Saturday, November 29, 2008

What Would You Do As Grandmaster #8

This week's Guest Editorial Essay is written by one of the most respected Masonic Bloggers on the Internet. Masonic Traveler not only operates a blog but also a Masonic Information Site and a Radio Podcast Program with Brother Dean Kennedy from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
From the mundane to the deepest thought, from the everyday workings to the most in depth esoteric thought Masonic Traveler blog has it all including some beautiful artwork some of which the author has created himself. To view The Masonic Traveler Blog click here
Masonic Information is just chock full of all that you were afraid to ask and wanted to know. You can access that site by clicking Freemason Information.
But the Pièce de résistance is Masonic Central, the radio podcast. Here we go from the written word to the spoken, from the visual to - "Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ears." From Stephen Dafoe to Brent Morris, Tom Jackson, Bob Davis, Chris Hodapp and other notables, this radio program has booked some of the most well known Masonic men of letters and knowledge and experience. If you have not had the pleasure of listening to this show click on Masonic Central.
Today Masonic Traveler answers the question put to him. As you can see he is neither a traditionalist or a reformer - he is both and a more thoughtful insight would be hard to find.
You are Grand Master of an American jurisdiction which has just changed its by-laws to give the Grand Master a five year term. As the first GM to serve five years what proposals, policies and changes would you make to insure the survival of your jurisdiction and promote healthy growth?

Neglectfully, I have been late in responding to Br. Fred’s offer to post my reply to his question of “If I were elected Grand Master…” on the Beehive. I have to admit that it is a daunting question that have had a hard time to formulate an answer to, but to wit I will endeavor to do as best I can on this eve before the holiday.

Taking the helm of such a massive ship, as is the California Grand Lodge, I would first endeavor to take in as much as I could with such a large membership. From the ports of San Diego to the tall Trees of Eureka, Masonic lodges dot the state from top to bottom and side to side, with an almost inconceivable member role, the Masonic lodge membership is as diversified as the state is. Both rural farmer and urban executive practice the gentle craft and span an age gap from 18 to 100. Needless to say, it is diverse.

Even with extending the term of service from 1 year to 5 years would not be conceivable to meet every brothers need, but then that should not be the mandate. The Lodge and Grand Lodge system are intact and function well, and I would not dare to reorient a machine already operating in balance. I would, however, endeavor to leverage into place certain elements to augment our present state. Each of these ideas is just that, ideas, and would undoubtedly require a sizable amount of expenditure of both time and money.

Increased communication to membership and public:

In this notion, I envision a class of inspectors that are regional representatives to attend and participate in the communities of their region. This would include Chamber of Commerce meetings, Community Councils, and other diversified meetings where the community interest is at stake. Further, to be a part of and participate with other Fraternal and social networks (including Rotary, Elks, American Legion, etc.) including mixed discipline Freemasonry and other esoteric groups. The idea behind this being to broaden the reach of the fraternity to groups not generally associated to our Society.

Increase of Masonic Education to include publication and dissertation:

Promote internal publication and thought by sponsoring leadership programs, religious tolerance and diversity discussions, and philosophical debate. This is not in a manner to preach but to raise awareness of the membership to these aspects of life that each in part contribute to our whole. Part of this would be an increase in Masonic education generated by the contemporary field of discussion. This would be communicated out to the membership electronically (via the web) and by mail outs in a greater frequency than every quarter. The reasoning is that with increased activity would come increased interest and the more and diverse programs open to Masons the more and increased participation that they will receive.

Broader programs to expand the public perception:

This item would include more open houses, public lectures, and other symposia. The goal and purpose of these are to put into the public mind the broad reach of Masonic ideology and its interest. This dove tails with the 2nd point to broaden education. If we want to me Masons we need to work on the foundation of society, to build it up so that it retains strength as is it carries the weight of time upon it. These programs would include co-sponsorships by lodges and area lodges (regions) and would serve to tie us again into the community. They could be as simple as allowing groups to make use of our lodge rooms or social halls at no charge or at minimal cost, or outright sponsorship to events that fit set criteria. this measure re-opens the lodge room to the public as a place of community rather than as a place of dark windows and selective hours of operation.

