In a recent short essay, I expounded on the word “convenient” as it relates to our duty and obligation of heading out on any particular evening to attend a lodge meeting. What drives us to go or what holds us back one might ask.
Perhaps at the core of what makes a Lodge thrive or what contributes to their slow and deliberate death, we should look at why our Brothers are staying home. Why are they resisting their duty to answer and obey a regular summons to a meeting? Could it be that, outside of our wonderful degree work and ritual that we’ve become BORING? Is every meeting a RERUN of the last one?
Every day, we witness the consolidation of Lodges and Masonic Districts as they shrink in size. Why are we seeing Masonic districts comprised of 15-20 lodges 20 years ago with 5 now remaining? What makes a Lodge of 40+ members ask to turn in their Charter? What causes a Lodge that had 150 members 10 years ago to wither to 30 members today?
Across every jurisdiction we hear Grand Masters, District Deputies, Staff Officers, and Worshipful Masters talking about the works on their Trestle boards. How many trestle boards are distributed with the date of the meeting followed by “TBD” for the work of the evening? To Be Decided. An acronym for “beats me”, “I’ll wing it”, or “we’ll make it a business meeting only”? Who among us has worked through the “convenient” hurdle as we watch our early evening TV or dine on an early dinner and decided it’s time to get suited-up and head to lodge only to arrive, sit through an opening, business meeting, and closing and be home and back at the TV within an hour? We then ask ourselves the question, “why”? A great many Lodges have taken this to heart and are presenting interesting and diverse programs each meeting. Many others struggle to have one or two speakers or programs during their lodge year.
Yes, it was good to see my brothers who, like me, came out tonight to attend Lodge. We had plenty of time for a program of some sort. Not even a Short Talk Bulletin. Maybe Bro. James talking about his bee-keeping. Hey! What about asking the local precinct commander to come and speak about crime fighting efforts in our neighborhood? So many possibilities. How do we make these happen?
One very simple but underutilized word---PLANNING. Interesting and engaging events seldom happen on their own. Sure, every now and then we’ll look on the sidelines and see a brother who has a particular skill or vocation that we could ask him to speak about “off the cuff”. As Worshipful Masters, we owe it to the Brothers who have elected us and to the Lodge as a whole to do everything in our power to see the Lodge not just survive but to thrive and grow. To do this we need to exert a certain amount of EFFORT. This effort may involve everything from putting together a Trestle Board during the summer before our Lodge comes back in session to personally calling our officers the day before a meeting to let them know the plans for the evening (and to gently remind them of the importance of their attendance). Perhaps a summer meeting with the Wardens to put together a Trestle Board and brainstorm about programs for evenings with no degree work.
Of course we sometimes hear comments from some long-time members saying things such as “We don’t need to do something special every meeting.” or “Some of us...” just like to have a meeting and get home. The Brothers we don’t hear this from are the ones who are so bored with the program-less meetings that they stop coming to Lodge in lieu of other options. These are the Brothers we need to target. They are the future of our Fraternity. They are the ones who will take the place of our senior members as infirmity and the Celestial Heavens take over.
Keeping our meetings vibrant, contemporary, and interesting is vital if we are to keep our new andseasoned members engaged. Being now enabled in the NY jurisdiction to open and close our Lodges on any degree has become a wonderful tool to maintain the connection with our EA’s and Fellowcrafts as they progress through the degrees. Keeping our regular communications interesting is a mandate we need to understand and put into practice if we are to stem the flow of those leaving us because we’ve become “boring”. NO MORE RERUNS! What could be easier?
RW Bro. Lort is a Past Master of Alexandria Lodge #297 in Alexandria Bay, NY and a plural member of Gasport Lodge #787 in WNY. He is also a member of the NYS Grand Lodge Committee on Consolidations as well as several other GL committees. He is a 32°member of the A.A.S.R Valley of Syracuse, serving as CH for the Sackets Harbor Chapter RAM, & a member of the Divan of Media Shrine, A.A.O.N.M.S. RW Bro. Lort is a past DDGM of the Jefferson-Lewis District, Grand Lodge of NY and currently is a Grand Lodge Regional Asst. Grand Lecturer. He is a retired Law Enforcement officer and enjoys many outdoor activities. He attributes his successes in Freemasonry to his early days in DeMolay in Western NY.