|A year ago, I never thought I'd be sitting here--I thought piano playing was in my distant past.|
As I said, I started attending in August. I’ve not been the member of a church in over twenty years, but I have attended on a regular basis. My wife has belonged to a local church since she was a little girl—sometimes we go there. And there are a few other churches I attended regularly. But none of them offered what I was looking for. So I never joined my wife’s church, or any of the others. I'd go for the service, and the sermon.
The first time I attended the church I recently joined, I realized immediately that it was different. And I knew a few members there also. . . in fact I knew a couple of them really well. My old Boy Scout leader is a member there. So is my 4th grade teacher. So is one of my oldest friends—we met the first day of kindergarten (I won't say what year out of respect for her). I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to attend that church previously. It’s ten minutes from my house, and it's not as if I didn't know it was there. I went to Cub Scout meetings there as a boy. I’d been to a number of weddings at that church. I’d been to funerals there also. I even attended a service when I was in about third grade. I spent the night with a friend whose family attended there, and wore my purple corduroy pants and matching vest that next morning!
I was pretty surprised when a couple weeks after I first attended, I got the church newsletter in my mailbox (they’d quickly figured out who I was and where I lived). A couple months after I’d been attending each week, there was a knock on my door one Wednesday afternoon. The Pastor. We had a long conversation at my kitchen table over coffee. A couple weeks after that, the Pastor pulled me off to the side after the service and told me the church pianist was going on a cruise for two weeks. I had certainly never mentioned it, but I think my old friend from kindergarten told him I used to play the piano (tattled on me). I hadn’t played much in decades—music took the backseat when I started writing. It took a tremendous effort and a lot of practice, but I managed two Sunday morning services a couple weeks later (including a communion Sunday which is a lot of piano playing in my church). I joined the week after the church pianist got back from her cruise. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about that church. I’m involved in the Good Friday program coming up. I played an offertory piano piece last Sunday. I’ve enjoyed the weekly Bible studies. My wife and daughter even enjoy attending. It’s what I’ve been looking for. I’ve found a church home, and a church family.
That’s a great story, right? But what’s this got to do with Freemasonry?
This has everything to do with Freemasonry!
Let me tell you about one of the other churches I’ve attended over the last twenty years. I’ve probably averaged twice a month attending their early service—so I’d say I’ve attended roughly 500 services going back to the late 90s. It’s a very large modern church, and it’s really nice. They have an early traditional service, and a later contemporary service—so I go early. The members of the church are always friendly to me. But in all those years, not once did anyone try to involve me. I’ve put checks in the offering plate every time I’ve gone—my phone number is on them. Not one call. No newsletters in my mailbox. No invitation to a picnic or a Bible study. You know what that church’s biggest problem is? Attendance. Membership. Money. They have a huge sanctuary that they can’t fill, and they don’t know why.
Freemasonry has the same issues this church does. We don’t serve the membership. We get somebody at the door, but we don’t involve them. We don’t show up at their house and have coffee with them and find out why they were interested to begin with, what they’re looking for, what they’re good at, how they’d like to contribute. We focus so much on the social aspects of the Fraternity that we fail to realize it’s what Freemasonry teaches that attract new members. How many times have we seen a new Master Mason attend a few meetings and then vanish? Often? I’ve seen it over and over myself.
It’s because we haven’t delivered on that promise of making good men better—the reality didn’t live up to the expectation. We don’t teach enough. We don’t mentor enough. It would be like a church that is so focused on Sunday morning concerts and potluck dinners that once you’re baptized they no longer teach you anything about the Bible—if you want to learn more about that church stuff, you can study it on your own. That may sound silly. A church like that would without question fail, but isn’t that how many Freemasons learn about Freemasonry? That’s exactly how I learned it--on my own. Here’s the basics in three degrees, congratulations you’re a Master Mason—there’s the library. There’s books and such in there. Knock yourself out!
I’ve learned a lot watching the Pastor of my church over the short amount of time I’ve known him. My experience in that church didn't happen by accident. He’s been a Pastor for fifty years, and he is a master at knowing his congregation. He knows every member well from the oldest member, to the newest visitor who walks in the door. He learns about them. He knows their skills. He knows how they like to participate, and what they enjoy doing. He even knows when a member needs a shove to the next level (like me back behind the piano again). And above all, he never losses sight of the mission of the church--everything is purpose driven. So much of what I’ve learned from this little church and its Pastor I realize can be applied to Freemasonry as well.
Think about it.
Todd E. Creason, 33° is an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the the From Labor To Refreshment blog. He is a Past Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary. He is a a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research (FMLR). He is a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and currently serves as EHP. He is also a member of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org