MASONIC SURVIVAL by John B. Williams President of the Phylaxis Society

Discussion in 'Prince Hall History and Research' started by Raymond Walters, Mar 19, 2013.

  1. Raymond Walters

    Raymond Walters Premium Member

    Masonic Survival

    A Seminar Presented to The Phylaxis Society March 22, 2002

    The Health of the Body

    We take health for granted – but only when everyone around us is healthy! When we have a healthy child, one who is growing physically and intellectually, we think little about illness. We try to broaden the healthy child's horizons and enrich their lives, physically and intellectually. We take them to the zoo, introduce them to sports, take them to Sunday School, and do what we can to challenge them, to nurture their growth. But I remember the sad day when my granddaughter stopped growing. We gave her food, but each time she regurgitated. Several doctors found nothing wrong but as she slowly wasted away from malnutrition, the lives of those close to her changed. Her eyes were sunken and her limbs were thin. In time, all of our energies and all of our resources were focused on reversing her condition. Doctors at the Loma Linda Medical Center ultimately discovered the problem and corrected it, but until they did, our priorities changed drastically. We did not concern ourselves at that time about her emotional and intellectual development. No matter how important these things have always been to us, we had to help her conserve energy because every wasted motion brought her one step closer to death. Until we were confident that she would see her next birthday we did not care whether she would ever see a zoo.

    Health of the Masonic Order

    Such is the nature of life. The cessation of growth, a general decline in the body, is a symptom that signals the beginning of the end. Such is the condition of the Masonic Order. A sustained decline in membership is a sign of a serious malady that each day brings the Order closer to its demise. A Masonic Lodge or a Grand Lodge whose membership is in decline is one that is dying and it had better focus itself -- all of its energies and all of its resources -- on reversing the decline and concentrate its diminishing resources on identifying and rectifying the problem. The focus must be on growth. While the body is in decline, little if any of its energies must be expended on programs other than those that contribute in some visible manner to growth. The situation calls for a basic and fundamental change in the manner in which the business of a lodge is done.

    Where Our Priorities Need to be

    I submit that in periods of decline there are programs in three categories that bear emphasis, each of which plays a role in building membership:
    1. The first category comprises public programs, youth programs, and endeavors that put us in the public eye so that we can attract new members,
    2. The next area involves electrifying ritualistic proficiency which helps us to inspire and to light the fire that burns in the hearts of Masons, and
    3. The third area involves a program of continuing Masonic education that lets us sustain our members and teach Master Masons the duties they owe to God, to their fellow men, and to themselves.

    What is Trivia?

    I further submit that those programs that do not contribute to growth, in some direct and obvious manner, are Masonic trivia and can be postponed until times of health. It is honorable and noble to commit Masonic resources to worthy public service programs in time of prosperity but it brings us no shame to shift resources toward achieving growth during periods of decline. In times of prosperity when excess resources are available, trivia helps to involve the membership by absorbing them in secondary activities. As resources decline, it becomes critical that resources be focused in the direction in which they do the greatest good, that primary direction of attracting, inspiring, and sustaining members.

    Attracting New Members

    The Masonic Order is unique in that it officially prohibits the solicitation of members. Lodges must attract members by the work of its members. Masons must therefore be active and visible in the churches and the schools -- those arenas from which we wish to attract members -- and Masons must not hesitate to let it be known that they are Masons. Our youth programs must be extended; a long range goal might be to establish chapters of the youth group in every high school and college in the jurisdiction. Public programs must be impressive not only to our fellow Masons but to the audience we wish to attract. More of our charity programs should be targeted toward the young men we hope to entice into the order (a beneficial shift in focus).

    Inspired Ritualistic Work

    The call for ritualistic proficiency on the part of degree teams will make the degrees more meaningful to the candidate and will light a fire in their hearts that will not be easily extinguished, but it goes further. By asking that our members learn and perform the Masonic degrees, we are furthering the third objective, that of sustaining the interest of each degree team member by encouraging his continuing education. Also, exciting degree work induces nonparticipating members to come and observe, thus increasing participation and interest in the workings of the lodge by those who might otherwise stay at home.

    Sustaining Interest with Continuing Education

    Once the fire has been lit in our youngest Master Masons, the flame must be nurtured throughout their Masonic life. Brothers must be taught what it means to be good men and Masons. This is easy in an environment in which degree work is done continuously because new members can be involved with coaching successive groups of candidates, forcing them as teachers to extend their own knowledge of the work. It is a mistake, however, when lodges, in their fervor to make Masons, become degree mills and omit this final step. The educational process must extend from the Masonic cradle to the grave -- from the day he hears that first knock until the day he gets his fifty-year pin and beyond. Lodges must encourage continuous brotherly interaction: transferring knowledge, whispering friendly counsel, sustaining the spark. This may the most important duty a Masonic body undertakes, and it is sometimes a neglected one. Examine a lodge that is in decline and you will likely find a lodge that no longer sustains the Masonic spirit of its members.

