MSA Logo

Masonic Service Association of North America

Part III – Taking the Next Steps

“Our Masonic resources are great! Our resource management skills are rusty.” — MIC Task Force

1. Generating energy and transforming thought into action

We acknowledged that our identity as Masons must include work on ourselves both as individuals and as a brotherhood. We recognized that our decline in membership over the past 50 years is merely a symptom of the loss of Masonry’s relevance to our lives and our communities. We have individually and collectively allowed our lethargy to encrust the jewel of Masonry, which has been bequeathed to us to pass on to the future. Our focus on the past has blinded us to the challenges of the present. And it is the present that we must address both as individuals and as a fraternal organization. Our reliance on former brothers’ successes has weakened our commitment to achieving our own Masonic identities.

Without excusing our recent apathy, suffice it to say that we have been wooed by the world of clever advertising into believing that symbolizing something makes it so. We have succumbed to the agenda of corporate advertising. But we can no longer delude ourselves into thinking about Masonry from the outside in. We must look squarely into the challenge of performing Masonry to the betterment of our fraternity and ourselves.

The Square and Compasses, the best known symbol of a Mason, cannot replace the identity of living the life of a Mason, which is itself perpetually in a state of improving ourselves in body, mind, and spirit. Masonic imagery is a valuable resource when it inspires us to take new action consistent with our personal growth and enlightened thought. We must discover our own Masonic calling, our own place in the history of Masonry, by making authentic Masonic performance our top priority.

2. Breaking out of a pattern of lethargy

Borrowing from our Masonic symbolism, we ask that Masons consider the Rough Ashlar that hides the natural beauty of the stone within. What values and actions have we allowed to slip out of sight? How can we find the resources to emerge from the layers of lethargy that block the natural beauty of Masonry from the general public? We must uncover the Mason within us so that we can present Masonry in fact and not in fiction.

Neither a public relations agency nor an advertising campaign will substitute for the personal journey that will establish the presence of Masonry in the public’s view. Each of us has a responsibility to steward our respected fraternity into the future, calling on our own spirit rather than deferring to those of our predecessors. We must exercise the same etermination that we admire and celebrate in our heritage.

3. Assessing our tangible and intangible assets

Relying on the Rough Ashlar as a metaphor for the Mason’s journey toward enlightenment, the Task Force considered the now dormant natural resources of Masonry. From the value of the individual brothers who sit among us to the lodge-centered assets and systems that link us on a national and international level, we have a wealth of untapped Masonic resources. It is our work to uncover these resources for the immediate and long-term good health of our fraternity.

The Task Force recommends taking an inventory of individual lodge strengths in terms of tangible and intangible resources. Consider the assets that are within immediate reach of the lodge and can easily be adapted to meet new needs. These are just a few suggestions to help lodges take an inventory. They are not listed by priority.

Tangible resources may include the following:

  • Existing physical structures
  • Network of over one and one-half million Masonic members
  • Extensive North American geographic coverage
  • Lodge facilities with their community centrality—kitchens, libraries, collections, artifacts, exhibits, archives
  • Existing programs
  • Masonic clinics and hospitals
  • Current Masonic publications
  • Phone and e-mail networks
  • Lodge-based websites
  • Financial assets (even if limited)
  • Contemporary books and films

Also consider the following examples of intangible resources:

  • Our good name for doing good works
  • Centuries of history in multiple countries
  • Individual talents of each brother
  • Historical and contemporary cultural associations
  • Community relationships
  • Family links
  • Educational and arts partnerships
  • A legacy of leadership
  • Respected values system
  • Tradition of diversity
  • Rituals
  • Mystery
  • Symbols
  • Opportunities for self-improvement
  • Fellowship
  • Recent positive media exposure through books and films
     Community history

4. Maximizing our resources

Once we inventory our resources, we need to find ways to manage them. We need systems to monitor our progress. We need ways of recognizing success, encouraging creativity, and rewarding accomplishments. Small actions, kind words, and expressions of concern for others are just a few examples. Our work on Masonry’s public image begins with work on ourselves, using our wealth of resources to dislodge the sediment that has encrusted our riches and has diminished the value of our Masonic identity

  Our work begins by applying our resources and improving ourselves in the Masonic tradition of body, mind, and spirit. We need only look in the mirror or offer a handshake to crack the encasement of the Rough Ashlar that screens the natural beauty of the stone.

Our Masonic resources are great! Our resource management skills are rusty. The tools for honing the Perfect Ashlar are at our disposal, but they lie scattered across lodges, hidden in fading relationships, and atrophied by lack of use. We must put them to good use.

We urge each lodge to inventory its tangible and intangible assets, such as people, places, artifacts, relationships, and systems. Although each lodge has an individual and valuable identity within the context of Freemasonry, there is much to learn and share from one another’s lodge-based activities. With more than one and a half million members in North America, Masons are poised to discharge our crews with the newly sharpened tools of our craft to improve ourselves and to fulfill the promise of the stewardship of Freemasonry.

The words from William Preston’s Masonic lecture succinctly inform us of our Masonic identity in terms of action:

By the Rough Ashlar, we are reminded of our rude and imperfect state by nature;
by the Perfect Ashlar, of the state of perfection at which we hope to arrive by a
virtuous education, our own endeavors, and the blessings of God.

Masons are unique in their commitment to “virtuous education.” By this we mean appreciating Masonry’s commitment to life-long learning, self-improvement and personal growth. We are reminded that Masonic identity is distinctive because Masons are men of thought and action.

<Continue reading It's About Time >