Make each of the above “Best in Class”:

Given that California is such a large state it needs to operate all of the above as a “Best in Class” operation. What that means is that it requires time, energy, effort, and money to sufficiently research and implement these items. No doubt that will cause some to recoil, but higher dues and higher per-capitas to facilitate it. This Fraternity is worth paying more for, and so instead of a one time pay requirement, augment it to allow dues to be broken into monthly, quarterly, twice yearly, or annual to make them as flexible to the consumer (the member) as possible.

The focus of my tenure would be to build programs that would produce results long after my departure and improve the common perception of the membership. One year is so often seen as to short a time for one man to implement anything for a group that meets monthly, so there must be the component of increased time to get to it all. Further, without funding, then no program is possible and very little advancement can be made that relies exclusively on the shoulders of men who are working pro-bono. This is not to belittle the efforts of every man in the past who has dedicated himself tirelessly to one program or another. In the reality we live in today none of us can dedicate 30-40 hours weekly to organize, research, or implement programs like these, and as Master builders, we should know the benefits of paying the wages of quality work. We must not be afraid to loosen the purse strings and invest in our future.

In short, this is what my dream of a 5 year term as Grand Master would be. Is it a reality to be manifested, who can say? It is fun to entertain the idea and I appreciate Br. Fred for giving me the bully pulpit on the Beehive to commit the ideas into words.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Would You Do As Grandmaster #7

Well Connecticut has signed in. The Tao of Masonry is a very interesting Masonic Site. It's author writes that he is:

Exalted Keeper of the Secrets of Freemasonarianism; Grand Sovereign Pontiff and Secret Exposuer; Ambassador to Zeta-Reticula; Crop Circle Planning & Zoning Commissioner; Aluminum Foil Beanie Fitting and Training Consultant; Team Osiris Obelisk Siting and Surveying; Manager, Dulces/Denver Airport Massage & Day Spa; Cydonia Vacation Resort Concierge; Past Master, Friendship #33.3 AM & FM, Area 51, Atlantis

Definetly not your usaul Masonic pabulum site. I never go away from The Tao of Masonry without reading something personal about the author's involvement with his Lodge of Grand Lodge. It reminds me at times of a good diary. Most wholesome reading and I urge all of who come upon this site to vist The Tao of Masonry by clicking here.

Queen for a Day

Or rather, Grand Master for a year or five.

Fred Billiken Milliken over on The Beehive has been feeling a bit lazy uninspired, and so he asked a few of his fellow bloggers to write a small essay, with this topic in mind:

You are Grand Master of an American jurisdiction which has just changed its by-laws to give the Grand Master a five year term. As the first GM to serve five years what proposals, policies and changes would you make to insure the survival of your jurisdiction and promote healthy growth?

Personally, my first thought as to what I would do if I were the GM in Connecticut would be to curl up into a fetal position and hope that it's all a bad dream.

Of course, I'm sure that some other members of the Craft would have the same reaction to my being a GM, too.

That said, the topic itself begs the question that things need to be changed. My own question is "Why?"

I have a small manufacturing business. For those of you who don't know what it's like to own your own business, it's a very expensive and demanding hobby. Small manufacturing is a fast-paced and tension-inducing business environment. For perspective, pull a hair out of your head, and look at it (you older guys pull a hair out of your neighbor's head, since you probably can't spare many of your own). That hair is about 5/1,000's of an inch in diameter. We typically hold tolerances that are one tenth of that. Imagine knowing that all day, when someone says that they are "off by a hair," it literally means the difference between a paycheck, or a pretty but expensive paperweight.

Priorities change daily, and often hourly. And just when you think it's almost figured out, a machine will break down, and you'll discover that a spare part is a week away because it's coming from Japan or Germany. Or a key employee comes down with a bad flu and is out for a few days. Or a long-time customer makes a frantic call because their inventory system screwed up and they need you to ship in that order early - the order that you haven't started yet because the material is late. Or expensive parts for a new customer come back from an outside supplier, who processed them the wrong way because they used an obsolete work order. Or you send a package via overnight priority shipping, and the plane has mechanical difficulties, and in transferring the cargo, they lose it. Or. . . well, you get the idea.

You see, my life is already frenetic and fast paced, so sometimes I take comfort in knowing that the Craft will change slowly. Yes, I am often frustrated when what I see are good ideas take forever to be talked over, rehashed, and committeefied to death - who isn't? But I can't help but think that if changes in the Craft happened as quickly as they do in my business, I'd quickly become burnt out - as would most of my brothers. One of the hardest thing for the more progressive minded brothers is to find that balance between the traditions and customs, and the ability to make things work at a pace more appropriate to what we are accustomed to in daily life.

