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On Becoming Preeminent

by Abraham Benjamin

What attribute did Freemasonry enjoy in the 1940's and 1950's that we have lost in the 1980's and 1990's? There was a quality about our Fraternity that caused men to want, no needed, to join us. The community knew that if they needed help they could contact the Freemasons. In the 1940's and 1950's Freemasonry was considered a preeminent organization. Preeminent means that the community looked up to us as a prestigious organization, almost a type of royalty. If you watch reruns of old television shows you will find many references made to the high moral character of Freemasons. We as a fraternity have lost that preeminence that we once enjoyed.

We have become an organization shrouded in secrecy and unknowns. It is said that the only secret about Freemasonry is that it is not secret. If we are not a secret organization, then why are we not out in our communities showing them what Freemasonry is all about? Why do the local newspapers and magazine refuse to cover any event held by their local Masonic Lodge? If the community is unaware of what Freemasonry is doing, our charities and community involvement, then it will consider us a secretive organization.

Can you name a preeminent Masonic organization? This organization is rarely, if ever, associated with Freemasonry. That organization is the Shrine. The Shriners are still considered a preeminent organization. But even their preeminence has been slipping away from some years. So why are the Shriners a preeminent organization and the Freemasons are not? The Shriners have "behaved" like a preeminent organization.

So what are the behaviors of a preeminent organization? A preeminent organization does great things, for their members, for their communities and for charities. The organization must be well liked and respected by their community. They help their community become the best place possible to live in.

What does your Masonic Lodge do that is preeminent in your community? The Shriners became preeminent by assisting in solving a #1 problem that was plaguing society. The problem of the time was polio. Polio was crippling innocent children and no solution to the problem was in site. The Shriners sought out to eliminate polio and did it in a big way. They created hospitals for children who suffered from polio. The service given by their hospitals was and still is free of charge. Society bestowed upon the Shrines the attribute of preeminence for their efforts. It is the community who decides whether an organization is preeminent.

If the Grand Lodges of the United States would get together and find a national charity that is not being serviced by any other organization it would certainly make our job easier. An excellent example would be if the Freemasons of America could insure that every child entering the 2nd grade would know how to read. Illiteracy is a national problem. It is a problem that the government has not been able to solve. Freemasonry has the money and people necessary to solve this problem. Freemasonry could supply the tutors necessary to help the children learn to read. Freemasonry can supply endowments and scholarships for teachers to go out and learn about erasing illiteracy. If we did this then society would consider us a preeminent organization. Illiteracy in the United States is the problem of the 1990s. It is the "polio" of today.

You may say that this is a good vision but we will probably not get the Grand Lodges of the United States to agree on a national charity. What can your Lodge do in your community to become preeminent? Can your Lodge solve a local community problem that no other organization or the local government can solve? This problem must be important enough to the community so that when it is solved the community will consider your Lodge preeminent. You can talk to your community leadership to discover what your Lodge can do.

Why not create a video about the town you live in? This video would be about the history, present and futures of your town. You could work with the Superintendent of the local school districts about how to create this video. This video would be shown in the Civics/Social Studies class in the schools. The video could be about 30 minutes in length. Each child would probably see the video two, maybe three times. At the end of the video the message "Brought to you by the Freemasons of {your town}" would be narrated as the square and compasses appear on the screen. By doing this, you are giving children positive impression of Freemasonry.

You could create partnerships and alliances with the industry in your community to get financial assistance for the production of the video. You should look for the preeminent organizations, if they exist, in your community and try to align yourself with them. When it is to your advantage, you should partner with other organizations.

Where does preeminence come from? The only way that we will regain preeminence is by putting leaders in charge our Lodges. Freemasonry is current willing to accept their leadership based on the man's ability to learn the ritual. Having a ritualist as the leader of the Lodge will not be acceptable for the Lodge as we approach the 21st century. We must find the men in our Lodges who have leadership skills and training. The Lodges must train their future leaders. Training leaders must be as important to the Lodge as training new members in the rituals of Freemasonry.

It will be the leaders of the Lodge who will create the vision of the new tomorrow. Leaders can take the vision of preeminence and create the goals and action plans. The actions of the Lodge must constantly be striving toward the vision of preeminence. The ritualist sitting in the East will not be able to understand the need for the Lodge to become preeminent. This type of leadership will not advance the Fraternity. Visionary leaders must be elected and installed into the East.

Leaders will examine the activities of the Lodge to decide which activity contributes to preeminence. Previous Short Talk bulletins discussed activities that your Lodge could do to increase membership. The activities described are nice activities. But the Lodge must decide whether those types of activities are the types of activities that a preeminent organization would do. Preeminent organizations look toward the future. They examine the needs and expectations of current and future members. These types of organizations create their future based on this information.

What do we know about our current membership and about our future membership? Actually we know quite a lot. The Masonic Renewal Committee of North America did two surveys of Masons and Non-masons. The results of the surveys are available from MSA. In addition, the Membership Development Kit created and produced by the Masonic Renewal Committee contains the most important aspects of the survey. To become preeminent your Lodge must examine this information and develop programs (community involvement, charities and meeting members needs) based on the data.

In conclusion, the characteristics of a preeminent organization are that it gets involved in a very positive way with its community. The organization seeks out the most pressing problem in the community and solves the problem. A preeminent organization meets and exceeds the needs and expectations of its members. The organization will create alliances and partnerships to solve the community problems. The organization's leadership understands that there are additional strengths and resources that become available when several organizations work together. Preeminent organizations develop their leadership. They send their future leaders to leadership training classes. They give their future leaders the opportunity to gain experience before they take over the organization. The organization develops a strategic plan for its future. A vision, goals and action plans are in place for the organization to become and stay preeminent.

Remember that it is the community who will decide if your organization is preeminent. Freemasonry must become preeminent again if it is to survive into the 21st century. The task is left to each of us in our individual Lodges. We must develop this sense of urgency to change to become preeminent at the grassroots. It is up to you to decide what society will think about Freemasonry in the 21st century. Men will join a preeminent society, wouldn't you?

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Last modified: March 22, 2014