Grand Master's Message

Reclaiming the Soul of Freemasonry

By Grand Master Speed Hallman

It’s district meeting time as I write this. We’re about a fourth of the way through the district visits, with seven meetings down and 20 to go. The lodges are generous with their hospitality, the masters and wardens are at the top of their games and the brethren are a joy to meet and spend time with.

It’s part reunion, part revival and part dinner on the grounds, and I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at every lodge I visit.

With only the first three district visits under my belt, I attended the Conference of Grand Masters of North America meeting in Indianapolis. We heard presentations on database management, lodge finances, millennial apprentices, youth organizations and social media.

One presentation stood out above the others and I want to share it with you.

In 2016, the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) of the Scottish Rite launched “The Path Forward,” the most comprehensive, data-driven analysis of the Scottish Rite and Freemasonry in more than 20 years. The NMJ wanted to create a fact-based, sustainable strategic plan to improve member recruitment, satisfaction and retention; adopt a marketing strategy; create plans based on data, not anecdotes; and ensure that outreach and communication efforts move forward in a tactical, planned and sustainable manner.

They’re sharing their data and communications materials with other fraternal bodies, like ours, who can benefit.

Besides surveying Scottish Rite members about their attitudes toward the craft, they also contacted 1,000 non-Mason men across the U.S. between the ages of 21 and 65. The goal was to gauge non-member interest in the values and lifestyle that Masonry promotes.

For anyone who believes society has passed us by and sees only doom ahead, the results are staggering.

Their findings:

  • Messages about honor, integrity, charity and becoming a better man resonated with non-Masons of all ages.
  • Seventy-nine percent said they would be interested in joining an organization that “helps me become a better person while helping improve the quality of life of others.”
  • Seventy-two percent said they would be interested in joining an organization “where you will form deep and lasting friendships, regardless of race, religion, culture or geography.”
  • Eighty-one percent had heard of Freemasonry, but fewer than 30 percent were aware of our values.

The messages that resonated the least with non-Masons were those focusing on our history and our ties with founding fathers. Those are the messages we tend to emphasize when communicating with non-Masons.

Contrary to our assumptions, Masonic values appeal to Baby Boomers, who are seeking values-based organizations at this stage of their lives, and Millennials, whose values predispose them to finding and delving into Freemasonry as an option for personal fulfillment. Members of both generations want to make a difference, want to be heard and respected, and want a life based on the values of integrity, loyalty, responsibility and equality.

In other words, as the report states, “the concept of Fraternity is alive and well: Beyond a doubt, the study proved that the organization’s message and identity is still timeless, and that there is a large population of men who would be willing to consider joining.”

More information from the survey is on the NMJ’s website at www.scottishritenmj.org. Click on “Resources,” then “The Path Forward.” A research summary can be downloaded from the site.

The NMJ’s strategic plan for membership development has been published in book form and is sold through the website. Look for Reclaiming the Soul of Freemasonry by former NMJ Sovereign Grand Commander John W. McNaughton.

The NMJ also paid for a series of promotional materials and is offering them to grand lodges free of charge. Take a look at www.notjustaman.organd let me know if you think our Grand Lodge should employ these materials.

Coincidentally, in the January-February issue of the Mason I wrote about the good men around us who want what we offer, but don’t know about us. We now know for certain that they’re out there. Are you and your lodge visible in your community, ready to meet eager prospective Masons, and prepared to keep them engaged after they join?

A final thought

In the past few weeks our brotherhood has wrestled with some big questions – and not always in a brotherly way. Harsh words and even threats have been exchanged in places where positive, compassionate and rational debate would have moved the discussion forward in a Masonic way.

I’ve had a number of personal conversations with brothers during this time – including some who adamantly disagree with me – and we met on the level and parted on the square. We shared our thoughts and agreed to keep the lines of personal communication open.

As true brothers do.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to listen to those true brothers who talk with me.

We can all profit by reflecting on the title “Reclaiming the Soul of Freemasonry” and renewing our understanding of the tyler’s sword:

So it should morally serve as a constant admonition to us; to set a guard at the entrance of our thoughts, to place a watch at the door of our lips, to post a sentinel at the avenues of our actions, thereby excluding every unqualified and unworthy thought, word, and deed, and preserving consciences void of the offense toward God and man.

So may we ever meet, act and part. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue cement us.