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Mike Martin

Increase in Unsuitable Candidates

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Our requirements of entry must remain as they are, ut has to be quality over quantity. Although I’ve seen about 4/5 lodges hand in their warrants since about 2012 onwards, what disturbs me most is that there’s a drastic reduction in attendance in at lodges and festive boards .....candidates are as rare as hens teeth, we’ve had to survive by increasing fees, to cover defaulters, putting further financial strain on an ageing membership..... although my lodge were lucky in April to have a double first, it was of twins of a long standing member...... I wouldn’t regard it as an “interest in freemasonry” from the wider community in general, but rather from within, we cannot survive like this surely, most of our newer membership, are not progressing through to the chair, as pressure mounts to put them through quickly, when in the 1980’s it was unthinkable to get off the stewards bench by 7-10 years. The question I’m asking, what is it that’s got to give ? 

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Although some lodges are in decline, others are thriving. We have so many ceremonies to perform that we are doing 2 ceremonies every meeting and passing work on to other lodges. Five of our current brethren were passed in other lodges, including our reigning Master. We have 40 members, 3 of whom are FCs and 2 EAs with another initiation this week and 2 candidates waiting to be interviewed.

 

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11 minutes ago, yorksmason said:

Although some lodges are in decline, others are thriving. We have so many ceremonies to perform that we are doing 2 ceremonies every meeting and passing work on to other lodges. Five of our current brethren were passed in other lodges, including our reigning Master. We have 40 members, 3 of whom are FCs and 2 EAs with another initiation this week and 2 candidates waiting to be interviewed.

 

Yes I have noticed that there are lodges who thrive significantly better than others, I often wonder if the lodge’s concerned have a local policy of recruitment, and use that than the nationally recognised one ?

Social gatherings are decreasing, making it harder to introduce prospective candidates into the Masonic scene, so in many ways wives are excluded in that vital period. Our local group has merged around 4 years ago, and social events are slowly increasing, hoping it one day makes some difference.

When a candidate is initiated, passed and raised within 4 to 5 months......then slapped on the ladder, devalues the craft, I like it when a lodge has a programme of progress for new candidates, involving them learning early ritual, visiting other lodges........building upon teamwork with others.....going through the degrees, (I’m buying into double ceremonies) .....and moving forward together......that’s the sort of thing that encourages recruitment and most certainly retention 

 

 

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I fully understand the concern but it's not a numbers game.  As Bootlebuck says it: 'has to be quality over quantity'.  If new members don't engage and commit, they will, understandably, leave and not recommend others to enjoy what we have to offer.

As I've said elsewhere, I've instituted the interviewing of proposers, to see how well they know the person they are recommending.  Further, directing the attention of all members new and second-hand to the information resource 'Solomon' to help them understand what and why we do what we do.  All this is fairly recent so I don't expect to see much result for a while.

In the forty years that I've been in this part of the country I'm experiencing many lodges large and small.  The large ones in multi-occupancy masonic centres are forever bemoaning their reduction in numbers and the increasing accommodation costs.  The smaller ones of less than a couple of dozen members are happy to keep to that level, have inexpensive village halls in which to meet, dine at local hostelries and have a family atmosphere absent in the larger lodges.

A number of lodges, large and small, formed soon after great conflicts, may have outlived their purpose and struggle from year to year.  The struggling usually brings unhappiness, so why carry on being unhappy?  In fact, during recent years we have seen a thinning out of lodges that have failed to adapt to their changing circumstances.  Two of my lodges have been going for over 200 years apiece and another is approaching 150 years and they have survived by adaptation.  When I look around, survivors evidently do so by adapting.  I also see once-populous lodges where the 'old guard' has made the lodge unattractive to younger prospective members.  They will close, they know it - but not this month!

The lesson I draw is to keep select, keep the numbers small, foster a genuine and caring family atmosphere, rent your own meeting place and keep costs down by avoiding the need for licensed and inspected catering facilities.

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16 minutes ago, Bootlebuck1 said:

Yes I have noticed that there are lodges who thrive significantly better than others, I often wonder if the lodge’s concerned have a local policy of recruitment, and use that than the nationally recognised one ?

