Recently, I started watching a show called Knightfall on Netflix. It’s a Historical fiction about the Medieval Knights Templars. As a Mason and a fan of the Jedi (George Lucas based the Jedis in part on the Knights Templar), I was curious to see what parallels or ideas I could glean from the show. The answer was tons. But one thing that stood out to me was a scene in which the Templars of Paris held their meeting. (Link of the video is included in the post). Long story short, as they gathered for their meeting, one Brother gets mad that they are not doing what he feels Templars are called to do but instead are doing what any group of monks can do. He ends with these poignant questions – what do we do? What are we for?
Nowadays it is in vogue for people to discuss the problems of Masonry and what needs to be done to fix it. I want to take a different route. I want to suggest Masonry is perfectly okay. Yes some changes need to be made, and yes some things need to be improved, but overall Masonry is stable in terms of initiating men. Where we seem to fall short in is in retaining these men. It seems many men come to the craft looking for one thing, but instead getting another. I want to share an idea that has entered my mind that may help with enhancing retention, and fraternal fellowship.
Are we builders or are we, meeters?
In Britain, many lodges meet quarterly. In Latin America, many lodges meet weekly. In America, the norm is monthly, or bimonthly. Attending Lodge meeting in America is taken as the main activity for an active Mason. Similar to going to class, work, or church. Showing up is 80% of the grade. Because of the importance placed on stated communications, most programming of the year is focused on these meetings. Whether it is doing the business of the lodge, or providing education. Stated communications are the foundation of Masonic work done by a lodge. Another result of this is that people are focused on enhancing the meeting experience. Better opening and closings, timely starts, reducing business of the lodge, adding interesting speakers, ending the meeting in a timely fashion, and enjoying collation/dinner/fellowship right after. Meetings are the workhorse of a Masonic Lodge. All of these actions have proven to improve retention and enhance the lodge experience. But are we piling too much on to the horse?
I believe that it is possible to enhance the Masonic experience significantly, by reducing the need or focus on Stated Communication. Think about it; our Medieval and renaissance brothers called themselves Freemasons because they built structures. That is what they did, that was their purpose. Lodge meetings were designed to share pertinent information regarding the business of building and to give out work assignments. Then they would proceed to LABOR TOGETHER. Lodge meetings probably were places for brothers to rest and refresh themselves.
In Modern Days the nature of lodge meetings do not necessarily lend itself to interaction and labor amongst the brothers, it is more similar to Church, where people go to listen to the directing officials, or even attending a concert. I have noticed the lodges that are the most robust combine good meeting experience with a healthy amount of on-meeting activities. They do community service, have regular education classes, they visit their sick brothers and elderly, they travel, and party together. They fight, hug, and makeup. They communicate on the phone and spend non-masonic time together. They look after each other kids and help each other find jobs. The list goes on. Some may say that these are outside of the purview os Masonry. I say –
I would like to recognize AUL #14 of the MWPHGLoNY who I feel are experts in this type of Masonry and lead the way for many of our future practices. No lodge is perfect, but ever lodge can get better.
What do we do? What are we for?