In Freemasonry, one question that we as a fraternity are facing is how to maintain the interest of our newer members. This is by no means a new question or a new problem. A look back at the minutes of Masonic Lodge meetings from a hundred years ago shows that this is a challenge faced by every generation of Freemasons. Unfortunately, that same look back shows that what worked in the past will not necessarily work today. Society changes and we have to change along with it if we are to remain pertinent to the members of our Craft.
The society that we live in today is an event fueled society. Everything is an event, and then it's over and we're on to the next event. We go to a movie, out to dinner, on vacation. Our jobs are divided into projects that we plan, design, execute and then we start another project. T.V. time at home is an event; quality time with the kids; our lives are event-full. And, in most cases we either don't realize or don't see the processes that make those events possible.
We've become so accustomed to our lives being a series of events that we, at best, ignore the processes or, at worst, find them boring and uninteresting. The Masonic society is filled with events: the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason; Lodge meetings, Lodge functions, Reunions, Festivals, Ceremonials, and the list could go on and on. Freemasonry, though, is not an event; it is a process. It is what happens in the background and in between and during those events. It is the processes involved in bringing those events to fruition that manifests as Freemasonry.
Masonry is working side by side with others toward a common goal and for the common good. It unites men who otherwise would never have met, and brings them together in an atmosphere of genuine support and affection. It is what happens in the heart and in the mind when men labor together to succeed, or even to fail, in shared aspirations. It is the admiration and respect of one man for another, not for material accumulation but for strength of moral character and selfless service. It is holding oneself up to an ideal even knowing that our human frailties make it impossible to achieve that ideal. Masonry is a process by which a man comes to know himself.
As we investigate potential candidates and discuss the fraternity with our newer members we need to help them understand that the three degrees of the Craft are only the first three steps in a lifelong journey. To presume to know Freemasonry from the first three degrees would be to stand on the seashore, take three steps, and presume to know all there is of the sea and everything it touches. The degrees of Masonry are intended, not to impart, but to ignite a desire for more Light, more knowledge.
In our event-filled society it is easy to take for granted or lose sight of the processes that make the events possible. The processes, though, are where most of the learning, growth and progress happens. By understanding our own motivations and being able to express those motivations to others we can help our fledgling brethren to appreciate the truly precious jewels of Masonic brotherhood. Find a quiet place to contemplate what being a Freemason means to you, and why it means so much to you. Then, put it into words so that the next time someone asks why you are a Mason you'll know exactly what you want to say.
Tim Couchp.s. For more articles on Freemasonry don't miss our Masonic Articles page.