Masonic Service Association of North America
Moving Masonry into the 21st Century
"When Memories exceed dreams, the end is near.”
— Michael Hammer
It is no secret that participation in the Masonic fraternity has been dropping for at least 50 years. Evidence of our decline is the fact that our membership totals are at their lowest levels in more than 80 years. Hoping to stop the attrition, Masonic leaders have tried numerous initiatives: one-day classes, shortened proficiencies, and a lowered minimum age at which one can petition for membership. Grand Lodges have hired public relations firms and have paid for promotions in numerous media outlets, including newspapers, magazines, billboards, radio, and television. Each initiative, while hinting at success, has failed to arrest our declining numbers and has fallen short of rejuvenating our fraternal spirit.
For instance, one-day classes attracted many new members, but they did little to halt the ever-increasing numbers of demits and NPD’s. We realized that getting new members was only a part of the challenge. Clearly, Masons were not satisfactorily addressing ways of keeping our members involved and enthusiastic about Masonry. The time had come for us to take full responsibility for our sad state of affairs and begin to move forward, embracing the fact that we have a lot of work to do.
The work began in 2004 when the Conference of Grand Masters asked the Masonic Information Center (MIC) to look into the possibility of creating a National Masonic Public Awareness Program. We accepted the challenge. By accepting that challenge, we assumed a greater responsibility: to test the integrity of what we wanted to communicate to the public about Freemasonry. We had to ask the tough question of ourselves: Who are we as a fraternal organization within the context of the 21st century?
There was little argument among our group that Masons were not the first organization wanting to improve their public image, and we knew that we could no longer gloss over our situation’s complexity. In his book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman quotes business organization consultant Michael Hammer:
One thing that tells me a company is in trouble is when they tell me how good they were in the past. Same with countries. You don’t want to forget your identity. I am glad you were great in the 14th century, but that was then and this is now. When memories exceed dreams, the end is near.
Our Masonic memories are to be treasured, but our Masonic dreams have faltered. Simply put, we have forgotten our Masonic identity so that our memories truly do exceed our dreams. It is about time we brought our actions in line with our aspirations.
Thus began our study. Over a year later, we offer this report as a fraternal call to action. It is neither a step-by-step plan nor a scholarly document. It is our way of communicating to our fraternity the need to focus on making Masonry relevant to our changing communities and our 21st century lives. The style of the report is conversational and easy-to-read, representing the deliberations, fact-finding, and talking points of the Task Force. We ask you, as fellow Masons, to heed the call and to take the initiative to participate in building our own destiny, brother by brother, lodge by lodge.