Dead Lodges Walking

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski

One of my favorite sayings is "You can't step on the same piece of water twice." It's akin to "You can never really go home." We long for times when things seemed better. We fight the current to return to Whence We Came instead of dealing with an uncomfortable, unpleasant, or unfamiliar Now. We want to have what we once had, to go back to running a Lodge like we did generations ago.

This is the drag and inertia we see in Lodges, and frankly, it's been killing us. It's the REASON we are where we are. If only we could go back to doing things that made us great! Except it's not the same river. That water has moved on. And we didn't thrive years ago because of anything special we did. Everyone joined everything and they didn't care if it was Freemasonry or any other reason to have another night out.

If we REALLY want to return to what made us great, we have to go much farther back -- to times like TODAY when Lodges that survive do so because they bring meaning and value, not because the masses to fill our rolls want to wear another pin or a fez.

We want to blame television (and more recently, the Internet), apathy, and lack of attendance. We blame parenting for lack of interest in joining. Maybe the fault is us. We think we are more committed and dedicated by being in Lodge just because we are there. Years ago, that was good enough -- or maybe it wasn't but we got away with it. Today, some of the most Masonic of us have learned to pick and choose. We go where the action is -- where we are needed for more than a dues payment or to fill in a chair just to open long enough to pay bills.

We complain about being in a holding pattern -- or a slow spiral downward -- but don't do anything to break out of it. In fact, we will do anything NOT to break out of it. We focus on petitions, money, or a building as if these are the ends and not the means. Masonry isn't rocket science. We don't "make good men better" by running a club that just happens to have some old ritual. We provide instruction and mentorship through fraternal solidarity of purpose.

That's it. Everything we do can be guided by this purpose, from checking in on Brothers to providing relief, to nourishing minds and hearts with programs, to practicing it all by making a difference in the world through community projects.

If a Lodge lacks any of these, we need to address that, not complain about why people don't attend. It's not a secret why some Lodges are thriving and others are not. The ones who do the Work are not talking about mergers or seem desperate for petitions. They are focused on the purpose, not the result.

What would going back to the "Golden Years" of Masonry actually mean? Should we pretend that world still exists and shake our fists at fate for not delivering us into a promised land of busting Degree cycles? That's what we've been doing for almost half a century and it's gotten us nowhere. And Masonic authors from long before this shared the same fears our Craft would not survive another generation. But they've also shared the solution over and over and over -- meaningful programs and instruction.

But knowing the solution and not taking it elevates the issue to "level 2 tech support" where obstructionists need to stand down, step down, or go just away. Our own members are why we can't have nice things.

Freemasonry is starting to finally emerge from this. It's stronger where it counts, having shed skin that doesn't fit anymore. But we still have plenty of Dead-Lodges-Walking and leaders who will keep a Lodge on life support until they -- or the Lodge -- are gone. Forget merging dead lodges into larger dead heaps and waiting for people to age out. Pull charters. Emeritus-away the old guard if they can't let go of the reigns. Stop glorifying hold-outs. Let's climb on the life raft of functional, healthy Lodges. The Fraternity needs some excision or we all risk going down with the ship.

Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.

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