Page 30 - MFM March 2016
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The Lodge At The Goose And The Gridiron
   A 21st Century Take On Early Masonry

                           David Cameron, PSGW
      Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario

The following article was given as a presentation to the Conference of Grand
     Secretaries In North America, Madison, Wisconsin on February 22, 2016.

   What will the lodges of the future look like? Will     The fall-out of the Morgan Affair decimated
they be dining clubs? Community service groups?        Freemasonry in the United States. By 1837 almost
Esoteric associations? Whatever they will be,          two-thirds of the lodges in Indiana had closed. Only
Freemasonry will undoubtedly be smaller – fewer        twenty-six lodges sent representatives to the annual
members in fewer lodges. This is not your typical      communication of the Grand Lodge of New York
gloom and doom prediction. It is the natural cycle     that year. Illinois, Michigan and Vermont didn’t
which we have seen time and again throughout our       even hold sessions.
                                                          Whether as a result of the issues in England,
   Lodges have always been formed and closed as        or those in the U.S., even in Canada membership
needs and circumstances dictate. A group would         declined. Of the twenty-six lodges listed on the
form in an area of economic growth, work while         Provincial Register of Upper Canada in 1829,
that area was prosperous, and then when the men        eighteen became dormant within the next decade.
left that area, it would close. That is surely how
the operative lodges building cathedrals worked.          But Freemasonry rebounded in all of these
When the cathedral was completed, the lodge would      jurisdictions. And then declined and rebounded
disband.                                               again.

   The Premier Grand Lodge was founded by four            As R. W. Bro. James W. Daniel, Past Grand
London lodges in 1717. By 1725 they had over sixty     Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England,
lodges, by 1730 a hundred, and by 1740 over two        has said:
hundred. But by 1750 about a quarter of the London
lodges had been expelled or erased from the register.       “Lodges come and go. They always have,
                                                         because they are essentially groups of friends.
   Still others seceded and joined the rival             Sometimes those friends almost isolate
“Antients” Grand Lodge after it was formed in 1751.      themselves and they do not bring in the next
They sought a form of Freemasonry that, at least in      generation. Then the lodge will die. It is a matter
rhetoric, returned to the older practices which had      of regret, but everybody dies. Even Grand
stirred the founders.                                    Secretaries die. They are human. Lodges must not
                                                         be kept alive unnaturally. One of the great things
   But Antients lodges went dark too. The Antients’      about Freemasonry is that basic units are allowed
practice was to re-assign the numbers of lodges that     to die gracefully and new units are born as friends
had closed to new lodges. Between 1751 and 1813          fall out and go on to form another lodge. It is
they did this 510 times!                                 a fantastic organization we have which allows
                                                         this to happen and the organization goes on. It is
   The Union of the Antients and the Moderns in          like an amoeba. We get worried about retention
1813 is held as a triumph for the Craft, but over        rates. We did some research into the 1880’s,
the first thirty years of the United Grand Lodge of      one of the high eras of Freemasonry. Then, the
England, the number of lodges declined by a sixth.       average age of a lodge before it dies was only
Fifty-nine lodges were erased in 1828 alone for not      15 years. And we think we have problems today.
making returns. And no new lodges were warranted
in London between 1813 and 1839 – twenty-six                 There is no question but that we in Ontario
years!                                                   have been in a period of declining membership.
                                                         Twenty-five years ago we had 91,000 members
   During the French Revolution, Freemasonry             in 653 lodges. Now we have 37,000 in 540
almost disappeared from France. And edicts of            lodges. Apart from the total decline, notice what
Popes, Kings, and Emperors suppressed Masonry at         that has done to lodge membership. In 1989 we
various times, from Portugal to Russia.                  had an average of 139 members per lodge, now
                                                         it’s only 69. Given that less than a quarter of the
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