We frequently joke that changes in Masonry happen with glacial speed, and truly, it often seems as if some lodges are still in the 19th, let alone the 20th century. But when we think about what we would like to change, are we really thinking about things, or are we thinking about the people involved? As Grand Master, I'd have the power to change things - regulations (some of them, since certain actions still require a Grand Lodge vote), projects, programs are all things. But what about the people, the members of the Craft themselves?

No powers of legislation in the world will change people who don't want to, or see the need to change, themselves.

There is one thing, though, that I would try to change, and that is the idea that the Grand Lodge is somehow a separate entity from the rest of the Craft. As I wrote after our last Grand Lodge Semi-Annual session, it often seems to me that most lodge members are wrapped up in their own lodges and forget - or ignore - that they (i.e., we) are all part of a larger organization. The feedback that I've been hearing for the last several years is something like "We don't want Grand Lodge making up all sorts of new rules and interfering with our business - we've been doing just fine, thank you." Yet, at the same time, I also hear the Craft saying "Why aren't things as good as they were back when I joined? Ritual isn't as good, the programs aren't as good, and even the food is salty."

For example, when we first introduced a ritual certification for incoming Masters, you would have thought that the Grand Lodge was asking members to cut off a pound of flesh (not that most of us couldn't afford it). "I'm a Past Master, I already know how to open a lodge, dammit!" But upon being told that they weren't following the book, one would then hear how this or that lodge has their own "customs andtraditions" with regard to their ritual practice. "We've always done it this way," is what they say when you point out that they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Lodges that are shy on membership try to soldier along, and yet they have no idea what's happening in a lodge a town or two away because they don't bother attending the district meetings. They could easily forge alliances for help with degree work, dinners, or other programs - yet they ignore the resources available to them, and as a result, fail to keep, let alone attract new members, and their lodge as a whole suffers for it.

I don't know what I would change about that because I'm not sure how such problems originate. But with several years in which to work, I would make that my most important priority. An organization is only as strong as the commitment of its members; if the membership fails to recognize - or worse, intentionally denies - that they are part of a much larger group, then the organization as a whole will fail to thrive.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Grand Session Mass Raising

They come from all over, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Abilene, Lubbock, Amarillo and all points noth, south est and west. It is Grand Lodge Winter Session with a mas raising Friday night and Grand Lodge business all day Saturday.

Unless you are Prince Hall you probably have not seen a mass raising. It is a sight to behold. Last year we raised 81 new Master Masons at winter Grand Session and this year 65. The firt section of the third degree is given in mass. Your first clue as to things are starting to roll is outside the Grand Lodge Room you hear 65 voices singing in unison.



This little light of mine
I'm going to let it shine
Oh, this little light of mine
I'm going to let it shine
This little light of mine
I'm going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Ev'ry where I go
I'm going to let it shine
Oh, ev'ry where I go
I'm going to let it shine
Ev'ry where I go
I'm going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

All in my house
I'm going to let it shine
Oh, all in my house
I'm going to let it shine
All in my house
I'm going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

I'm not going to make it shine
I'm just going to let it shine
I'm not going to make it shine
I'm just going to let it shine
I'm not going to make it shine
I'm just going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Out in the dark
I'm going to let it shine
Oh, out in the dark
I'm going to let it shine
Out in the dark
I'm going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

65 Brothers knock and are admitted, hoodwinked each with a hand on the shoulder of the one in front - they are all hooked up. They are received, circumambulate, receive their obligation , then light and explanation all together in mass. When they move and march they sing. Other songs are brought forth.

To see 65 or 81 Brothers all kneeling around an altar is quite a sight to behold. But the best is yet to come. After marching out in song they come back for the next section.

The three gates are set up and groups of five go through. When the first five is done with the South Gate it moves to the West Gate while another five hit the South Gate. Then the first group moves to the East Gate, the second group to the West gate and a new group starts at the South Gate.

When all have gone through the gates one is looking at 65 Brothers all laying supine on the Grand Lodge Floor. That view sent goose pimples up my back. The Deputy Grnd Master then gives the legend of Hiram Abiff.

Then all are raised. The first year I was there the Grand Master raised every single Brother. This year all Masters and Past Masters assisted in the raising. I raised one of my own Lodge Brothers as did our Master.

Last year I gave the charge afterwards, this year I did not. But just to be there is a thrilling experience.

