Masonic Poll Results

Masonic Poll Results

By: Todd M. Paterek ~ Senior Deacon of Blazing Star Lodge #694 F&AM

We posted a quick survey on our Newsletter and our website asking some specific questions about your experiences in Masonry at Blazing Star Lodge #694 F&AM.  The results are in and I want to address a couple comments directly.  I do not want you to think that these are rebuttals, nor will I try to defend the Lodge, I will not even take a side.  I want to give my view of the comments.  I am happy the comments were posted (anonymously) because we need to know where we have to improve.  We need to talk to each other and listen to each other if we want to be successful in our Masonic journey.  For those who answered you are anonymous but I personally think it is best to voice your opinions in person.  We spend about an hour having dinner and general Fellowship before we open Lodge, we then have at least another hour after we close Lodge.  These are perfect informal times to voice your opinions, ask questions, and get involved.  If you want fell free to pull me aside and talk one on one.  I am no authority in the Lodge, none of us are, but I am one that is pushing for change so if the boat is rocking, they expect it is me.

What did you expect of Masonry before you “knocked on the door”?

I knew nothing about masonry, except I knew my dad’s friends who were masons, and that they were quality gentlemen whom I had grown up knowing and thinking highly of. I wanted to be among those type of men.

This is common in quality men seeking Masonry.  Quality men want to be gentlemen and they understand that to become better they need the influence of other quality men.  I like to think that each of us who knock on the door are already good men.  We are looking for another good man to answer the door and welcome us into a group who will teach us, learn from us, so that what is gained is equal to that which is given.  In reality the good man knocking on the door becomes a better man, the good man answering the door and the group of men welcoming in the new man also becomes a better men.  We all gain and become better with each new Brother.  Sadly we also suffer when a Brother walks way.

Fellowship in a lodge that did something more then just open pay bills close and everyone departs. Learning, presentations guest speakers. Brotherhood which included time after a meeting for cards or some entertainment.

YES!  Well that is just the opinion of these two Masons.  Business must be addressed, we have to pay the bills but who joined Masonry so they could pay the bills?  We can do that at home where we can fully enjoy the act of paying bills…   Hmm?  We are a social organization, we bond during dinner, we joke over cookies and coffee.  But when was the last time we actually had Masonic education?  What about an esoteric conversation?  What do we use the two foot ruler for?  Yes but why?  There is so much to learn about Freemasonry and we choose to spend our time on bills.  Now let me also say that we are trying new things.  We started the Cinco de Tuesday’s on every fifth Tuesday.  Starting this year, each Movember we will grow mustaches and raise money for men’s health.  We are trying to get some good Masonic education presentations together to enlighten.  Things are starting to happen and we need your enthusiasms, knowledge, and wisdom to help contribute to the betterment of everyone at the Lodge.

Now that you are a Mason, what is Masonry offering you?

The primary thing was instant friends. Immediately upon entering the building, found a group of instant friends, and it didn’t take long to discover that those friends are all over the place.

This is absolutely true and it makes me feel good that this Brother feels this way and that we made him feel this way.  We are friends.  Sometimes we throw the word Brother around too much and sometimes what we need is a friend.  This is important to me, to know that I have a friend and that I am a friend to another.

A chance to come to lodge to try to make a difference. Ascending through the chairs with the hope of someday leading a successful lodge of such.

Allow me to break this one into pieces.  First I want to reword it if I may.  A chance to come to Lodge, ascend through the chairs, and one day lead a successful Lodge of better men, thereby making a difference in their lives, who will then make a difference in their communities and ultimately by the actions of my Brothers we will make the World a better place for everyone.  This Brother’s statement is so profound, so full of the true meaning of Freemasonry everyone needs to read that again.

Remember when you are Master and beyond, that day you walked through the inner door a good man full of expectations.  Hopefully, you will see them coming though that same door just as good and full of expectations as you were.

What are you looking for from Masonry that you are not receiving?

Masonry is something you can get as involved with as you do or don’t wish, which is nice, because it accommodates the interest level of any man. But I do wish we had more members. Not just quantity, we always want the kind of man who fits in well and enjoys it, but it sure would be nice to be in a situation where we didn’t have to sweat it out every year to fill officer chairs, or rely so heavily on a handful of members to carry the load. As it is today, basically everybody who regularly attends will be asked to take an officer position, which isn’t unreasonable, but there is a place, a real place, for brothers who just want to visit, enjoy masonry, enjoy friendships, but not feel obligated to take a position of responsibility in the lodge. There’s nothing wrong with brothers wanting to be a sideliner, and I wish we had the numbers in the craft to support that.

I am going to take sides on this one.  I completely agree with this Brother.  If one of us does not want to take an officer’s chair, then they should not be made to feel obligated to do so.  It is certainly possible that we lost some of our new Brothers because we immediately pushed them into an Officer’s chair.  We essentially robbed them of the learning experience that comes with sitting on the sidelines.  What if that Brother is not comfortable with public speaking, had a bad experience, or just wants to take it all in?  Now we throw him into the chairs with the added pressures of learning lines and being “on stage”.  For some that is enough to make them walk.  I want to take this opportunity to invite any Brother who took an Officer’s chair against their wishes to come back to the Lodge and relax on the sidelines.  I will take the heat from our Worshipful Master.  No pressure Brothers, just come and enjoy the brotherhood.

Coming to Lodge means you are participating.  We have plenty of Officer chairs available.  However, even if you sit on the side you are just as much a part of that Lodge as the Worshipful Master.  You have just as much to contribute to the Lodge and Brothers in the Lodge as anyone there.  Ascending through the chairs is admirable, necessary, and a bit of an obligation to your Lodge.

I don’t see our lodge as successful in getting or retaining membership. It isn’t a very active lodge and new members are few and the ones that have become don’t return.

