Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Mike Martin

How Do We Lose All the Extra Lodges Without Losing the Masons

Recommended Posts

In England and Wales. the 20th Century was a boom time for new Lodges being Consecrated. By the year 2000 nearly twice as many Lodges had been started since 1900 than had been started between 1717 and 1900 (the preceeding 183 years).

I think that most Freemasons realise that in our present Society men are not as interested in fraternity or moral improvement as they were 100 years ago and so we need to find a way to condense our membership into less Lodges whilst retaining the brethren. However, it seems that whenever Lodges are considering amalgamating there is often a wish to let the Lodge die rather than amalgamate and as a result many just drift away from the Craft. For example we heard of a Lodge. some years ago, that was handing its Warrant back from one of our PIGs and we made it known that we would welcome any of the members who wished to continue and 1 of 11 joined us and most of the rest are now "unattached".

I am interested to read any ideas that Forumites may have in order to encourage those Freemasons to buy into the concept of combining in order to try to make a stronger Lodge OR ensuring that when a Lodge hands in its Warrant that the remaining members don't just drift away.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is it allowed under UGLE for lodges to merge? A lodge one mile from my home "Garden City Lodge" has merged with another lodge "Builders Lodge" has become "Garden City Builders Lodge". I understand that here the older lodge having the having the older number will be used for both lodges.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tom Cherup (01/02/2015)
Is it allowed under UGLE for lodges to merge? A lodge one mile from my home "Garden City Lodge" has merged with another lodge "Builders Lodge" has become "Garden City Builders Lodge". I understand that here the older lodge having the having the older number will be used for both lodges.

Happens all the time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I know from personal experience, the pain of one's Mother Lodge "going under". In 2005 my Mother Lodge (Ashlar 6714 in the Province of Cheshire) decided to hand back its warrant. Faced with a dwindling and aging membership, it had explored various ways of "staying afloat". It had reduced its meeting to four times a year. It had enquired about merging with another Lodge. Sadly "merging" involves one Lodge handing in its warrant and existing under the warrant of the survivor. Neither my Lodge nor the two other Lodges involved were prepared to be the ones "surrendering". As a result three Lodges closed.

The remaining Brethren joined the Mother Lodge that had formed Ashlar in 1948. Some stopped coming all together. They thought "things weren't done the way they had been done" and even the ritual, salutes and perambulations were different. They mourned the passing of Ashlar and felt that they had lost their Masonic identity. Unfortunately that Lodge also closed a couple of years later.

To give it a more happy ending, the surviving members of Ashlar and of two other Lodges in the Province determined to merge and have done so successfully, now with many joining members and even a queue of applicants. And for a refreshing change "light blue" members waiting to take office instead of constantly "recycled" Officers.

From my own point of view I retired and moved to Scotland where things are very different Masonically. I am very active having been PZ, Past Preceptor/Prior, and being in Cryptic and Rose Croix. I was also in the Chair for two years of a Mark Lodge in Northumberland. I haven't yet joined (or affiliated as they put it here) to a Scottish Craft Lodge, for reasons I'll not bore you with, but will probably do so before too long. I do however regularly visit several Scottish Craft Lodges in a couple of Scottish provinces.

So how do you stop former members drifting away when their Lodges close? The biggest difficulty I encountered was the "only one visit" rule that applied to unattached brethren. Unless you have been a regular visitor to a Lodge, how do you decide if it's the right Lodge for you? How does a Lodge, on one visit, assess if an unattached applicant will 'fit in'? I can understand that Grand Lodge doesn't want Brthren resigning from their Lodge and continuing to visit "for free", but where a member becomes unattached through no fault of his own, ie., not exluded nor in arrears, a more generous visiting allowance of say 12 months would be of great benefit. When I had just become unattached I was totally open about it when applying to be a joining member of a Mark Lodge. I was told ,"Don't mention it, nobody will ask." Which I also consider unacceptable. As it happened I did join a Craft Lodge under UGLE some eight months later.