Social gatherings are decreasing, making it harder to introduce prospective candidates into the Masonic scene, so in many ways wives are excluded in that vital period. Our local group has merged around 4 years ago, and social events are slowly increasing, hoping it one day makes some difference.

When a candidate is initiated, passed and raised within 4 to 5 months......then slapped on the ladder, devalues the craft, I like it when a lodge has a programme of progress for new candidates, involving them learning early ritual, visiting other lodges........building upon teamwork with others.....going through the degrees, (I’m buying into double ceremonies) .....and moving forward together......that’s the sort of thing that encourages recruitment and most certainly retention 

 

 

I agree with almost everything you say.  What I do take issue with is the concept of 'recruitment'.  That is what business corporations, civil and military services do - not so a voluntary fraternal association!  If we continue to redouble our efforts in making freemasonry attractive in certain specific ways, we will attract the right kind of new members.  They will be right for freemasonry and freemasonry will be right for them.  With encouragement, education and social interaction, they should remain members for the long term, wherever they travel.

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21 minutes ago, Sentience said:

The Military is voluntary.  

So are businesses and so on.  The point is they 'recruit' in one way or another.  We are enjoined and we agree not to solicit.  Freemasonry should be attractive to those we want to have as members and not attractive to those we don't want.

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4 hours ago, Mike Martin said:

Initially anyway.

Always.  Volunteers have the option of PVR (Premature Voluntary Release) or seeing out their agreed term of service.  Nobody is press-ganged into service in the British Armed Forces.  

 

3 hours ago, Trouillogan said:

So are businesses and so on.  The point is they 'recruit' in one way or another.  We are enjoined and we agree not to solicit.  Freemasonry should be attractive to those we want to have as members and not attractive to those we don't want.

All the Military do is tattoos, regional shows, parades etc.  Masonic Halls open the doors to the public on a regular basis and do stands at public fetes.  It's recruitment no matter how you want to indicate that it isn't.  That somebody wants to join is a voluntary choice.

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40 minutes ago, Sentience said:

Always.  Volunteers have the option of PVR (Premature Voluntary Release) or seeing out their agreed term of service.  Nobody is press-ganged into service in the British Armed Forces.  

 

All the Military do is tattoos, regional shows, parades etc.  Masonic Halls open the doors to the public on a regular basis and do stands at public fetes.  It's recruitment no matter how you want to indicate that it isn't.  That somebody wants to join is a voluntary choice.

I admit it can be a fine line but we are not supposed to recruit; the person in front of you needs to ask to join.  It very much depends on how it is done.  Recruitment is enlistment and has its root in the military and is an active process; attraction is to allure, to draw together and is a passive process.  As I say, it's a fine line but we should remain passive.

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2 hours ago, Trouillogan said:

I admit it can be a fine line but we are not supposed to recruit; the person in front of you needs to ask to join.  It very much depends on how it is done.  Recruitment is enlistment and has its root in the military and is an active process; attraction is to allure, to draw together and is a passive process.  As I say, it's a fine line but we should remain passive.

I don't see that you can differentiate between the two.  The Military doesn't grab people and say sign here and join up.  They have vetting procedures and tests for all applicants, just the same as Freemasonry.  They don't parade around saying take a leaflet or accost people to ask if the Military has ever interested them.  All the same as Freemasonry.  We don't openly tap people on the shoulder and say do you want to join.  But we do put an exposure out there to interest people.  Just look at the attached images from Masonic stands at shows around the country..  That is recruitment even if it isn't directly asking the question.  I can still remember when I enlisted in the Army and how long it took to get the warrant to head to my recruit selection centre.  I can tell you that it took a lot longer than getting into Freemasonry after the initial approach.  I hasten to add that I didn't ask to join.  I was tapped on the shoulder and asked if it interested me.

Yorkshire-Freemasons-Flying-the-Flag-at-the-2016-Great-Yorkshire-Show-Display-Stand.png.jpg

04-Open-Day-SIX-1024x688.jpg

2dcc9922f8ef1b92fbbd4dcfdb63bd5c.png

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I totally disagree with this recent tendency of advertising Masonry as if it were just another club. I'm also totally against the new UGLE marketing and re-branding campaigns. I believe they have nothing to do with Masonry.

