It seems that the sweeping changes that MW Thomas Sturgeon made to Freemasonry in Pennsylvania upon assuming the Grand East will be one of the top Masonic stories of 2010 not only for its swift boldness but even more so for its far reaching modifications. As such you can expect more than a few articles to be written about what Sturgeon has done and a multitude of comments to follow.
The goal of modernization and some of the steps taken is what Frank Haas did for West Virginia. It is my fervent hope that the succeeding Pennsylvania Grand Masters do not reverse all the changes Sturgeon has made or worse yet expel him for what he has done. Already we have the lines of battle drawn with a group of “traditionalists” rallying to reverse the reforms. It looks to me as if these changes were mandated by edict rather than submitted to a vote of the entire Grand Lodge membership. To pounce on Pennsylvania Freemasons with so many changes without allowing any input can be both a dangerous card to play and too much for the membership to digest in such a short period.
Over and above that most parties involved are not talking about the most important aspect of these changes, namely that which has been omitted. Rather the entire debate is focused on approval or disapproval of Sturgeon’s 3Ms – Modernizing, Marketing and Membership. What Sturgeon and the rest of y’all have left out (HatRock excepted) is the need to have a membership committed to the principles of Freemasonry as a way of life, to be well grounded in the belief system of Freemasonry and to accept that as the foremost reason to be a Mason. Mainstream Masonry just hasn’t learned yet that when you spend all your money, time and effort in marketing a product rather than on the product itself, then you end up marketing an inferior product. Short term the marketing works. But when dissatisfaction with the product sets in users and believers start to disappear. This holds true for any product. And that is why we have a retention problem. The performance of Freemasonry doesn’t match its hype and what follows is apathy and disinterest.
The viability of Freemasonry has to rest on something solid, something that inspires and fires up the heart and soul, something that holds for the individual the very meaning and essence of life. Without that then the practice of Freemasonry becomes superficial and shallow.
An illustration of how important this is to most any organization can be illustrated by the plight of the Protestant Church. Those Protestant Churches labeled Mainline, such as Congregationalists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc. have seen their membership plummet in direct proportion to their de-emphasizing doctrine and personal salvation, rather concentrating on social, community and political ends. Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, AME, Evangelicals, Black Baptists and a number of nondenominational communities who hold Bible Study, Prayer groups, mentoring and in depth and far reaching education from day one are strong congregations and are growing by leaps and bounds.
These more conservative and traditional Protestants are doctrine driven. Freemasonry should be doctrine driven, doctrine driven first. And then from that will flow the social, the community outreach and the fraternalism of fellowship. Belief must propel practice.
This way of looking at Freemasonry is often misunderstood. Such thinkers are not calling for some education in the Craft, they are calling for a focus of knowledge commitment.
I have sat in many a Mainstream Grand Lodge Session and watched the donations and money pour in. Yet Grand Lodge cannot place the outflow in its proper place with the proper priorities. Freemasonry is a bonding society. But the bonding needs to come from a sharing of the joy that emanates from an understanding of how Freemasonry changes the heart and inspires the nobleness in life. And that comes when the belief system of Freemasonry is ingrained in every Mason’s heart and soul.
To these ends Lodges and Grand Lodges should be financing and leading Masonic
- Libraries at the District and local level
- Computers in every Lodge with a Grand Lodge connecting Server
- A statewide Masonic Speakers Bureau
- A Grand Lodge movie
- A Grand Lodge radio program
- Lodge of Research
- The use of high tech equipment to produce videos and Power Point presentations
- Esoteric study groups
Lest any have forgotten this is The Information Age. Invest in Freemasonry to make it a superior product rather than an inferior one. Then watch it grow. It will sell itself.