I think more attention needs to be given to retaining existing members as well as encouraging new applicants, which is lacking at the moment. Looking at the "only one visit" rule (that's one visit ever, not once a year as some think) under various circumstances would be a start.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The worst thing to do is Merge failing Lodges, this very rarely works out.

The only way a Merger works is when one Lodge accepts its fate and the members vote to merge with a more successful Lodge. Preferably after several visits by the prospective new members.

I am aware of some Lodges that are failing approaching The Province and asking if they know of any Brethren wishing to 'take on' a Lodge. This works by asking an enthusiastic brother who has assembled a group of like minded individuals and rather than Consecrating a new Lodge they 'take over' the failing one! This obviously does have consequences sometime a few of the remaining members just don't like the 'new ideas' and leave. However it does work and The Lodge keeps its Warrant!

Personally I would hate to lose my Mother Lodge and only feel very deep sympathy for all that go through this harrowing process

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
norwichman (01/02/2015)
The worst thing to do is Merge failing Lodges, this very rarely works out.

Personally I would hate to lose my Mother Lodge and only feel very deep sympathy for all that go through this harrowing process




It was a very sad time indeed. I hope strongly never to have to experience that again. I attended and took Office in that last traumatic meeting.

As an aside it was the practice in my Mother Lodge (there is no rule in the B.O.C. about wearing a PM's jewel with Provincial regalia, despite what some would assert) that upon receiving Provincial Honours a Past Master's jewel was returned for refurbishment and passing on. This I had duly done back in 1992. Just before the then WM closed the Lodge for the last time he came down from the East and represented me with my Past Master's jewel. A lump in the throat doesn't cover it. I now proudly wear that jewel whenever attending a Craft meeting and thankfully as yet have not encountered any fool who tries to tell me I shouldn't still wear it.

How do I feel 10 years on? I still miss my Mother Lodge and deeply regret its passing. My happiest and most intense memories are of my times in my Mother Lodge and of the wonderful Brethren that I encountered there. You only have one Mother Lodge and even when time and circumstances move on, another Lodge is never the same even with the best will in the world. And I can therefore understand people who stop attempting to carry on their Masonry under such circumstances and simply fade away.

Perhaps the final clearance certificate could act as a "time limited passport" to allow an unattached member a period of grace to seek out and experience other Lodges as an aid to remaining active. That though would not cover circumstances where he had had to leave Masonry (ie, because of his job or personal circumstances) and then wished to re-join some years later. In my case I received a very nice letter from Province offering to help me find a new Lodge in the Province. Sadly a commute from Scotland to Cheshire on a regular basis just wasn't practical.

I also wonder how many 'unattached' members who have lost their Lodges still continue to remain active in the side degrees in England? That can't happen in Scotland as to remain active in say Chapter, you must remain in good standing in Craft. To remain active in KT you must remain in good standing in Chapter, etc, etc. I'm not sure what the rules on that are in England?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Brethren, my Mother Lodge was also failing due to lack of membership. We decided that a new approach was warranted. Rather than amalgamate, where the Lodge undergoes some changes that I won't go on about here, we decided to "twin".

The process of twinning leave the Lodge and it's history and it's individuality intact. What we decided to do was to seek out a lodge of a similar size to our own which met in the same location. when we found one, we proposed the following set-up:-

1. Halve the annual meetings of both Lodges. We both met eight times per year, so we changed it to four.
2. Lodge A will meet in say November, January, March, September and Lodge B meets in February, April, October, December.
3. In a month, say November, where Lodge A is meeting, they host Lodge B as visitors. If a member of the hosting Lodge is absent for any reason, a member of the visiting Lodge would be asked to step in.
4. In December, Lodge B would host and Lodge A would attend as visitors.
5. It halves the fees too.. because your own Lodge only meets four times per year...but you still get eight Masonic meetings out of it.
6. We decided that all Officers should stay in post..ie be recycled for a second year... that way all officers get their "full whack" in office until the number of Candidates for the "ladder" were starting to emerge.
7. Each Lodge keeps it's name.. keeps it's number.. keeps it's warrant and keeps it's history.
8. It needs to have the commitment of members on both sides. Just because it isn't your Lodge meeting in a particular month, does not mean you don't need to turn up. Brethren must turn up as if it were their own Lodge meeting. ie, if Fred and some of his brethren only turn up on the nights when his Lodge is hosting, then the whole thing will fail. Commitment is required. Obviously if there is some other emergency that keeps Fred from going once in a while, that's ok, but Brethren ought to keep this to an absolute minimum.

