While Masonic blue lodges and the Scottish and York Rite groups continue to lose members each year, at least one state's Shrine organization has seen a turnaround in the trend.
After losing members for at least the past 15 years, the Sudan Shrine, which covers 42 counties of eastern North Carolina, now boasts over 6,000 members, according to the New Bern Sun-Journal.
"We’ve had a banner year in membership," said Sudan business manager Rick Welborn.
"We’re starting to get more [members] who are in their mid-40s," Welborn continued. "We always budget a certain number of new guys coming in and we exceeded that this year. Plus, we restored a lot of members that got out for either health or financial reasons."
He was hoping that up to 30 percent of those 6,000 members would show up at last weekend's Shrine Convention and parade. He expected at least 800 Shriners would appear in the annual parade.
There was no word on whether the fez-wearing Shriners drove around in funny little cars, or if they amused the crowd by showing off their new UFOs.
Image: Shriners marching in parade in Los Angeles in 1951, about the time UFOs were first becoming a popular meme. From the archives of the Los Angles Public Library
UPDATE Thursday, Feb. 1: In an attempt to be a good reporter and get more information on this story (and to focus more on upbeat stories than the constant parade of negative Masonic news I've been accused of lately), I emailed Bro. Rick Welborn, the Sudan Shriners' business manager, asking him how the event went, how many Shriners showed up for the parade, to what did he attribute the uptrend in Shrine membership, and if he would elaborate on his comment about "budgeting new guys" each year. Bro. Rick responded by saying I was welcome to phone him, as he had "...nothing to hide, [but is] just a little leery of certain email communications. I'm sure you can readily appreciate and respect that in today's society."
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