Becoming a Dues Paying Mason

dues cardThroughout my entire experience in Freemasonry, I have wondered what can be done to bring those Freemasons that do not attend lodge meetings back into our temples. I found these dues-paying Masons to be a frustrating breed. They must believe that being a Freemason is important enough to continually make a monetary payment to their Masonic organizations and yet it is not important enough for them to actually attend and contribute their time.

I assisted in planning and executing a number of lodge functions in order to bring these silent members back and there seemed to be no response. I began to develop the opinion that these men were simply neglecting their Masonic duties.

And then, I became one of them.

It wasn’t intentional at first. It started by moving to another town, then I became busy with my career, then I lost contact with my closest Brothers, and then before I knew it, Masonry wasn’t even on my mind anymore. Occasionally I would post a story on The Euphrates that I had written while I was active in the lodge, but that was only because it was convenient and could be done in five minutes. I was literally uninterested in Freemasonry.

This sounds like an easy problem to fix. If you aren’t an active Freemason, just attend a lodge meeting and get involved, right?

Wrong. I found out rather quickly that there was nothing motivating me to go back to lodge.

There isn’t anything interesting about a lodge meeting. We pay the bills, plan mundane dinners, and discuss our charitable endeavors. I didn’t join the Freemasons to do any of those things and no one ever told me that that is what we really do when I was petitioning. I stopped caring about Masonry, because Masonry was boring and a complete waste of my time. I realized that the only reason I used to be active was because I enjoyed socializing with the many good friends that I had in my lodge. Without that connection, Masonry was no longer important.

That is the problem with modern Freemasonry. I’ve heard so many Masons say “You’ll meet so many good men in Masonry.” Well, sure you do, but I have also met many good men outside of Freemasonry and the vast majority of my friends do not belong to the fraternity. So that is no reason to join or remain a Freemason.

Many men cannot explain exactly why they want to be a Freemason, but it almost always has the same theme. Men join Freemasonry because they believe that it will lead them to enlightenment both mentally and spiritually, give them some sort of moral compass, and will help them to lead a better life. They expect a top-notch society. One in which all men meet upon the level, but upon a level above the profane world outside of the lodge. They expect an education. They expect class. They expect a life-changing experience.

I know, because that is exactly what I expected.

Sadly, our lodges are stuck in a time warp. We are obsessed with sticking to the 1950’s model of a civic organization. We talk about making our lodges more attractive and yet we continue to operate them in the same outdated way. We want to operate on the cheap. We want to “dumb down” Masonry to make it easier to grasp. We want to copy the model that Rotary and Kiwanis have provided instead of following the model that Freemasonry created over 250 years ago. We have turned our organization into an outrageous bureaucracy where every single event requires the unneeded approval of some Masonic dignitary. The world’s greatest fraternity has become the world’s most mundane organization.

That is the state of Freemasonry today. That is why men become dues-paying Masons. That is why I became a dues-paying Mason. If Freemasons want the society to survive, some radical changes must be made. Over the next few weeks, I am going to discuss this in detail.

The question that must be discussed is: “What must Freemasonry become in order to be relevant in American society again?”

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  1. Well, it looks like you have joined the problem rather than the solution. If you have any regard for yourself or Freemasonry, in particular, get back to the Lodge and try to make progressive changes in the way Masonry should go forward. Obviously you had a high regard for Masonic principles while being active in the lodge. The obligations you took said nothing about being bored; you took them voluntarily and of your own free will. The least you could do is to make an honest effort to make a difference in the fraternity. Quitters never accomplish anything in life and especially in Freemasonry. Get your rear end back in the Lodge and quit bellyaching about being bored. Enjoy the fellowship and make a difference in the world.

    As most, you will probably sit back on your haunches and do nothing but dwell on your negative concepts and offer nothing constructive other than sitting at your computer and spouting platitiudes about your finding nothing of interest in the fraternity.

  2. My grandfather was a Mason, his father was a mason, his father was a mason ,his father was a mason, and his father was a mason, and his father was a Mason. Before that, family members belonged to organizations that grew to become or contributed to the formalization of Modern Masonry.

    I learned about Masonry on my grandfathers knee and sneeking into his desk and reading his monitor and masonic papers. Some I had to learn latin for, some I needed to learn arameic for. Most of all, I learned by example what it was to be a good man who kept his word, believed in a higher purpose for life – not as an academic or dogmatic exercise, but as an actionable real life of action doing things.

    My grandfather believed “a man is what he does, not what he says”.

    The problem is, today we SAY a lot and do NOT much of any real value or mission oriented activites that convince our members they are part of a worthy mission for humanity.

    Men are willing to die for a worthy cause or purpose.

    Men will not walk across the street for something trivial and boring.

    Anyone want to guess what we need to do to get men back into the lodge?

    David Rahfeldt, MM, 32, Templar, etc. etc. etc. etc.

  3. Terrance – I hear this same lament from many of our Brethren. I read between the lines that the “ideals” and “philosophy” of Freemasonry drew you to our great institution, but that the actual application of Freemasonry left you “wanting”.

