If there is anything constant in life, it is change.
- Bryce’s Law
It is no secret that membership in Freemasonry is either stagnating or in decline in most jurisdictions. Some Grand Lodges pay attention to our membership numbers, others do not. But I contend there are other important indicators we should be paying attention to; namely, membership and participation in the allied and appendant bodies of Freemasonry.
Attendance in our youth organizations (DeMolay, Rainbow, Job’s Daughters) are deteriorating. In Florida for example, just 30 years ago we had vibrant youth organizations; today they are few and far between. The Order of the Eastern Star and clubs like the High Twelve are also diminishing. Their members are getting older, grayer, and are not being replaced by new people. The Scottish and York Rite bodies are still reeling from the Shrine’s decision a few years ago to bypass these groups in order to join the Shrine. True, they have organized many one-day classes, but their numbers continue to drop. And even the Shrine is still experiencing membership problems; so much so, there are whisperings to negate the prerequisite of being a Mason to join the Shrine.
We could look at the decline of these fine organizations and blame it on bad management, and perhaps we would be right, but I believe the problem is more fundamental than this; that the real problem is our failure to adapt to changing times.
Following World War II, Masonic institutions experienced considerable growth during the 1950’s and 1960’s, our ” go-go” years. But our growth was arrested in the 1980’s and began to decline thereafter. The “go-go” years may have been great for membership but I feel this is when the fraternity began to stagnate. We had our way so long that we didn’t see any need for change and developed an attitude that nothing was wrong. In short, we became complacent. This attitude is probably the single biggest reason for the declining state of the fraternity today.
The reality is that the interests of people today have changed; they are not the same as back in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
For example, I can’t begin to tell you how many people have observed the dress and ceremonies of groups like DeMolay, Job’s Daughters, Eastern Star, etc. and told me it was “old fashioned” and “cornball.” They giggle and say the costumes and dress are something out of the 1940’s, certainly not something they want to be associated with. Their activities appear trivial if not totally meaningless. The point is, regardless of the noble intentions of these fine organizations, people perceive them as archaic. What is needed is a face lift. There is nothing wrong with the purpose and lessons inculcated by these institutions, but rather, it is the facade that needs to be updated. For example, are the capes worn by some of our youth organizations really necessary? Couldn’t something more contemporary be devised?
Advertisers have long understood the need for maintaining a contemporary image to sell products. This is why we have seen subtle changes over the years in familiar icons such as Aunt Jemimah, Betty Crocker, and the woman in the Columbia Pictures logo. Either get with the times or fall into obscurity. Unfortunately, this is what is happening to our allied and appendant bodies; they need to either reinvent their image or fall behind.
And Blue Lodges, representing the bedrock of Freemasonry, better be paying attention to all of this as well, less they face the same fate.
I don’t know why, but the old-guard of the fraternity resists any form of change. Perhaps it is a sign of senility. Nonetheless, changes are in the offing if the fraternity and its satellite organizations are to survive. But the younger members are growing weary of fighting with the old-guard over changes. So much so, there is a clever movement underfoot not to even to try to change existing lodges but, instead, to create totally new Lodges who are unencumbered by change and chart a new and imaginative course for Freemasonry.
Understandably, these new Lodges are attracting the younger members. So much so, that the older Lodges are withering and dying on the vine. It is unfortunate that such an approach is necessary, but the reality is that our older members tend to resist any form of change, leaving no other choice for our younger members. Frankly, I cannot argue with the logic of this move.
Bottom-line: We either evolve or face extinction.
Keep the Faith.
by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
“A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry”
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body. As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:
Article reprinted with permission of the author and FreemasonInformation.com
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Also be sure to check out Tim’s “Pet Peeve of the Week” (non-Masonic related).
Copyright © 2008 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.