Motoring into the Future

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

 Harley-Davidson Concept Bike – Source Harley-Davidson Facebook Page 
I was surfing Facebook on a Friday night while awaiting snowmagedon to come through east-central Illinois when I saw an advertisement for Harley-Davidson. I have long admired Harley-Davidson (HD) for their innovative products and capturing what I consider the true spirit of an American company.

This ad caught my attention because the bike that HD was promoting was vastly different than anything I had seen before. Generally, when you think of HD motorcycles, what comes to my mind is the big bikes that are often customized by their riders. These have been the backbone of HD’s business for decades.

But this new bike was not anything like the traditional HD products. The FB post said, “Although we’re still committed to staying a leader in heavyweight touring and cruisers, we’re working to develop new ways to reach even more riders, like our lightweight electric concepts.”

As younger generations have come of age, they are not buying as many HD’s as their parents and grandparents did. HD has had four straight yearsof declining sales. In 2017 they had a 10% drop in sales of motorcycles. Numbers like this are simply not sustainable if the company is to survive.

Recognizing their problems, HD has decided to develop and enter into the electric motorcycle market. HD has a goal of adding two million new riders in the US over the coming decade. In many ways this is a company returning to their historical roots. HD as a company evolved out of the bicycle market when William S. Harley and Walter Davison put an engine on a bike in 1903.

The Facebook comments were harsh and critical of HD by many of the “traditional” HD riders. As in typical social media fashion, most of the comments were without fact and mostly based on farfetched non-sense. Many didn’t want anything to change and felt that HD was losing their mind my trying to do something different.

HD is facing reality head on. They are balancing new ventures while staying true to their more recent traditional markets of the bigger bikes. Company leaders know if they do not change and adapt to the current market conditions, they will be out of business. Period. Simply trying to hang onto their legacy, will not be the means to a bright future.

Sound familiar?

~GJK

WB Gregory J. Knott is the Worshipful Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 in Ogden (IL) and a plural member of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.

The Jewel

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR


Midnight Freemason founder Todd Creason recently wrote a piece about a Brother who had objected to being called "Bro."  (https://tinyurl.com/y73zfl4t) It brought to mind a somewhat similar experience I had when I was editor of theMissouri Freemason magazine.

As do many Masonic magazines, ours included a section in the back containing news and events from Lodges around the state. Many of these were stories about Lodges which had recognized Brothers for 50 years of service.

On one occasion I got a rather scathing letter from a Brother with an intense objection to the fact I had called the award a "50-year pin." In his letter, he was adamant about the significance of the award and insisted it should always be called a "50-year jewel." He made impassioned points about how Brothers receiving that award had served the fraternity for nearly a lifetime and deserved more respect than having the award called a "pin."

The fact is I agreed with everything he said about the 50-year members. They were, in fact, among our most esteemed Brothers and they had served the fraternity well. They deserved every bit of the respect the author of the letter called for.

So I wrote him back and told him that; but I added that I didn't see the word "pin" as derogatory, and said I didn't think it detracted from the significance of the award. I noted it is the term Brothers commonly use when they talk about or present it. I also pointed out I didn't write those articles. Rather, the members of the Lodges themselves wrote them and sent them in. The articles almost always referred to the award as a "50-year pin," confirming how common that terminology was. I might also note Ray Denslow, one of our most prolific and respected Masonic authors, called it a "50-year button."

So, in the magazine, I continued to allow authors to use the terminology, "50-year pin;" but that isn’t the end of the story.

Todd's article eloquently talked about respect within the Craft.  While I still believe calling the award a "50-year pin" is not disrespectful, I can't help thinking about that Brother's letter almost every time I see the award presented. I am persuaded that the word "jewel" may elevate its status, or the meaning behind it, just a bit. That pin and the Brother who wears it certainly deserve respect for his service to this fraternity. So, I find myself more and more referring to it as a jewel. That letter I received years ago was caustic in tone, but I am increasingly grateful to the Brother who wrote it. He gave me something to think about.

I might add, this coming April I am eligible to receive my 20-year… jewel.

