Wednesday, March 31, 2010

If You Build It...

So what comes first the lodge or the "lodge"? As most Masons know a lodge is a group of Freemasons, it is constituted (or licensed in layman's terms) by a Grand Lodge and given the power and authority to make Masons. As most non Masons and Masons wives know a "lodge" is the building that Freemasons go a couple of times a month to meet and do that "secret" stuff. In early times the lodge was formed without a "lodge". Freemasonry grew in pubs and coffee houses and any other place that could be Tyled or secured from non Masons in order to do the work of the order. As Freemasonry grew the "lodge" became a new reality, lodges swelling with members who wished to donate their time and money built edifices that reflected their love and devotion to their craft. Magnificent structures were constructed at a time when Brothers had a lot less means than todays masons, but built they were.
The building that caught my imagination and helped to draw me to the lodge of which I am Master today was sold, like many "lodges" were, because the big white elephant was too expensive for the dwindling brotherhood that met there. It is an amazing structure with stained glass Masonic windows, brass door hardware with square and compasses emblazoned on every handle, and a ceiling painted to match the canopy of heaven, but it is not ours. Yes we meet there but someone else owns the building and they are not going to give it up in the foreseeable future. We are uncomfortable tenants doing the labor of Freemasonry in a museum from the past. When we retire to the South for fellowship we must bring and remove any evidence of our existence and never feel comfortable in our camaraderie.
My dream for my lodge is to get us back into a "lodge". I want a place of our own. I want a place where if a couple of Brothers want to discuss things over a cigar and a dram of whiskey they can do so. I want a place where we can leave supplies to make the dinner we consume before a degree. I want to have a piece of property that the Brothers can be proud to bring a prospective candidate to. Is this wrong? Am I spinning my creative wheels on a thing that is more trouble than its worth?
I have found a building with a fraction of the grandeur of our old "lodge" but it still has the possibility of grandeur. This building is within the money we collected for the sale of our old building and then some. We should have enough money to purchase and renovate and put some money away to help us in the early years of ownership. But even with all of these qualities the older guys at the lodge are scared to own property again.
I think that a "lodge" would help my lodge in retention and growth because it would be a place we could all be proud owners of, but is this not the case? Does my idea of a "lodge" like the royal society, a clubhouse for the Brethren, not fit in with the reality of modern American Freemasonry? I see places like Halcyon Lodge and what they have done with their old building and think that if we had that we would be so much better off. Am I wrong?
What do you think?


Simon LaPlace said...

No, you're not wrong.
I see the restrictions of "renting" a lodge building, but also the benefits of the responsibilities of owning and maintaining a building. Perhaps brothers who built the oversized temples of the past were too confident of an increase in membership. They may not have anticipated the inflation of taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities.
Dues did not keep up, and certainly they failed to replace their numbers because of their excessive secrecy.
But owning a building, within your means, gives pride and ownership. Masonry builds responsibility and discipline and a building can help with that. It's an investment in a belief in the future. But if we don't learn from our mistakes, we will, of course, be condemned to repeat them.
Move forward, cautiously, but forward.

Quarryman said...

You are not wrong Brother.

The unfortunate thing is that our wonder buildings were built when membership was at its peak. The previous comment basically said it all.

We are struggling with our building as well. It was built in 1892 by the Lodge. It remains a grand Lodge space, but it is a golden anchor. We are fighting to keep it because once it is gone we will never get it back - at least not in my lifetime.

Unfortunately it leads to higher dues to support it and that is what we are beginning to strain under - especially when local Lodges are charging less due to being in much smaller spaces.