Wednesday, September 15, 2010

History is what happens when you're not paying attention

Anybody who says this fraternity needs to change hasn't been looking around. Part of it is cultural, part is technological, and part is generational. But the Freemasonry we are living through today is definitely not your grandfather's fraternity.

A year ago, I was invited to speak at Annapolis Lodge No. 89 in Maryland. Among the brethren I met that evening was Brother Eric Madison. He and Brad Finnsson have formed FraternalSoft Inc. and created the great iPhone software application, Masonic Traveler. Masonic Traveler is an outstanding lodge finder ap that works intuitively with your iPhone, providing names, address, contact information, maps and step-by-step directions, and more for almost every Craft lodge in the US. If you hit a town and want to find the lodge, the ap locates you on a map via GPS and shows you where the closest lodges are.

Best of all, it has been supported by grand lodges themselves—information for each lodge was provided by grand secretaries. And the application listings are being added to all the time, including Prince Hall Affiliated lodges in many states. That makes it the most comprehensive electronic version of US lodge listings anywhere. I can't recommend this application heartily enough. It has helped me several times already, and well worth its $7.99 price.

Part of the work involved is that the developers load every lodge address into the software. That means they have looked at virtually every single Masonic lodge website in the US and Canada in the process of programming the ap. So today, Eric sent me a note pointing to the website of a Prince Hall lodge, Olive Branch Lodge No. 94 in Chicago.

Visit the site here and have a look at the introductory video on their front page, created by Brother Shawn Robinson.

My point in mentioning this is, whether Olive Branch's music or their video appeals to your taste or not, every lodge has its own personality. And every lodge that has an active lineup of new candidates and a regular rotation of officers coming through is going through a major evolution in programs, interests, vision and personality, right now. That means a lodge can be a very, very different place in as little as five years. Internet and social networking is allowing that evolution to happen at a faster rate than ever before in the history of the fraternity, as ideas are shared all around the Masonic world, instantly. Long-forgotten Masonic books that haven't been available in dozens and even hundreds of years are now available on Google, Kindle and iPad. We have greater opportunities for Masonic education than at any time in our history.

Go and visit other lodges and see how they do things. Steal great ideas and claim them as your own. Or better yet, improve on them. Every single lodge is wrestling with most of the same problems, but Masonic officers don't have to struggle in a vacuum. A great program, presentation, paper, dinner, charity plan, or even lodge decorating idea can be shared with brethren literally overnight. Cherry-pick the ideas that will work best for you and the active members of your lodge.

The point is, if your lodge is floundering and not serving the needs and desires of its active members—the ones who show up every month—you need to get to work right now. Even if all of your members are over the age of 70, age is no excuse for lousy programming, creepy food, bad ritual work, tattered regalia, or a building that is a disgrace. And it's easier than ever before in history to get the word out to the Masonic community about your activities, or to ask brethren in your area for help.

1 comment:

Levi said...

I'm glad to see the Lodge Locator promoted online. I use this app to visit far-flung Lodges within my district and also to find Lodges I can visit when I travel. This past summer, thanks to this application, I had the pleasure of visiting a very active Lodge while on a conference in Winston-Salem, NC. There, I learned about the Closing Charge, which isn't used in my district, along with ideas for several charity projects I can use here at home. They even gave me directions to the best restaurants and barber shops, which eliminated the need for my Vicinity app.

Also, I completely agree with your sentiment about Lodges changing with the proper initiative. I am currently WM of a Lodge whose median age, five years ago, was about 73. As time goes on, that number goes down. I have conferred more degrees than I can even keep track of... I have to ask the secretary every so often. And they're extremely active members. It's all I can do to keep up with these hard-chargers, and I'm only 29.

Whomever keeps saying that Masonry is doomed either isn't paying attention or is a fatalist. We're growing with a purpose by leaps and bounds where I am.