Food For Thought
This edition's topic - Falling Membership - part 3
LARGER & MORE TARGETED GROUPS OF PROSPECTS
Aside from the many suggestions that have been put forward in last moth's Food for Thought, there is one which has not had much consideration given to it. That is the population from which the possible membership is drawn from. By that I do not mean to double those who might be available to join the Craft by admitting the fairer sex. That is another and very divisive matter. But by targeting sections of the general public we may be able to increase those who wish to become Freemasons.
One can look around the world and see what possibilities exist. I have included in my blog various types of Lodges that have been formed. To list but a handful here will give an idea as to the possibilities that exist
Students - University Lodges for the purpose of introducing our young scholars to the Craft
Armed Services Lodges - such as the Navy Lodge to which King George VI belonged
Rugby Football Lodges
Performing Artists Lodges
and there are many more around the world. Each of these type of lodges have a basic theme which will interest those persons in that sphere of activity. By doing this these lodges concentrate on a certain sector of the population at large.
This is very admirably illustrated by the Prince Hall Lodges in the United States. These Lodges catered for the coloured Americans, when unfortunately American main line Freemasonry refused entry to men of colour. The Prince Hall Lodges have their own Grand Lodge, and this is recognised around most if not all of the world.
Missing from the above list are three types of lodges that we have in New Zealand, which are also elsewhere in the rest of the World. I have not included New Zealand Service Lodges here. The types of Lodges I refer to are: Research Lodges, Dining Lodges and Daylight Lodges.
The Research Lodges are for people who are interested in the historical aspects of Freemasonry. These Lodges run alongside, and are complementary to, the brother's own Lodge. The meetings normally are centred on lectures given by their own or visiting brethren. These are usually printed in full with the minutes, and comments forthcoming from brethren in the following minutes. These publications are often made available to persons outside the Research Lodge, in some form. There are many Districts, Divisions or Provinces with their own Research Lodges. The most well known research Lodge in the world Quatuor Coronati Lodge of London, is the principal one of the English Constitution. Reading from the huge range papers presented there is a thought provoking and educational experience, and one that any serious scholar should try to do.
Research Lodges are not initiating Lodges, but their members are drawn from brethren already in the Craft, i.e. joining brethren. Frequently Brothers being accepted as Associate members, whereas Past Masters have full membership. The work of a Research Lodge is the presentation of papers on Freemasonry.
Dining Lodges, are similar to ordinary Lodges, except they specialise in having refectory proceedings (festive board and speeches) of the highest quality. Normally meetings start fairly early in the evening so that the work can be finished and the assembled brethren retire to enjoy 'fine' dining. Many of these lodges such as the Lodge of Liberal Arts in Auckland will also lay on a musical entertainment from up and coming stars. They often provide sponsorship of quite large sums to the performing arts. However, unlike the Research Lodges they do the full work of a Lodge, from initiations to 60 year Jewel presentations.
Daylight lodges cater for people who are unable to attend an evening Lodge. There are basically two types of Daylight lodges but the difference can be rather blurred. The first is one is active in normal lodge work with initiations and workings filling a large part of the years programme. These lodges can usefully cater for people who are on night shift, and also those who cannot go out at night for any reason.
The second type of Daylight Lodge are more social, and not only cater for older members of the Craft, who find it difficult to go out at night, but also their partners. There are many reasons for this from deteriorating eyesight, to not liking to leave their spouse alone. In this type of Lodge more able brothers are essential to keep the Lodge going. This is not a hardship as some, such as my own lodge, Lodge Pukemiro, has facilities for the ladies during the actual Lodge Meeting, and the work that follows a business session is almost always a lecture of interest to both brethren and ladies. At our regular meetings, we always have a lunch together. Lodge Pukemiro has a regular Lodge Meeting and a Coffee Morning alternative months. So the emphasis is on fellowship. When a candidate joins the Lodge, the work may require brethren from other lodges to assist. Most of the older brethren have been very good ritualists in their day, but they have progessed on from that. The enjoyment of including partners is a major drawcard. Brethren of this type of Lodge are often members of other lodges as well. If there is to be a long meeting, such as the Installation, often a coffee morning in the locality is arranged for the week before, so that our ladies do not miss out on the fellowship that month.
These three types of Lodges that run alongside the normal type (whatever that is) in New Zealand widen the scope of the population that Freemasonry can draw on.
However, Freemasons New Zealand have another type of lodge, that is not actually a Masonic Lodge, but more working groups to assist a Lodge. The Maori Brethren are unique to New Zealand, and is where a Maori candidate is initiated into a Lodge by Maori brethren drawn from the lodge and other lodges. As such they are similar in operation to those areas of the United States who have a range of specialists available in an area for doing long charges at a Lodge working. There are many groups used in a similar to that of the Maori Brethren, such as Police brethren, Seafarers, Railwaymen, and even Grand Stewards, doing the work for a lodge. However, they are definitely groups and so do not meet the requirement to be a Lodge, i.e. do not have a charter. They also have little or no affect on recruitment of candidates.
Side Orders are not included here, as almost all require brethren to be a member of a Craft Lodge.
There must be many differing types of lodges available which might work in New Zealand, and we should be looking to these to increase our numbers by focussing our recruiting. Freemasonry must adapt itself if it is to survive. We have a great product, which is specific to each individual, and so difficult to describe. So start discussing amongst yourselves new ideas.
Just trotting out that well worn phrase "But we have always done it that way", will get you nowhere as the stagecoach drivers of the 18th century discovered. Where are they now?
John Barns Graham