Page 31 - MFM March 2016
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Montana Freemason  March 2016                            Volume 92 Number 2

  members usually attend a given meeting, some              “What follows is what I think of as a period of
  lodges are having trouble getting enough out to        what I refer to as 1960’s solutions. Essentially
  open lodge.                                            programmes consisting of structured social events,
                                                         the belief that if only you can train the member to
   Some lodges will go dark, other will amalgamate.      do everything the “right way” all may yet be well,
Surprisingly we have found that we actually retain       and the desire to engage in events to present the
more members if a lodge goes dark than if it             organization to the public in a favorable light.
amalgamates. I think this is because, when his lodge
goes dark, a brother is empowered to find a new             However well-intentioned these ideas are,
lodge where he fits in and likes what they are doing.    they actually create stress upon the membership.
                                                         Because the numbers are not what they once
   Having fewer lodges is not always a bad thing.        were, but the quantity and scope of initiatives has
The remaining lodges end up with a larger number of      increased, those dedicated brethren who remain
active members, so that they have the critical mass to   bear an ever increasing load of responsibilities.
do things. There is less recycling of line officers and
Worshipful Masters, leading to a more enthusiastic          This in turn may, and often does lead to a
governance. The brethren who previously had              disconnection between the leadership of Grand
affiliated with several marginal lodges to keep          Lodge and the membership. This occurs in main
them alive have fewer mundane meetings to attend         because the leaders continue to seek new ways to
and therefore more time and energy to devote to          rehabilitate the order, while the brethren already
successful projects.                                     burdened with more work attempt to rationalize
                                                         doing more with less, with the fact that the numbers
   Why do we obsess about numbers?                       are not rebounding.
   Why do we so desperately want new members?
   Are we driven by a burning desire to improve             Structurally while dues received fall with the
men and society by sharing the philosophy of             roll numbers operating expenses never do. This
Freemasonry?                                             offers the classic dilemma of maintaining revenue
   Or are we pre-occupied with paying for the            though fee increases or cutting expenses. On a
upkeep of our crumbling buildings?                       local level this may lead to lodges combining into
   Perhaps we should we rename ourselves the             one hall, raising dues, or even going into darkness.
Architectural Preservation Society.
                                                            Either choice has its pitfalls – increased dues
   What harm can focusing on numbers do? It              puts a certain stress on individuals. Cutting
might lead to accepting a candidate we shouldn’t,        expenses leads to a greater sense of retreat, and a
because we need his money! We might focus our            pervasive feeling that the best days are past.”
time and effort on recruiting new members, rather
than developing the members we already have (and            So what can we do? As Grand Lodges, we need
then they, of course, will leave, leaving us just as     to stop making more and more programs to rescue
desperate.) We talk about how things were in the         lodges. Instead, we need to empower individual
good old days when our temples were overflowing,         lodges to look at their unique situations and make
but who wants to join a group that continually says      the changes they need to thrive.
“We used to be great.”?
                                                            Let them adopt an observant model if they
   And measuring a lodge’s health by its size is not     wish. Allow lodges to meet in undedicated rooms,
a valid method. Some small lodges are quite healthy      so they can sell their millstone of a building and
thank-you. Some even purposely limit their size to       instead rent a room once a month in a multi-use
a small number.                                          facility. (I favour a room in a hotel, or a tavern -
                                                         that seems to have a precedent!)
   Grand Lodge focuses on this decrease in numbers
and feels it needs to help, so it develops programs         Let them know they can change their bylaws
to increase membership. But as R.W. Bro. Russell         so they meet less often. Then their meetings could
Staye, a Past Provincial Grand Master of the Orange      be more elaborate, perhaps with proper festive
Order, and a Past District Deputy Grand Master in        boards, so they become events to look forward to.
our Grand Jurisdiction, said in a speech distilled
from his observations of both organizations:                                                                               Page 31
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