My sense of obligation pushed me from the start to never miss a meeting, health and business permitting. For years, I could put my attendance up against any Brother, officer, or Past Master in any of the Lodges I belonged to. But this last year was different. I decided to go the extra mile for the sake of others to stay home unless I absolutely had to be there, meaning an installation here, sitting as Sovereign Prince there, etc., and had some specific duty that could not be done via Zoom. Apart from those select times, I am starting to wonder if my being there would have even mattered, for the Lodge or for myself.
I'm going to say right now this isn't a pity party. It's a serious realization. Remember those stalwart Masons who will always be there no matter what and ride out the bitter end of their Lodge? Maybe THEY are the problem. Maybe all the ones with sense left long ago, or even feel they were sold a false bill of goods. Others may have realized nothing would change or the torch wouldn't be passed until certain Brothers affiliate with the Celestial Lodge above. Maybe the people who stay are the ones who do NOT demand excellence or even purpose. The only reason they are there is because Lodge is all they have going for them — they have nothing better to do. Maybe some of us do have better things to do, and we need to be honest about that.
If the Lodge is nothing but a social club, then only those looking for a social club will keep coming (maybe). How's that working out these days? All social organizations, including team sports like bowling, etc., have been in bottom-of-the-barrel decline for decades. Even networking groups only survive if there's enough business to be had between its members and their referrals. So what do Lodges do? They double down on a bad bet. I can understand older generations being stuck in the reasons they and their peers joined, but even younger Masters think more unthemed, generic social functions will make the magic happen.
Maybe we need to stop being so polite. Maybe we should value our time as much as we value that of our Brothers. How about this: ask what the program or work of the evening will be at the next communication. If they say they don't have any, DON'T GO. Sure, I love seeing my Brothers, and even the opening and closing is a worthwhile spiritual experience for me. But if the Worshipful Master doesn't care to live up to what (at least in my jurisdiction) is an unambiguous obligation to not meet without some Masonic instruction or education, why be the enabler? Will being there stop the decline of the Lodge or prolong its mediocrity? Will we become one of those "dedicated" Masons that spend more and more time talking about little more than mergers or turning in the Charter?
If you're like me, you have a lot of Masonic obligations. You've had, at times, to pick and choose which events to go to and when you just need to have at least one dinner with your spouse. And maybe the pandemic made you really think about the value of that. Is sitting and motioning for the bills to be paid after proper audit worthwhile Masonic work? Or should you be where you can best work and best agree, and there's actually something to do besides maintaining profane details?
I say forget going to Lodge out of some amorphous sense of duty. If you just want a lapel pin or challenge coin, get it on eBay. If you want to meet people or network, there are plenty of other, less sacred ways to do that. But if you want more MASONRY, demand it. Demand your Lodge do more than perpetuate its existence for its own sake, such as sitting on a horde of investments and never using them. Speak up even if you fear being the one tasked to make it happen.
My bet is that if you feel this way, you're not alone in your Lodge unless it's already emptied of all ambition. Demand it be better for yourself, but also for them, and all those who will go this way after us.