Masonic Buildings - Use it or loose it

From Damien of Lodge Devotion

Most Masonic Centres are only occasionally used. We ourselves described them as haunted houses, where the lights come on a few nights a month and fleeting glimpses of men attired from a bygone era can be observed.

We are trying to change that at Gipps Street. Primarily motivated by a clear understanding that in order to continue to hold our building, we need to increase income to improve it, and in doing that, we are slowly creating “shop front” where people get exposed to Freemasons and Freemasonry.

In seeking tenants, I have met many people who knew a little of us, but jumped at a chance to see a lodge room. I don’t offer, they ask. I sometimes I wonder if some “prospective tenants” are simply there to look at the lodge room. I don’t hesitate, I take them straight up, talk a little to what they see, but more about the joy, growth and friendships I enjoy in being a Freemason. I am often the first Freemason they have met outside their family, recalling a Grandfather, Father, or Uncle who was a member, but commenting how secret it all was. I often respond I think some men find it hard to talk about Freemasonry, because it is such a beautiful subtle thing which it is very hard to convey and do justice to in words.

At the recent Quarterly Communications and at the recently flood appeal concert, I watched Melbourne Youth Music (MYM) perform. Few would know that MYM became aware of UGLV after I showed them through Gipps St as potential tenants. It soon became apparent that we could not meet their needs and continue to operate lodges at Gipps St. While income is critical, it must be balanced against the reason the building exists – as a meeting place for Freemasons. So I suggested that MYM approach Grand Lodge, inquire about the Dallas Brooks Centre and suggest a sponsorship relationship. Grand Lodge has pulled that off beautifully.

“Synergy” is a much loved business word. It can be described as two or more things functioning together to produce a result that could not be achieved alone, or more simply and often, the sum of the parts are more powerful the each part alone. Groups working collaboratively in synergy outdo individual performance.

The Collingwood Masonic Centre could not help Melbourne Youth Music, but was able to refer it to Grand Lodge, that in turn has entered into a Sponsorship with that group. That was born of Freemasonry having a shop front in Collingwood and seeking tenants to try to increase its income. Similarly a social whisky night among Freemasons at Gipps St saw the lights on and the door open – and a man came in off the street to ask about using the building. One of our Entered Apprentices joined Devotion because he had working in Gipps St and the building caught his curiosity AND he was able to find our lodge web site easily via google.. All these factors are synergizing together to improve Gipps St and strengthen Freemasonry.

Imagine if every Masonic Centre was meaningful to its local community as community space or a community hub. What would that do for Freemasonry? It would create a lot of awareness and good will, and probably have tangible results in improving the relevance and stand of our buildings, and it would lead to that goodwill leading to members.

If the first degree we are asked “Have you anything to give” – have we ever thought about how our Masonic Centers might fit into a response to that question? It is obvious that throughout the State there are many empty spaces of a day which could be used to empower all sorts of groups and achieve social outcomes, and probably help ensure the survival of those buildings – and Freemasonry.

The post WW2 generation of Freemasons created a lot of social goodwill and capital for Freemasonry. As time passes, that social capital will be eroded, we should capitalize on it as best we can now, because the longer we leave it, the less goodwill Freemasonry will enjoy to leverage off.

Our Masonic Centres throughout the state have to be one of the least appreciated leverage points into the community to grow our organisation and lift its profile. Have you ever considered the place your Masonic centre might be able to play as an interface between the community and Freemasonry, and how that might strengthen the Craft ?