~SLH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasonsblog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

We’re Still Here

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners
I was in a local gas station here in the booming metropolis of Saint Joseph, Illinois, when the clerk remarked, “The Masons? I didn’t even know you guys were still around.” It took me a minute to realize that I was wearing one of my shirts from Bro. Carl Hern’s company Ascended Masters (Shameless Plug), which featured the Square and Compass on it. I quickly replied to him, “Yes, we’re most definitely still around. If you’re really interested in knowing more, let me know.” As I’m in the gas station quite a bit, I figured he’d either ask or wouldn’t. I’ve read here at this very blog several articles by my brothers in response to Bro. Lance Kennedy’s article: “The Decline of Freemasonry: A Data Analysis, in which he shows something that I had seen Bro. Jon Ruark give a presentation on in 2017, namely that the membership numbers are declining. I’m not writing an article to debate this. The cold hard math does show that if the rates of decline continue as they have been here in the United States, that our fraternity will be a shadow of its former glory. The conversation that I had with the clerk highlights one of the main reasons that we are declining. Hardly anyone knows that we’re still around.

First and foremost, if the public doesn’t know we exist, how can we hope to gain new members? In 2004, the Masonic Service Association of North America tackled the problem of Public Awareness and moving Masonry into the 21stcentury (http://www.msana.com/downloads/abouttime.pdf). Although I might not agree with all the points made in the report, I still think it features a lot of good information that was relevant then and is still relevant. The report summarized the lack of awareness of Masonry as such: “Masons are not visible in the daily life of their communities. Their identity is frequently misunderstood and misrepresented in the press and by religious critics. There is little reserve of positive memories of Masonic activity remaining in our communities. Within eye and ear range of the public, Masons have failed to perform what they profess; consequently, they have lost their significance within the context of community.”

Speaking from my own experiences as a Worshipful Master, one of the main problems that exist at the local lodge level is the engagement of its own membership when it comes to trying to do community outreach. When you have say 10 - 20 members that are fairly active in the lodge, meaning that they occasionally or always show up for meetings, but only 2 of them show up for events that you’ve planned and the membership has voted in favor of at a meeting; then it’s no wonder that we aren’t visible. Even when we do something that should gain some community visibility, like when we give out a Community Builder’s award where the lodge selects a local citizen that has impacted the lives of much of the community and holds a dinner in their honor, we’re not capitalizing on the opportunities that it presents. The lodge might be posting it on social media, but we’re not inviting the rest of the community to celebrate the achievement. The lodge hosts the honorees family and lodge members at a local restaurant, when it should be having the dinner at the local lodge, and it should be inviting the public to dine with them, and it should be using the opportunity to show off the lodge and to gain potential membership. Such an event shouldn’t be happening once a year. The lodge should be doing community events on a monthly basis. However, when you’re not doing anything, or only doing something once a year, it’s no wonder that people don’t know we still exist.

Secondly, we have an identity problem. We’ve all heard the mantras, “Freemasonry is a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” or “We make good men better.”, but that doesn’t quite explain to the average man what we really are about. Reliance on a catchphrases to bring in potential members doesn’t convey what we as an organization are trying to accomplish. In fact, I think it is a banal attempt at marketing ourselves. If you want people to know you exist as an organization, the organization needs to be actively marketing itself and it has to agree on a definition of what it wants to represent. We can’t expect bumper stickers that say: “2B1Ask1” to send potential members to our doors. We can’t continue to take a passive approach and expect our membership numbers to reverse, we need to actively market ourselves and what we represent.

As the MSANA report states: “Under perfect circumstances, the public would know Masons according to the following observable accomplishments: 

  • Building community based on shared Masonic values 
  • Constructing a positive environment for personal growth 
  • Encouraging education, idea sharing, and open discussion 
  • Welcoming diversity across religious denominations, ethnicity and age 
  • Growing leadership ability 
  • Establishing the relevance of Masonic values to contemporary life 
  • Advocating concern for the well-being of other Masons and their families 

Ideally, Masons would be defined as members of a fraternity, which fits the following descriptions: 

  • Masonry is a serious men’s organization, dedicated to self-improvement coupled with community involvement. 
  • Masonry is a provider of camaraderie, trust in each other, instant fellowship, and brotherhood. 
  • Masonry brings together a group of people who emphasize individual excellence. 
  • Masonry is a provider of an atmosphere of inclusiveness.

