KEEPING NEW MASONS
Much is made these days of holding business meetings and other meetings on
the first degree. This has been forwarded as a cure for alienation and loss
of interest in our newly initiated brethren. Several grand lodges in the
U.S. have already considered this proposal. However, even if your grand
lodge has approved business meetings on the first degree, there are other
ways to maintain interest and participation without opening all of our
meetings to all degrees of our brethren.
Have the Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts understand as a part in their
introduction before initiation that they are expected to attend lodge for
all meetings, of whatever degree to work in the kitchen, to serve the meals,
and to assist in setting up and cleaning the lodge. This is not just a way
to get menial chores done. This is a way for the EAs and FCs to become
familiar with the workings of the lodge, to be active in the real activities
of the lodge and to meet and form bonds of friendship with all of the active
brothers of the lodge.
These active brothers will be a good influence of the new masons and show
them the example of participation that will keep them coming back, and the
experience of serving will let them know what is expected of the officers of
the lodge, starting with the stewards and tiler.
Also, whenever the lodge holds a service project or dinner outside of the
normal schedule the EAs and FCs must know that their attendance is required
to help, not just to bring their families or themselves. This inclusion is
the key to these new masons feeling that they are a vital part of the lodge
and that their active support is directly contributing to all of the lodge
It will be only a short step for an new Master Mason who has this kind of
experience to step into the stewards chairs or to begin in a committee. He
is already helping the lodge to run while learning his new degree work. If
the meals are prepared in advance or catered, as suggested elsewhere on this
site, the meetings where the EAs and FCs cannot attend can be time well
spent with a coach learning their memory work. By the time they are ready
to become lodge officers, the idea of learning the work of the lodge and
serving the lodge at the same time will be ingrained as a part of
Bro J. R. Martin, MPS, Houston, Texas
Here is an excellent further suggestion from Leon Zeldis, FPS, 33° Israel:
I concur...with an addition: in
those meetings where EAs and FCs are excluded, have them conduct an
instruction session with an experienced brother. Not only going over the
lectures, but rather explaining the structure of the lodge, of the Grand
Lodge, how Freemasonry started, how your own lodge was started and what it
has done in the past, the proper conduct within the lodge, the importance of
attending regularly to meetings, recommended reading (see what books you
have available in the nearest Masonic library), the meaning of the lodge
furnishings and symbols, why we have rituals, etc. In other words, make these sessions
interesting, incentivate the EAs and FCs to ask questions, and if the
instructor doesn't know the answer, let him be honest, and find the answer
later from a more knowledgable brother or from the literature, to convey it
at the next session.
That's what I wuld do in such a situation.
Of course, I still think that it
is preferable to have all lodge meetings (except passing and raising) in the
And from Jim May, PGM AZ
I am pleased to see you called "business meetings on the first degree" "a cure"
and not THE cure.
Speaking as one from a GL which has allowed this for several years, I can tell
you it does help the EAs and FCs maintain contact with the Lodge. That's
something the old system could have done, but most often didn't -- with
consequences all too depressing and too frequent.
Your other suggestions are right on target. One of my friends reminds me quite
frequently that "it does no good to bring live Masons into dead Lodges."
Finding something meaningful for new members to do (and reminding them to speak
up if they see or hear of something they'd like to help with) ought to be given
priority. The old paradigm of "sit on the sidelines and be quiet for a year or
two" is a disaster.
Here are some great, practical ideas from Milo Daily of Concord Lodge No. 13, Watertown, SD USA
"And for what it's worth, I'm a new District Master (called "District
Deputy Grand Master" in some jurisdictions), PM of my Lodge and past warden
of two Lodges; Life Member and hopefully soon Past Master of the S.D. Lodge
of Masonic Research (Opinions due to illness of my good friend, Brother and
SW; founding SW of the new uniquely dual GL chartered Frontier Army Lodge of
Masonic Research #1875 (Reenactor) AF&AM; Philalethes Soc.; Scottish Rite
(SJ) 32nd, SRSJ Research Society; Yelduz Shrine and PR area representative;
Chairman SD Grand Lodge Public Awareness Committee and editor/writer of
Masonic Model Student Assistance Training Program state public awareness
tabloid distributed statewide through daily and weekly newspaper inserts.
"I probably forgot something above, but it still takes a buck most places
to buy coffee..."(Maybe in South Dakota! Ed.)
As one Mason serving an area where several rural Lodges in changing
demographic circumstances are considering turning in their charters even
with 35-75 paying Brethren, I'd like to add some observations to Bro Martin's analysis of the condition of Masonry in year 2000 C.E.:
1. I've discovered many Brethren, including some of those most able at
ritual -- far beyond my own honestly feeble ability -- aren't aware of the
basic concept that if there's no Grand Lodge constitutional restriction,
they have actually incredible latitude in what they choose to do for the
required monthly communications. This single fact may be a major block to
small community Lodges everywhere finding appropriate programs beyond the
ritual opening, closing and business reports. In my own jurisdiction they
could do darned near anything they might choose -- and opening Lodge monthly
or more frequently "in due form" is not even required.... Okay, so we're
largely "cowboys" out here...