This would mean that each meeting would be fairly buoyant and this may lead to better social interaction, the Lodges becoming more attractive and possibly attracting more Candidates.

This worked extremely well in our case.....until...

The Lodge we twinned with, managed to attract a family of three men plus two other Candidates making 5 more members... making that Lodge fairly buoyant in itself. We attracted 1 other Candidate. All was going well...we even did ceremonies for each other and I even officiated as Installing Master for them on a couple of occasions. The other Lodge then decided that they wished to change venue. Most of their members lived closer to another Masonic hall, while most of our members lived closer to the existing one. An evening that suited most of them came free in this other location and so there was an impasse, but the other Lodge decided that now THEY were buoyant THEY could go it alone...so they did. They knew full well that our Lodge.. which had INITIATED the twinning..would fold.. but left in the lurch anyway. My Lodge handed in it's warrant a few months later. In my view, this was a despicable act.

For any number of reasons, that Lodge itself folded a couple of years later.. but as far as I know, it was because of in-fighting. Probably an indication of the type of men some of the members were. they weren't all baddies.

But anyway... while the association was alive and kicking, we did well... it was only through un-Masonic behaviour, did the thing fall apart.

This thing WORKS and I would urge any Lodge which is faltering slightly to give it a go. Even if it LOOKS as though there may be future problems, at least look at it.

My new Lodge has also lost a few members recently and I find myself going through it again. We have an extremely promising nibble from another Lodge and we are exploring the options as I type. I'll let you know how we get on.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to message me.

Tony.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Roy, you are so correct! In Life and in Masonry you only have one Mother! I really do sympathise.

Tony, that actually sounds like a really good idea and I am sorry your experience was ruined by the selfishness of some 'brethren', you are also correct, it is worth trying even if you do have some reservations.

Good luck in your present situation

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would agree with Tony wholeheartedly. Twinning is an excellent idea. Sadly it wasn't around at my Mother Lodge's demise. The Lodge had tried a number of things like visiting en mass and encouraging those Lodges to visit in return. They tried altering meeting times and days. They tried many different suggestions, some good and some bad. But without attracting new blood to a Lodge with all dark blue aprons the end was inevitable.

I return though to Mike's original question. Once a Lodge has folded, how do you encourage its former members to remain active? Some will inevitably finish with Masonry altogether. Some distraught that their Lodge had gone, others who view the hassle of joining another Lodge and starting again unappealing. Joining another Lodge, perhaps with different ways and a different hierarchy is a big step. It's not simply a case of finding somewhere to hang your hat. And as I mentioned before how many will remain active in the side Degrees and not bother to seek another Craft Lodge?

So how do you encourage and motivate "unattached" members to 'stay within the fold'?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Would it not be possible for Grand Lodge to Warrant a "paper" Lodge? i.e. a lodge that does not physicaly exist but nevertheless could collect sufficient subs to pay the members Grand Lodge/Prov. lodge dues plus an admin charge so that those who are unatached could have a couple of years breathing space whilst seeking a new Lodge?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This sounds reasonable. GL fees and FB charges are covered, and no doubt whichever Lodge the "attached-only-to-a-paper-Lodge" Mason will benefit in its charity/raffle each time he visits; but the Bro would not be an official member of any Lodge, only a "permanent visitor" of wherever he goes.

Of course, this does have to be limited, as you say, to perhaps two years or we'd all become unattached visitors!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
sojourner (01/02/2015)
I think more attention needs to be given to retaining existing members as well as encouraging new applicants, which is lacking at the moment. Looking at the "only one visit" rule (that's one visit ever, not once a year as some think) under various circumstances would be a start.


