Fatherhood can change your perspective in a hurry.
I realize that’s probably the biggest understatement in history, but our six-year-old son has got me thinking about a lot of things.
Mainly, I wonder what Freemasonry will look like as he grows up, and if it will offer anything to him and his truly 21st century generation.
Will our local lodges finally be permitted to undertake the actions that other organizations do to recruit and retain members, or will our leaders continue to restrict and stifle us with their antiquated philosophies of membership?
Will our few young members and officers continue to think outside the suffocating boundaries of tradition and develop new outlets of community involvement? Or, when they see so few brothers of an already sparse roster of members support them, will they succumb to an overwhelming sense of frustration and discouragement?
Will we at last choose forward, progressive-thinking Grand Lodge officers, or will this line of dedicated and selfless Masonic devotees continue adhering to cobwebbed philosophies of the past that would crack and fracture into dust if shown the light of modern day?
Will we ever welcome men of color into our lodge rooms, or will we hold true to ancient prejudices, bigotries and intolerance that have no room in the Masonic conscience whatsoever?
My son is now in school. When he’s old enough, will he be able to join a DeMolay chapter – as his father did – and be exposed to the Biblical principles of brotherhood, honesty, charity and courtesy, or are those Rockwellian notions merely romantic shadows of a vanished society? Of all the organizations that Freemasonry sponsors, the young men of DeMolay face the changing world more than any, and yet we still frown upon the admission of other cultures.
Will the many organizations of which I’m involved, with their declining rosters and seemingly apathetic constituencies, survive long enough for him to enjoy their benefits? Finally, will he even have a desire to do so, or merely regard them as musty relics of a long-past civic existence in which his father once found satisfaction and fulfillment?
I am different from many members of my generation. Unlike many others, I joined my lodge as soon as I became of age, following in my family’s Masonic footsteps. My father, both my grandfathers, and two uncles were Masons (one uncle was Worshipful Master of Chamblee Lodge, and presided over my Entered Apprentice degree). My mother and grandmother were standard fixtures at lodge events. At 29, I was the youngest Master in my lodge’s then-100-plus-year history.
And yet, the issues facing our fraternity do not center themselves around age or generation gaps. During my year in the East, the brother with whom I shared more common beliefs and observations was 40 years older than me.
I look at Freemasonry’s dwindling attendance and interest, and I wonder. In a fraternity so obsessed with antiquated rituals of the past and so intolerant of the future, who will ensure that our lodges survive for our sons?
Or will anyone even care to do so?
This work was contributed by Tim Darnell in 2009.
Past Master, Chamblee Lodge #444, Atlanta GA
32nd Scottish Rite, Valley of Atlanta
DeMolay Legion of Honor