Who are We and Where Did We Go?
By Grand Master Dwight M. “Mack” Sigmon
Our district meetings have begun, and I hope you are making plans to attend the upcoming meeting closest to your lodge.
Most likely your attendance will be at a lodge that you have previously visited, but for some that may not be the case. You will rely on someone else or your GPS device to help get you to the correct destination.
When I joined our fraternity in mid-1975, the landscape of our various community organizations was much different than what we experience today or have experienced for the past few decades. Membership, not necessarily participation, was much higher in all civic, religious and local school organizations.
Today, we continue to spend an enormous amount of time discussing and analyzing declining membership. Some think we have returned or are returning to the pre-bubble levels experienced after World War II while others are confident that the decline has stopped. Regardless, times have definitely changed.
Ask yourself this question, are we known in our own backyard?
There was a time in Freemasonry when most everyone in the local community knew who we were, or at least where we were located. The same applies to the other organizations I previously mentioned. You could stop at any local business and someone would know who we were and where our building was located, especially in small to medium size communities.
Most business owners, attorneys, physicians, first responders, educators and trade specialists were members. They also belonged to many other civic groups as well. Times have definitely changed as the majority of these groups now experience the same membership decline and financial struggles as we do.
As a young man in the 1960s, I knew nothing about our fraternity. Our local lodge had a sign on our building, but it never caught my attention. For years I knew this building as the local town hall and police department who I later discovered were tenants of ours. To me our building represented those entities, not the local Masonic lodge.
Many businesses today are owned by someone who lives outside our communities. Today, if we stop and ask someone in a local business if they know where the Masonic lodge is located, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who could answer your question.
They, like I decades ago, have not focused on our signs to understand our identity. Many discover us for the first time when attending a funeral of a friend or family member of a friend and Masonic Rites are being conducted.
Even then, I have had people come up to me and ask who we are and question the purpose of our aprons. That opens the door as an opportunity to let our communities know who we are and where we are located. I know of members who have joined because of our participation in the community or after learning more about us while attending open officer installations.
We need more community involvement opportunities if we are to continue to educate the profane.
Today, when traveling to unfamiliar areas, we mainly rely on our GPS mobile app devices to take us to those destinations.
We have a great feature on our Grand Lodge web page that does that for us. I quite often use the lodge locator feature found on the home page of our website. It has served me well this year and previous years in my many travels throughout our grand jurisdiction.
But consider this, what if we worked harder at being a sort of Masonic GPS, letting our communities know who we are and what we are?
Many of our lodges are out in their communities. Some do great work with community events but mainly when combined with their fundraising activities. Our charities are critical to our homes’ existence and our fundraising activities are greatly appreciated, but what else can we do above our charitable work in our communities?
Some lodges are involved in blood drives, locally and on the district level. Others participate in local community parades.
Our Lion and Pillar program this year encourages some new community activities in addition to the ones we have previously listed.
Consider contacting your local Chamber of Commerce for ways to get active in your community.
Habitat for Humanity is a great community project. While a financial donation would benefit them, as it would to all non-profit organizations, participating in a building project as a lodge or district would also be of great value. Imagine lodge members wearing their lodge shirts and working side by side with other organizations on a building project.
These types of activities provide the means of introducing yourself as a local Masonic lodge while crossing paths with someone new. You would be letting other groups or individuals experience the fellowship you enjoy as members of our fraternity while doing a worthwhile project for the community. Happiness and having fun while doing good deeds could be contagious! The same could apply working with local schools, scouting programs and the list goes on. We all have limited time and resources, but I encourage you as a lodge or district to have a goal of improving your visibility in the community.
Maybe we can one day return to a time when a person could stop at a local business, ask where the Masonic lodge is located and immediately get the correct answer.
I rely on my GPS app as I travel this grand jurisdiction, but I still have a love of human interaction and letting people know who we are and where we are.
I always enjoy crossing paths with someone new on my Masonic journey. I bet you do as well. Thanks for all you are doing for our great fraternity. Masonry is Work but well worth our efforts.