How do we as a fraternity convey the above ideas to the public? We need to start actively promoting the above ideas via a mass marketing campaign sponsored by each individual state’s Grand Lodge but also at a grass roots level by each individual lodge. At the state level, I’m talking newspaper adverts, radio and television advertisements, as well as ads on Social Media and the internet. At the local level, lodges need to show themselves as an active force in the community, as well as using social media to promote and advertise our lodges. As the MSANA report states: “Freemasonry’s significance to our culture is timeless and offers a major stabilizing influence within our communities. The Masonic identity needs to be understood and observed by the following: 

  • The general public, specifically the individuals who seek knowledge about themselves and their humanity 
  • Our existing members 
  • Potential members who need information about the fraternity’s benefits 
  • Members of the media community 
  • Religious leaders who need to understand the distinction between Masonry and religion 
  • Civic leaders” 

The only way to make all of the above parties understand our identity is to market it to them. Yes, I’m discussing an expenditure of a substantial amount of money, however I believe that we are at the point where the old adage, “You need to spend money to make money.” applies. If our Grand Lodges want to remain in existence and reverse the trend of declining membership, we need abandon the old idea that we can’t or shouldn’t actively market ourselves. I’m not saying that we need to stop guarding the West Gate, we need to make sure that is still done, however we need to make ourselves known so that more men will at least approach it.

Furthermore, as part of this advertising, we need to stress how important the below values are for men today. As the MSANA report says when discussing the benefits of Freemasonry in the 21st century world: “Masonry offers an opportunity for a principled way of life rooted in the following Masonic values: 

  • Integrity
  • Diversity 
  • Inquiry 
  • Community 
  • Vitality

Masons are men who build community through brotherhood that is based on a principled lifestyle. A Mason’s life is deeply rooted in a system of values. Masonry cannot be kept inside the individual; it is a philosophy of fraternity that must be shared in action through numerous experiences, which are lodge-based, personal, and professional.“


I would substitute personal development in place of inquiry. I don’t see the act of asking for information as being one of our values. Instead, I see personal development more in line with our values. Personal Development covers the activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. I personally have observed in my children a lack of certain life skills, for example, although I’ve shown him numerous times, I doubt highly that my 18 year old son could change a tire. As another example, my 16 year old son can’t cook a simple meal for himself. Sure he can microwave a meal, boil an egg, and do other simple kitchen tasks, but if I asked him to cook me a hamburger or pancake for instance, there’s a good chance that he couldn’t do it. Freemasonry can be marketed in such a way to younger generations to show them that Masonry can help teach them these life skills, either from the experience of being with older men who know these things, or by outright setting up workshops to teach them. 

 As a district education officer serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois, I know that Masonic education doesn’t need to be just focus on Freemasonry. Anything that teaches an individual how to be a better person falls under Masonic Education. If we can capitalize on filling a void in young men’s lives where we teach them not only basic life skills, but instill in them values that we as a society are lacking; I truly believe we can turn the tide. However, that again requires marketing a brand which highlights Masonry’s ability to teach these skills and values.

One thing that the MSANA report points out which we need to use to our advantage in marketing is what they call tangible and intangible resources. The report states: “Our Masonic resources are great! Our resource management skills are rusty.” Personally, I couldn’t agree more. To be honest, I never thought much about the great number of resources we have at our disposal as a fraternity. According to the report:

  • "Tangible resources may include the following: 
  • Existing physical structures 
  • Network of over one and one-half million Masonic members 
  • Extensive North American geographic coverage 
  • Lodge facilities with their community centrality—kitchens, libraries, collections, artifacts, exhibits, archives 
  • Existing programs 
  • Masonic clinics and hospitals 
  • Current Masonic publications 
  • Phone and e-mail networks 
  • Lodge-based websites 
  • Financial assets (even if limited) 
  • Contemporary books and films 

Also consider the following examples of intangible resources: 

