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Report of membership decline - why?
Posted: 02 November 2013 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]  
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MasonMaybe - 02 November 2013 08:43 AM

Well - first off I applaud Kentucky for loosening the rules about attire - encouraging, considering they only recognized Prince Hall two years ago (do they have visitation yet?)

In general, Charles, I appreciate that you are mostly willing to look at all options I put on the table, with the exception of permitting women, which frankly, after all the reading I’ve done on Freemasonry, continues to baffle me.

The ancient landmarks - that seems to be the fallback position to justify this rule. Essentially this equates to “we have a rule that we can’t change the rules”. Stated in those terms, I hope you can see how weak a defence it is.  I’m sorry but there is no reason to bar women.

I have a simple measure for these things - take the statement “we do not admit women” and for “women” substitute “blacks” or “Jews”.  Does it still seem defensible by invoking something called the ancient landmarks? 

And I know, I’m an outsider, so what can I possibly understand about Masonry? But consider, gentlemen, that by definition every new recruit you want to attract is an outsider. In the 21st century they will look at the suits and say “elitist” - they will look at the men-only rule and say “misogynist” - they will look at the agenda for your average monthly meeting and say “boring” and they will look at the ritual and regalia and the kindest thing they will say is “archaic”.

And unfortunately, quoting the “ancient landmarks” will not alter the progression of the statistics posted by myself and especially those posted by Charles. Yet if the results here can be in any way considered indicative of the general mood of current Freemasons, I would say that change has an uphill battle ahead of it.

So the suggestion above that I become “the little mason who could” seems like a bit of a longshot, doesn’t it?

I’m someone looking to be a member so let me reply to a few thing you have said also from the outside looking in.
1) woman; Freemason is a fraternity and what does that mean; ‘A fraternity (Latin frater : “brother”) is a brotherhood, although the term sometimes connotes a distinct or formal organization and sometimes a secret society. A fraternity (or fraternal organization) is an organized society of men associated together in an environment of companionship and brotherhood; dedicated to the intellectual, physical, and social development of its members.’
Today more than every I think we need places we can go and be man. I also think my wife would prefer me joining a all male club than a co-ed one. You can substitute all you want, do some place need to work on the true meaning of begin a mason yes, but many other place do not. The lodge I’m looking to join their Past Master is black their current secretary is jewish. Your statement is like saying because some white people a racist we all are.  Last on point one, Woman and Man can join Eastern Star, so yes woman are included.
2)The ancient landmarks as you say, why change rules that have worked and continue to work. Change is not always good just for the sake of change.
3)Wearing suits to meetings, you say it make people think elitist what is wrong with that, a person should have pride in ones self and is wearing a suit for a few hours all that bad or hard. We live in a society that dressing up nice is a thing of the past, I’m a biker and jeans and t-shirts is what I like to wear but wearing a suit and looking good does bring out a little more pride in myself.
Last thing I have to say, Jim to me it looks like you are trying to find reasons why you should not be a mason, if all you do is look for the negative in things you will never see the positive.
Ryan Walsh

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Hoffman Lodge #412
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Posted: 02 November 2013 12:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]  
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I’m someone looking to be a member so let me reply to a few thing you have said also from the outside looking in.
1) woman; Freemason is a fraternity

Hi Ryan.

The word “fraternity” is just that - a word. Nothing etched in stone about it, as co-masonry has proven. Wielding a self-made definition as a defence to continue a bias is no defence at all.

Your statement is like saying because some white people a racist we all are.

If this is your interpretation of my statement about substituting “Jew” for “Woman” then with respect, you have completely missed the point.

Last on point one, Woman and Man can join Eastern Star, so yes woman are included.

I think the current Masons on this board will have to admit that Eastern Star is a pale imitation of Freemasonry. Besides, it is only open to women who have a MM in their family, or came to it through membership in Job’s Daughters or Rainbow (both of which end by age 20).

The ancient landmarks as you say, why change rules that have worked and continue to work. Change is not always good just for the sake of change.

Well that’s what I’m questioning - do they work?  Are they even morally supportable in this era?

Wearing suits to meetings, you say it make people think elitist what is wrong with that, a person should have pride in ones self and is wearing a suit for a few hours all that bad or hard.

In the face of declining enrolment, I think Kentucky has figured out that an aura of elitism is neither desirable or beneficial. If the stated object is to make good men better, what can you learn about yourself in a suit and tie that cannot be learned in a comfortable pair of slacks and golf shirt? Clothes do not make the man.

Last thing I have to say, Jim to me it looks like you are trying to find reasons why you should not be a mason, if all you do is look for the negative in things you will never see the positive.
Ryan Walsh

I can understand you seeing me in that light, Ryan. All I can say is you couldn’t be further from the truth. I have been researching and speaking with Masons extensively as I wrestle with the decision to join. If and when I do join, it will be with eyes wide open to what the craft is, good and bad. I was challenged earlier to join to add momentum to the change that is slowly coming to some lodges, so in all honesty, I have been curious to see how much openness there is amongst existing Masons to change, and to be honest, I don’t see very much here.

