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Membership Retention

The young men seeking admission and being accepted into our lodges today are not joining the Craft simply to discover the ‘quaint and curious stuff’ – passwords, odd gestures, or peculiar handshakes. They seek, expect, and deserve more – much more. They are seeking knowledge of the spiritual value of the rites of Initiation.

Freemasonry has long established traditions and fixed Landmarks that we have all solemnly sworn to observe, uphold, and maintain. Just as Freemasonry has the innate capacity to change men, so men have changed Freemasonry by subtly shifting its focus. The most casual reading of history will prove that Freemasonry has evolved from the days of Masonry when the lodges met in taverns and ale-houses where rum and tobacco were abundantly provided and freely used. We all know that the first Grand Lodge was formed on June 24th 1717, when four old lodges met in a London tavern, the Goose and Gridiron in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

In the 21st century, most would agree that the Craft has evolved (some more forthright observers might say degenerated) into a friendly social entity employed mainly for charitable purposes – in others words, a service club. The great work that Masons do in the community must always be encouraged, supported and commended, but surely fund raising for worthy causes and projects is a byproduct and extension of our Masonic beliefs, not the primary object or main purpose of our existence.

Let me be very clear. The social virtues are fundamental to our Order – Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. Sincere fraternal affection is the cement that binds us together. For many, fellowship and social intercourse are the main attraction and principal reward of membership in the lodge. Not everyone is absorbed in the study of the deeper philosophical aspects of the Craft. There are many rooms in the mansion of Freemasonry, and it has the innate capacity to be all things to all men. Every man has his own reason for becoming and continuing as a Mason, and each is valid and legitimate. My concern is that we not forget to make room for those men serious in their quest for the keys to the inner chamber of Freemasonry.

Today’s new members are, for the most part, highly motivated, intellectual, well-educated, widely-read, articulate young Masons which can be described as the new breed. We not only need to embrace new members and guide them…… but also listen to them. It does not take much imagination to predict the success of innovative approaches in the decades ahead.

Opportunity knocks – and knocks loudly. Perhaps now we can restore our lodge to what it was originally intended to be – a place where like-minded men can enjoy each others company, providing a forum where they may openly discuss and freely debate the basic questions of life. Perhaps Freemasonry can again become a gentleman’s learned society where men are able to transform themselves into better men.

Through all the changing scenes of life……. Freemasonry has remained constant – its teachings permanent and unchanging; its essence steadfast and immoveable. Reformation is neither revolution nor rebellion. It is rather the means and process by which to reshape and renew, adapting our timeless principles to the day and age in which we live. We should strive to reclaim our inheritance as a modern mystery school…. and restore the original idea, and ideals of Freemasonry.

R:. W:. Wayne T. Smith, DDGM Washington District NY