I'd like to share a few things I have witnessed, not only personally but I have conversed and visited with many other Brethren that see the same problem of member retention that appears to be having a very negative impact on the Craft of Freemasonry. I realize the problem is by no means a new one, but I feel a need to share my experience because being silent about it, I fear is a root cause of the problem itself.
A few years ago due to a job change, I had to move from one part of the State to another which in turn meant I also had to search my new area for another Lodge to call home, as my mother Lodge was way too far away to make it to the meetings. Once I got settled in and acclimated to the area my search for a new Lodge began. First, I did my homework. The Grand Lodge website in my jurisdiction has a Lodge locator icon which made my search quite a bit easier. So, I found out where the Lodges around me were located, got an idea of the number of members for each Lodge, and the meeting dates and began my quest.
I spent many evenings each month putting on my suit and tie and visiting Lodges around the area. It was during this quest I noticed some very obvious things happening at every single Lodge I paid a visit to. The first thing I noticed about these many Lodges was that there was absolutely no substance to their meetings, they were quite literally just passing the minutes of the prior months meeting and paying the bills, while opening and closing the Lodge in the short way; which in my jurisdiction doing so skips out on the most important charges of opening and closing a Lodge. The other thing I noticed was that all of these Lodges had a decently large amount of dues paying members, but very few showed up for the stated meetings. Can you blame the Brothers that didn't attend if this was all they saw. I do, but I have to admit that at first I did not blame them one bit. It wasn't until I dove deeper into my own personal Masonic studies that I realized that not showing up because of boring meetings was wrong.
If I have made one mistake when it comes to my journey through Masonry, it is that I gave up and became one of those Brothers that quit going to Lodge because of the lack of anything substantial to a meeting. I gave up looking for another Lodge, kept my dues current with my mother Lodge and decided to stay home and study Masonry by myself. That is exactly what I did, and after a while on my own and through my studies I realized what a huge mistake I was making. I was not only doing a disservice to my own Masonic journey but I was letting the Craft down as well. The disservice to my journey was that I was shorting myself of the fellowship and guidance of more experienced Brethren, I was missing the bond of Brotherhood that Freemasonry really has. I also realized that by staying away because of dull meaningless meetings was doing a huge disservice to the Craft because if I wasn't there to help fix this problem, I certainly had no right to complain about it; what if there were Brothers that showed up and wanted to help fix it but felt they were alone in this and remained silent as a result.
What happened next, after I learned this lesson, (and believe me Brothers it was a hard one to swallow) it seems that the G.A.O.T.U. purposely felt I needed to learn this because the next Lodge I visited was "the one". It is a small country Lodge with a little over 100 dues paying members. Unfortunately they also have the same situation of a lack of members showing up on a regular basis, but the men that do are the greatest people I ever could have asked for to have the honor of calling them my Brothers! They are dedicated, loyal and very serious about Masonry. Most months we do get a visitor or two and of the regular members sometimes we barely get enough to show up to fill the appointed chairs but each month we draw back more and more, and proudly there is absolutely no lack of Masonic education. I have now fully transferred to this Lodge and as of St. Johns day next, been elected as the Junior Warden.
Brethren, I wrote this article not with the intention of complaining but with the intention of sharing my mistake so that hopefully a lot of others don't go down the same road and give up completely. Remember that Freemasonry entitles us to much but it promises us nothing. We cannot learn its lessons and grow to be better men, Brothers, husbands, fathers and sons if we do not apply ourselves. If you happen to be a member in one the the above type Lodges, please do what you can to help improve it or stop complaining about it. If you are going to do what you can to help your Lodge, keep in mind Masonry is not easy; its not supposed to be nor does it need to be. The best things in life are the things you work hard for and Masonry will reward you but only if you work for it. S.M.I.B.
First published, The Working Tools Masonic Magazine, © December 2012