Are Freemasons, our societies answer to the question, Who are the 21st Century Gentleman?, Freemasonry is built on the foundations of a traditional ethos, with the highest and moral and social virtues. As a 34 year old, in 2006 I was desperate for more in life, and becoming a Freemason gave me that more!
Freemasonry really comes to life when you start visiting other Lodges. Suddenly, The appreciation of the common bond between humankind, spending time with like minded brethren, was a revelation, It was also a great place to start socialising and networking. Each Lodge seems to have a unique aspect, be it their presentation of ritual or some small nuance at the festive board. Some are more liberal jovial places; others are serious dens of ritualistic perfection. None is better than the other – one man’s meat etc.
Lodges should encourage both new and younger members to visit other Lodges as part of their mentoring programme. Getting younger Freemasons to meet each other socially, and interoperating with other lodge members is very important to building unity. Sadly at the age of 42 I am no longer considered a younger member, but still enjoy visiting.
It does take work to build the momentum for such initiatives and we can’t expect the other person to be putting in all the hours of organisation. These sorts of ideas are something younger members should organise and support.
Freemasonry has felt the change of times with the development of the internet, and embracing knew communication platforms is now necessary for lodges to reach out and communicate to a wider audience.
If Lodges are trying to be more open and appealing to younger candidates, a simple Lodge website is very useful. It doesn’t require a great expense and there are Grand Lodge guidelines for this to ensure clarity of communication.
I mention “attracting” members. This for me is the way forward. Personally, I do not agree with the term “recruitment” of members, which is sometimes used. One of the founding tenets of Freemasonry is that the individual himself must knock on the door of the Lodge for admission. Our efforts should be on presenting Freemasonry in an open manner, so as to attract new and possibly younger members.
I am open and proud about what we do, be that through Lodge websites, online forums, informal events or Social media like Twitter and Facebook. Young Freemasons should be confident to chat to their non-Masonic friends on the topic, if it arises. Sometimes I wonder if it is our shy silence which adds fuel to the unfounded negative rumours.
There are times when discussions are heard about our rituals and whether they should be updated to reflect modern life.
But, it is the traditions and feeling of history within Freemasonry which needs to be carefully preserved. Yes, it requires discipline and explanation, but isn’t that part of the journey provided by Freemasonry?
It is from these facets we are learning to better ourselves. Any short-cuts should be strictly avoided, otherwise we risk diluting what we are becoming.
Furthermore, there is a feeling of awe and the mystical in the words of the ritual, in the knowledge that generations before us have communicated the same. It contains the discipline of learning to regulate your actions, extending courtesies and respect, which is sadly so lacking in society today.
There are many younger people in society searching for just such a traditional ethos. I was one of them, and it is true how like attracts like.