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by W. Bro Robert Davidson, Past Master
Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan

R.W.Bro. Webber phoned me some time ago and asked me if I would address you this evening and told me that the topic was my choice. A topic that has been written about and discussed at length at almost every Masonic gathering in recent past is the problems facing Masonry. We have talked about lack of new members, lack of attendance, Lodges Surrendering their Charter, Lodges amalgamating and so on. Tonight I am not going to quote statistics, I think we all are aware of the magnitude of the problem.  

However, I am a person who believes in solutions rather than problems, and so tonight I have decided to share with you what I believe is one solution. I like a challenge, so I said to myself, suppose I could contribute something to this gathering that would send you away with not only an answer to Masonry's problems, but also advise who is going to be responsible.  

A tall order? Yes it is!!  

Do I indeed have the secret? Yes I do!!  

First of all, am I going to advocate huge changes for Masonry? No! No I believe, as I am sure you do, the uniqueness of Masonry is our strength. We offer something to a man that I don't believe can be found anywhere else.  

But do we have to change some things - definitely yes - all aspects of our fraternity has to be looked at and examined.  

It will not come as a surprise if I say to you that we live in a changed and still changing world. But I sometimes wonder if we realize just how much things have changed in a short time. I consider myself to be a young person, but consider some of the changes just in my short time on the planet. I was born before television, almost before commercial radio, computers, credit cards, pavement, traffic lights, ball point pens, snowmobiles, multi speed bicycles, oreos, deodorant, automatic transmissions, panty hose, air conditioning and instant coffee, and bunnies were small rabbits, a loonie was a very strange person, grass was mowed, coke was a cold drink, pot was something you cooked in and making out was how you did on an exam.  

In a 1993 Tracing Board, the Grand Master of the time suggested membership/friendship nights leadership programs, mentor programs, a philanthropy that we can brag about - he stated that we need these things not only for our present members but to once again make Freemasonry something to which young people want to belong. Are these good suggestions? They are excellent - there have been many many excellent suggestions. We have talked about officer proficiency leadership training . . . . . . . . . . The problem I find with a lot of these suggestions is that personally find it hard to know where to begin. How I can make a difference. I am, at heart, very simple, basic person and I have always believed that a problem is only an opportunity in disguise and the best way to begin changing a problem into an opportunity is at the grass roots. At the basics, if you will.  

In my work with small businesses across Western Canada, we don't talk about the philosophies of business, or the magic answer, we talk about the basics - sweeping the sidewalk, greeting customers, dressing up the presentation. We ask owners to step back and take a new look at their business - to look at it as if you have never seen it before - get a new perspective - a new outlook.  

I believe we should do that with Masonry - and our Lodge. Look at ourselves with a new look - perhaps through the eyes of prospective members or a new candidate. What do they see?  

I ask myself this question - where can we begin? The answer to me seems to lie with the monthly Lodge meeting and in fact with all Masonic meetings, district, area and the Grand Lodge Communication.  

Wouldn't our problems be solved if we could fill all our meetings with old and new Brethren every month? I think so!!  

Now I am going to tell you it is possible. If I went out and asked every successful organization the secret of their success, every one would give me good reasons. Also if I asked every successful business for the reasons for their success they would all have good reasons. But every one of them, organizations or business uses this secret to guarantee success.... and I am going to give you the secret.... But I can't just give it to you in so many words. It is too simple. It is, in fact, so simple you might not totally grasp it's importance and significance.  

So I am going to use humour to etch it in your memory so that every time you wonder what you can do to increase attendance or membership, you will remember this story and the important message it denotes.  

There was this young fellow who became tired of city life and so he purchased a small farm. A hobby farm if you like. With the farm he acquired three small creatures called piglets. Now in the course of time they grew up into rather large animals. One morning our new and inexperienced farmer found his animals to be acting in a strange and agitated manner. In consultation with a real farmer, he was informed they were experiencing the pangs of anticipated and desired motherhood. He was informed the solution was to transport his charges to a neighbouring farm and acquire the service of a boar. This, with some great difficulty, he did. The owner of the boar advised he was to note the reactions of his pigs the next morning. If they ensconces in mud, the trip was successful, however, if they were lying on the grass, the visit had not been a success, and would have to be repeated. It turned out, he had to repeat this labourious process for two more mornings. The third morning when he went to the barnyard for his morning observation, he found two of the pigs in the back of his truck, and the third in the cab honking the horn!  

Now before you get the wrong idea, let me explain. You see folks, our behaviour depends on the amount of reward. If a situation is rewarding, we repeat it, and the more rewarding, the more enthusiasm, and if it continues to be rewarding, we continue to repeat it. Take a moment and think about the real reason why you attend meetings, entertainment events, why you like to shop at particular places of business in favour of others.  

