The Reports of My Death
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro Bill Hosler, PM
In May of 1897 Brother Mark Twain was approached by reporters in London. Twain was abroad on a world speaking tour and a rumor was started in the United States that the author had grown ill and had sadly passed away. It has been said that the rumor had grown to such proportion that a newspaper published Twain’s obituary.
When reporters approached Brother Twain about the rumor and asked the humorist for a quote. Twain told the assembled group of reporters, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
When I first asked a friend of mine for a petition to become a Freemason, I was invited to attend dinner with the Brethren of my future Mother Lodge. The members of the lodge were hosting the Brethren of our sister lodge in Canada. Each year the two lodges gathered together, one year in the United States and the next year in Canada, to spread the cement of Brotherly love.
As I sat down to a wonderful meal of Hoosier style beef and noodles, one of the Brethren, an outspoken Past Master, piped up and said, “I don't know why you are joining the Masons. The Fraternity will be dead in five years anyway.”
Of course, his statement shocked me. At that moment of my life, I knew absolutely nothing about the organization. For my entire adult life, I had seen the windowless high-rise building downtown, the one I was currently eating dinner in, and never given a moment of thought to the possibility that the organization may have had membership problems. I ignored the man’s declaration and progressed through the degrees to become a Master Mason.
That dinner I attended is now thirteen years in the past, and our beloved Craft is still at labor many years after my Brother's prediction. Recently while reading social media I've seen many Brothers who, in their frustration with the direction of Masonry, have been making the same declaration: “Masonry is dead!”
As a member who has been fighting with the establishment since my raising, I truly understand the frustration these Brothers are laboring under; the slow progress of change (please pardon my use of that dirty word) can be quite frustrating. But I truly believe, as in the case of the reports of Brother Twain’s demise, the reports of our beloved fraternity’s death have been “greatly exaggerated”.
The year I became a Mason (2002), many lodges were merging with other lodges, or just surrendering their charters to their Grand Lodges. Buildings were being sold to developers or given to local municipalities. It was a sad time for our gentle Craft. There was one lodge in the Masonic Temple where my lodge met that had to call a Past Master of the lodge to come from his home to sign the book in order to have the minimum number of members to open a lodge in our jurisdiction. It was looking dim for the members of most lodges.
Since those dark days, many young men have discovered Freemasonry through the writings of Dan Brown. Brown made us look cool and relevant, not just a bunch of old men arguing over fish fries and pancakes.
Even though I still get frustrated myself with the glacier-like slowness that our fraternity moves in, I can say without hesitation that even though the movement is slow, we are still moving.
Today, more lodges are including Masonic Education into their meetings, and more Grand Lodges have voted to allow subordinate lodges to open on the Entered Apprentice degree. We have even seen some lodges vote to raise dues to common sense amounts (no elderly Brethren on fixed incomes were harmed during this staggeringly significant event). Although we still have a way to go, the fact is that we are making progress.
As long as we have men who are willing to stand their ground and not waiver in their beliefs in this institution, it will never die. This beloved group has, for three hundred years, withstood wars, economic depressions, anti-Masonic movements, and dictators who wished to erase it from the Earth. We stood our ground and we practiced our beliefs. The only way we will see it cease is if we allow it to, through apathy, through hopelessness, and through quitting.
I often wonder what would have happened if all of the Brothers who threw their hands up in frustration, picked up their apron and went home had instead stayed and, with other like-minded brethren, banded together and worked as a group to make Freemasonry what they wanted it to be? I have a feeling that many of the issues these men were having with the craft would have gone away!
WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.