    How can a Grand Lodge help?

    Each of the above programs is traditionally handled within the Masonic Lodge, not by Grand Lodges. The Grand Lodge can help by providing the leadership that inspires the lodges to concentrate their efforts on beneficial programs and by eliminating any superfluous demands on the lodges that consume diminishing resources or detract from growth programs.

    The Spiraling Decline

    The problem a lodge encounters during periods of declining membership is that there are fewer manhours available to get the essential jobs done. If Brother Jones has ten hours a month to devote to his lodge, which if the following would contribute most to long term survival of the order: to have him use that time organizing a youth chapter at the local community college with the prospect of bringing in new members, or to have him sell raffle tickets to fund trivia that further drains the energies of the lodges. In periods of decline, faced with the eventual demise of the order, one must carefully justify the expenditure of one manhour or one dollar to any endeavor other than those that contribute directly to the health of the dying body.

    Meaningful and Fulfilling Work

    Men are more inclined to undertake tasks that they find meaningful and fulfilling. I suggest that the process of attracting, initiating, and sustaining membership is more meaningful and fulfilling than selling raffle tickets. The general membership will therefore be more inclined to sacrifice their time to the former vision.

    General Recommendation

    I recommend a three to five-year program in which every committee, every legislated requirement, every workshop, every expenditure of funds, and every letter and directive emanating from Masonic bodies be reviewed and evaluated to determine whether it in any way contributes to or detracts from the growth of membership, and that the Constitution, Masonic Code, committee structure and the duties of committees, be revised as needed to reflect the new vision the Lodge and the Grand Lodge must adopt.

    Specific Examples.

    The following are examples of programs and policies that may help. Brainstorming will result in other actions that may be effective.

    Continuing Degree Work

    Degree work tends to revitalize a lodge when it is done properly, so it is beneficial that lodges confer degrees continuously rather than wait to amass candidates. Not only are new members brought in expeditiously, but the repetition of the degree work helps the membership to rededicate itself to the principles of the order.

    Joint Degrees

    If a lodge has been inactive, it will be easier to get them jumpstarted if they begin by participating in a joint degree. There is a kind of synergism that evolves when two lodges come together that is hard to get from one alone.
    Healing Non-recognized Masons. The process of inducting non-recognized masons needs to be simplified and aggressively pursued.

    Targeting Non-recognized Masons

    Programs should be established that help the lodges entice non-recognized Masons to jump ship and climb aboard the Prince Hall bandwagon. (This process is being hindered at present because these Masons are not allowed to bring with them titles and associated degrees they have earned).

    Masons on Sight

    The Grand Lodge should adopt a more aggressive program aimed at inducting men of stature, including local dignitaries, big-name entertainers, and sports figures, whose reputation would enhance the appeal of the Masonic Order.

    Refocus the Youth Program

    The youth program must remove itself from babysitting service and concentrate on attracting and organizing those mature young men who are eligible or will soon be eligible to become Masons.
    Targeting Prospective Members
    We cannot invite men to join the order but we can invite them to our social and fundraising activities and thereby expose them to the order. Prospective members should be targeted as patrons for every public function conducted by the lodge.

    A Caring Attitude

    The process of attracting, inspiring, and sustaining members requires that we focus attention on people -- that we educate prospective members and that we converse with new members. The simple act of communicating allows new and prospective members to express their concerns and lets us discover where their criticisms and where our problems lie.

    In summary

    To grow, lodges must make Masons -- if necessary, to the exclusion of all else. Making Masons is what Masonic lodges do better that anything else. The good Mason is a teacher and a student, a seeker of light who loves to share that light with others. Somewhere, somehow, Masons have become so bogged down by trivia that they no longer do what they know and love and do best -- take good men and make them better.

  2. streeter

    streeter Registered User


    this is why i wrote a book..
    about ritual development and renewal...
    about excitement and exploration...
    and even as the author of it i am not ashamed to promote it...


    robert streeter.
  3. Raymond Walters

    Raymond Walters Premium Member

    The paper I posted was originally written and presented in 2002 by Hon. John Williams, FPS (Life).

    I notice that your book has copyright in 2012 from what I can see. I will certainly make effort to obtain your book, but it shows me that there are those of us who clearly have similar thought patterns and concerns on this particular topic.

    Thank you,
  4. streeter

    streeter Registered User

    hello w/bro raymond, there are indeed many of us who are very concerned regarding the current status of our fraternity in todays society and changing culture - I do sincerely hope you obtain a book and be very free and open to discuss its content - which is - in places - highly critical...sincerely - robert streeter.
    Raymond Walters likes this.

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