    I would postulate that those that feel with way have two options….#1. Give up on the fraternity as an organization, stop bringing others into the light, and become “hermit-like” in our study of the craft. #2. Stay involved and in the most gentle manner seek to bring about a reformation. This is the point I believe Danny was trying to make. Unfortunately, I think Danny may have come across a little strong.

    I personally choose #2. I am not ready to give up on so great an institution. I would, therefore, invite you to join me in an electronic discourse from Brother to Brother on what you would like to see what happen to keep members interested and involved. Together we might not be able to change the fraternity, but I strongly believe that there are many others that would also like to positively participate in this effort. Be advised that I am not going to do anything to hurt Freemasonry, nor am I starting some kind of revolution. I want to work to make the existing craft better and not break down that which made our Masonic Brotherhood so successful for so long.

  4. Gary, sound advice. Reading what Terrance and the comments have posted, and having my own considerations, I wonder how much longer we fall back to the position of suggesting to put in more to get more out. As with any organization, there needs to be some reason for being, whether expressed or implied, and I think the problem is in the applied (or maybe anticipated) end of things that it falls short.

  5. I’m not offended by Bro. Wofford’s words, because he doesn’t know me personally and has no reason to believe that I will do anything besides belly ache. If he knew me, he would know that this is not the case.

    Like I said in my article, I’m going to offer some constructive views and hope to open an interesting dialogue. One of the issues that I’m going to discuss is that I have put an almost ridiculous amount of time into the Masonic organizations to which I belong, before I realized that we must reform the very core of the current organization. Without the necessary administrative and governmental changes, the radical reform needed is impossible to accomplish. It is going to take some serious work to get the support for this undertaking.

  6. I think I’m about to become a dues paying member. For years I’ve heard “somebody needs to do something” but I think there are romantic notions of what Masonry “used to be” versus what it really is or was. These people have it backwards and with all due respect to John F. Kennedy … “Ask not what your lodge can do for you, ask what you can do for your lodge.” And none of this is new: There is a MSA Short Talk Bulletin (I think from 1934) that bemoans the same complaints we here today: poor attendance, poor participation, to name a couple.

    I’m convinced that there really isn’t an interest in anyone being more than a dues paying member. It’s not that there are not worthy activities and charities that we should support, there are. But it is really hard to think of attending lodge because you truly enjoy the socialization when you know that you are going to have your cable tow tested again and again. It’s not that the brethren don’t want to help but it seems that there needs to be a remembrance that lodge is to be a “sacred retreat of friendship and virtue” and an escape from the outside world for just a few minutes a month and not necessarily a choice between weights on your cable tow.

    I may, or may not, go to lodge. But if I do go it is only because I enjoy the company and genuinely care about the welfare of some of the brethren, and that, I think, is enough for me.

  7. It’is so ease to critcize so call Dues-Paying Masons. We should be happy that they still pays their dues.
    We don’t know there circumstances. They may be old,sick,to busy pursuing there other dreams or just drifted a part because when they join Masonic Order no one get close to them. There may be also conflict factor,especialy if the person is Past Master or one time went through the chair…
    There is so many circumstances, so take it ease on so call Dues-Paying Masons.
    Once a Mason always Mason!

  8. “We want to operate on the cheap.”

    Just what I said in “I Don’t Want To Do Bare Bones Masonry Anymore” and got blasted for it. But we are on the same wave length. Until we wake up and realize that “the system” is not facilitating the growth and the retention that should be there, then the present state of affairs will continue and those that reply – well just get back in there and fight, fight, fight have no concept on what needs to be done. Grand Masters today want yes men. They take a personal affront at anybody who would dare suggest any other course of action other than what they propose. And those bold enough to do so in many jurisdictions are expelled, often without a Masonic trial.

    Some of the charges I made in “I Don’t Want To Do Bare Bones Masonry Anymore” have been answered by TO Lodges. You would think that those critics who so berated my criticism of some Grand Lodges would have knowledge of what Lodges like Lodge Vitruvian have done. Instead they have decided to trash the messenger of their deficiencies.

  9. My dear Brother,
    I find it difficult to express my own Masonic feelings to a Brother who did not
    give us a name, so, I will tell you what has been stated millions of times for as
    many years as Masonry has been in existance:
    We get only what we work for, plus interest.
    I have no regrets, in my well over 50 years as a Master Mason, I have a phone book
    filled with names of Brothers that I have known, and love them all.
    Look to the East and enjoy the Light that greets you.
    Fraternally, Art Hernandez

  10. Dear Brethren,
    Over the past 50 years or so that I have been a Freemason I found the percentage of sincere members is much higher than that found in other organizations. The bond between two persons (total strangers) and separated by half the globe that develops once they identify as Brothers has been amazing, at least in my case. True we stick to old traditi0ns but that is only for making members, an Initiate becoms a Freemason on his own accord over a period of time. These days a significant number is finding that path difficult but to my mind that is a transient phenomena consistent with the changing social pattern and pressures of survival. I think still a fair number gets into the main stream of Freemasonry that is not ritual working alone.
    It seems what we need is a proper genuine guidance to the Initiate and make him believe that he has become a part of a real brotherhood.
    Brother Shankar Sharma
    PM Lodge General williams Roorkee and Lodge Kohinoor, Grand Lodge of India

  11. My Brother I write the column “The Beehive” on this site and my name is well known. I do not have a bloated ego and therefore do not feel the need to trumpet it all over the place.