Quality over quantity please, we don't need thousands of lodges to survive. The Masonic light will never be extinguished.

I've joined because I did a personal research and came to the conclusion that Masonry has something invaluable to offer, not because I was bombarded with advertising.

 

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3 minutes ago, nymaso3 said:

I totally disagree with this recent tendency of advertising Masonry as if it were just another club. I'm also totally against the new UGLE marketing and re-branding campaigns. I believe they have nothing to do with Masonry.

Quality over quantity please, we don't need thousands of lodges to survive. The Masonic light will never be extinguished.

I've joined because I did a personal research and came to the conclusion that Masonry has something invaluable to offer, not because I was bombarded with advertising.

 

Ironically that is the point of the statement from Grand Lodge.

Although Grand Lodge and Provinces are making great efforts to get the public profile of Freemasonry back to where it was before WWII it still remains the duty of individual Lodges to ensure that they are not Initiating Candidates who are not going to be a good fit for Freemasonry. 

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If however, we regard the displays as an attempt to actually publicise what we actually do and combat the perceived view presented by conspiracy theorists everywhere, isn't that a good thing?

We're forever saying to interested parties "go speak to your Province or find someone you know who's already a mason", so isn't it also worth attending fetes etc and helping on the displays? Aren't you actually saying to the public "I'm a freemason and proud of it; if you want to know a bit about what we do, come and speak to me"?  - if you were thinking about joining right now, what would you prefer to do? - speak to someone over the phone or face to face?

Unless we stand up and say "I'm proud to be a member and I don't care who knows", how can we ever attract interesting individuals? - how many times do we hear "I don't know anyone to ask"?

It's still down to the individual lodges to fully investigate the individual and satisfy themselves that the 'fit' is there, but this is just saying "we're open to talk if you want to" and provide an initial contact point. Who knows; your neighbour could be interested, but unless he sees you at the local fete ...

Edited by Sontaran

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I'm in agreement with nymaso3 here.  Openness is one thing; blatant proselyting is quite another.  I am in favour of public processions in regalia (Remembrance Day, thanksgiving services, foundation laying etc.) but not this kind of mobile trailer next a hot dog stall.  The one demonstrates a certain special nature; the other plain everyday ordinariness.  I know which I find the more attractive.  Further, being able and willing to vouch for the character, circumstances and stability of a potential entrant is paramount in our system.  That is most unlikely to be done responsibly with those who walk in off the street or, indeed, sent through a provincial office.  It takes a long time to be in a position to take on that responsibility in any proper sense (hint: rule 171!).

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22 hours ago, Mike Martin said:

Ironically that is the point of the statement from Grand Lodge.

 

I'm not sure about that Mike. UGLE is all about quantity.

Everything is done to attract more members, there's no other reason. What's the point to publicise so much the Craft and also publicising how much money we give to charity? Sontaran suggested that we do it to "combat the perceived view presented by conspiracy theorists everywhere", but I think this is a wrong approach. Conspirators will never change their mind, we all know that, no matter what you tell them. The best way is to ignore them all at once. Regarding charity, I'm much more oriented towards the "when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you" attitude. But Masonic Charity is used as a tool for Masonic awareness and publicity, which combined with the Marketing and Recruitment strategy is so obvious that it is for the purpose of hyping membership.

In my ex-province I was collaborating with the Recruitment and the interviewing process for the University Scheme students. The majority of them were all about the esotericism and they got frustrated once they got in, because esotericism is totally neglected if not hindered by UGLE. Then there were those that think Freemasonry confers some sort of advantages. I could tell straight away and guess what, they got in anyway! I once questioned the Lodge Mentor that was in charge of the interviewing process about the integrity of a prospective member, his answer was "Who am I to judge"? I told him that he was exactly the guy that needs to judge if one gets in or not! A brother like that is a disgrace in that office. Letting everyone in because "we need new members" and "UGLE pushes the province to get new members". Disappointing to say the least.

I know that I'm heavily inclined toward esotericism and perhaps is not the way for everybody, but I believe there should be a certain balance between the social and esoteric aspects of Freemasonry. At the moment our Grand Lodge is all about the social aspect.

I loved Lord Northampton and shared his view of Freemasonry, but he left...