Not only is it just 'one visit' it also means only one Lodge and not one visit to various Lodges.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
sojourner (01/02/2015)
norwichman (01/02/2015)
I also wonder how many 'unattached' members who have lost their Lodges still continue to remain active in the side degrees in England? That can't happen in Scotland as to remain active in say Chapter, you must remain in good standing in Craft. To remain active in KT you must remain in good standing in Chapter, etc, etc. I'm not sure what the rules on that are in England?


Same rule applies under EC. But in our District we have say 2500 members, but if you check the names some are double counted being members in different Lodges (in total then around 2100 members) and of which around 50 or so have no craft Lodges but remain in the side Degrees there for enjoying the benefits without having to pay GL dues.:sick:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am reminded of a post some years ago, when a Brother was asked to compile a history of his Lodge on the occasion of its 200 years bicentenary. He had the idea of going back through the attendance book to see if the Lodge had had any visitors of note over the years.

He was surprised to discover, on checking the entries, that a number of Lodge names/numbers given by visitors did not exist or that some of the Lodges given by the visitors were no longer in existence on the date of the visit.

This also begs the question of how effective our "guardians of the West" are. Who actually checks the entries in the Attendance Book? Answer - nobody. Yes visitors who are unknown might be proved, but an unattached member will still be in possession of the GL Certificate and the "right answers". We can't "Men in Black" him to forget. We of course rely on honour. But perhaps a Brother who has become unattached, through ignorance of the rule or more less worthy motives, may not feel his actions are wrong?

In the country area where I now live "everybody knows everybody". Therefore a visitor who is no longer in good standing or has been excluded/expelled or causes disharmony is very quickly known about. In a large city that may not be the case and we rely on his inviter being his vouchsafe. But how many would enquire "can you prove you are in good standing?" from a proposed guest? The Americans have 'dues cards' to show they are a current paid up member. Perhaps again not totally fool proof but better than nothing. I have 'Life Membership' cards for all the Orders that I am in except Rose Croix (and of course my English Craft Lodge) which doesn't have them. And of course that is not applicable under UGLE.

Again though back to the question of how to keep Brethren whose Lodge has been erased 'in the fold'? Innovative steps have been taken in recent years to attract suitable candidates like the Universities Scheme, and the implementation of Mentors to guide and assist new members. It strikes me though that little has been done to keep existing members when their Lodge folds or their attendance drops off.

How many of us know a PM who stops coming once he's through the Chair? Or a member whose attendance drops off because he finds it difficult to drive at night or to afford the ever increasing fees on his pension, etc, etc,?

If we cannot retain existing members how can we expect to attract new ones and keep them?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A couple of things I think could improve the situation:

- Limit the number of Lodges a Brother can be a member of this would encourage more participation. My mother GL had the rule of 1 Brother - 1 Lodge but that is perhaps a bit extreme. This would make Brethren concentrate more on one or two Lodges and might result in more active participation.

- GL to stop consecrating new Lodges;

- GL to give out information of other Lodges seeking to amalgamate in the Province (maybe some of these Lodges don't know who else is in the same boat as them?);

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
mikevie (02/02/2015)

"GL to stop consecrating new Lodges;"

"GL to give out information of other Lodges seeking to amalgamate in the Province (maybe some of these Lodges don't know who else is in the same boat as them?)";


To consider the first point: I thought this was already the case. Apart from a couple of "specialist Lodges". (One for staff at Buckingham Palace - ooh, the Queen (our Grand Patron) won't like it; and another for police officers only in the Midlands - ooh, how wicked!) I know all this is true because it was in the Daily Mail ...



