Kenneth B. DeMoss

M.E. Girad Lodge No. 450  

Masonic Renewal are the words we are hearing in many jurisdictions today, but they are more than just words.  Hopefully, it will become the force that will help stem the tide of decline within our lodges into growth.  These words deserve some careful consideration of the impact they can have on the craft, as we know it.  The renewal movement is not trying to reinvent Masonry, it is trying to get us to rethink the way we are running the affairs of our lodges.  Step back and look at ways that may help us to be more effective and attractive to the needs of our members and potential members.  The principles on which Masonry was built are as sound and viable today as ever.  What is needed is for us to quit going through the motions of being Masons, and start living it again.

We have been silent too long, quietly going about our business, content to stay within the shadows, letting our good deeds go unnoticed.  Nearly everyone knows of the good deeds the Knights Templar, Scottish Rite, and Shrine do, but very few people know they spring from the Blue Lodge, and that you cannot belong to any of the above without first becoming a Mason.  Public relations is something we must learn more about.  We need to get the message out to the community that we are still alive and living among them.

Less than 3% of the population even knows what the square and compasses stand for, compared to 80% thirty years ago.  The Masonic Renewal Committee of North America has been doing research and conducting surveys to find the cause of this decline.  Some findings of those studies are: only one in five Americans belong to any organization; of all male head-of-households over the age of 21, only 22% were interested or slightly interested in joining any organization including Freemasonry.  Of those who knew of Freemasonry, only 2% were very interested in joining.  Most men knew only the name, and a sizeable number associated Masonry with a religion or with cults and secret societies.

This is not the fault of the general public, because we used to be far more visible, by being the first to volunteer to help with worthy projects in our communities.  Members were very involved in civic activities, we took care of the needs of the less fortunate and in doing so we conducted ourselves in a way that people admired and respected.  We took great pride in belonging to this great order and it showed through our members and their good deeds.

We are BUILDERS, so why don't we build!  It is being done in other jurisdictions throughout this nation, and it could be in Louisiana. The Grand Lodge doesn't have the monies to implement a program statewide, but it can be done on the grassroots level.  It will not happen overnight, and it will require a lot of work over an extended period of time by some very motivated Masons.

Attracting new members to the order is not the only answer to all our problems.  We need to activate our present membership and motivate them to start WORKING within the lodge.  Only about 10% of our total membership attend regularly, 18% attended only once in three years.  But of that number, how many men actually work?  We all have the age old problem of everyone wanting to be the Chief, but none willing to be Indians.  We need to start involving new and younger men into leadership positions of many lodges.  This is a must if we are to make Masonry move forward into a meaningful force, infusing our newest members in projects within the Lodge and not just work details.  Newer members should be working in the degrees. It is much easier to allow an older brother to do it, while allowing the younger men to lose interest.  Why should new members spend the time and effort learning a part, only to sit on the sidelines listening to the same old guard give the lectures? They need to be encouraged and helped by making them a part of our Craft before they lose interest and stop caring.

There will always be those among us who will resist change, and are quite content to open lodge, read the minutes, pay the bills, and close with a little degree work thrown in for good measure.  The sameness is comfortable for them, and they will fight tooth and nail to keep it that way.  Are we becoming an old boys society, so set in our ways that we are unable or not willing to do things a little differently?  What will become of the lodges when the old-boys are gone?  Will we allow them to become half their present size by the year 2010?

Change is never easy or painless, but nothing worthwhile ever is.  It is this complacency and apathy that have brought us to this point of decline.  Have we lost sight of the original ideas and tenets of the Order?  When was the last time we extended a helping hand?  How long has it been since we called on a widow of a deceased brother, just to say hello, or see if there was anything we could do to help, or visit with a sick or shut-in brother, offer to bring an older brother to lodge so he could join in fellowship?  All that is needed to get this movement started, is to remember why we all became Masons and what it really means to be one.

We are sitting in our lodges today due to labors of the brethren who have passed this way before.  We owe it to those craftsmen and their labors', to leave this fraternity as strong as it was when they entrusted its stewardship to us.  To make sure there is a lodge for tomorrow we are going to have to do the work today.  This can be a very exciting time in Masonry - helping to rebuild the temple.  Let us set the Craft to labor and let us BUILD!


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