  • Our good name for doing good works 
  • Centuries of history in multiple countries 
  • Individual talents of each brother 
  • Historical and contemporary cultural associations 
  • Community relationships 
  • Family links 
  • Educational and arts partnerships 
  • A legacy of leadership 
  • Respected values system 
  • Tradition of diversity 
  • Rituals 
  • Mystery 
  • Symbols 
  • Opportunities for self-improvement 
  • Fellowship 
  • Recent positive media exposure through books and films 
  • Community history”

Having so many strong resources at our disposal, we should be able to use them to recruit new members. However, once again, it requires a buy in from all of our membership. Lodges that sit empty except for the nights of their stated meetings are doomed to fail. We need to use our lodges for more than Masonic activities. We need to turn them into communal spaces, where other local organizations can meet in peace and harmony. Forming lasting and strong relationships with organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, Parent Teacher Associations, Rotary Club, among others. This can only help give the local lodge positive PR and word of mouth advertising, but maybe also help in recruitment. Men who sit month after month in a lodge room during a PTA, BSA or Rotary Meeting can’t help but wonder what goes on in that room during a Masonic Meeting, and then due to natural curiosity will want to know more.

Ultimately, the onus is on each and every one of us to advertise Freemasonry. We need to make sure that in our actions that we are setting an example for other men to follow. We need to make sure that our words, both verbal and written are carefully chosen. We must be what we promote ourselves to be. When we wear the square and compass, we must be sure to act according to what they represent. Most importantly, we must make sure that we are as a fraternity adding value to men’s lives. As the MSANA’s reports call to action states: “Now, we must move forward both individually and fraternally. We encourage you to think carefully about how you invest your time, which is everyone’s most valuable asset, and we ask that you use your time on programs and actions that are uniquely Masonic. As we work together, we must ask each other how a program, a meeting, or an event improves and demonstrates our experience of being a Mason. We have not a moment to lose.” We need to make sure that people are aware that we’re still here, and most importantly, that we’re not planning on going anywhere.

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.

Divesting Our Hearts and Minds

Freemasonry with a little Stoicism to begin this New Year

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce


A few days after Christmas, I attended a Masonic funeral service. During the ceremony, the line, "His labors here below have taught him to divest his heart and conscience of the vices and superfluities of life," spoken by the Master, took me back to one of the lessons learned in our degrees. I spent the car ride home digesting that line, really focusing on its deeper meanings. How our work here on Earth teaches us to push aside the struggles and challenges of finding happiness in our everyday life.

In a way, as I attended this funeral just days before the start of 2019, I found myself at that familiar place and time of making a New Year's resolution. I have been re-reading my copy of Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations" and found one of his passages to be similar to one of the lessons on The Working Tools. As Emperor of Rome, he also struggled with purging his mind and heart of the distractions or wants that create dependency.

"Is it possible that one day I shall see you, O my soul, good, simple, indivisible, stripped of every pretense, more solid than the flesh that covers you now? Will you ever know of a day of unclouded love and tenderness? Will you ever be content --- no hopes, no regrets, needing nothing, desiring nothing, animate or inanimate, not even for a moment's pleasure --- nor wanting a little more time to prolong the ecstasy, or a more pleasing room or view or climate, or more sweet accord in your relations with others? When will you be content with your present condition, happy with all you have, accepting it as a gift from the gods and acknowledging that all is well with you and that will be well? When will you understand that the gods hold dear those gifts (the good, the just, the beautiful) they intend for the preservation of a living whole --- gifts that nourish the universe by gathering and binding the primal elements dispersed by dissolution and decay and needed for new creation? Will there ever come a day, O my soul, when you can live in the company of men and gods, blameless in their eyes, without blaming that at all?"

Many centuries have passed since Aurelius' time, even more since the beginning of Freemasonry. Yet, we still find ourselves searching for the answers to ancient questions. Instead of asking how, perhaps we should be asking when? Is NOW a good time to begin divesting your heart and conscience of the vices and superfluities in YOUR life? Less than half of all New Year's resolutions are successful, but remember, an obligation is for life. I wish you all the best in making yourself better in this New Year!

~MA

Brother Michael Arce is the Junior Warden of St. George’s #6, Schenectady and a member of Mt. Zion #311, Troy New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at: michael.arce@me.com