Freemasonry's Obsession with Empty Chairs - Rewind

Originally published February 4th, 2015

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason33°
Here's a little known fact about Freemasons--they are obsessed with empty chairs.  You don't have to talk very long to just about any group of Masons, and the subject of all those empty chairs comes up.  "We've got to fill those empty chairs in our Lodges!" they'll exclaim.  The Blue Lodges are worried about empty chairs.  The Scottish Rite is worried about those empty chairs.  The York Rite is worried about empty chairs.  The Shrine.  Amaranth.  Order of the Eastern Star.  "We've got to fill those blessed empty chairs!"

Grand Lodges come up with plans to increase membership.  Here in Illinois, just since I've been a Mason we've had several different ideas about how to fill those chairs.  We went from 2B1ASK1 to being able to ask somebody if they'd like to join our Fraternity.  We still have empty chairs.  One of our Grand Masters, a good friend of mine, had a great plan.  Every member should add a member to their Blue Lodge.  He was known to always have petitions in his pocket.  We did add members, but we still have empty chairs.  My York Rite Chapter back when I joined came up with a magic number of new members they'd like to add that year, and they worked tirelessly, putting on degrees, and putting guys through the Chapter.  They added a large number of new members.  I was one of those guys that went through then.  Guess what?  They still have empty chairs!

The problem is, we're asking the wrong question.  The question isn't how can we fill those chairs--the question is why are those chairs empty to begin with?
When I joined the Lodge, it was because I was looking for something.  I wanted to improve myself.  I wanted to learn new things.  I wanted to gain new skills.  I wanted to be more active in my community.  I wanted to be a part of something traditional and something ancient.  In an ever changing world, I wanted something in my life that remained steady and consistent.  And I've found all those things, but not entirely within the walls of my Lodge.  Much of what I've gained has been through my own explorations and studies into the Craft.  If it hadn't been for my own initiative I'm not sure I would have found that greater meaning that makes my Lodge attendance and participation so fulfilling.

Our chairs are empty because so many of our Lodges have gotten so involved with the business of Freemasonry, they've forgotten the purpose of the Craft--to make good men better by constantly working to improve ourselves.  We spend so much time reading minutes, and reciting committee reports, we forget that we're supposed to be learning something as well.  The expectation of our membership versus the reality of our meetings is the reason so many of our chairs are empty.

The world is a busy place, and very few men are willing to waste a couple hours of their time once or twice a month to sit through a meeting when the only thing they might learn in that meeting is that the Lodge's building insurance went up 8% from last year, and somebody needs to make sure we have enough pancake mix by Saturday's breakfast.
There's no sense in worrying about how to fill those chairs in your Lodge if you aren't willing to figure out why they are empty to begin with.  We must do better.  Like it was said in that famous movie "Field of Dreams"-- if you build it they will come.  Your Lodge will start seeing fewer and fewer empty chairs when you start giving your members, old and new, the thing we promised them in the beginning.



Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as Secretary.  He's also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199.  He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research.  He was recently awarded the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at:

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more!

    The delivery should be interesting as well, not everyone (Mason) is cut out to be a teacher, just like not everyone is cut out to be an officer or a committee member. Each member should be helped to find their niche within the Craft, so they can be a "productive" member.

    Peer pressure plays an important role as well.
    I've said from the beginning of my membership, I assumed I would be required to attend a regular form of education when I joined Freemasonry, maybe every Saturday morning for a few months or something. Once I found that not to be true, I became comfortable with that lack of expectation. So now, when you ask all the members to begin participation in a regular form of education you are hard pressed to get action because their expectations are that it's not a requirement.

    If we want change we must lean in to education and service and not lean out to let someone else handle it!

    *Man that is a tiny box to type these comments! Haha be well Brother.


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