And at the same time as our mass raising was taking place there was also a smaller version being performed in Germany. Through the magic of high tech, Germany's raising was beamed to us and projected onto the wall of the Grand Lodge while our raising was beamed to them and they displayed what we were doing similarly, all taking place at the same time. Last year we did the same thing but with Korea.

The new Master Masons will receive the third degree lectures at their home Lodge. But most of them are back to participate in the Grand Session business the next day on Saturday.

It is quite inspiring to fellowship with Brothers, both old and new, from all over the state and to touch base with some distant acquaintances from years past. All in all I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Essays Reveal A Good Cross Section

So Far we have posted essays on "What Would You Do As Grandmaster?" from South Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts/Texas, Ohio, Kansas and South Dakota. We are waiting on additional essays from three more states - Georgia, Connecticut and California. So far the essays represent a good cross section of America and reveal the myriad of problems besetting those Grand Lodges. Some areas are doing well and some not so well. But what is even more interesting to me is a keener sense of what American Freemasonry is all about and how its unique flavor weaves into the regional social fabric of our nation.

I am looking forward to the three remaining essays from very busy Brothers. In the meantime we will go to other things while we wait.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What Would You Do As Grandmaster #6

Having just returned from my Prince Hall Grand Lodge Session, I want to emphasize that this series pertains to Mainstream Masonry although Prince Hall is welcome to use any of the ideas that all the Brothers here have put forth.

Well it looks like it's my turn although I warn you some more great essays are on the way. I want to thank all who have participated in this venture and to thank all you who have visited The Beehive. May we have many more enjoyable times together in Brotherhood.

Wor. Frederic L. Milliken
aka Squire Bentley

My very first act as Grand Master would be to separate the Grand Lodge from the Shrine, the Grotto and all other Side or Appendant Bodies except for Scottish Rite and York Rite. Because Freemasonry is dying and becoming irrelevant, drastic, immediate action is required to preserve what we have. Many Brothers have commented on the fact that Freemasonry is better off as its numbers diminish. It is not. However, it will become stronger if it downsizes within itself thereby concentrating on the core message of what is most important that the Craft wishes to transmit and stand for. Right now Freemasonry is competing with itself and quite frankly the same Brothers cannot be everything.

Freemasonry must reduce itself to a philosophical society which is mainly concerned with its members. The core message which drives the Craft is the philosophy for which it stands. Everything else is complimentary. The philosophy is the meat and the potatoes and the vegetable and salad are side dishes complimenting the meat. We need to as a society stop trying to be all things to all people and stop trying to cover all bases and be what we were originally formed to be. We are going to pare the Craft down to just its essentials. Isn’t that what a good businessman does in a time of economic depression? You might be surprised that we may with this approach attract more members at a cheaper overhead.

Next it is vitally important that Freemasonry have a mission to interact with society. It has a mission for itself but it has been totally lacking for a mission on how to be of purpose to society as well as itself. What has been tried is to try to buy friends and recognition by doling out goodies to the general public. Thus has Freemasonry in many Jurisdictions pursued The Shrine Model and turned itself into a Service Club. My second act as Grand Master would be to abolish all Grand Lodge Charities except one that followed through on a Grand Lodge Societal Mission. If local Lodges wanted to perform community action programs and public charity that would be up to them. But I would not impose any Grand Lodge charities on local Lodges.

There is a reason we no longer get the prominent, powerful, professional men to join our Fraternity. Freemasonry came out of the Enlightenment and as such in an era of civil government Monarchy and Roman Catholic Church monopoly, in other words a time of Totalitarianism and religious intolerance. Freemasonry bucked the trend of the day. It pushed democratic government, separation of church and state, free public schools and religious freedom. It was societal relevant and hence attracted many movers and shakers within the community. Quite frankly, today we have nothing that we can find common cause with the profane.

In looking over the civil issues of the day I find two that are heads above any other. They are Health and Education. Freemasonry does much in the health field already, too much. So my connection to society and my societal mission would be in the education field, so important in developing good citizens and prospective Masons. I would set up a state Education/Library/Research Center open to the public and offer courses in mathematics and history. I would provide a large library and many computers and high tech audio/visual aids as well as instructors. In essence this would be a school and research center available for the public and the Craft. We are in the Information Age and I would want my Grand Lodge to be a leader in that field. It harks back to Freemasons of centuries ago who worked so hard for education and free public schools.