2. Younger Brethren, seeing little or nothing of relevance to
themselves unless they're from a Masonic family (and often not then), even
if they join a Lodge, are immediately presented with little of the reality
of Masonry. They see a only their senior brothers's scenario of forced
memorization of such volumes of ritual that it's inconceivable they might
It's small wonder so many disappear so rapidly regardless of
longstanding relationships outside Lodge with many senior Brethren. Nobody
ever tells them the ritual is nothing but an outward and visible sign of an
inward grace and external true Brotherhood of tolerant and usually
supportive men of all ages who meet honestly on a level plane.
3. Teaching today is a significantly different craft perceived far
differently than by previous generations. For one thing, many "under 30" men
have no experience whatsoever of memory work. Further, their entire
education and most their life expereince has been under a "positive
reenforcement" style of learning to the point many have never engaged in
competitive (winner and loser) types of endeavor. As a result, they simply
can't relate to traditional styles of memory work regardless of intellectual
4. Number 3 means Brethren over age 45 who aren't professional
instructors must learn new ways of teaching the ritual and other lessons of
Masonry in a more interactive manner marked by positive reenforcement.
Changing style is far easier said than done. Don't ever forget Masonry has
lost more than an entire generation in North America starting with those who
entered culture as a pubescent "adult" in the 1960s.
5. Current "Yes" responses for adults in year 2000 information age
culture come from videos, restaurant meeting room dinners for couples,
Internet accessibility of schedules, programs and paperwork, "readers
theater" ritual, buildings that don't look and smell like Grandpa,
free-wheeling discussion of issues of the day (within the usual Masonic
restrictions), the opportunity to express personal feelings as well as
opinions ... and as ever in living Masonry, friendship in a "current
Look at number 5, consider it's roughly the pattern of successful
Masonry during each of its major growth periods in any national ethos. Then
consider what can correct things in Grand Lodges today rather than
attempting to resurrect 1870s North American Masonry which died in 1965 when
"Tradition" stopped being a motivating factor for any active participation
in society for young adults.
Remember also Shrine in the US would not have been successful as a
cultural artifact had it not answered a great need of couples' and family
enjoyment of a fraternal setting after US Masonry generally sealed the wine
bottles in the Craft Lodge building.
Michael J. Kastle, MPS, Concord #307, Vienna, VA, USA
"and others" cites a great example:
The American Canadian Grand Lodge (ACGL) part of the German Grand Lodge
Association (VGL) always opens, conducts all business and closes in the 1st
degree. Many lodges appoint the two newest EAs as the Lodge Jr & Sr
Stewards. When FC or MM work is to be done, those not having yet attained
that rank are asked to leave and the lodge moves up to the necessary degree
and then will return to the 1st for closing if there are lower ranked
members outside. They will go to another part of the building and practice
their work with a volunteer MM as teacher. This is an excellent way to get
the new EA involved in the work of the Lodge. The ACGL is made up of mainly
American & Canadian military and expats living in Germany, as well as any
other nationality who wants to speak English. My current lodge's (Solomon
#822, Stuttgart) secretary is German, and has been secretary for many years.
Opening in the 3rd degree appears to be an aberration only found in the USA.
James R. Walker, PM of Wallace Houghston Lodge No. 1393 in El Paso, Texas, has a great idea:
As Texas does not yet allow buisness meetings to be held in any Lodge other than Master Masons Lodge, we at Wallace Houghston Lodge #1393 in El Paso, strongly encourage EA & FC Masons to attend the meeting held the day before the Stated Meeting (Officers Meeting) as all business to be conducted will be discussed there. This gives them a chance to see how the Lodge business is conducted, and learn the Lodge operation. Turn out has been very good, and they are always asked for input at the end of the meeting. This encourages the to be involved, and as they are adults, have the right to be heard, if they are to be good members.
Bro Beldon Dominello of Washington Lodge #70 in Windsor, Connecticut has an exemplary lodge:
In our lodge, a concerted effort is made by all of the top three officers (but
especially the WM) to call every brother on the rolls at least twice during
their year in the chair, just to say hello and ask how they are doing.
This has an added advantage, as one PM knows. This Brother runs our blood
drive. Every two months, there's a blood drive in our town, and we host
every alternate one. We feed each of the donors as well as the staff a full
breakfast (I'm told there are arguments among the Red Cross volunteers as to
who gets to work at the blood drive when its at our lodge). Obviously, we
need a fair number of Brothers to make food, clean up, prep, etc. The
Brother who coordinates this found that he has an easier time getting help if
he has already spoken to the Brothers beforehand just asking how things are
going. Too often we fall into the pattern of only calling when we need
something (remember your parents?), and having an open line of communication
makes getting help easier. And-- I think it goes without saying--
involvement in Lodge activities is a great way to keep participation in the
Lodge as a whole going.
Once again, if you have a lodge that is going fine without these changes, GREAT! We want to hear from you and, perhaps to include your ideas in our next revision. Please contact the website editor by clicking HERE.