Now, to your second point: I thought this was also nearly the case, because our Sec is always telling us which Lodges appear to be going to the wall, even if he hasn't been told of the precise amalgamations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My day lodge is attracting quite a few "joining members" because of unrest in their mother lodge, and those lodges meet in the same Masonic Centre.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lewis (02/02/2015)
sojourner (01/02/2015)
I think more attention needs to be given to retaining existing members as well as encouraging new applicants, which is lacking at the moment. Looking at the "only one visit" rule (that's one visit ever, not once a year as some think) under various circumstances would be a start.


Not only is it just 'one visit' it also means only one Lodge and not one visit to various Lodges.


Just for the sake of accuracy:

Disqualification to visit127. In the case of a Brother who has ceased to be a subscribingmember of every Lodge of which he has at any time been a member,the following provisions shall have effect, viz.:

(i) If he comes within the provisions of this Rule by reason of his exclusion under Rule 148 or Rule 181, he shall not be permitted to attend any Lodge or Lodge of Instruction until he again becomes a subscribing member of a Lodge.

(ii) If he comes within the provisions of this Rule by reason of his expulsion from the Craft or by reason of his resignation from the Craft under Rule 183A or Rule 277A, his right to attend any Lodge or Lodge of Instruction shall be forfeited.

(iii) In any other case he shall not be permitted to attend anyone Lodge more than once until he again becomes a subscribing member of a Lodge, and upon such one attendance he shall append the word ‘unattached’ to his signature in the attendance book, stating therein the name and number of the Lodge of which he was last asubscribing member.


Nothing in this Rule shall preclude the attendance of a Brother at any Lodge of which he is an Honorary Member.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I quite appreciate the rules and also that rules are necessary for harmony, consistency and good order. However unless the rules are looked at and updated every now and again they can become an obstacle rather than an aid to the intended objective. Of course some rules are. I notice that one of the Antient Charges, that every candidate for the Master's Chair must give his unqualified assent to :-

11. You admit that it is not in the power of any Man or Body of Men to make any Alteration or Innovation in the Body of Masonry. (In my old copy of the B.O.C. presented 1977)

Now has " without the consent first obtained of the Grand Lodge." added on. Which seems to me that a certain "body of men" have assumed the power to make such alteration and innovation as they deem fit. Interestingly I note that the Grand Lodge of Scotland Antient Charges do not have that amendment.

I have no doubt about the honourable intention of part iii. of that rule when it was first adopted but does it aid the retention of good and worthy Brethren whose Lodge unfortunately closes or does it make it more difficult?

I have made particular reference to that rule (Disqualification to visit127.) because of my own personal experience of being in that very position when my Lodge closed and respectfully would put that forward as merely one aspect that would benefit from being looked at.

Where a Bother, in good standing, not suspended, expelled or excluded finds himself unattached through no fault of his own, in what ways can he be assisted to remain active in Masonry if he so desires?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You will find this very fully discussed in the 1972 Prestonian Lecture 'It is not in the Power of any Man' by Bro T O Haunch. This is also printed, with peer review comments in AQC vol 85, pp. 194-216 and is very well worth a read.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lewis (02/02/2015)
sojourner (01/02/2015)
I think more attention needs to be given to retaining existing members as well as encouraging new applicants, which is lacking at the moment. Looking at the "only one visit" rule (that's one visit ever, not once a year as some think) under various circumstances would be a start.


Not only is it just 'one visit' it also means only one Lodge and not one visit to various Lodges.


The wording of this particular piece of Masonic law is so poor as to leave it open to interpretation. Being quite fed up with one Mason saying one thing and another saying the opposite, I sought a final judgement from my Group Secretary. This is his response.

[A] Unattached as a result of closure oramalgamation or resignation.

When a Lodge hands in itsWarrant or is amalgamated into another Lodge, or a Brother resigns from hisonly Lodge, a problem will arise for him if he has no other subscribingmemberships and he chooses not to join another Lodge. He could find himself in a serious Masonic situation.

Although he remains aFreemason, if he is not a subscribing member of any Lodge, he becomes‘unattached’ and must so sign himself in the Tyler’s book of any Lodge hevisits.