Next, as you might have gathered from my drift so far, we are headed for extinction. What is killing many Lodges is, that as their membership dwindles, they still are faced with the enormous costs of maintaining an old, drafty, antiquated building. The reason Freemasonry does not grow in many Lodges is that every cent that they take in goes to maintaining that building and no money is left over for Masonic programs, to help subsidize the practice of Freemasonry.

Therefore my next act as Grand Master is to require that all Lodges within a twenty five mile radius meet in one building. That would require many Lodges to sell their building and merge into another already in operation or many Lodges to divest themselves of property and build a brand new building for many Lodges. Brand new buildings are more efficient, up to code and less costly to operate. Ten Lodges that met in a building could all pay rent thereby sharing the costs. Local Lodges through jealousy and stupid pride will most often refuse to take this step by themselves. As Grand Master I would force them to do so for their own good. This is called practicing economies to scale which any good businessman would do in a time of economic downturn.

Lodges in rural areas would get a special Grand Lodge subsidy to upgrade their building or build a new one.

To meet the demands and choices of the 21st century my Grand Lodge would need to get much more in tune and in practice with the use of computers and the Internet. If you saw what Obama did in the last presidential election you can appreciate what full use of the Internet can yield. I would immediately upgrade my jurisdictions computer hardware with the most modern system available including running a Grand Lodge Server from which all local Lodges could connect. I would create a Grand Lodge position of Communications Director with a full staff to support him. Some of the areas I would charge my Communications Director to work on would be:

1) A software program of accounting standard for all Lodges with capability of filing all Grand Lodge reports electronically.
2) A Grand Lodge website of unique distinction
3) A Grand Lodge Masonic Forum and Discussion Board
4) Ability to tap into GL Library, new Instruction Center and Research Society
5) A Grand Lodge radio show – a podcast from the Grand Lodge with interviews of Masons of the day with call in participation.
6) A Grand Lodge Cable TV show
7) A grand Lodge movie production dealing with many different subjects. One for those inquiring about membership and others on the history of The Grand Lodge and still others on current events and ceremonies. DVDs and CDs would be available for a nominal cost.
8) Power Point and DVD presentations on the degrees to supplement Lodge education programs.
9) A quarterly Grand Lodge magazine geared to philosophical and esoteric Masonic thought rather than meet and greet photographs.

Next I would streamline the participation of Grand Lodge members in the decision making process of their Grand Lodge. Twelve Hundred members coming to Grand Session and trying to legislate and vote on proposals in one weekend with everybody wanting a say is totally unwieldy and frankly managed chaos. I would immediately institute a Masonic Legislature whereby many members would be represented by one legislator. Thus a body of fewer than one hundred legislators representing all the members of a jurisdiction could gather to debate and vote on Grand Lodge business and proposals. This would not do away with Grand Lodge Session but would rather allow the Grand Session to devote more time to planning, addresses, workshops and inspiration rather than hours and hours of haggling. Think about it. Can you imagine all 300 million Americans showing up in Washington one weekend to vote on our nation’s future? So why let it happen in Freemasonry?

My next ruling would be to allow all Lodge business under $2000 in cost to be conducted outside a tyled meeting by the Three Principal Officers and whoever else they would like to include. The Lodge has voted on and put their trust in their Master and Wardens and I am sure that they can be trusted to make decisions of the Lodge in the small day to day minutia that comes before it rather than take up Lodge time with trivial pursuit. Thus we would eliminate the mundane from our meetings and could then hold meetings of great dining, great Masonic education with great Masonic speakers and great fellowship. I would allow and suggest that all Lodges in my jurisdiction go from a twice monthly or a monthly meeting to a quarterly meeting with an additional quarterly meeting for degree work. Thus I would be ruling that there would be a four month minimum between each degree.

I would charge each District Deputy to form District Degree Teams for each degree with representation from all the District Lodges whereby each degree (four months apart) would be performed on all the candidates for that degree from every Lodge in the District on the same night at the same place. In addition I would form a state degree team and offer the Grand Lodge for a giant raising if desired.

I would form a Research Society for my Grand Lodge and I would charge each District Deputy to form District esoteric/research/study groups that meet separately from Lodge meetings.