    We may get what we work for in your Grand Lodge but sadly in many other GLs its who you know not what you do that counts along with a willingness to “play ball” and not rock the boat.

    Have all you critics out there not heard of the doings of Halcyon Lodge in Ohio, Frank Haas in West Virginia, Gate City Lodge in Georgia and Derek Gordon in Arkansas?

  12. But it is really hard to think of attending lodge because you truly enjoy the socialization when you know that you are going to have your cable tow tested again and again. It’s not that the brethren don’t want to help but it seems that there needs to be a remembrance that lodge is to be a “sacred retreat of friendship and virtue” and an escape from the outside world for just a few minutes a month and not necessarily a choice between weights on your cable tow.

    This.

    I’ve noticed that our lodge has the same dozen or so people that show up to do most of what needs to be done. Our reward is to do even *more* of the things that have to be done. On top of that, OES members seem to hound us to join, as do the SR and YR bodies. Eventually, 20% of the members will end up doing 80% of the work. It get tiring, frustrating, and often leaves little time for non-Masonic activities.

    The joke here is that somebody will say “You have non-Masonic activities?”, which points up exactly what we’re trying to say. Some people will eventually get tired and stop coming back.

    But Danny’s initial comment really cuts to the heart of the solution: the system is not going to change by itself. If you’re tired of the Rotary/Kiwanis model 9whatever that actually means), then find some like-minded brothers and work at making your lodge into someplace that you *want* to attend.

  13. In my case I love Freemasonry, the ritual, the people. But I now work two full time jobs and an occasional part time job on weekends. My weekdays begin at 7:00 am and end at 9:00 pm. It is nearly impossible to make a lodge meeting. I continue to pay my dues because I love and want to support my lodge and the Fraternity.

  14. My Brothers I agree with the author of this article, Gary Iverson, as well as the other non critical brothers that want to increase our participation membership. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the masonic tradition that we all love and embrace. I don’t think anyone say anything about changing that tradition either. I think that what being asked is what can we do to enhance our monthly meetings, so they are more interesting, yet remaining true to the laws of masonic tradition. Maybe there are other lodgers that are already have activities that are making the monthly meeting more interesting.

  15. Sounds like you need to shop around for a better Lodge. There ARE Lodges out there with good food, good times, good programs, fun meetings and active, on-the-ground charitable activities.

    I know, because I belong to one of them!

    Go find a Lodge you enjoy and that fits your personality and needs, that’s what I say. Because quoting the Pet Shop Boys is the most Masonic thing I can do at 12:45 in the morning: “We were never being bored, cuz we were never being boring.”

  16. I read this with considerable interest ~ but have divergent opinions on much that has been said. Freemasonry actually offers our Brothers many, many, ways in which to practice the gentle craft. Some men become involved in youth groups, or Shrine, or Grotto – and seldom attend their Symbolic Lodge. They are still being “active” Masons, they just don’t attend Lodge. Likewise the man who devotes years progressing through the Officer lines in Scottish Rite or York Rite ~ they will attend 4 or 5 or 6 meetings each and every week – but never get home to their own Blue Lodge. When my daughter was progressing thru the Grand Bethel 5 year line in Job’s Daughters, we were in a Masonic Temple 4 or 5 days of each week, 52 weeks a year. Yet I didn’t get to my own Blue Lodge very often. The same was true while serving in Chapter, Council, and Commandery of the York Rite ~ I would attend Lodge, but not as frequently as when I was an Officer of the Lodge, but I was in a Masonic Temple somewhere in the state, or neighboring state, several nights each week.
    For many years I have told young men coming into the Craft that they “will get out of Masonry what they are willing to put into Masonry.” It is true. But Masonry is very much more than just your home Symbolic Lodge. Of course the Blue Lodge is the basis for all of the rest. Of course there is no degree “higher” than that of Master Mason. Of course without the Lodge, none of the rest exist. Of course it is necessary to support your home Lodge. But just because a man is only a “dues paying Mason,” does not mean that he is not a Mason. Most Lodges would have a hard time accomodating ALL of their members if every “dues paying Mason,” showed up at every function. My little country Lodge of 250 members wouldn’t even have seating for all 250 ~ and our refreshments bill would really raise some eyebrows. So, we need “dues paying Masons,” just as much as we need active Officers and active Past Masters, and active Masons in all of the other parts of this HUGE fraternity that offers a little bit of “something for everyone.” You will get out of Masonry what you put into Masonry.” Lodge, Chapter, Council, Commandery, Scottish Rite, Shrine, Grotto, Youth groups, etc., etc., etc….