When ‘unattached’, a Masonremains at liberty to visit Lodges but on one occasion only to each Lodge. He may not make a second visit to anyLodge while he remains unattached, however familiar he is with that Lodge orits members. In effect, his Masoniclife is substantially curtailed.

If a Provincial Officer, heceases to be a member of the Provincial Grand Lodge and can only attend as aguest and cannot under any circumstances vote. In this Province, however, as a courtesy, unattached Provincial Officersare permitted to continue to wear their Provincial regalia at any Lodgemeetings they do attend. An unattachedBrother who is not a Grand Officer would not be admitted to Grand Lodge.

This situation does not changeuntil he again becomes a subscribing member of a Lodge, except that if he is anHonorary Member of a Lodge then he may continue to attend that Lodge ona regular basis, though he cannot take part in the administration of thatLodge, except to propose or second a candidate for admission, if he wasformerly a subscribing member of that Lodge. He can, of course, work in thatLodge. An Unattached Mason seeking once again to become a subscribing memberof a Lodge or Chapter MUST SIGN THE DECLARATION on page two of RegistrationForm ‘P’.

Secretaries of Lodges areasked to give a copy of this note to any Brother who, they think, may bedeciding not to join another Lodge following a decision to resign or not totransfer following amalgamation or closure.

Brethren who find themselvesin this situation are welcome to seek advice from their Group or from theProvince, by e-mail in the first instance.

The above situation is identical for an unattachedRoyal Arch Mason, but his situation in the Craft is not affected if he remainsa subscribing member of a Lodge. Conversely, an unattached Craft Mason can attend Royal Arch Chaptersregularly if he is a subscribing member of a Chapter.


So, you see a man may visit every Lodge...but once only. For example, Brother Fred can visit Lodge No. 123... then next week Lodge No. 234... then next week Lodge No. 345 and so on... BUT he CANNOT visit any of the previous Lodges a SECOND TIME.


T.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Absolutely correct, Bro Sparker. A lot of people forget about the 'honorary' bit too. It's a privilege of course, but could regarded as 'an honour too far' in many instances. Mind you, it's a useful way of sidelining a troublesome chap from GPC meetings at least!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There are many good points raised. Some of which I have spoken about at a Lodge level, Officers on a 2 year cycle, twinning with a mutual lodge and attending each other meetings etc.

But the fact is that there is point when the Lodge is too small with working Masons to operate effectively, just as there is a point when it is too large and stifles progression.

But as Masons we have to have an open mind and show a little Brotherly Love which at times is lacking.

We believe or most believe that their Mother Lodge is the best and that is how the ritual/rubric should be done. However when encouraging a Lodge to join through their demise perhaps the receiving Lodge should acknowledge the Lodge which is closing. Show on the summons the crest of the Lodge which is joining. Giving that Lodge still a sense of identity and continuation in name only at least. Perhaps incorporate some of their working, you never know it could enhance and reinvigorate their meetings.

Welcome members and make them feel included as a whole not as a clique to be pitied. "Poor them their Lodge closed!" We have to come up with a solution which suits everyone as this will be happening more and more.

Unfortunately the one lodge one meet rule is there so that a Brother does not continue meeting and does not pay his way towards cost, UGLE and Grand Charity thus increasing the costs of those who are attached. Not every Mason can be trusted, strange as that may be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sparker (04/02/2015)
So, you see a man may visit every Lodge...but once only. For example, Brother Fred can visit Lodge No. 123... then next week Lodge No. 234... then next week Lodge No. 345 and so on... BUT he CANNOT visit any of the previous Lodges a SECOND TIME.T.


Are you sure. I read it as 'only ONE visit to ONE Lodge only.'

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Trouillogan (04/02/2015)
Absolutely correct, Bro Sparker. A lot of people forget about the 'honorary' bit too. It's a privilege of course, but could regarded as 'an honour too far' in many instances. Mind you, it's a useful way of sidelining a troublesome chap from GPC meetings at least!


But an Honorary Member who's Lodge has ceased can not visit another Lodge, unless he is a subscribing member of that Lodge. Then the 'unattached' rule would not apply.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...