I believe you will agree it is because of the reason I just stated. In each case you returned and participated because the experience was rewarding, generated a feeling of enthusiasm and invited a repeat. Now here's the secret. . . .  

The Rewarded Mason Enjoys
and comes back! !  

How does this relate to our Masonic gatherings? If each occasion is rewarding, interesting and challenging, we will repeat it. If not, we find something else to do. Now, let me stop here for a moment and tell you that I am not standing here purporting to be an expert - I have been Master of a Lodge three times - did I run great meetings - did I have a challenging program - no not always, and for that I owe those Lodges an apology...  

Times have changed and we have to change our methods. Let's consider again how times have changed - there's television - We are bombarded with images of the things that are fun to do - we see all sorts of people enjoying themselves in a variety of ways - is it any wonder that our young people have strong ideas about what is fun and what isn't? Look how the work situation has changed. Twenty or thirty years ago we had the idea that we would get a job, and work there for life - or if you were born on the farm, you'd stay on the farm - I remember how shocked Mother and Father were when I came home one day and announced that I was leaving my job. Dad had the same job for 43 years. Now our young people see reorganization, take overs, mergers, downsizing, right sizing, cut back, so their outlook has changed.  

A survey of 250,000 North American workers listing ten motivational items revealed that the number one motivational reason was interesting work. . and number two was a feeling of being "in on" decisions - a part of the action - so now when a young person comes to apply to a company, one of their unspoken questions is "Will it be interesting to work here?" "Will they give me a true feeling of belonging?". If the answer is yes, it has to actually become a reality, and continue to be true, or they move on. Companies have adjusted to changing times, and Masonry has to change, and I'd suggest we begin with the Lodge meeting. When a new member or a visitor comes, will they find it interesting - will they get a feeling of being "in on things", a sense of the belonging?. We have to examine every aspect of the meeting - is it on the right night - is it at the ore right time - do we have an interesting challenging program? Are we continually adapting to the ink members needs? Are we being creative? Are we wary of long time rules - do we examine the statement "We've always done it that way!"

Our meetings are considered to be retreats of friendship and brotherly love. We must not let them and deteriorate to a session to discuss the same type of problems that we meet in daily living. If the atmosphere does not constitute a retreat from the cares of the day, we have missed the purpose. Our purpose is to provide a change from the daily atmosphere, a safe and scared retreat for Brethren tired of the hustle and bustle of modern living spending a quiet evening devoted in the main to the needs of their fellow men. We have to be better prepared. We have to learn how to meet change head on and turn it into an opportunity.  

To be successful in this world of ours, we need people - we need each other. And yet, we are living in an increasingly unfriendly society. We are losing personal interaction. We used to have bees, dances, pot lucks. Many excuses to meet - we had a song "The More We Get Together the and Happier We Will Be". Today we're turning inward. A word has been coined. We're cocooning. for Answering machines, fax machines, automated tellers, drive in windows, home shopping have all contributed to a loss of interaction. We are becoming a nation of people who would rather stay not home.  

Yet I believe men want what Masonry offers. People today appear to be searching for direction, peace of mind. As evidence, consider some of the best selling books - "Chicken Soup For The Soul" - "The Celestine Prophecy" and the Robert Fulgham and John Bradshaw books. These, for some, have become the new Bible.  

Masonry can play an important and necessary role for men. Masonry offers true friendship, brotherly love, solace in time of sorrow or need, a solid rock of morality, relief and truth. We have the responsibility of continuing to offer this to good men. Offering it in a way that will attract, enthuse, stimulate, challenge and encourage participation.  

Our Notices must be rejuvenated to offer news, to attract and to invite. Questions must be asked of our other assemblies. District meetings, area meetings, Grand Lodge Communication. Do they measure up in the areas of timing, interest, attraction, challenge, variety and reward.  

There's the good news I want to leave with you - we can change - we can build on what we have.  

What could be the bad news? - I promised I would tell you who is going to do it - well Brethren the answer is in this room and in rooms around our country - interested, loyal, faithful, enthusiastic Brethren who care ! ! MWBro Richard Brown has chosen "Personal Commitment" as his theme and his slogan "It Is Up To Me".  

Can you and I make a difference - Yes we can.  

With commitment and action.  

It will take commitment. We have to focus on our objective - take action - follow through - try another approach if necessary.  

Whatever it takes - that's commitment.  

There's always a way if you are committed.  

And it will take action. Action creates emotion.  

Emotion is created by motion - action makes the difference.  

We have to be enthusiastic about Masonry. It has been said that, "Nothing of consequence ever been accomplished without enthusiasm." So I believe - you and I can make a difference..  

"If It's To Be - It's Up To Me"  

Let's Do It ! !

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Last modified: March 22, 2014