Let’s start a simple exercise: imagine you have the “reset” button that will restart the work in our lodges when life returns to what we considered normalcy. How would you want to reset the regular working? Even in the case of an optimal scenario we have had more than a year to ponder our future. While some are just complaining and whinnying about the „big loss” that a prospect(?) might have to wait for a year to process his request to join, others see an opportunity to reshape the Craft in their own jurisdiction.
Here is what I hope to see around me in this great jurisdiction:
- Difficult to join. Make it a privilege.
- Be a unique, exclusive group of likeminded men.
- Have only highly qualified likeminded men.
- Put high value on the unique experience! Don’t sell it cheap.
- Investigators must judge the character.
- No more degree mills…
- If necessary, lose a few members (separate the chaff from the wheat)
- Raise the dues to cover your expenses!
- Have small lodges.
- Mentoring by levels: literary, allegorical, symbolic.
- Get rid of “progression line” for officers – by merit only.
- Rethink and reform the GL evaluation criteria!
This was the TLDR version [too long, didn’t read] for the members with short attention span. And for those that would like to learn more, including the reasons behind some of the desired changes – continue reading and you will find a more elaborate, detailed explanation of the short sentences above.
Difficult to join. Make it a privilege – because it is. Or, at least it should be. It was never intended to be a large „mass” organization. Don’t just hand out an application when someone is knocking on the door. We should make an effort to get to know the seeker (of the light, as they are called in some places). Make sure they are a good fit for the Craft and for our own particular lodge. Show that we are an exclusive group of likeminded men. This idea is, actually, present in our teaching – Guard the West Gate… we just forgot about it in the past half century.
Don’t be afraid to be unique. By all reports, young men knocking on our doors are looking for something special, something unique… so why don’t we offer them exactly that? A unique, exclusive group of likeminded men. All on the life-long journey together to transform that rough ashlar that we are when we enter the lodge, into a perfect ashlar. This is not a quick self-help fix! It requires devotion, dedication and willingness to learn and grow.
Consequently, I want our lodges to be formed by highly qualified likeminded men! Highly qualified in this context doesn’t refer to their formal education in universities and colleges (although it doesn’t hurt having some) but more to their qualification in order to be considered knowledgeable in the teachings of Freemasonry. Because if our lodges function just as any other dining club, additionally with some fancy aprons… then why would anybody want to join?
On the other hand, if we offer a unique experience, we should also put a high value on it. Including monetary value. In plain English: don’t try to sell Freemasonry cheap! Not everybody should be a Mason and Freemasonry is definitely not for everybody.
Direct the investigating committee to do a real job, not only a simple formality. Because it is not just a jovial discussion about weather – they are there to judge the character of the applicant, and to provide trustworthy information for the Master and the lodge. And again, we shouldn’t be afraid to say NO. Do not accept every application just because we are polite people…!
We should abolish the degree-mill-mentality and focus on quality candidates that would stick around. Statistics clearly show that we have a retention issue, not a lack of candidates. If we offer something special instead of what’s usual in our lodges, they will stay and enjoy it.
If the lodge will lose a few members because they drifted away during the pandemic, see it as an excellent opportunity to get rid of those that were never meant to be in the lodge. Difficult times help to separate the chaff from the wheat. I wouldn’t mind seeing gone those that cause discord, those that are wilfully ignorant, and those that come out once a year or never. Why do we need them?
(I know the answer: because they pay the dues…) So, raise the dues to cover your expenses! Begging for money under various pretexts, just to be able to maintain your lodge building – is not “fundraising”. It is a sad image of Freemasonry: going around preaching high moral values and boasting about charity… while not able to reach into our own pockets to keep our lodge room running. Time to get rid of this hypocrisy!
I want to see small lodges, maybe 40-50 members. That is the number when I still know everyone personally, I can relate to them and can keep personal contact. Above that number it’s just a faceless crowd.
Once a candidate is initiated, assign a mentor, a knowledgeable brother, who will sit down and go through every word, every sentence in the ritual that has been spoken during the ceremony. From the opening till the closing everything that happened and was heard during the conferral of the degree. [Perhaps, some of the existing members would also need such a teaching, if it was neglected after their initiation.]
Encourage discussion in the lodge and outside about the allegorical and symbolic meanings of the words that were made understood in the previous step! While during the pandemic we all got used to listening to famous guest speakers, we should demand that our members prepare and present their own essays, lectures based on their reading and interpretation. If they cannot perform such a task… maybe they are in the wrong „club”. I’d rather prefer a member who is not able to perfectly memorize the ritual but is able to express his thoughts about abstract notions referred to in the ritual.
We should not push every member through the chairs as soon as they „proved” themselves in the third. By the way, what kind of „proving” in Masonic science is mechanically memorizing answers to a few questions? If he was able to memorize those answers, can we consider him a „master” of his domain?
Get rid of the „progressive line” of officers! Not everybody is a leader and not everybody will perform well in a leadership position. Why to destroy the lodge by forcing otherwise valuable members to do things that don’t serve well neither the lodge nor them? What’s wrong with spending more than one year in a chair if it is good for the lodge? Even our constitution says by merit only – yet we forget about it each and every year.
Of course, Grand Lodge should also update their way of thinking and assessing “performance”. The health of the lodge should not be measured by such artificial (nonsense) criteria like how many PMs in the officers’ line, or how many degrees conferred in a year… Also, the official visit of a Grand Lodge dignitary (a.k.a. DDGM) should not push for performing a degree – even if it’s fake, mocking a solemn initiation by a using a “stand-in”. An essay presented by a member of the lodge, followed by a meaningful discussion and learning moment should suffice even for a DD to assess the lodge’s vitality.
Which also means that we should elect in high leadership positions not by age and by time spent in the lodge… but making sure that knowledge and skills will provide a true guidance for the lodges and for the members. By the same token: we should also re-think the task and duties of the district leadership, especially having in mind that a two-year term might be more useful if the formal administrative duties are removed. (e.g. no need to visit every lodge 2-3 times during the year they serve: visiting once in the 2-years term should be more than enough. The DD saves time and expenses, the lodges save a lot of damaging anxiety…)
I want to see a less bureaucratic Freemasonry – on all levels from Grand Lodge down to the individual lodges. Our documents, our meetings, our interpretation of “freemasonry” is more focused on administrative minutiae than building that “temple” in ourselves.
I want all the so-called business issues resolved in the CoGP (committee of general purposes) meetings, with a minimal requirement for “voting in an open lodge”. The time during the regular meetings in the lodge is too precious to be wasted on such mundane things like reading the minutes, debate of the budget and similar non-Masonic issues. The executive meeting (as the CoGP meeting are called in some lodges) is the ideal place to discuss and approve the ‘business’-related current affairs.
It’s a huge list, I know. Let’s do it one step at a time: start with the one that seems to be the most difficult – the rest will be easier! Just start… before it is too late.