I would allow liquor served at Masonic buildings to be a local Lodge decision but never disallowing it as Grand Master. I would, again acting on economies to scale, arrange at reasonable cost for all Lodges, insurance bargained for at group rates including all. This insurance would include liquor liability insurance so that Lodges could rent out their facilities for public functions. I would also change the Grand Lodge ruling that stipulates that the Grand Lodge owns a local Lodge’s building. From now a local Lodge owns its own building set up under whatever tax structure they deem to be in their best advantage. The only provision in the by-laws would be a requirement that in the event of sale or foreclosure that Grand Lodge have the first right of refusal.

As Grand Master I would outlaw all fund raisers. Lodges within my Jurisdiction must charge enough in dues to cover all their expenses.

I would mandate a District Lodge of Instruction for all candidates run by the District Deputy to insure that all candidates receive the proper instruction at the start of their Masonic journey. I would empower a District Board of Questioners and a State Speakers Bureau with Grand Lodge paying speakers a stipend and travel money so that local Lodges could afford them.

All this I would do because Freemasonry is dying. It has lost its focus. It has lost its sense of mission and bonding with society. It has lost its capability to put on good degrees all the time. It has lost its commitment to Masonic knowledge and philosophical thought. It has become populated by a Brotherhood more interested in the social then in the virtues and the no nothing leaders of our Craft are leading us down a path of ruin. Once again our youth is filled with many seekers, searching for adding meaning and purpose to their lives. That purpose and meaning is right here in Freemasonry if we operate it correctly. But if we just give lip service to the great body of esoteric thought and the Masonic way of life that is there for the study we will lose them to another organization that is what it says it is. We don’t need to help everybody who isn’t a Mason while we starve ourselves. We don’t need to become a glorified Lions Club or as Stephen Dafoe said, “Rotary with Regalia”. We don’t need to market Freemasonry. All we need to do is practice Freemasonry and offer those seekers a good product, exactly what they are searching for.

To enter that path of redemption now is the time to get creative. Now is the time to think outside the box. Now is the time for radical action.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What Would You Do As Grandmaster #5

Now here is another essay in the series from Freemason from the Freestate. I don't know whether he is a traditionalist or a reformer as Silence Dogood reminds us - the lines seem to get blurred as we all, having the betterment of the Craft as our goal, seek answers. I can tell you one thing though, this Brother is very, very knowledgable but as such he doesn't try to trumpet himself as one who has the only true path. As he says on his blog:

"My purpose is to raise questions, not dictate answers."

Thus I have dragged him to this scene as almost a reluctant participant. Freemason from the Freestate is a Blog you don't want to miss and I urge you to follow the link there HERE. There you will meet a Brother who likes to ask questions and wax philosophically.

What would I do, if I was Grand Master with a five year term, to save Freemasonry? Save it from what? Extinction? Itself? I've been putting off an answer to this question, and even now am in the flight of fight mode, with flight winning out. I have a few reasons for this:

1. my own ignorance. I don't know the day to day politics that a GM must face, internally and externally, or the legal constraints.
2. From my point of view as a seat warmer in my lodge, part of a Grand Lodge that looks to me like it's going in the right direction, that there aren't a lot of criticisms I have to level. I am blessed in this.
3. Finally, I have a tendency to wordiness and this is a blog, not a book.

What do I mean when I say “Save Freemasonry?”

The obvious answer is that the fraternity is dying, literally and figuratively. We all look back to times when Freemasonry was so important that the dominant national political, religious and professional men of all nations belonged to it, or opposed it passionately. Enough so to form the first third party in the U.S. to oppose it. Presidents, Kings, Bishops, Lawyers, Butchers, Bakers and Indian Chiefs were members We covered the globe.

Now our average age is what, one hundred? Or is it ninety five? Who was the last president, and how long ago? Who the last king? We sing in praise of famous men, but more of them are dead men than living ones.

So, one form of saving is replacing declining numbers. Retention of members is another, possibly more urgent one. If we nurture the men we have, new men will be attracted. Both require more of the Craft than it seems to be providing. I am going to limit my discussion to just a couple of ideas that I think could turn on our existing members and bring a breath of fresh air for new candidates. And in the same way, save Freemasonry from itself.

It is too easy to be complacent. To be a comfortable seat warmer in a happy lodge of fellow thinkers. Harmony being very important, we may not want to cause each other to think too much, and gee, it's fun to play around at meetings. Freemasonry isn't a social club, or a drinking club, or a religion or a political party. It partakes of all of these, but is more. As a five year term Grand Master it would be my job and intention to promulgate programs that would nurture men in their quest for betterment, and drag along those who just want fun.

