From the Grand Master ...
Included in this Communiqué is a letter from the Grand Treasurer about the effect of a shrinking demographic on the finances of Grand Lodge. I would like to deal with the effect of membership numbers on individual lodges.
Of course, a shrinking membership will impinge on lodge finances in the same way as it does for Grand Lodge. And that effect can be generalized to buildings housing multiple lodges as well. The pandemic has shown us that we cannot depend on hosting events to raise funds to meet our basic needs. A few lucky lodges will have commercial tenants; great as long as they stay! But the bottom line for most of us is that we need to fund our organization from our own pockets. And if we want a classy organization we will have to pay for it.
When we return to meeting, at least at first, we will have smaller numbers coming out to lodge. Due to the isolation we have endured, we may swell our numbers (and coffers) with new initiates, but we must be cautious because taking in more men than we can adequately mentor will just result in a revolving door. But small is not necessarily bad. In fact it has many advantages.
We now realize what we miss the most – ritual, fellowship, doing things with our brethren.
In a small lodge we know every one of our brethren. In a large lodge, there may be many whom we do not know. In my visits I have noticed that no matter how many members a lodge has on its books, there tend to be twenty to forty who come to a meeting. Why is that? Some postulate that it is because that is how many jobs there are. If one is neither an officer nor has a part in the evening’s activities, one is tempted not to come. They recognize this in England. There the usual size of a lodge is thirty to forty members. If a lodge gets to sixty, it splits into two lodges. Most of the new observant lodges here limit their membership to a small number on purpose.
Other advantages of this size are that people notice if someone is missing, and they contact him to see if he is alright; they notice the new Master Mason who is sitting in the corner by himself, and go talk to him; and they all feel the obligation to attend every meeting they possibly can.
In 1973 E.F. Schumacher published a book called Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered and while it was mostly about large scale industry (and predicted the ecological crisis we are now experiencing), I especially love the last phrase “As If People Mattered”.
Let us look at lodges “As If People Mattered”, not at the economics of running a building, a fund-raising machine, or a political hierarchy.
What is it that lodges provide for their members? A sense of belonging, a moral compass, a group of like-minded men to support us in that quest? You may think of many more. Are these at risk?
We have been given an incredible gift – the ability to remake ourselves. When we return to meeting we can blithely initiate a huge number of men and go back to doing the same things that haven’t been working for the past thirty years, or we can thoughtfully chart a course that will ensure the success of our time honoured craft.
David J. Cameron