Every now and again in an organisation with falling numbers and poor attendance and participation, the leaders will discuss the reasons. More often than not they will be the very people who have overseen and contributed to the problems, sometimes over decades, promoted despite their incompetence. In freemasonry we will hear that there are not enough candidates, members do not want to take office, they are initiated and we never see them again, they don’t go to the South or the ritual is not as good as it used to be. What our wise leaders do not seem to recognise is that these are symptoms of the problem, not the problem. The problem is likely to always be that our member’s expectations are not satisfied in lodges in particular or the fraternity in general.
Before initiation expectations will be formed by people whom a prospective candidate knows, by the abundance of literature available or on our web-sites. Expectations will be developed and refined after initiation. Raising achievable expectations to a high level is probably good as it will raise our standards. Setting unachievable expectations such as a belief that freemasonry will, or should cost next to nothing, or they will get something out of freemasonry without participation are not helpful.
Freemasons expect more than just competent administration. They expect a fraternal engagement with all members and not just a spectator role. They will invariably expect a meaningful charity and benevolence program: I know some organisations that are based on Faith, Hope and Charity that seldom give a cent to a charitable cause. Members do not expect to have their dues and contributions used paying for other members who can well pay their way. Young members especially are cash rich and time poor and they do not expect to have their time wasted by boring old “f***s” telling them what it used to be like. They do not expect to sit through boring administrative items, often dealing with matters that should have been examined in committee or have endless exclusions due to the poor scheduling of higher degree work. Members expect that the bonds of friendship will extend beyond the lodge room. Harmony is essential and of course good leadership: we all deserve no less. They do not expect to be “jumped” in progressive office because of favouritism and patronage, so prevalent in the Other Orders.
It is my expectation that Freemasonry is not a “progressive” organisation with a hidden agenda for social and cultural change. There is ongoing discussion in Craft lodges on the traditional toast to the “Queen and the Craft” and singing the National Anthem. I have now heard that there is a view that consideration should be given to changing our opening ritual to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which our Centres stand, also conforming to a growing pattern elsewhere. One may ask will these “progressives” then want to incorporate the Eureka Stockade and the Aboriginal Flags in our regalia.
There needs to be a deliberate process where expectations are identified and then subsequently reviewed followed by a deliberate plan for improvement. Anybody who has been in business will know that repeat business is much less costly than new customers and this principle should be applied to older lodge members and candidates.
A lodge will not survive if the Tyler is guarding a revolving door.