by Jason Eddy
The following is an email that I recently sent to a large group of Masons that I thought was worthy of posting here as well.
I hope that this email finds you doing well and enjoying your summer. I wanted to share some thoughts around the current state of the Craft.
Many, if not all of you, have been told of the dwindling number of Masons in your jurisdiction. Membership is down. Lodge attendance is down. Retention is down. You have heard from Masons at all levels of the causes of these trends. In today’s society, it is difficult to capture a man’s attention. People are busier today than they were in the past, right? All fraternal organizations and civic groups are facing these issues right now, right? Or maybe you have heard the other line of thought. Meetings are too boring. We need more education. We need to be more involved in the community. We need to open up more and be less secretive. We need to start recruiting without actually recruiting. Among the myriad of problem statements, and even among the myriad of proposed solutions, there are some promising ideas….some laudable ideas that could truly lead to improvement within the Craft. However, I would submit that in our current state of existence, very few of these solutions are being applied to very few of these problems.
I would ask you to sit for a moment and think about when the last time you were told of the dwindling numbers within the Craft and how it could be fixed. Can you remember? I would make a sweeping assumption that it was most likely in the Lodge at a meeting, or perhaps some other Masonic event at the district level, or even the state level. Am I right? Now take that a step further…who was sitting next to you at that meeting? Another sweeping assumption on my part would be that it was probably one of the same guys who shows up at every Stated Meeting…participates in every Lodge event…and has been through the Progressive Line at least once within the first 5-7 years of being a Brother. Why is that important? It is important, my Brother, because in my opinion we are simply preaching to the choir. We are not reaching the very men that we spend so much time discussing.
Let me digress a bit. I was once told by a good friend and Brother that Brother George Washington attended less than ten Masonic functions in his entire life. Yet he was able to spread the Light of Masonry into every corner of the United States. Arguably, to this day, Brother Washington continues to inspire not only those who are already members of our Gentle Craft, but inspires those seeking to be more like him! Why do I share this? Because, as a Craft, we seem to give up on those who have already joined our ranks so that we can seek out those who have not. My limited experience would suggest that most Lodges have an average attendance of 10-15% of their membership. How many of us have taken the time to reach out to the other 85-90% of our Brothers? Not just to collect dues, or to lecture them on why they should be attending Lodge, but to extend a hand of Brotherly Love….perhaps to check in to see if they need anything, or perhaps just to share some Masonic wisdom? The point, Brother, is that we have within our ranks many just and upright men who are doing their best to carry the Light of Masonry every day….yet they are forced to keep this Light burning on their own. They find support only when physically sitting in Lodge, and only after having to make amends for their continued absence.
I would propose the following. Reach out to those members who you haven’t seen in Lodge for years, if ever. There are many ways to do this, some more personal than others, but they are available and easily utilized. I would suggest that the most effective, and yet most underutilized communication tool we have access to is email. While many would argue that with our aging membership, email is not an effective tool to communicate, I would say the following. You have an email address. I am sending this email to 500+ Brothers with the click of a button. Many of you have not been to Lodge in sometime. Many of you have perhaps not even thought about Lodge in sometime….and yet you are still my Brother. You are still entitled to the wages of a Master Mason. Perhaps you are unable due to work or familial obligations to actually attend Lodge. Perhaps you are not a social person and simply seek the wisdom that can be gleaned from our ritual. Perhaps you simply feel as if you have been forgotten. I assure you, that this is not the case! We are a Brotherhood that exists not only while in Lodge, but also when abroad in the world….Imagine the feeling of connectedness a Brother, even one who checks his email only every few weeks, would experience if he were to open up his email after a few weeks of time has passed to find a genuine greeting from a Brother Mason. Not an email asking for dues. Not an email complaining about lack of attendance. Simply a greeting to let them know that they are not forgotten. Perhaps some Masonic Education that he can apply in his everyday life that will allow him to improve society in his own way, and in doing so, spread the Light of Masonry!
Many organizations communicate very effectively through email to large groups….and the reality is that the Brother who never has the time to sit down and read the monthly Trestle Board, or the Grand Lodge publications most likely has a smart phone in his pocket. In those few seconds that he glances down at his phone, we as a Craft have the ability to completely change how he will conduct himself as a member of society! Yet it does not stop there…we can make phone calls….personal visits…HAND written letters…and soon, perhaps that Brother…the one who has been nothing more than a talking point during discussions on how to improve retention or grow the rolls….that Brother will begin to realize that he is a part of a true Brotherhood…and who knows…he may even find his way back into the Lodge….But, in my opinion, and even that of our beloved Brother George Washington, attending Lodge is not what makes you a Mason….it is the manner in which you conduct yourself that makes you a Mason….we need to encourage that conduct to ALL of our Brothers…not just those sitting next to us at the Stated Meeting….
With that, I would ask that you reach out to a Brother today…perhaps someone you have never met, but have heard many times in Lodge when discussing low attendance….reach out to them and offer them the hand of Brotherly Love….after all….no matter how badly we want to see capacity crowds sitting in Lodge…these men are still our Brothers…and still deserving of the wages of a Master Mason.