Richard H. Ryder, June 2017
Question – is Freemasonry a charitable or fraternal organization? Although the public knows us best for our charitable work and all Freemasons are proud of these contributions of time, treasure, and talent, Freemasonry is primarily a fraternal organization. We are membership driven and each lost member or opportunity to add a member is detrimental to our existence. So, how do we best perpetuate our fraternity? By offering more than the formality of our monthly meetings (a.k.a. communications).
Let’s face it – we are all very busy and we all appreciate the lessons imparted during the degrees. But, it’s the fraternalism that attracts and retains members. If you, your lodge, and your district are not frequently and creatively offering fraternalism and fellowship, then there should be no surprise if attendance declines. Fraternal opportunities are the life blood of our organization.
Recently, the Sixth Masonic District of Massachusetts held two fraternal events that also served as public awareness opportunities. Brothers and their significant others met one another at a local restaurant for refreshment and entertainment, while also showcasing the fraternal aspects of Freemasonry to potential candidates. At a second event a few weeks later, Brothers, their families, and the public enjoyed a Family Fun Day on Norwood common where free food, entertainment, and games were enjoyed by all. This also provided a natural venue for fraternalism with loved ones and the opportunity to demonstrate to the public that we are not as secretive as some may think. Yes, they cost a few dollars and yes, they took a lot of time to plan, but successful and appreciated events don’t have to cost a lot or take a lot of time to create a win-win opportunity.
The summer is a great time of year to enjoy fellowship with brethren and selectively offer social opportunities for those left behind while we are on Masonic business. Selective events can introduce potential members to our Craft. Barbeques, field trips, local sporting events, beach trips, are ways to enjoy the outdoors and the company of others. The Masonic year provides opportunities after meetings; during celebratory events such as installations, visits, and medal presentations; at holiday gatherings; and during casual luncheons and dinners at a member’s house or local establishment. Why not hold a night at the symphony or theatre? Is a public speaker and collation something that would attract a certain segment of your membership? Although not for all, cigar nights, movie nights, F1 racing events, and a friendly game of billiards have been very well received.
Remember, when planning events be sure to keep in mind the interests of all members. An older member may not be able to participate during night events, but may be very receptive to an organized luncheon coupled with a presentation by an interesting speaker. A younger member may thrive at a cigar night. All members, including family members, might be interested in a lodge holiday event during a weekend afternoon. There is no limit to the possibilities.
So, during these summer months start thinking about how to create opportunities for fraternalism. The future of our Craft depends on it.