It’s now time for all of us–those who supported the merger and those who opposed it–to pull together for the benefit of the company.
Carly Fiorina, President of Hewlett-Packard Co. in 1999
Let me give you two little words that scares a lot of Masons: “consolidations” and “mergers.” As the fraternity continues to recede in terms of membership and finances, Craft Lodges inevitably face the question of these two dirty words. But let’s be clear, the two are not synonymous; consolidation means to move multiple Lodges into a single building, and mergers represent the combining of multiple Lodges into one. Mergers are probably considered the worst of the two as Masons fear they will lose their identity and will be overshadowed by the other Lodge they are merging with. Nonetheless, both are viable alternatives and, from a business point of view, makes a lot of sense. For example, companies have long known that if a franchise is struggling, it is better to cut your losses and combine it with another. But unfortunately, most Masons do not think from a business point of view and have developed emotional attachments to their Lodge buildings. This is understandable to a point, but if the Lodge is operating on the edge, you have to seriously ask yourself what a Lodge is anyway. Is it the physical building? More likely it is a Brotherhood of men who share common values and are interested in improving themselves, their community, and the world at large. The building, therefore, is nothing more than a venue for the Lodge to meet. So, when push comes to shove, which is more important: the Lodge or the building? Those Lodges struggling to make ends meet financially would be well advised to consider this.
Interestingly, a lot of Grand Lodges do not provide guidance or leadership in terms of assisting Lodges in considering the question of merging or consolidating. Instead, most Craft Lodges have to fend for themselves and only consider it when it is too late. As a small example, I know of a Craft Lodge that lost its way and quietly went out of business, selling its building and donating its remaining funds to local charities. The Grand Lodge did not find out about this until two years later. Had the Grand Lodge been studying Lodge trends, they would have surely spotted a problem and offer advice to the Lodge. They didn’t, and the Lodge went under.
Obviously, there are some simple indicators to measure the pulse of a Lodge, such as finances, membership, attendance at Lodge functions, and the average age of the Lodge members. They could also examine Lodge officers, e.g., do they have enough members to open the Lodge? Do they routinely re-circulate Past Masters through the East? Are they proficient in their degree work and Masonic knowledge? Such analysis may very well have detected the problem of the Lodge that quietly went defunct.
I have discussed this topic with many a Brother, both locally and far away. Sure, we would all like to have large Lodges, but there is nothing wrong with small ones either, as long as they are thriving and actively operating to the satisfaction of the Craft. But we may not know this if we do not study the problem and pay attention to the trends of the variables mentioned earlier. Further, if a Craft Lodge is indeed in trouble and is interested in consolidating or merging, the Grand Lodge should grease the skids in order to help the Lodge make the transition as painlessly as possible.
Some Brothers stubbornly want to hold on to their Lodges for sentimental reasons. As the fraternity continues to decline, we have to look beyond our emotions, as difficult as this may be, and do what is practical in order for the Lodge to survive. For those of you who possess an emotional attachment to your Lodge building, I will remind you that there is only one word worse than the other two: “closure.”
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:
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Copyright © 2008 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.