Sunday, October 10, 2010

Do We Meet Too Much?

As my year in the east progresses towards its conclusion I have started to retrospectively think about my term and it's results. I have raised the level of Masonic thought and education, improved the camaraderie, and always gone out of my way to make every brother feel welcome. The ritual has been excellent, the candidates many, and yet the turnout ( although higher than any year I have been a member) never gets past the regular officers who have always shown up and a handful of guys on the sideline. It varies meeting to meeting but if I averaged it out it would be around 17 or 18 a meeting.This fact puzzles me.
I have done all of the things laid out in various Masonic papers to increase participation yet no matter what awesome night I have planned I get about the same amount of Brothers. Now you may say it has something to do with the caliber of men who belong to my lodge but I can honestly say that on those nights, the revolving handful of Brothers of the sideline is never the same and the cast of that ever different bunch all are good Masons and I believe in my heart they would all be at every meeting if they could, so where is the problem?
Recently my lodge has been blessed with the addition of a couple of Brothers who originally hail from the mother Grand Lodge of England and at our last meeting, after I successfully got my Lodge to let me try doing some aspects of a Traditional Observance lodge at our next degree, one of my English Brothers showed me a summons for his mother lodge in England. It was a gorgeous printed document the likes of which my lodge has not produced in ages and the thing that struck me was they only meet 4 times a year! Quarterly as they say! Thats when it hit me, maybe we meet too much
Perhaps if we were to cut down on the amount of nights that we need to break away from our families and routines we might get more fannies in the seats. Now, this goes against about everything I have always thought about how a lodge should be run because even at my lodges current meeting schedule, twice a month and not during the summer, a Brother needs only to dedicate about .006% of his time per year to his lodge( and that is with three hour meetings!). Even at this tiny amount of dedication I can count on more than a few calls or emails before a meeting with "Oh I am so bogged down with work I cant make it tonight" or " I am just too busy to make it tonight" or the classic "I totally forgot we had a meeting tonight". So is this the solution? Make the Brothers dedicate .002% of their time or four five hour meetings per year? (Including a festive board at every meeting) I don't know, even with three kids, a working wife, and a job I have only missed a handful of meetings and even then I tried to show up at some point in the night. I am in no way knocking my Brothers who do not attend every meeting just trying to figure out a better way to improve attendance.
Its not that they don't know about our meetings. Along with clearly stating to every new Brother, or even candidate, that we meet on the first and third Thursday of every month except for July and August, I send out a Trestleboard with our upcoming events on it, send out an email before the meetings, and have a Facebook page for the lodge and send out event notices from there. Yet we never get all of the active brothers together on a regular meeting night. I personally look forward to every meeting and my family knows that twice a month Daddy has lodge. So do we meet too much?
In a lodge that only meets four times a year you obviously limit the amount of candidates that can join and can only go through three degrees once a year. Can this schedule result in the amount of sincere camaraderie and knowledge of your Brothers that seeing some of them at least once a month produces? I think that quarterly meetings would indeed increase the importance of a meeting because if you miss one you missed a fourth of the year but many of the Brothers already miss a fourth of the meetings. Quarterly meetings would definitely allow for better preparation and maybe produce a higher quality meeting. I think a festive board after the meeting is just a wonderful thing and anytime I have been a part of one, either formally or informally, it has been a memorable experience, but think that one or two every month would break the bank of most of the Brothers which bodes well with a quarterly schedule.
There are some lodges who get together all of the time with clubs, movie nights, and other social events. These lodges seem to have an abundant amount of extra time for each other. There are also some lodges with many members who can not even fill the officers chairs for a Stated Communication. My lodge falls in between. I just wonder if there is a better way.
What do you think?
Are two Stated Communications a month too many?
Is a Quarterly schedule better?


Michael Shirley said...

I have done all of the things laid out in various Masonic papers to increase participation yet no matter what awesome night I have planned I get about the same amount of Brothers.

My Brother, I'm curious about something. You use "I" a lot. Have you included your Brothers in your planning and doing? I'm not assuming you haven't: I really want to know.

Unknown said...

I had the same thought as Michael "I have raised the level of Masonic thought and education, improved the camaraderie..." Really? All by yourself?

M.M.M. from the North Eastern Corner said...

Between the forced midnight camaraderie marches and chain your self to a Brother night I have forcefully made every Brother in my lodge like each other with an Iron Fist the likes have not been seen since Stalin!

Of course not!

I did start this post with "As my year in the east progresses towards its conclusion I have started to retrospectively think about my term and it's results."
It has been MY term in the East. I laid out a plan and instituted many changes but of course nothing can be done alone. AT the same time a ship with no captain goes nowhere. I have written about many of the things I have done to facilitate the change but for sure none of it would have happened this year had I never assumed the Oriental Chair.
I am the Worshipful Master after all!

Anonymous said...

M.M.M., numbers don't tell the whole story.
While in some parts of England, Lodges meet four times a year, it is equally true that some English Masons belong to a plurality of Lodges and hold offices in all of them.
In other words, the impression I get is, when you add things up, they attend just as many meetings as we do here.
I can't help but wonder if the majority of people who don't attend meetings simply have no interest in meetings and there's nothing that can be done to make them interested in them. People join the fraternity because they are interested in the principles or maybe because of a family legacy. They don't join to go to meetings.
Conversely, I wonder if the people who come to meetings will come no matter how good or bad they are; they just want a place to hang out with people they like. Certainly our senior brothers do; meetings have become part of their life's routine and they have no intention of changing it now.


M.M.M. from the North Eastern Corner said...

As always Justa, you hit the nail on the head. Perhaps the full house of regular attendees is an unattainable goal. I know of many things I belong to and do not attend every gathering so why should I expect anything more of Freemasonry. Maybe its the big hall my Lodge meets in. When I look at 100 empty seats I have a vision of some golden age when they were all full and wish it for us again.

Chris said...

As an American who was initiated in UGLE and is now Ruling Master of my lodge here in London, I would say that there are plusses and minuses to meeting more often than 4 times per year. The 4-times-per-year "rule" is mostly for Metropolitan Lodges (ie, in London). Many Brethren do indeed belong to more than one Lodge or side order and thus are kept very busy all year. In Provincial or District lodges, meetings are often held more often, sometimes once a month.

I find that 4 times a year is just right to allow me to memorise the work. We also only have one, possibly two candidates at the moment. If we met 10 times a year, or 20 as you do, we would be left bereft of work most of the time. In my opinion, there should be a reassessment of how many lodges there are in the London area. I believe there are around 5,000 Lodges and every quarter a few of them have to surrender their warrants because their membership is no longer at a viable level. Consolidation would also free up meeting days and times in the few venues we have available here. This is not a popular view, I fear. Having 4,000 Lodges with a larger number of Brethren in each might be better. But no one likes to see their own Lodge consolidate so I would guess that the closings will continue at a slow pace.

W. Bro Chris Hansen, WM
Goliath Lodge #5595 UGLE
(but only speaking for himself)