Masonic Service Association of North America
This is the Short Talk Bulletin for September 2005.
The Short Talk Bulletin is published monthly by the Masonic Service Association of North America. Learn more about the Short Talk Bulletins.
The Masonic Information Center was given the task of studying and ultimately preparing a Masonic Public Awareness Program. The study has been completed and is currently in the final stages of preparation for the publisher. This STB is an extract from that report and is meant to challenge our lodges and members into taking a fresh approach to our Masonic membership.
Our identity as Masons must include work on ourselves both as individuals and as a brotherhood. 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 digressing too far into the philosopher's world of communications theory, let it suffice 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. We must discover our own Masonic calling and our own place in the history of Masonry and put our Masonic performance before the symbol.
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 thinking.
Consider the "Rough Ashlar" that hides the natural beauty of the stone within. What 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 public at large? We must uncover the Mason within us so that we can expose Masonry to the public at large.
No public relations agency or 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 determination that we admire and celebrate in our heritage.
Relying on the Rough Ashlar as a metaphor for the Mason's journey toward enlightenment, please consider the natural resources dormant in Masonry. From the value of the individual brothers who sit among us, to the lodge-centered assets and systems liking us on a national and international level, there lies a wealth of untapped resources. We must uncover these resources for the immediate and long-term good health of our fraternity.
Here are some tangible resources (listed in no particular order):
Here are some intangible resources (listed in no particular order):
We need to find ways to manage our resources. We need systems to monitor our progress. We need ways of recognizing success, encouraging innovation, and rewarding accomplishments. Small actions, kind words, concern for others are just a few examples. Our work on a public image of Masonry begins with work on ourselves, using our wealth of resources to dislodge the sediment that has encrusted our riches and diminished the value of our Masonic identity.
Our work begins by applying our resources to 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 need only to put them to good use.
We urge each lodge to inventory its tangible and intangible assets, such as people, places, artifacts, relationships, and systems. Each lodge has an individual 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 mission members in North America, we are poised to discharge our Masonic 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 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 start 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 seekers and does.
Beginning at the lodge level, consider putting into action the following:
Our initial focus for our public awareness campaign requires imagination, open-mindedness and discipline -- the discipline to say "Yes". Put aside old habits of saying simply, "Ah, that's been tried." Or "Yes, But!" Cast off negativism. Turn the objection around to a challenge. Encourage and reward open and positive communication throughout each stage of the process of change. Share ideas and ask yourself to take ownership of transforming the identity of Masonry through each and every action, regardless of how small.