|The Scoutmaster by Norman Rockwell|
Midnight Freemasons Editor Robert Johnson, recently wrote an outstanding piece titled “Shadows Burned Onto the Walls – Addressing Freemasonry’s Biggest Problems”. This article expressed in very clear terms the thoughts and concerns that I and so many other brethren have had over the years. If you have not read this article, stop reading now, click on the link above and go read it. Seriously.
If you are like me, the article left me shaking my head and thinking “yes this is spot on”. Brother Johnson ends the article with some very frank and wise words about what is needed in this fraternity:
“If we don’t work to make our experience better, to get ourselves in the seats, to read the books, to bring those things to the lodge, to make men better, it’s going to continue to be an empty experience both literally and figuratively. We gaze at the shadows of the great fraternity, burned into the walls with wonder. Like an archaeologist looks upon the dead language, we are reminded that while we respect the past, we cannot be a slave to what was. It’s time to work harder on what you want.”
Let me reflect further on Brother Johnson’s conclusions. I have been in the fraternity since 2007. In that 10 plus years, I have been extremely active, joined numerous masonic bodies, served as Worshipful Master of a lodge, brought one lodge back from the verge of extinction and helped charter two new masonic bodies a High Twelve club and a new Royal Arch chapter. I received the Mason of the Year award from the Valley of Danville (IL) in 2015.
I don’t list all these activities to brag on myself, but merely to illustrate that I have been an active mason. But I must be honest, there have been numerous times that I have wondered, why bother anymore? There are many ways to spend my time and I am active in numerous other organizations including serving as an elected community college trustee, attending my sons track meets and my long-time passion, being a scout leader. If others don’t care about masonry then why should I?
But then I pause and think about the impact we are making. I recently met with two Fellowcraft masons and worked with them on learning their catechism. They were nervous, but excited about joining the craft and progressing through the degrees. In that short meeting we had, they did nicely on learning their work and are ready to prove up at the next lodge meeting. It left me thinking, perhaps I was making a small impact on their lives. Helping them develop themselves into better men by understanding what our fraternity stands for and giving them a framework for self-improvement.
I do not have the answers for what the long-term solutions are for building this fraternity and ultimately building better men. But I do know this, if someone doesn’t work on it, or more precisely if WE don’t work on it, then who will?
Honestly, what keeps me motivated and an active freemason are the men like the contributors here at the Midnight Freemasons, individuals like Brothers Denver R. Phelps and Stephen C. Hooper of my home lodge Ogden No. 754 (IL) and countless others who put in their time and effort to make freemasonry happen.
In many ways it is like the efforts I put into Scouting. I don’t see the full return today, but I know somewhere down the road, what we are doing in Scouting will make a difference. I think back to the men who stepped up to be my scout leaders. Many of them have passed away. But in their day, they put in countless hundreds of hours to ensure that myself and all other fellow scouts had opportunities to grow and learn. Ultimately, I earned my Eagle Scout badge in 1981 and it was a special honor. Clearly however, as a 15-year-old I did not understand the full impact of what scouting had given me.
37 years later being an Eagle Scout, means much more to me today than it did then. Not because of the badge or the Eagle Scout medal, but because of the life lessons and core values which have helped shaped my life and ultimately who I am. This was made possible because of those volunteers that came every week to ensure that we could have a troop meeting, a campout or canoe trip.
I believe that freemasonry operates in much the same way. The time spent working with a brother on a catechism, playing a part in a degree, reading some of great works of masonic authors or providing some lodge education at a meeting might not yield an immediate return on our time investment. But we keep working in the quarries because we have the hope and knowledge that what we are doing will make a difference down the road on improving our individual lives and the lives of our brethren.
Let me close by saying this, what we do matters. Our impact is real. The values we stand for are timeless and needed by society more than at any point time in our history. We should not rest on our magnificent history or laurels of the past. Freemasonry is about building for the future.
If you won’t step up, who will? If not us then who?
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.