 

 

 

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I think you misunderstand me; I'm fully aware that conspiracy theorists won't change their tune. What I meant was that if they are the only ones making sounds, then potentially interested (and qualified) individuals can be put off unless they have somewhere to go to ask what's truth and what isn't.

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On ‎6‎/‎2‎/‎2019 at 10:46 AM, nymaso3 said:

I'm not sure about that Mike. UGLE is all about quantity.

Everything is done to attract more members, there's no other reason. What's the point to publicise so much the Craft and also publicising how much money we give to charity? Sontaran suggested that we do it to "combat the perceived view presented by conspiracy theorists everywhere", but I think this is a wrong approach. Conspirators will never change their mind, we all know that, no matter what you tell them. The best way is to ignore them all at once. Regarding charity, I'm much more oriented towards the "when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you" attitude. But Masonic Charity is used as a tool for Masonic awareness and publicity, which combined with the Marketing and Recruitment strategy is so obvious that it is for the purpose of hyping membership.

In my ex-province I was collaborating with the Recruitment and the interviewing process for the University Scheme students. The majority of them were all about the esotericism and they got frustrated once they got in, because esotericism is totally neglected if not hindered by UGLE. Then there were those that think Freemasonry confers some sort of advantages. I could tell straight away and guess what, they got in anyway! I once questioned the Lodge Mentor that was in charge of the interviewing process about the integrity of a prospective member, his answer was "Who am I to judge"? I told him that he was exactly the guy that needs to judge if one gets in or not! A brother like that is a disgrace in that office. Letting everyone in because "we need new members" and "UGLE pushes the province to get new members". Disappointing to say the least.

That may be your opinion (about Grand Lodge) and you're entitled to it but I can tell you based on my own interactions with friends and acquaintances who are staff and officers of UGLE that when we talk about such things, and we do a lot, not one of them has ever said we need more Masons regardless of quality. Even the statement that started this topic which is an official pronouncement of Grand Lodge does not support your contention.

It may be that because you're pretty new to Freemasonry that you don't realise that English Freemasonry was very much in the "public eye" from its very beginnings and even more so following the foundation of the Grand Lodge in 1717 and that it ONLY fell from public view during the second world war. Prior to that people didn't believe mad conspiracy stories about what was a very open and public organisation and had been for over 200 years and this is what UGLE is trying to combat.

Any complaints that you have about how a Province deals with its recruitment have to be laid at the door of that Province because each of them is free to find its own way of doing things and they invariably do. I often poke fun at Provinces when giving presentations by pointing out that "the 47 Provinces plus London are very adept at finding 30 plus different ways of doing the same job or implementing the same initiative". Grand Lodge's direction ends with the Provincial Grand Master as he is the Grand Lodge Officer who takes it into his own Province where everyone does what he says. The same is true of private Lodges, they decide who they wish to accept into membership no one else does it for them and definitely not UGLE.

I would also point out that Grand Lodge has made great progress since it first gave (back in the late 1980s) the instruction to drop the unnecessary and excessive secrecy employed by some of our brethren since the 1940s. You won't realise but we used to see evidence of the damage that had been done to the Craft on the first iteration of this very Forum, back in 2000, fighting (and it was fighting which is why the Forum Rules were devised) with those who had no idea what Freemasonry was but believing the most ridiculous trash being spouted on telly, newspapers and the newly burgeoning Internet about us.

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This is such an interesting topic!  Yes, provinces can interpret Grand Lodge's suggestions and initiatives as they wish but there seems to be a strong indication they go with the flow of GL or with what should enable them to qualify for more APGMs (or am I being too cynical?!). And that involves 'numbers'.

Likewise it's up to private lodges whom they accept in as members - not only of their own lodge but also, be it noted, members of the wider fraternity.  Again, there is a tendency to follow the drift implied by its province following GL - and that's 'numbers'!

It's easy to add up numbers and interpret a bigger number as being better than a smaller number and so more 'successful'.

As to charity - 'charity vaunteth not itself, nor is it puffed up' (from memory, so something along those lines).  How do you measure the good that a smile or a kind word does?

