The Old Past Master left the house for Lodge extra early this night. The meeting tonight would be a lively discussion that he hoped would not become a three-ring circus. He would like to arrive early before anybody else to see if he could be of assistance to the new Worshipful Master. He was a good fellow but so young and inexperienced. But he was working hard and always seemed to arrive very early to a meeting of the Lodge to prepare his program and greet every Brother at the door.
The Master had sent out notice in the Summons that tonight he would be discussing the future of the Lodge and its financial situation. The topic all seemed to stem from a series of articles the Master called “blogs” which had appeared on the Internet titled “Preventing Lodge Foreclosures.” It seems two Brothers were debating back and forth on the proper action that a Lodge could take in the wake of tough economic times. Last month the Master had shown him these articles and after reading them they had only time for a very short discussion on what the ramifications might be for our Lodge.
I guess I am just going to have to break down and buy a computer, The Old Past Master thought to himself. Lord knows how I am going to learn how to use it. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well we have a number of young dogs in the Lodge now. Surely they will come to my aid.
As he rounded the corner and pulled into the Lodge parking lot he spied the Master’s car in its usual spot. Upon entering the building he proceeded to the office where he found the Master at the computer with papers flying out of the printer in rapid succession.
“Good evening, Worshipful,” he called out. “Getting ready for tonight’s donnybrook are we?”
“I’m afraid so,” replied the Master. “It looks to me that this will be a tough meeting.”
“How can I be of assistance,” offered The Old Past Master.
“Well I’m not sure how to broach the subject nor how deep into it we should get tonight,” queried the Master.
“Try placing the problems as you see them on the table and then let the Brethren draw their own conclusions and come up with their own solutions.”
“Ah, I see. Don’t try to ram the whole deal down everybody’s throat. State the case and sit back and listen. I think I’m getting the hang of this leadership thing thanks to you.”
“Every Mason should lead his Lodge once in his lifetime. It teaches him how to command by building a consensus.”
“Well I doubt if we will get a consensus tonight. I am worried about the whole situation getting out of hand. Maybe I should just downplay this whole thing.”
“Now is not the time to second guess yourself. Part of good leadership is not shying away from the tough problems and decisions of the Lodge.”
“I know you are right but I would feel a bit more comfortable if you would be in my corner tonight and soften any harsh words. It always helps to have backup.”
Don’t worry, Worshipful, I’ll help keep us on an even keel.”
Just then a few Brothers could be heard entering the building. The Worshipful Master went out to greet them. Soon more and more were pouring in. The Old Past smiled to himself. Here they come he, thought, all the old fogies who never come to Lodge until the talk of money becomes serious.
Lodge opened and the Master, after breezing through the Minutes, Bills and Correspondence, got right down to brass tacks.
“Brethren it is time to discuss our future and I have allotted most of this meeting having previously informed all the Brethren via The Summons. Our nation is in deep economic distress and we are barely hanging on here. Our building has no other tenets and its maintenance, upkeep and repair are an ever-increasing burden that presently consumes 90% of our budget. With Cap & Trade taxes and significant inflation coming our electricity and heating costs could double. We have already received notice that our property taxes are going to be increased by 10% next year. The paint is starting to peel on the outside of the building. We have gotten estimates on having it repainted and the lowest bid is $8,0000. But the worst news of all is that the Building Inspector recently made an inspection of the Lodge and he has told us that the electrical wiring in the building no longer meets code and it will have to be replaced. And I am not even counting the increased taxes you all will individually soon be paying. Now Brethren I am open for suggestions.”
“Well I hope you didn’t call us all together to raise our dues,” a voice bellowed from the sidelines.
“Yeah, because we’re going to vote that down, right quick,” came another anonymous voice from the crowd.
“Brethren I am going to ask you to rise and wait until I recognize you before speaking,” commanded the Master.
“The day I have to ask permission to speak in this Lodge is the day I find another Lodge”, roared Brother Clarke
“Well that’s your choice,” replied the Master. “But for tonight you will rise and wait until I call on you.”
“Worshipful Master I just done told you I ain’t going to do no such thing, “repeated Brother Clarke. “Did you or did you not call us here in order to raise dues?”
“Brother Senior Deacon”
“You will pick up the Junior Deacon and the Stewards and proceed to escort Brother Clarke out of the Lodge room.”
“Are you really going to throw me out of my Lodge, “ screamed Brother Clarke?
“It’s our Lodge,” replied the Master, “and nobody is above the law or in this case the rules. We will see you another night, Brother Clarke.”
“You will never see me again. Who wants to belong to a bankrupt Lodge anyway,” screamed the now red faced Brother Clarke
‘If he goes I go,” said a voice. “That goes for me too.” “And me” “And Me”….”Me,” “Me,” “Me,”
The Old Past Master rose and the Worshipful Master immediately recognized him.
“Looks like we can get that dues increase passed now, Worshipful” he said with a smile.
“I guessed I changed my mind,” “Yeah, I might as well stick around,” “Same for me,” “And me,” “And me,” …….”Me,” “Me,” “Me”
After Brother Clarke was removed and order restored, the Brothers stood and were called on one by one by the Master. Suggestions and ideas abounded. One Brother suggested that the Lodge merge with Fidelity Lodge on the other side of town. But an argument ensued whether Fidelity should join us at our building or we should sell ours and join them at their building. Many Brethren wondered if Fidelity would be amenable to any of this and so offered that we should sell the building and just rent our own space somewhere else. Still others asserted that nothing drastic really needed to be done. Things would find a way of working themselves out like they always did. A number of Brethren suggested that we find paying tenants for our building. Still others suggested a series of fundraisers. Yet another wanted to ask Grand Lodge for a loan. And the last thought for the day came from a Brother who thought maybe we could get some corporate sponsorship in the form of charitable write off relief.
After two hours of what seemed like exhaustive exchange, Past Master Crowley rose and was recognized. “And what do you think we should do, Worshipful,” he asked?
The Master rose and slowly and deliberately replied, “I don’t think I have enough information yet nor does really anybody. The way I see it we can elect one of four choices:
1) Do Nothing
2) Give up our Charter and return the Lodge to Grand Lodge
3) Sell the building and property and rent elsewhere
4) Increase our revenue substantially – make it work.
The problem has developed into such a magnitude so quickly that I will automatically rule out dues increases, fund risers and loans as acceptable solutions. But what I will do is petition Grand Lodge for an outright gift. The next Grand Session is a little over a month away. For now I will also rule out choices #1 and #2. That leaves us with two choices and for those I will appoint two committee heads who will choose the rest of their committee and research and investigate their appointment and report back to the Lodge for further discussion. I will ask the Old Past Master to chair the choice #3 committee and Brother Findler, our Treasurer and a CPA, to head the choice #4 committee. Do both of you Brothers accept your appointment? Seeing two heads nodding I so declare it done.”
“I will charge both committees to be ready to report in detail three months from now at our monthly business meeting and I will so note it in the Summons. I will also be ready to report to you what Grand Lodge will do for us. Now if there is no further business to come before this Lodge I will proceed to close.”.