Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Man in the Mirror

Why is change so difficult in the Craft? Is change necessary? Should we just weather the storm? All of these questions continue to be asked throughout the fraternity. Some Lodges are experiencing a renaissance and others fade from existence. Some experience success with change and other are holding firm with tradition. So what is the right answer? Perhaps there is no one right answer. The solutions of failing Lodges are as diverse as the Lodges themselves.

The many issues at hand in keeping the Craft alive in many areas seem to be almost impossible to solve. Oftentimes we feel like the little Dutch boy trying to keep the dyke from breaking. For many the answer is to just stop trying – and they stop coming. For others, they become over-reactive and try to be everything to everyone and they burn out, often grow bitter and then stop coming. So what is the answer?

I would suggest moderation and an honest assessment of your particular Lodge and its membership.

One item that might be useful is to consider why your Lodge is where it is. Many Lodges formed because there was a basic need. Perhaps there was not another Lodge for quite some distance. Then consider what might have kept the Lodge going. Perhaps the factory which brought in members (and thereby forming a unifying social experience) is now closed. Each of our communities has its own unique story. An analysis of your Lodge’s history and its reason for creation as well as the socio-economic environment in which it exists might provide some useful information.

The direction of the Lodge is also something which needs to be taken into consideration. Does your Lodge even have one? Taking a Lodge consisting of older Brethren who have been brought up with social Masonry and changing it into a Lodge with a full-blown esoteric emphasis might not be successful. What type of Lodge do you belong to? Would the Lodge and/or the area support the style of Lodge you would like to see created? Would the formation of a social or esoteric club provide the needed activity while preserving the current feeling of the Lodge’s purpose?

Another frequently asked question is “How much is too much?” In the rush to provide activities and to appeal to the general membership are we exhausting ourselves? How do we appeal to everyone? My answer is that we can’t and we shouldn’t. There will always be a core membership who attends and many who don’t. To continue to cater to the absent masses without result, in my opinion, takes away time and energy from those who do. A balance in activities might be the best bet. Not everyone wants to attend family/children-friendly functions, or alcohol permitted stags, etc. Each is important, but in balance to allow for the inclusion of everyone. Pulling Brothers away from their families many nights a week may cause some family strife which may result in absenteeism. Balance is key.

When I was a District Deputy, there was a constant grumbling among many of the Lodges in my district. “It’s all Grand Lodge’s fault”, they would cry, “Why don’t they do something?” The answer is, they can’t. They can provide programs and instruction, but they can’t make a Lodge successful. It is the Lodge’s responsibility to do so. So my Brothers, take a long hard look at yourselves. Be brutally honest. What makes your Lodges what they are? What would you like to change and what can you realistically change? Do you want to change?

Only the man in the mirror can give you the answers.