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Posted: 02 November 2013 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]  
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MasonMaybe - 02 November 2013 12:21 PM

I can understand you seeing me in that light, Ryan. All I can say is you couldn’t be further from the truth. I have been researching and speaking with Masons extensively as I wrestle with the decision to join. If and when I do join, it will be with eyes wide open to what the craft is, good and bad. I was challenged earlier to join to add momentum to the change that is slowly coming to some lodges, so in all honesty, I have been curious to see how much openness there is amongst existing Masons to change, and to be honest, I don’t see very much here.

To me, I don’t think that you should consider Freemasonry any further as your words illustrate perfectly that it is not for you.

Who in their right mind would actually join an organisation that they have had to wrestle with themselves in order to come to the decision? Especially when they clearly will not support the landmarks of that body. You, to me, are barking up the wrong tree, Freemasonry will not change itself to suit you as that is not its purpose, you either join it and the brethren or stay away.

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Posted: 02 November 2013 01:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]  
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MasonMaybe - 02 November 2013 12:21 PM

The word “fraternity” is just that - a word. Nothing etched in stone about it, as co-masonry has proven. Wielding a self-made definition as a defence to continue a bias is no defence at all.

Considering we are a private organization, we are free to have whatever membership requirements that we choose.  One of the requirements for membership in Regular Freemasonry is that you be a male.  We are a fraternity, yes that is a word, but we, by the very definition of that word, are a mens only group.   

MasonMaybe - 02 November 2013 12:21 PM

The ancient landmarks as you say, why change rules that have worked and continue to work. Change is not always good just for the sake of change.

Well that’s what I’m questioning - do they work?  Are they even morally supportable in this era?

For those that are open to understanding them they do.

MasonMaybe - 02 November 2013 12:21 PM

Wearing suits to meetings, you say it make people think elitist what is wrong with that, a person should have pride in ones self and is wearing a suit for a few hours all that bad or hard.

In the face of declining enrolment, I think Kentucky has figured out that an aura of elitism is neither desirable or beneficial. If the stated object is to make good men better, what can you learn about yourself in a suit and tie that cannot be learned in a comfortable pair of slacks and golf shirt? Clothes do not make the man.

I will agree with you on this as that is one of the many lessons one learns in the first degree.  It is in fact the internal qualifications, not the external appearance, that matters most.  We have several members in my lodge that simply cannot afford a suit and noone is ever turned away because of how they are dressed.  If you are under the belief that folks are turned away because they do not have a suit, you re sorely mistaken.  Lodge should be something members take pride in.  Dressing nice, if you have the means, is part of it, but not all of it. 

MasonMaybe - 02 November 2013 12:21 PM

Last thing I have to say, Jim to me it looks like you are trying to find reasons why you should not be a mason, if all you do is look for the negative in things you will never see the positive.
Ryan Walsh

I can understand you seeing me in that light, Ryan. All I can say is you couldn’t be further from the truth. I have been researching and speaking with Masons extensively as I wrestle with the decision to join. If and when I do join, it will be with eyes wide open to what the craft is, good and bad. I was challenged earlier to join to add momentum to the change that is slowly coming to some lodges, so in all honesty, I have been curious to see how much openness there is amongst existing Masons to change, and to be honest, I don’t see very much here.

Quite the contrary Jim.  There are a great many members open to changes, and we are working on making changes.  They may not be in line with what you think they should be, but they are in line with bringing us as a fraternity into the 21st century.  No, we will not be changing the requirement that members be male or that members have a belief in the Supreme Being or of being Good Men.  Those are written in stone, figuratively speaking.

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Posted: 02 November 2013 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]  
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Mike Martin - 02 November 2013 01:34 PM

To me, I don’t think that you should consider Freemasonry any further as your words illustrate perfectly that it is not for you.

Who in their right mind would actually join an organisation that they have had to wrestle with themselves in order to come to the decision? Especially when they clearly will not support the landmarks of that body. You, to me, are barking up the wrong tree, Freemasonry will not change itself to suit you as that is not its purpose, you either join it and the brethren or stay away.

Then why was I earlier encouraged to join and help facilitate change?

As for wrestling with the decision - would you prefer I give membership no more serious thought than signing up for the local curling league? I see my potential membership in Freemasonry as requiring very serious consideration.

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Posted: 02 November 2013 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]  
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To Paul - I believe that sooner or later Masonry will have to re-think it’s ban on female participation. It is a certainty, an inevitability, in my mind at least. If you do not you will be ever more seen as an anachronistic old boys club. You can either get on the front side of that wave or be dragged along kicking and screaming into making what to me is the only morally supportable choice. Non recognition of co-masonry grand lodges is to me no different than the 9 or so jurisdictions that still refuse to recognize Prince Hall Masonry.

Sorry if I’m ruffling feathers here, but we’re all big boys and can take some honest opinion.

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Initiated - February 20, 2014
Passed - March 20, 2014
Raised - December 18, 2014

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Posted: 02 November 2013 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]  
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MasonMaybe - 02 November 2013 01:45 PM
Mike Martin - 02 November 2013 01:34 PM

To me, I don’t think that you should consider Freemasonry any further as your words illustrate perfectly that it is not for you.

