OFFICIAL VISIT – DORIC LODGE
APRIL 12, 2016
As I have outlined and reiterated on many occasions, my theme as DDGM for the year, deals with membership, attendance and participation.
I have talked at length on this subject at 7 official visits and at the DDGM reception last September. In addition, I have attempted whenever possible this year to promote this theme in all my activities.
So why do I think this so important?
I could provide you with stimulating readings of Masonic papers written by famous Masonic educators; I could try to provide enlightening dissertations, but I will wager that 5 minutes after you walk out that door you will forget most of what I said.
I am not saying that this other material does not have value, but what I want to talk about is something that I believe is fundamentally important to the existence of Masonry in the future. I believe that if we are not successful in addressing our membership and participation challenges, there will become a time in the future where we cease to be viable as an organization and fraternity.
You need players to play the game, you need fans/supporters to watch the game, without both, we reach a stage that there is simply no point in continuing. I mention players and fans in my analogy, in that I want to stress that participation takes many forms and exists on many, many levels. Never under estimate those who take on small roles, as collectively these roles add up to the participation that a lodge so desperately needs.
We simply cannot do things as we did in the past, we must find ways to increase participation in our activities, to increase membership and ensure we continue to bring the right candidates to the West Gate.
Tonight we mentioned the significant membership milestone of one of the stalwarts of Doric Lodge, Brother Andy Watson, 70 years a Mason. What an absolutely fantastic achievement. But more importantly to my discussion this evening, was that for most of this time, Brother Watson was an active participant in the activities of the lodge. Perhaps to answer some of the questions I am asking we should just sit Brother Watson down and ask him what made him such an integral part of the activities of Doric Lodge?
As I previously said, we need to examine the way we do things and change as required. So let’s ask some questions again.
So we have three major membership situations under consideration with some overlap…..one directed at the new Mason who has just entered through the West Gate; the second is the new Master Mason and the third is towards the longer serving Master Mason.
For both the new Mason and new Master Mason we are faced with keeping them involved, finding their participation level and keeping them interested. What is strongly in our favour here is that the interest shown in applying to join is still, or should be, fresh. Thus it is more a question of keeping the interest going, keeping the commitment, rather than installing it.
However, almost every lodge has Masons who either never got their second or third degrees or stopped attending soon after becoming a Master Mason. In today’s society, there is an incredible amount of pressure on a man’s time; work, family and other obligations compete directly with the craft for the few spare hours in the day.
Simply put, Masonry needs to be enough of a priority to make it near the top of the priority game. The desire to participate, to be part of something must be strong enough to make one want to continue giving of one’s time. We cannot simply sit back and hope he is interested enough; we need to take an active role in instilling in the newer Mason the desire to come to lodge regularly and participate to the best of his ability and that which his private avocation and family will allow.
We need to get the new Mason involved in ritual, get him to attend GP meetings, social activities, get him to sit on committees. We need to instill in him that he is part of the great Masonic fraternity, and that this lodge is his lodge. I believe that the new mason has to be immersed in the lodge as soon as is possible. If this is done, the chances of him becoming a regular contributor are far greater.
All of this is of course subject to the abilities and wants of the individual; the important thing is “opening the door”.
So what of the longer serving Mason? Why does he not come out to lodge anymore? What if anything is different in his private or lodge “life”? What has changed? You can guess that there are a myriad of possible answers here. But what is important is to try to find out why? To ask the question, to care, and to do everything in one’s power to bring the Mason back into the fold.
In my own lodge we have Past Masters and Masons who were once extremely active within the Craft. So why not so much now? Is their memory failing so ritual work does not appeal to them anymore? If so, is there another role they can take on, such as a Mentor. Bottom line is that their participation; even on the lower level of attending, is extremely valuable to the success of the lodge.
Often I hear excuses for not attending which all have the common thread of “that I will not be missed”….we need to change this; the brother needs to know he WILL be missed and that he is a valued and appreciated member of the lodge.
The lodge has numerous roles for its membership, ranging from leadership to merely attending, with a varied number of roles in between. Yes, some require greater “participation” than others, yes different or higher skill levels are required, but what is fundamental, is that all of the roles have value.
One way I can describe this is to go back to an earlier comment, and use the degree work here tonight. The brethren doing the ritual are extremely important in that they are conveying lessons for the candidate. But it is not just about the candidate and the ritualistic cast; it is equally about each and every one of you that took the time to attend here this evening. A successful evening? I would say yes, an extremely enjoyable Official Visit and more importantly an Initiation, but a great deal of the success of the evening is attributable to the attendees no matter what their role was.
We attend lodge, we see the Master and his officers go through the work; we have the blue and gold of Grand Lodge, but none of this is important if we do not have people who attend and to varying degrees participate.
So my message is that participation takes many forms, and yes some may be more significant than others….notice I do not say more valuable than others…..all participation adds to the mosaic that makes a lodge and ultimately the craft successful.
So brethren, the next time you think about not attending a meeting, I hope that you might remember a little of what I am trying to convey tonight…..by your attendance, you are participating, and through this you are adding to the well being of your lodge and the craft.
Worshipful Master.... I thank you for your indulgencies this evening and my Brethren I thank each and every one of you for your kind attention.
R.W. Bro. Clive D. Stephenson
District Deputy Grand Master
April 12, 2016