate with worthy men
whom we feel are suitable candidates to benefit from the teachings
and fellowship of the Masonic Lodge.  Through our social contacts
with these men and their wives we can subtly lead them to petition
our Lodges.

Consider the example of a positive and successful idea implemented
by a small town Lodge in the Province of Saskatchewan.  They were
struggling to retain their Charter.  The members and their wives
held a banquet at the Lodge Hall, inviting their sons, grandsons,
nephews and other quality men with their wives.  After the banquet
they gave talks on what Freemasonry stands for and how it
contributes to the betterment of mankind.  They also explained that
membership in our Fraternity must be applied for; that we cannot
solicit members.  Many of the men present were sufficiently
impressed that they applied for membership.  The Lodge is now
flourishing with the infusion of new enthusiasm.
 
We cannot sit on our hands or wring them in agony of our plight.
We must reach out to extend the embrace of friendship to worthy
men.  We must show these men and their wives that the Masonic Lodge
is not some forbidding, secret Temple, but a refuge for those who
seek peace, harmony and brotherly love.

In closing, I say Masonry Today must realize that our Fraternity is
too great to resign to defeat.  We are not doomed to decline.  We
are not destined to a failure we cannot resist.  However, if we do
not take positive action our outlook is dismal.

So, harnessing all the creative energy God has blessed us with, let
us make Masonry Today the beginning of a glorious renewal for
Masonry Tomorrow!