Rebuilding Lodges by Bro. Jeff Peace
American Freemasonry began to decline back in 1963. Since that time the number of Masons in America has dropped to less than fifty percent of what it once was.
The number of brothers is not the only thing that has declined over time so have the lodge buildings. Most Masonic lodges in the United States have seen little if any maintenance or renovation since the 1960’s. Freemasons are supposedly builders and architects, and our buildings are our face to the community. What does it say about us as a fraternity when our buildings are in such a state of disrepair?
Maybe the buildings are just a symptom of deeper problems — problems that go right to the core of our fraternity. Maybe our buildings are a reflection of the true state of our brotherhood.
Have we forgotten what Freemasonry is all about — what it really means? Today we have books like Freemasons for Dummies by Chris Hodapp and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry by Brent Morris. Who is buying these books? Freemasons. Are we so ignorant of our fraternity that we need a guide for dummies and idiots to teach us what we are already supposed to know?
When a young man joins one of our lodges he expects that Master Masons are "Masters" of their Craft and can take him from being an apprentice to a master through education and participation. If he sees us thumbing through books for dummies and idiots what kind of impression do you think he will have of Freemasonry? He paid his initiation fee to a lodge and expected to learn something about the Craft from its supposed Masters.
What exactly is a "Traditional Observance Lodge"? Isn’t Freemasonry a tradition that's over 400 years old? Why do we need Traditional Observance Lodges when supposedly every Masonic lodge is a part of that 400 year tradition? There is nothing special about these lodges! They are merely doing what every other lodge has forgotten how to do. We have lost so much of our Masonic heritage that we have a special name for lodges that do what was common place a hundred years ago.
Then there is the poor state of our brotherhood. We are no longer held together as brothers by such things as honor, trust, and mutual respect. We have replaced these things with thousands of rules written in Masonic Code books. The rules are so complex that we have been forced to create jurisprudence committees to maintain and interpret them for us. Ours is no longer an enlightened brotherhood of free-thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire, but a group of automatons blindly conforming to rules regardless of their moral consequences. We are not taught to think as individuals working towards a greater good, but that conformity in some magical way accomplishes this without any effort on our part.
Is it really any wonder why the public and the community have lost their faith in our fraternity? Is it a mystery to anyone why we are declining?
We need to start rebuilding our lodges today. It needs to begin with a true spirit of brotherhood and cooperation. We need to realize that rules do not make us brothers and that honor, trust, and mutual respect are the things that bind us together. We need to learn our Craft and once again become true Masters of the Royal Art so that we can pass on our age-old traditions to future generations. Grand Lodges cannot mandate by edict that we be brothers and it have any real substance or meaning. It must begin in each and every individual lodge across America. If Freemasonry dies it is our fault for not taking responsibility for our own lodge and expecting our Grand Lodge to solve all our problems for us.
— Bro. Jeff Peace
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