by Don P of Lodge Devotion
It is comforting to receive reports from Masters in the Chair that there are many lodges that are thriving with many younger members. However, for all those that are doing well, some have insufficient numbers for the basic requirements to conduct the ritual and to pay the rental of a lodge room.
When you are close to the management of a meeting place like the Collingwood Masonic Centre (CMC) and the expectations of many freemasons, it is clear that the majority of freemasons do not expect to pay a rental that will even cover the opening and cleaning costs of the lodge room for their night or nights. It is expected that someone else will pay their share of land tax, rates, insurance, electricity, gas, water and sewage, and maintenance. There is of course the cost of the time when the premise is vacant. They do not expect to contribute to any development costs.
It is remarkable that our forebears not only raised the funds to build the CMC and similar invaluable facilities as the nation entered the Great Depression but lodges also met there and covered all the operational costs. Our brother masons must have paid relatively a lot more to participate in freemasonry than they do now. We should be grateful for and respect the abilities of the two Treasury executives and a property professional now at the helm of the CMC.
One of the oldest tricks in the books to balance a budget is to hide the maintenance debt and when the problems are inevitably revealed and no funds are available it usually means that some irreplaceable property has been be sold, despite the existence of other standard options. We have seen too much of this and freemasonry is poorer as a result. Freemasons must be prepared to pay their way! That said, how do freemasons organise themselves to survive in the future?
Thriving lodges should keep doing what they are doing now but be prepared to pay their full share of the cost of their premises when the management wakes up to what the real costs are.
Lodges can “twin” as many do now with the same “team” doing the work in say in a Mark and Chapter “lodge”. Most freemasons will be aware of the axiom that if a meeting night or a location is changed some members will be lost. They will also be aware that there will be some members, more often than not some crusty old Past Masters who the lodge could do better without, who will resist any change.
If a Craft lodge has an affiliation with, and ideally significant commonality of membership with Mark, Chapter and Ark Mariner lodges, there should be scope to negotiate to work together at a Centre on one meeting night each month and have one rehearsal night also per month. It is a development of the “twinning” concept. The meeting options for an 11 month meeting schedule include the following:
1. Craft meets 5 nights on alternate months. On the other 6 meeting nights Chapter meets 2 nights and Mark on 2 nights and Ark Mariners 2 nights.
2. As for Option 1 above Chapter meeting 3 nights and Mark meeting 3 nights with Mark meeting early say at 6.30 pm and working the Ark Mariners degree before the Mark Degree.
3. With both Options 1 and 2 above, Chapter working its two degrees on the one night as used to be done.
4. With both Options 1, 2 and 3 above scheduling special meetings on a rehearsal night if required.
This concept would not require any constitutional changes. It could be conducive in strengthen the support between all “lodges”. It may be possible to negotiate the lodge group being one lodge for rental purposes thus reducing costs. It should minimise the rental load on the available rental calendar.
Survival and getting a “win win” outcome requires thinking outside the box. It requires a little initiative by lodges that are struggling.