Music by J. L. F. Mendelssohn
A survey recently conducted in a member
Jurisdiction of the Masonic Service Association
of the United States asked the question "What
is the most pressing problem facing the Craft
today?" There were three predominant replies:
These three topics are ones of a recurring
nature in the Proceedings of the various Grand
Lodges. They are subjects of discussion at various seminars, conferences and workshops. The
"prophets of doom" use these items in their
"actuarial studies" predicting the decline or
demise of the Craft.
By referring to these as problems, we have a
tendency to create monsters and stumbling
blocks. We tend to wring our hands and
develop negative attitudes and apply Band Aid
There is a need to reverse that process of
negative thinking. The most logical and effective way to do it is to approach it in a positive
manner. By the simple process of correcting the
terminology from "problems" to "challenges,"
we can target our approaches in such a way that
we can transpose the "stumbling blocks" into
In doing so, we immediately meet one of the
greatest challenges -- that of Leadership. A
leader, in any field of endeavor, must set the example. He must think positively. He must lead.
Just as in military leadership where there are
various levels (strategic, tactical and individual)
so it is in Freemasonry.
Grand Lodge leadership provides the strategy; establishes the overall goals. Grand Lodge
Committees, District Deputies, Grand Lecturers, et al, establish the tactics and the Lodges
provide the individual leadership. Whatever the
level of leadership, there is a need to nurture,
develop and hone the skills associated with the
science of leadership. Your Masonic Service
Association has a number of leadership-
oriented publications designed to assist in that
development. More such publications are on
the "trestleboard," for the fugure.
It is only through effective, carefully planned
Leadership that the challenges of Finance and
Membership can be met. It is a long-range challenge which will take imagination, initiative and
The challenges facing Freemasonry regard-
ing finances are tied directly to economic factors, over which we have no direct control.
However, in the majority of Jurisdictions,
Masonry has taken the ostrich-approach of
sticking its head in the sand and ignoring the
real world. We continue to operate on a horse
and buggy budget in the space age. We have
failed to keep pace, using bandaids when we
The financial challenge facing Masonic
Leadership is one of meeting the needs of TODAY and planning for the needs of tomorrow.
Financial management requires long-range
planning. We need to apply some of the skills
of architectural science in that planning. Our
designs on the financial trestleboards must provide for foundations of sufficient strength to
support a growing edifice.
Fifty years ago the fees for the three degrees
were the equivalent of one week's wages. Dues
equated to about one-half of a day's pay.
Wages have increased considerably over the
years. Fees and dues have remained relatively
and constantly below par. Is the privilege of
becoming a Mason not still worth a week's
wages? Surely, in today's economy, with all of
its "rights and benefits" Masonic Membership
is worth one-half of a day's wages each year.
The frequently expressed opinion that we "sell
our Masonry too cheap" should be answered
by "Putting our money where our mouth is."
Having a "champagne appetite with a beer
pocket book" is not the answer.
Some Grand Lodges experience a great deal
of difficulty in increasing their per capita tax by
as little as 25 cents per year, while others with
imaginative and progressive leadership have experienced but little resistance in getting it increased by $5.00 on one swoop. An informed
and educated membership will meet any reasonable and attainable challenge.
Membership is the bottom line of the challenges. While the Craft has suffered immense
losses in numbers for the past two decades, we
are now at a point where initiations are keeping
pace with losses through deaths. The challenge
of membership can best be addressed by making logical--and personal--efforts to reduce
the losses through N.P.D. That is the shortrange goal.
Let's look down the road to the future.
Membership retention is a constant factor. It is
never the well-informed, involved, and dedi-
cated Mason who is dropped for non-payment
of dues. The challenge is now, as it has always
been, to make Masonry a way of life in the
heart of every Mason.
The vehicle we use to add members to our
rolls is the ritualistic degree work. It provides
the "skeleton" of a Mason. Through example,
involvement and education we can add "meat
and marrow" to that "skeleton" as we transform the member into a Mason.
Masonic leadership--at the lodge level--
is the only place where this is possible. When we
take a "good man" in as a member, we have
but one goal in making him a Mason--we
want to make him "better." We must lead him!
We must teach him! We must inspire him! We
must involve him! We must make brotherhood
a living, breathing entity!
There are so many ways in which we can
accomplish this. The immediate involvement of
the newly-raised Mason in lodge activities is
essential, whether it be ritual work, committees, food preparation or some other meaningful activity. This will make him feel needed and
a part of the Lodge. We must also educate him
in every aspect of the Fraternity. We must encourage him to ask questions--and we must be
prepared to provide meaningful and factual
answers. This is not only the job of the lodge--
it is the duty and obligation of the lodge. If the
newly-made Mason is not well informed about
the Craft, he will be lost to the lodge. If, before
he gains a good understanding of the symbolic
Masonry, he turns to one of the appendant
bodies, the chances are that he will be lost to
Many lodges have formed study groups or
library clubs to serve as "educational tools."
When provided with strong and dedicated leaders, these groups are very effective. In many of
the larger metropolitan areas, the formation of
Daylight Lodges has proved beneficial for older
members and night shift workers who cannot
enjoy Masonic fellowship in the evening. In
some of the larger lodges, where the feelings of
fellowship and brotherhood are not too evident, groups of members have formed new
lodges with excellent results.
Lodge social functions which involve the
family are an ideal forum for educating family
members regarding their responsibility to notify
the lodge of "sickness and distress." It helps to
bring the family into the "Masonic family."
Extending the warm hand of friendship to a
sick Brother is one of the basic duties of every
Mason. It is also his duty to extend the hand of
fellowship to the sojourning Mason. Masonic
leaders have the constant duty of educating the
Craft in these duties . . . by word and example.
We must never lose sight of the fact that
each of us became Masons as a result of our
own "free will and accord." Someone set the
example which inspired each of us to seek
admittance into this ancient society of friends
and brothers. It is the active, busy, working
lodge which produces the "role models" for
tomorrow's Masons. By educating, involving,
and making Masons of today's members we
establish the "image" which will inspire potential applicants. By "putting into practice outside the lodge room those valuable tenets inculcated therein" a man becomes a respected
member of society and an inspiring example of
Freemasonry as a way of life. This is our goal.
It is also our great challenge.
The Challenges of Membership, Finances
and Leadership are challenges which each of us
must meet. By choosing the leadership in our
lodges we must be constantly alert to those who
have the potential of vision, ability and dedication. It is our selection of leaders who will meet
the challenges of finances and membership. rt
has been aptly said that "Masonic leadership is
changing the lodge room from what it is, to
what it should be."
NOTE: This Short Talk Bulletin was adapted from three
separate speeches given my Right Worshipful Brother
Stewart M. L. Pollard, Executive Secretary of the Masonic
Service Association of the United States.