From W.Bro. John from Strathcona Lodge No. 77 GLA Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
The photographs of happy men at festive boards could have been taken at Lodges in Alberta or England, showing that customs and fellowship are the same throughout my experience of the Craft.
I have read with understanding the problems you have of maintaining Lodge buildings in some places and of recruiting and retaining membership. These problems seem to be common to the three jurisdictions I know about. My own Lodge, Strathcona 77, G.L. of Alberta in Edmonton, is an exception in that it has grown steadily over the last decade. In discussion with other Brethren we put this down to a few simple factors.
So, we at Strathcona Lodge find that raising the bar and demanding high standards works better than dumbing things down such as has been tried in the U.S.A. with "One Day Masons".
My cousin asked recently if we sang the "Royal Anthem" at our meetings. I assumed he meant "God Save the Queen", and I got the impression that it might be a problem in some Australian Lodges. We have never in my time sung "God Save the Queen" in a Lodge. If a Lodge has an organist, and most don't, they will begin with the national anthem "Oh Canada", otherwise there is no formal singing. The monarchy is not a problem in Canada. Outside of Quebec most people hold the Queen and the monarchial system in high regard.
I don't know much about Australia. My mother's sister married an Australian soldier in England during World War Two, hence I have an Australian cousin. I learned at school that Australia had a lot of sheep, produced a lot of wool, and rabbits ate all the grass. I have seen one or two Australian movies going as far back as Chips Rafferty, later "The Thorn Birds", and then Crocodile Dundee. In the last two years my wife and I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated "Sea Patrol". I watch soccer on television and, sometimes when there is no soccer, I have watched a strange game called "Aussie Rules", but I must admit that my Antipodean knowledge is very limited. I once had an Australian neighbour who insisted on addressing me as "you old bastard". I gathered after a while that that meant I was all right. Correct?
My wife and I, through the wonders of technology, watch the BBC World Service News on television. We were much amused recently by a verbal brawl in your parliament between Prime Minister Gillard and the leader of the opposition. I suspect the BBC showed it with tongue in cheek rather than as a serious piece of news. It made a little light relief after the problems of less civilized parts of the world.
My compliments to you, Brother Damien, on all the work you put into Devotion News. It makes interesting reading.
Best wishes and fraternal greetings.