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Look Well In The South

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JW Randall E. Beem


Like every other social, civic and fraternal organization, our fraternity is experiencing an overall loss of interest and members.  According to the Masonic Service Association’s records from 1925 to 2001, U.S. membership reached a high point in 1959 of 4,103,000 Master Masons, and then began a continuous downward trend to 2001 (most recent data available) with 1,774,000 Master Masons.


This loss of membership occurred during the “Baby Boom”!  In 1959, the U.S. population was approximately 177,830,000 (2.3% of the total were Master Masons); in 2001, the population was approximately 279,000,000 (with Master Masons only 0.07% of the total).


Here’s another way to look at this trend: While the U.S. population grew by over 101 million people over the last 40 years, our fraternity decreased by 2.3 million members during that same period.


What’s going on here?


A number of sources cite the following as partial causes for this decline:


1)     Governmental/public (including health, life and disability insurance) assistance programs have lessened the need for private “welfare” organizations that used to care for their members or surviving families.

2)     We live in a more transitory world, and fewer people live in a community long enough to develop a sense of identity within that community.

3)     Increased demands on “family time”; i.e. parents spend time watching their children in sports events, or help participate in programs their children are active in.

4)     The disillusion created by shady corporate dealings, political squabbling etc. has translated into a sense of detachment for many.

5)     Daily pressures involving time, money and personal needs/goals create an attitude of “I can’t take on any more”.


No doubt some of these are valid, especially issues involving family.  However, we believe the declining membership may also illustrate failings in our fraternity:


1)     We have lost sight of our brothers’ needs and desires.  Granted, times and individual goals change.  At a local level, it is the responsibility of the lodge’s officers to develop and implement plans that ensure that the lodge continues to adapt to the needs of the brethren, or they will quit participating.

2)     We need to do much more to include the entire family in our activities.

3)     We have lost our place in the community…few people who are not Masons know who we are, or what we do.


We hope to continue examining this topic over the next several months.  In the meantime, you’ll be hearing about upcoming plans and events that are geared towards making the lodge a more enjoyable and fulfilling part of your life.  During the last year, several programs were implemented that began this process, and we want to continue on with those efforts. We encourage you to look at these events as an opportunity to get re-acquainted with your lodge brethren, and come out to as many as you can.


Getting feedback from you will be an important part of this endeavor.  If you’ve got an idea, comment or criticism, we’d be interested in hearing it.  You can reach Randy during the day at (812) 842-2336, or Paul in the evening at (812) 490-2213.



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