This is obviously a concern of everyone.  Membership is down, those who are active are not very active.  We need some ideas, we need our member to come to the Lodge and talk about their ideas.  We have over 100 paying members, and out of those 100 members about 10 show up for a stated communication.  A good percentage are out of town, or cannot physically make it to the Lodge and we understand the many other obligations that come up that prevent us from making it to the Lodge.  However, you also made an promise to the Brothers in the Lodge.  You can read a little on my Quality Vs. Quantity post about that.  As we implement ideas, get new ideas, and Brothers start to return to the Lodge to see what we are doing they will attract new members and more activities will result with more participation.

What is keeping you from coming to the Lodge?

Difficulty sitting in lodge, use a walker to get around.  Might have to leave before the meeting is over with.  Have been a good attendance previous years and miss it very much, this news letter is great , keep up the good work.

I am truly humbled by this response.  I know it is difficult when age takes away the things we love most in life.  I know that if any Brother needs to leave the Lodge before we officially close or needs special seating we can and will accommodate.  We have our ritual and such but NOBODY will raise a brow if a Brother stands up and walks out.  I am sure one will follow to make sure you are okay and need help, but we understand.  I wonder if we could make an abbreviated Lodge communication once or twice a year, maybe cut out reading of the minutes, so we can welcome some of our seasoned and experienced Brethren back.  We miss you too and I am sure there are some who never met you Brother yet hold you with as much respect and admiration was each Brother we see every week.  Your encouragement about the newsletter truly makes me happy to be able to bring a small part of the Lodge to you and others who legitimately cannot make it to Lodge.  This makes me want to do even better.  Thank you Brother.

There were a few more questions but these are the answers I felt needed attention.  I think what I learned is that we are a good bunch of Brothers, there are improvements needed, and we need the help of each of our Brothers.

Quality or Quantity

Quantity or Quality

By: Todd M. Paterek ~ Senior Deacon of Blazing Star Lodge #694 F&AM

It is now September and the Lodges that go dark over the summer months are opening their doors to returning Brethren and hopefully with those Brethren will come a few new good men into the Craft. Membership is a highly debated topic these days.  Are we still looking for quality or has quantity taken over?  I understand the need for numbers and with numbers the odds are you will snag a good man here and there.  Some will drift off, maybe will even continue to pay dues but will never show up to lodge again.  I personally am guilty of not making it to Lodge for most of the 2014-2015 year.  All my Brothers say that it is okay because I just had my tenth child and they understand sometimes the Cable Tow is short.  I even spoke with our secretary and asked why do we have so many Brothers but only 10% show up for Lodge?  Here it was at the end of the Lodge year and me making only my second appearance.  So am I a quantity or a quality Mason?

What makes a man a “Quality Mason”?  A quality Mason is proficient in floor work and memorizes every word for his office as he progresses through the line.  He Volunteers for charity fundraisers.  He sits and speaks gently about being a Mason to any who will listen.  He will teach the newly Raised Brother about the finer point of the Craft.  However, what about the Brother who does not show up to Lodge often because he is busy visiting the sick, donating blood, volunteering at soup kitchens, or his son’s baseball team and daughter’s soccer team?  What about that Brother who was Raised and never came back to Lodge but is well adorned with Masonic tattoos and jewelry?  Will a tattoo or a ring make a man a Mason?

Each of us were Raised a Master Mason.  We are all Brothers, and we are all on the Level.  Each of us has something to offer the Craft.  Unfortunately, sometimes Freemasonry does not have anything to offer us. ~ I can already hear the gasps! ~ So who do we look at to rectify this gap in expectations and to help these Brothers return to Lodge?  Remember that we are all “Quality Masons” with something to offer Freemasonry and something to gain from Freemasonry.

So who needs to rectify this gap?  The tasks fall on each of us.

I need to remember that I am responsible for my Brother.  I need to be there for him in his good times, and his bad times.  I need to reach out and invite my Brothers back home.  I need to make sure that there is reason for him to stay and return each week.  I have to put in the effort to make my newest Brothers feel welcome.  I need to stand next to him at a fundraiser or work on memorizing his lines for his office.  I need to show up and visit him when he is sick or if well enough to give him a ride to Lodge.  I need to seek out what is needed in Freemasonry and bridge that gap.  To me, being a Mason makes me a part of something greater than the individual but also something that is as much here for the individual as the individual is here for Freemasonry.

You need to remember that you are a Mason and that comes some responsibility to the rest of us and to your Lodge.  Just paying dues is not enough; it keeps the lodge solvent but does not keep the Lodge alive.  When you were raised the Brothers in the Lodge saw something in you that they wanted to have around them.  They saw a way to learn through you and if you do not make the effort to get to Lodge you are letting them down and Brothers do not walk away from Brothers.

We are a strong Brotherhood of Better men.  We make each other great by being together.  We share our life experiences with each other to help learn through the experiences of our Brothers.  We break bread and discuss our lives outside of Freemasonry.  We alert each other to possibilities in life and warn each other of dangers.  We celebrate new Brothers, new children, new wives, and holidays.  We mourn together when we lose a Brother to the Great Celestial Lodge in the Sky and wait together for the day we join them in Glory.  Meanwhile, we remain behind in the quarries.  Can you imagine my Brothers, what would it be like mining the quarry alone?  No man’s back is strong enough.  We are here for each other.

So is it Quality or Quantity?  Personally I do not care.  You are my Brothers and I will do whatever it takes to bring you back and keep you coming back to Lodge each week.  I will be here for you my Brother, in and out of the Lodge.  One day I too will get the opportunity to lay down my working tools and join our Brethren who came before us and who helped build this brilliant Fraternity.  I hope by then I improved your lives, our community, and the world.

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