The two areas that I would work on are interdependent. They are Unity (harmony perhaps?) and education. Education will be fostered by unity and Unity is dependent on education. Education has been the main purpose of our Gentle Craft since time immemorial. (No I ain't going to define that!)

Year One:

Bring the Grand Line to the same place educationally. Educationally from a Masonic point of view, and, being Grand Master, from my possibly subjective point of view. We would all need to know what's actually going on not just in our Grand Jurisdiction, or even the world, but what's going on down the street. There's Prince Hall Masons doing good work down there, and Women working in gloves and aprons in many areas as well. And why are there schismatic Grand Lodges forming, and should anything be done about them. Who are the Other People who call themselves Masons?

At the same time, I need to be looking to relationships with these OtherPeople who call themselves Masons, right down the street, or in another state or country. Why are those Swedes unique, and what about the French? And how many different Prince Hall Groups are there? And can anything be done to normalize relations there, when these groups don't accept each other? I need to develop working relationships with Grand Masters from these Other disciplines, if I am to save Freemasonry.

And this is a risk in itself. Remember what happened to the Grand Lodge of Washington when it tried on its own to recognize Prince Hall Masonry? Shunned by the rest of the American Masonic universe. Small Grand Lodges may not be able to handle this, especially if there are a lot of interstate dual memberships. And it needs to be moved into.

Year two:

In the second year, I need to start educating the line officers in my constituent lodges (notice looking for unity is encouraging education.) in the same way my Grand Line was educated. The Grand Inspectors and Grand Lecturers need to take the lead in this.

What about ritual? Ritual needs to recapitulate reality to be valid. We're about changing our reality, and some other things may change as well. Not for the first time. Learning that there are many Other Masons out there doing these rituals should spur us on to perfecting them, and what we learn from this other education can only embroider our ritual with greater meaning.

At this time, in need to be working on unification inside my Grand Jurisdiction. There are many lodges too small to fiscally or physically maintain their spaces, and even large ones don't have the young guys to do some of the grunt work. We need to look at unification in this area: mergers and shared spaces.

When two lodges merge, there is a whole new educational challenge: to make them truly one. Not forget the history, but learn each others' and pass it down, but not to hold onto their separate identities so that brotherhood is blocked. It will take two (or more) Worshipful Masters and lines of officers who are of exceptional good will to make this happen properly. As far as shared space is concerned, most of our facilities have many empty evenings and days. Why rent to outsiders when we can rent to brothers, and everyone wins?

It will be the job of my Grand Inspectors to make recommendations about these changes, and facilitate them.

Year Three:

The year of subduing our passions. There are going to be ruffled feelings and incompletions that need ironing out. Interjurisdictional talks are going to ruffle more than a few within and without the Grand Lodge. The passions that divide the African American Masonic Community alone are going to be monumental to work through, and it isn't my business to do it! But good will and good intentions can bring good honorable men together. And working with female Masons is going to ruffle feathers all over. Even asking these questions will stir passions. This is a year of consolidation and subduing of passions.

Year four:

We need during this year to move to convince our counterparts of the need for change. Only by persuasion, and love unfeigned can this hope to succeed. I will work during this time to expand participation in the Scottish Rite. I say this because the lessons and tenets of this organization are so progressive that men of good will can only benefit by them. This is a tool that needs to be used.

Many of the brothers in this order are among the leaders in our Craft and in our Community. They need to be brought to bear. The Scottish Rite has justifiably been called the University of Freemasonry, and it is too much ignored.

Year Five:

This is the year of community relations. This is where the new brethren (perhaps embracing sisters) will come from. I believe that the openness that Freemasonry has displayed recently may not be good for encouraging new membership. That mystery is attractive. That presenting ourselves as a charitable institution is neither profitable nor correct. We shouldn't stop our charitable work, but we need to stop the flashing light shows when we do it. Subtlety won members in the past, and will win more in the future.

Freemasonry needs to let the community know we're here, and have real accomplishments to display to it. Not just giving bears to sick kids, but showing that men and women of good will can find unity in diversity and a common cause, even if we don't go to the same clubhouse. Because I'm not saying that all of the various Masonic bodies should be merged, but rather that they should and must be united.

Unity of purpose. Unity of practice. Unity of humanity. That is what will save Freemasonry.