One of our Masonic Districts (in Ontario) published last year a sad statistics: the average attendance of the members in their lodges is about 20-25%. I can attest that in my present lodge (in a different district) it is the same. Sometimes even lower and if it is not so visible on some evenings, it’s only thanks to the visitors present. Although, even when it comes to visitors, I have to add that based on my year long experience as a JW when I visited rigorously and regularly all the 13 lodges in my District (Hamilton District C) – there was a group of dedicated Masons (some of them retired and with lots of time on their hands) that I saw again and again in every lodge as visitors. (Probably, they would say the same about me…)
A small lodge room is easier to be filled with members to create the impression that is full of people. In a large room, even the same number of members present would give you that unpleasant feel of emptiness and disinterest implied.
We should sell or rent our huge lodge rooms and buildings to fulfil a better role in the communities where they are. And we should return to small lodge rooms, create small, intimate lodge rooms where the atmosphere of brotherhood could be better experienced. Anyway, the time of the huge “mega lodges” is over! What’s the point of having (on paper) 104 members out of which only 15-20 show up on the lodge nights? I’d rather have a lodge of 40-50 people maximum but all dedicated to Masonry, having an attendance of 80-90% and active participation in all lodge activities.
Small lodge rooms will not improve Masonry by themselves. However, they could create a better starting point for the Masonic experience. They radiate warmth and create energy.
Yes, they wouldn’t be able to accommodate huge number of members… but consider this:
The quality of our membership must always remain foremost, in our hearts and minds, when we consider proposals for change. We must not lose the true perspective of the function of a Masonic Lodge. Its function primarily, is not to initiate candidates or merely to enlarge its membership. Its chief concern is – or should be – education, learning, being happy within ourselves and more importantly, communicating that happiness to others. That is what Masons do.
P.S. The last paragraph is not my text! It was written by the M.W. Donald A. Campbell, Grand Master of our Grand Lodge in 2015, and it is a quote from one of his addresses. I thought I’d let you know before you start arguing with “me”…
P.P.S. This post was (partially) inspired by the beautiful pictures of the Keewatin Lodge #417 – photos © by Robert Thompson, used with permission