The Only Viable Option

Is the Shrine leaving the hospital business?

Its a possibility according to Ralph Semb, chief executive officer of Shriners Hospitals for Children in an article by the AP out of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Speaking on the shrinking revenue and increased costs:

“Unless we do something, the clock is ticking and within five to seven years we’ll probably be out of the hospital business and not have any hospitals”

This is something reported on by Freemasons for Dummies just recently and on the Masonic Blog too.  They both had interesting things to say about the threatened closures, but reading the story from the AP, and seeing the reality so close at hand, it makes one wonder if there really is any hope for the widow’s son on this one.

Has the fraternl arm of Freemasonry gotten longer than what it can sustain?

The AP story does say that donations only make up a small percentage of their operating costs, with the remainder coming from the past endowment that has taken a substantial hit in the economic down turn.  It also asks the question towards the end about being saved by its forbearers. Melissa Brown, who is the associate director of research for The Center on Philanthropy says that health care giving is down, and that:

“the aging of once-prominent fraternal organizations might be affecting their ability to grow donations. “It could be that what they are seeing is a generational shift,”.

Its the last statement that takes us to Freemasonry.  Bro Mark Koltko-Rivera in this piece speaks to the idea that The Shrine has, in a sense, disassociated with the notion that a developed Freemasonry leads to a developed Shrine.  Did they perhaps see their role diminished in their namesake charity? Or was there still an active engagement of what has been going on to asses the present situation.  This will be interesting to see how it works its way through the Imperial Council Session in June. At the present burn rate of $1 million a day from the endowment (of $5 Billion) to cover operating costs, they still have some time, but thats with the presumption that the economy (and the stock market makes a turn).

So what does it mean, what does it foretell?  Thats hard to say.  It does seem to be a physical manifestation of the shrinking fraternity that we can bare witness to and take heed from.  That as the numbers continue to diminish, the failure to engage the community meaningfully, and the active dis-engagement of society persists, more of the institutional edifices created will  fall away…  Unless we do something about it.

The possible collapse of the Shrine are the rocks in the river ahead that we can see. Let’s learn from them and do things differently before the Associated Press article is about the closing and selling of Grand Lodge buildings, and its become too late to navigate.