Who in their right mind would actually join an organisation that they have had to wrestle with themselves in order to come to the decision? Especially when they clearly will not support the landmarks of that body. You, to me, are barking up the wrong tree, Freemasonry will not change itself to suit you as that is not its purpose, you either join it and the brethren or stay away.

Then why was I earlier encouraged to join and help facilitate change?

As for wrestling with the decision - would you prefer I give membership no more serious thought than signing up for the local curling league? I see my potential membership in Freemasonry as requiring very serious consideration.

I suspect you know exactly what I mean, so I’ve said all I care to.

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Mike Martin
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Posted: 02 November 2013 02:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]  
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I have been watching this thread unfold for a while now, and I want to thank all the members here for their thoughtful answers. And Jim, I want to thank you for being respectful—albeit a bit eristic lately—with your questions and opinions.

I also don’t want you to take too much offense when a Mason may question whether this is right for you for not.  Because every single Mason here knows that you can read literally everything about Freemasonry there is and it won’t even come close to showing you the bond that all the members of this Fraternity feel.  It can’t describe what we’ve all been through – even if you read the ritual – because it’s those three degrees—taken in front of people you trust—that changed each of our lives forever.  So if we take a little umbrage in being told the things we need to do to survive—by someone who hasn’t (yet) experienced that, you need to excuse us a little.

Because what you feel like after you’ve taken that degree is the one thing that tells us – and will tell you—that Freemasonry is not going anywhere any time soon. Your initial question, though, is something all of us have asked at one time or another. Why the decline in membership? You’ve heard some of the reasons here. And in fact, that question is the reason this site exists.

Several years ago the Grand Master of Massachusetts looked at the situation and said he didn’t want to be the one that had to “turn the lights out” when there were not enough members to support the organization at the state level. His decision to engage an ad agency (and full disclosure, I am a partner in that agency) to look at our brand and find a way to make our core values understood in the modern world was the big changing point in my view.

The result was the Askafreemason.org radio and TV campaign – which also went viral on the Web. You can see some of the spots, if you haven’t already, here: http://askafreemason.org/benchats/index.htm

As an agency, and as Masons, we didn’t see these spots as advertising, but more as public service stories that spoke to what our research showed was a universal belief – and one that surprised even us – that every man believes that there is “greatness in him,” a greatness that just needs the right place to be developed.  (It’s interesting that it seems like every major brand, from Mercedes to Rolex, has since picked up on the greatness theme….)

And for the record, we weren’t (and we aren’t) asking for men to join—just letting them know that if they DID want to join, they had to ask, a fact that the majority of non members we spoke to didn’t know. The campaign has touched a nerve – and turned Freemasonry in Massachusetts completely around – even nationally—in just a few short years.  In some places it has turned around so completely that we can’t handle the new members. In some places it’s taking longer. But it’s happening.

But I do want to address a few of the questions and comments: You can say the numbers don’t lie, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story, either.  For one thing, the numbers (meaning Lodge dues) can hardly support a Lodge – and Grand Lodge dues cannot support a Grand Lodge.  What supports the Lodges are legacy donations from guys who love the Fraternity and are involved in it.  The fact is, the Masons who are “dying faster than we can replace them”—for the most part at least – have not been active members of our Lodges for years. Many of them are stepping up to the plate in their wills – yes – but what matters most are the guys on the sidelines….

As an example, in my Lodge in Boston, we had a couple hundred members in the early 2000’s, but there were nights that I could count the members on the sidelines with one hand. Moral was bad, and the average age of the membership was OLD OLD.  Ten years later we have roughly the same number of members, but now we have sometimes 70 or 80 guys on the sidelines, backups in every line position, and new funding coming in from guys who love the Fraternity. And the average age is probably 28 (and I feel old☺)

But I will tell you one thing, our success was definitely not about “changing with the times” – it was about going back to what made our Fraternity a success in the first place:

It’s about remembering that we are first and foremost a Fraternity – that we are a group of guys who support each other, take pride in learning and putting on great ritual, who enjoy the conviviality of the Lodge – before and after—who prove our dedication by being there for one another, and show our community that we are there for them. We show our greatness by being great friends, great husbands, great parents, and great members of our communities, religious organizations we may belong to, and our country.

Our Lodge’s turnaround started with a few young guys willing to learn and work, and a few past masters willing to teach.  Today, I count the men in my Lodge among my closest friends, and I am proud to say I’m a Mason. And I can see it happening in other Lodges and towns around the country—anywhere a few people take the time and energy to go back to what we do best. And that’s the point I want you to take away, Jim. The changes you are talking about are not going to make the Fraternity better, just different.

I will talk a little in another post about the difficulties we still have to overcome, but at this point, we’re not going anywhere soon. We are a Fraternity. And a philanthropy, not a company. Freemasons still donate over $3 Million a DAY to charity in this country alone. When we can’t do that any more, maybe then we can think about changing.

I think this thread has pretty much run its course. So I’m going to close it. Change, if we want it, can only come from within.  Personally, Jim, I think you’d probably make a pretty good Mason, but nobody’s going to ask you to join.  You have to ask.

Bob

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