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Masonic Service Association of North America

Focus December 2013


College Outreach New Approach In Grand Lodges

A new emphasis on reaching out to college-age students and potential candidates for Freemasonry is being tried in several Grand Lodges across the country.  Here are reports from two such programs, given during the Annual Communications of the Grand Lodges:


In the annual address to the Grand Lodge, Bradley S. Rickelman, Grand Master of Oklahoma, addressed the subject in these words, "The College Outreach-University Relations Committee was very active, producing a booklet on how to interact with local colleges. 

"There was an open house planned for those lodges to reach college age individuals.  Our timing on the date (late August) was probably a bit early in the semester, but the idea and process is sound.  I hope the lodges continue their outreach to those prospective brothers.

"Once we connect with college men, how do we keep them active – especially after they graduate?  While at the Scottish Rite Biennial, I spoke with a Texas brother from College Station (home of my Alma Mater, Texas A&M University).   They also lose too many younger Masons who join in college and do not stay active after graduation; job and family all make greater demands on time.  We need to do more to ensure not only that we find good young men, but also that they remain active after leaving college."


Daniel K. Rannebarger, chairman of the Grand Lodge of Ohio Membership and Retention Development Committee, among other activities, reported the following:  "A College/University Outreach Program was created as another way for lodges to recruit new members.

"Wood County Lodge was approached to test the program at Bowling Green State University.  The lodge agreed and worked with the Grand Lodge Office to create brochures and informational material, which was passed out to prospective members at Bowling Green State University's Campus Fest, held on September 13, 2013."

(This event allows campus organizations, including college fraternities and sororities to have tables where they tell about themselves, and Wood County Lodge participated in this event.)

According to Jeremy Sharninghouse, local chairman, "We had thousands of young men pass by.  We spoke directly with between 25 and 30 young men.  The lodge held two open houses and invited all young men who had spoken with us.  In short, we received 7 petitions.  We plan to participate in this again."


Fact Sheets Available on MSA Webpage

The Masonic Information Center was established as an arm of the Masonic Service Association in 1993.  Over the years, it has produced many "fact sheets" and brochures with the purpose of providing the public with the correct information regarding Freemasonry.

Also, the goal of the MIC has been to better prepare Masons to answer and respond to any questions about the Fraternity that may come to them.

On the MSA webpage – -- MIC has placed a series of helpful explanations to assist Masons when facing certain questions.  Go to the webpage and click on "Fact Sheets About Freemasonry."  Seven "fact sheets" are available, dealing with the Fraternity in regard to history, organization, brotherhood, religion, secrecy, women, and youth.


Masonic Temples Reborn As Luxury Condos

That was the headline of an article in The Wall Street Journal on September 26, 2013.  It's secondary headline was:  "A growing number of Masons are selling their aging temples to developers who convert them into luxury condos."

Here are some excepts from the article:

  • A global, fraternal organization that dates back to the 18th century has a wealth of historic meeting spaces under its watch that are hitting the market.
  • When Larry Schier walks into the Masonic club on Manhattan's Upper West Side, there are no secret handshakes or symbolic rituals taking place.  He is just coming home.  .  . He bought his first apartment there in 1984 for $287,000 and combined it with an apartment he bought next door for $610,000 . . . He plays up the history of the building and the features associated with the Freemasons: the "exquisite stone-carved symbols" and its "exclusive allure of an ultra-prestigious club."
  • Today, with membership down to about a million from four million in the 1950s, the Masons can't afford the upkeep of all these antiquated buildings, which are typically in downtown areas with limited parking.  The absence of working elevators also makes the buildings difficult for aging members to use.  As a result, more Masons have sold their temples and relocated to smaller, more modern structures in the suburbs. Developers and individuals have snapped up the buildings, encouraged by the rebounding real-estate market and demand for luxury condos.
  • Last year, Craig Boardman says he was just accompanying a friend to a showing in a former Masonic temple in Columbus, Ohio.  The condo had 40-foot-high ceilings, three enormous stained glass windows, a spiral staircase and the original fireplace.  "It was pretty awesome," says Mr. Boardman, a professor, who bought a two-bedroom, two-bathroom for $300,000.  (When he had the unit painted he found a lunchbox-size hiding spot behind a wall molding.  Alas, it was empty.)
  • In downtown Champaign, Ill, developer Robert Grossman bought a 33,000-square-foot, 1914 Masonic temple with terrazzo floors and intricate carvings in the staircases for $800,000 in 2008.  "It was in terrible shape.  But I looked at it and fell in love with it," he says.  He spent $2.5 million converting it into 19 apartments, which rent for $900 to $2,000 a month each.
  • Converting a Masonic temple to residences isn't always easy for the developers either.  The buildings tend to be outdated and in disrepair.  The spaces, which always include a large theater or meeting room, are a challenge to reconfigure.
  • On the other hand, since masonry is a central component of the origin of Freemasons, the structures are also incredibly well built . . . Often there are extra flourishes and symbols incorporated into the architecture – a blazing star, an all-seeing eye and the Masons' best-known symbol, a square and compass and the letter "G," believed to stand for geometry and God.


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