Like many of you, this past month my Lady Barbara and I went to see the final episode of the Star Wars saga and lamented about it being the end of the series, the end of an era, its story complete. I started thinking about Freemasonry, the state of our lodges, not wanting to see our story ever be complete, but for them to continue on for generations to come.
The previous Friday I had been in the Grand Lodge office, signing Form 81s which would move forward, after my signature, with Brothers being suspended due to Non-Payment of Dues (NPD). As I did further background researching in MORI on the Brothers referenced in the forms, some revelations came to me. I had been thinking these Form 81s were for those Brothers 1-2 years in arrears. What really surprised me was the majority of these were 4-10 years in arrears, many stating on the forms that the Brothers had not been to lodge or in contact for many years. Many, in fact, had not paid dues nearly since they were raised! Brother officers in our lodges, you must be more proactive in working with these lost Brothers. If these Brothers no longer go to lodge or pay dues, either they lost Masonry in their hearts, were never grounded with the lodge in the first place and lost interest, were offended in some way and never returned, maybe have financial issues and are ashamed to approach the lodge about it, or have moved to a nursing home and the family doesn’t understand the value of them remaining a Mason and stop paying. Wouldn’t be better to know the real reason?
We need to do more than just write letters to these Brothers, we need to make phone calls, personal visits, and find out the real reasons for their absences, and we need to start this process much sooner. Let’s look at ourselves too when necessary and not always blame it on the Brother that won’t come back. I saw many forms saying they could not locate the Brothers. A little searching on the Internet can go a long way in these situations. I found a few of them easily in Google searches. This is a good way to engage some newer members, reaching out to these lost Brothers by phone or visiting, and utilizing some of our younger Brother’s computer and internet skills in trying to locate the lost Brothers. Let’s work together to make sure our story never ends.
Here’s this month’s thoughts along the theme of the Forget-me-not . . . our Prince Hall Brothers. Since our journey started over 30 years ago with our compact of joint recognition for purposes of visitation, activities between the Brothers of our two jurisdictions have ballooned to 16 annual combined table lodges, joint softball competitions, working together putting on July 4th picnics for disabled Veterans at the Zablocki Veterans Center, many years of serving donuts and coffee at the Veteran’s parade, monthly breakfasts of the Masonic Brotherhood Council, and the list goes on. I hope some of you can find ways to get involved in some of these activities or create others. We moved that journey into high gear last year with the passing of our resolution to provide a framework to achieve full recognition.
I had the honor to recently address our Prince Hall Brothers at their quarterly Council of Masters and Wardens. In these meetings, our Prince Hall Brothers from the lodges and their Grand Lodge discuss needs for upcoming resolutions for voting at their Annual Communication, which occurs a week after ours. I gave them a first-hand explanation of what we had voted on and approved with our framework resolution to achieve full recognition last June. I answered questions and concerns that were voiced as well as talking about our vision of this relationship moving beyond full recognition towards a closer partnership, while still honoring our distinct and individual heritage and histories. I left them as I left my discussion for our resolution last June, by saying “Brothers, it is time that we move forward in this relationship”. We’ll wait till June to see how quickly we move forward in this journey.
I hope to see you at one of my upcoming visits, especially the 17th annual Combined Table Lodge with our Prince Hall Brothers on March 26 at Tripoli Shrine Center (see signup details in this issue of the WMJ). I’m proud to be a Freemason! I hope you are too.