Thursday, September 25, 2008

Are All Lodges Worth Saving?

In my seemingly never ending battle to shake the rust off a once glittering ediface, I have been as of late pondering the question above. For two years now, I have made it my quixotic quest to return a nearly two hundred fifty year old lodge to its former glory. I have volunteered for every comittee, been on almost every investigation, created an amazing website, and generally done everything in my power to save my lodge. I have had numerous conversations with every member I can get my hands on expressing my dream of what our lodge could be. I assumed positions that should not have been mine for years, if ever, all in the name of saving a very old organization from the decay that had pervaded it. While we have made some strides in the right direction I dont think we are any better off than when I started. Yes we have some new members, yes we have done some nice things, but overall my lodge has not lived up to the promise of brotherhood. We go through the motions but very rarely live what we preach.

Leadership is a lost art in my lodge. Flowery messages from the East mean nothing when you only devote the few hours of the actual meetings to the service of the lodge. The few Brothers who constantly take the burden of the lodge on their shoulders will eventually be broken under the strain. I am at a loss. My drive to finish my quest is diminshing. I see other lodges working together under great leadership and realizing their potential, but I am hard pressed to see it in my own.

Is it worth all of the effort???????

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Columnist For the Grand Lodge!

A couple weeks ago I received a call from my friend WB Tom Accuosti from the Tao of Masonry who wanted to congratulate me for becoming a columnist for our Grand Lodges monthly (almost) newspaper. He, being one of those purple apron types, must have gotten an early edition because my copy only came today. Due to the limitations of news print it was slightly edited so I though I would put it up on my blog to share in its entirety. Although it mostly applies to lodges in the Nutmeg State, it is (in my own opinion) a good piece for all lodges. Enjoy!

Do You Want New Brothers or Visitors?
Update Your Lodges Website

In this new age of information and communication there is a relatively easy and amazingly effective way of letting brethren and men interested of becoming brethren know what your lodge is doing and that you are an active and vibrant member of the Masonic community in Connecticut, and best of all it is FREE, its your lodge’s website. Maintaining your lodge’s website and keeping the content up to date is a great tool to attract new members and let the traveling men know what is going on in your lodge. Let me share a little story of a man I know well and how the internet was the biggest tool in his approaching the West Gate of our Brotherhood.

A few years ago there was a certain young man who after watching a History Channel show about the founding fathers of America and after years of reading about Freemasonry in history books and in exciting fictitious novels, decided to research the famed fraternity he knew very little about. Like most men his age he was well acquainted with the Internet and in fact, the single biggest tool for researching anything he was interested in was right in his living room, his computer. The young man did an internet search of Freemasonry which turned up more results than he imagined.

He clicked his way through many websites, some bad, but many more good and eventually ended up at the website of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, the state in which he resided in. He scrolled through the different informational pages about the brotherhood and saw a link to a list of lodges in Connecticut. Sure enough there was not only one, but two lodges right in the city which he lived in, which amazed him because of in his short 30 or so years of life he had never had any contact with anyone who was a Mason. He clicked on the link for lodge nearest to where he lived and, other than the standard template and an address of the lodge; there was not much on the website. Perhaps they no longer met or existed? His curiosity was piqued never the less, so he hopped in his car to drive past the address from the website.

When he got to his destination he noticed an old sign post with a weather beaten and greened, copper square and compasses on it in front of an old brownstone, church looking building. It sure looked to him like a meeting place of the Order that many of the founding fathers belonged. However it being night time, there was no one there, so he went back home and went back to the computer to do more investigating.

He went to other lodges websites on the list and noticed that some had loads of information about their lodge’s activities with calendars full of events and this thing called a “Message from the East”, which apparently was a monthly update from the leader of the lodge, the Worshipful Master. Yet the majority of the websites had little, if any, updated information, including most of the lodges close to him. He was happy to find out that the brotherhood existed in the state and although the lodges in his city may not meet any more, which he thought because of the empty websites, he decided Freemasonry was something he wanted to be a part of, so he went ahead and filled out the form on the Grand Lodge’s website to become a member.

To make a long story short, after some emails back and forth with many different people the young man met with some Brothers from the other lodge in his city who told him that the lodge that met in that old building indeed still met and existed. After a short talk they gave him a petition to join Freemasonry telling him that he could join whichever lodge he wanted and receive the same Masonry. He went on to petition the lodge that met in that old building and if you haven’t guessed it yet, went on to be the sitting Junior Warden and author of this article you are reading, me.

The reason I told you my story is because as a Brother who came to Freemasonry in Connecticut by way of the World Wide Web I want to make sure that you don’t let a good man slip by because your website is not up to date. You may say, “Hey…you still petitioned your lodge even though their website was not updated” to which I will say that I am probably an exception to the rule. I have heard many stories of guys who after looking up their local lodge and finding the website dated or empty except for the standard template giving up on their decision to join or having second thoughts.

As members of the largest and best fraternal organization in the world we owe it to ourselves to shine our light to all who may knock, or click for that matter. An added bonus of having a great website with updated calendars and news of future events is that Brothers traveling around the state or world can know if they are in the vicinity of your lodge on a meeting night that there is something going on and stop by for a visit. We have had a few such traveling men stop by my lodge, one from as far away as a lodge in Germany and they would have never known that we were there and active without our website. We all should be very thankful that our Grand Lodge provides us with such a powerful and amazing communication tool.

So go on, update your website. If you can’t do it or need a little help there are many Brothers out there willing to help, just ask. Keep it fresh with news and events from your lodge and keep your calendar updated, you never know who will contact you, perhaps a future Junior Warden or a traveling man seeking the friendly confines of a lodge far away from home.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Endings and Beginnings

I have been sitting here trying to fashion some fine quilt of words to describe and update what is going on in my life and I just cant find the right materials.
My lodge's second half of the year began last Thursday without its Junior Warden. Even though I already knew I was not going to be there, because of my involvement in a community theater production that I became a part of over the summer, it was even harder not to go because on that day I received news that my job of the last ten years was soon to be no longer. It also happened to be my wife's birthday, so there were many things stacked against me popping in to say hello to my brethren after two months. I missed it dearly none the less.
For those of you who have read my blog from day one, or even month one, you would know that I am in firm belief that I was lead to the fraternity by my guardian angel, my departed son. My life in the past few years has taken a complete U-turn (or at least a major detour) from where it was before we found out about my son.
Through my interest in the craft I rediscovered many things that had been lost to my life. The introspection of the degrees rekindled my love of study and writing. The act of sitting in lodge and participating in the degrees returned my interest in theater, and the simple act of fellowship that comes from our fraternity restored a camaraderie that had been missing in my life.
In a relatively short time I left a shell that I had fashioned around myself and have re-found the life I was meant to live. Keep in mind that like all great teachers, Freemasonry did not just hand this to me with my dues card but allowed me to find these things on my own, which is always the best way to learn. I know for sure that I am closer to the man I was meant to be than I was before I knocked on the West Gate.
Could I have found this by joining some other organization? Perhaps. But I think it is the deeper aspects that only Freemasonry offers to those truly seeking, that helped me to blossom.
Although I have been one to always land on my feet after life throws you a curve. I am in a much better position now than I have ever been to know what the next pitch will be and to hit it out of the ballpark. We'll see.
Like the old saying goes;
God never closes a door without opening a window.