If only we could devise ways of measuring 'masonic knowledge' - yes, esotericism as well - we might be able to judge the health of lodges, provinces and UGLE as a whole.  But we cannot, so I don't know what would be a suitable course of action.  Masonic knowledge is sadly lacking at most levels, so the new entrant looking for information soon becomes disappointed and leaves.  Thus masonry becomes an empty shell.  'Solomon' is a move in the right direction but needs wider publicity than it is getting.  There are, of course, members who don't want to know and there's probably little that can be done to change that attitude.

Sorry to finish this on a sad note but I believe we really need to get a handle on this.

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@Trouillogan, I know what it would take, but I also know it will never happen, for the reasons you outline in your opening three paragraphs. What it would take is this, for UGLE to abandon the exoteric and divisive "honours" system and embrace some of the orders beyond Craft and RA. Mark, RAM, and A&AR would be a start.

It's a pipe dream, I know, but that would be a radical move which would bear fruit.

Edited by DavidGoode

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9 hours ago, Mike Martin said:

That may be your opinion (about Grand Lodge) and you're entitled to it but I can tell you based on my own interactions with friends and acquaintances who are staff and officers of UGLE that when we talk about such things, and we do a lot, not one of them has ever said we need more Masons regardless of quality. Even the statement that started this topic which is an official pronouncement of Grand Lodge does not support your contention.

It may be that because you're pretty new to Freemasonry that you don't realise that English Freemasonry was very much in the "public eye" from its very beginnings and even more so following the foundation of the Grand Lodge in 1717 and that it ONLY fell from public view during the second world war. Prior to that people didn't believe mad conspiracy stories about what was a very open and public organisation and had been for over 200 years and this is what UGLE is trying to combat.

Any complaints that you have about how a Province deals with its recruitment have to be laid at the door of that Province because each of them is free to find its own way of doing things and they invariably do. I often poke fun at Provinces when giving presentations by pointing out that "the 47 Provinces plus London are very adept at finding 30 plus different ways of doing the same job or implementing the same initiative". Grand Lodge's direction ends with the Provincial Grand Master as he is the Grand Lodge Officer who takes it into his own Province where everyone does what he says. The same is true of private Lodges, they decide who they wish to accept into membership no one else does it for them and definitely not UGLE.

I would also point out that Grand Lodge has made great progress since it first gave (back in the late 1980s) the instruction to drop the unnecessary and excessive secrecy employed by some of our brethren since the 1940s. You won't realise but we used to see evidence of the damage that had been done to the Craft on the first iteration of this very Forum, back in 2000, fighting (and it was fighting which is why the Forum Rules were devised) with those who had no idea what Freemasonry was but believing the most ridiculous trash being spouted on telly, newspapers and the newly burgeoning Internet about us.

I get your point Mike and I'm glad to hear that quality is still considered. Although I'm still of the idea that the new marketing and rebranding campaigns are oriented towards a heavily recruitment campaign, and I am against such kind of advertisement. I think that the only advertisment that should be done within Freemasonry is that of word-of-mouth. But again, this is my personal opinion.

Regarding the Provinces, I often hear that everything is done "because UGLE is pushing", that's what I get. Also, it seems that the PGMs are very keen about numbers and there is always the pressure of "more people" and "more charity". Or at least that is what happened in my old Province, perhaps it is not the case in the other ones.

"Drop the unnecessary and excessive secrecy"....  well, this would open a huge debate which most likely won't take us anywhere, and find me in total opposition to the majority of the brethren here. So in order to not create disharmony, let's agree to disagree :)

 

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I don't know how many non-members have commented here, but as an interested outsider, I can offer my thoughts.

My interest is partly in the exclusivity. If I wanted to join an organisation that accepted just anyone, then FM wouldn't necessarily stand out from the crowd. I would've joined years ago had it not been for a rather rogue-ish element that deterred me, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that thought. Having read what I could about FM, in my mind's eye I had a view of what to expect & it was not met. Perhaps it was just that particular lodge, perhaps I had built up an exaggerated expectation, but something didn't tally so I waited.

I have put a lot of time into preparing myself, not just for membership but for doing it the right way, and I don't want the experience cheapened by people who value the organisation for the wrong reasons, or because they don't fully understand the nature of initiation & the role that the Mystery School plays in that.

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