One of my forte’s as a writer and a Mason is to be able to bring up touchy subjects such as Prince Hall recognition, alcohol in the Lodge, Grand Lodge government, etc. This has garnered me a lot of recognition, mostly positive, but there are some Brothers who object to my airing our dirty laundry in public. Some have suggested I should just stick to the philosophical and esoteric side of the fraternity and leave administrative subjects alone.
I guess I view myself as the kid who says, “the Emperor has no clothes.” For example, we recently concluded the Grand Communications in my jurisdiction where the Grand Master and Grand Secretary reported on membership. Since my year in the East (2003) I have been monitoring membership statistics as reported by the Grand Lodge. On the average we have been losing approximately 1,200 members per year. 2008 also represents the year when we officially went under the 50,000 mark in terms of members.
Interestingly, we raised more Brothers in 2008 than 2003 (a total of 1,355 in 2008), but I also noticed we continue to lose Brothers due to Suspension for Non-Payment of Dues and for those who simply take a Dimit (a total of 1,512 in 2008). This deficit has been with us ever since I started to monitor these statistics and probably well before it. One has to wonder why these Brothers are dropping out. I can only think of three reasons: to possibly transfer to another Masonic jurisdiction; they no longer enjoy it, or; they simply no longer see the value in Freemasonry. I can understand transfers, but this is a minuscule number. However, the latter reasons suggests to me that Freemasonry is slowly becoming irrelevant. Frankly, I suspect Florida is not alone in this regards.
We can pretend to ignore these numbers and maintain the status quo or we can face it like men, talk about it, and try to come up with new and imaginative ideas for addressing the problem.
I find it interesting that people want me to write about what happened in the fraternity 100 years ago. Although this may very well be of interest, I am more concerned with what the state of our fraternity will be 100 years from now. The question that keeps bouncing through my mind is how will our successors remember us, “As the generation who dropped the ball or the group who picked it up and ran for a touchdown?” This can only be done by holding frank and candid discussions on the problems of the day, not by sticking our heads in the sand. I tend to believe it is more unMasonic to ignore a problem than to talk about it.
My critics have accused me of being too pessimistic. Actually, I’m not. To paraphrase Bro. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), “I am an optimist who hasn’t arrived.”
Keep the Faith.
by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
“A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry”
Originally published in 2008.
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:
Article reprinted with permission of the author and www.FreemasonInformation.com. Please forward me a copy of the publication when it is produced.
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Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce