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Freemachonry

May 12, 2015 4 comments

Most of the old web boards where I used to hang out with Freemasons from around the globe have quietly gone dark, deserted, or have disappeared entirely, as threaded conversations have moved over to social media sites. That’s not an entirely bad thing, because the social sites like Facebook and Google Plus tend to attract many younger Masons, who in addition to text can now use pictures and video to share their experiences. Facebook groups, for example, are filled with pictures of newly raised Master Masons, shots of their lodge, their rings (worn properly, of course), and various other examples of Masonic displays.

Where we once were  known as “the quiet fraternity,” we now have a host of designs to adorn our cars, hats, jackets, shirts, belt buckles, computer or phone desktops, and pretty much anyplace else we can think of. Some of the examples of artwork that I’ve seen have been excellently rendered in various image creation & manipulation programs, and I’m often amazed at the detail that some of my graphically inclined brothers can put into those images.

One of the trends that I’ve been noticing has been the masculinization (or rather, the hyper-masculinization) of Freemasonry; that is, of the images and symbols that we use. In the last few years I’ve been seeing more drawings and graphics depicting overly-stylized Square & Compasses adorned with skulls, crossed thighbones, and various edged instruments; some of these artistic variations would seem more at home on the back of a motorcycle jacket, or perhaps adorning a 1980s metal band album cover.

From a technical standpoint, some of those designs are pretty cool in the way that they bring together disparate elements, or in how those elements are repurposed or re-examined. Symbols are not immutable; indeed, they change as the culture in which they are found changes. A good example is how the color pink is now more associated with young girls than with young boys, in a reversal from just a century ago. And new symbols pop up into our culture all the time: think about the red octagon that we now associate with “Stop” or the circle with a diagonal line across it, which now denotes “Prohibited.” Those symbols didn’t exist as such a century ago.

But some symbols are inherently associated with certain groups, and here is where I think that some of us (well, okay, maybe just me) are feeling disconnected. Recently I ran across this cool representation of the well-known symbol of Freemasonry: the overlaid Square & Compasses:

Does anyone happen to know the artist?

Let’s ignore for the moment that the skull is used in Templar Masonry and in the Scottish Rite, but generally not in the Blue Lodge. The skull itself has a furrowed, intent looking brow, Terminator-red eye sockets, and a somewhat threatening visage. It’s not the symbol that inspires one to think about their mortality and place in the world, but rather, to convey a sense of danger, or perhaps challenge. And the sepia tones are a nice contrast to the metalized look of our working tools.

The part that really made me think about this trend was the S&C, itself. What is a Square? Essentially, it is an instrument with a calibrated 90º corner and straight edges that allow us to design, sketch, or true up corners to keep them from going out of alignment. This square, while presenting a nice looking bit of metalwork, almost looks like a machine part. What’s with those inside edges, anyway? How can you trace a design on a trestle board with that? Speaking symbolically, is this teaching us to be true and honest?

I’m not sure where to even begin with the compasses. If the square looks industrialized, the compasses have been weaponized. In real life, a set of compasses is to aid in measuring and drawing arcs and circles; the points of which will scribe a faint line in the material on which they are used. But what is this instrument supposed to do? Those scalpel edges aren’t even in the same axis as the legs – they would scrape the hell out of anything you tried to use it on. The tips are further enhanced with stylized barbs and hooks, which would be pretty inconvenient to use as a hand-held tool. And from a symbolic perspective, our own compasses are supposed to keep us “within due bounds” and to remind us of certain Masonic principles, such as Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love. To me, these compasses show the complete opposite of those tenets.

This is just one example, but there are many such depictions readily available on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media sites. I’m at a loss for an explanation, but I’ve been wondering if for a generation of men who may  have spent more time playing indoors than outside, Freemasonry is how they are rediscovering their own sense of masculinity and what it means to be a Man (capitalized) in a society that has actively sought to eliminate any dangers, real or imagined. Playground recess has been cancelled or restricted in many schools, as has ball-playing and running or racing games. Playground equipment is now designed with the avoidance of possible lawsuits, which means anything more than the swings or slides is now off limits. Even pick-up games in the suburbs are a rarity, having been replaced by child-league sports, overly-supervised by adults. Television and movies often present an ambivalent take on adult men or masculinity, and studios are becoming more fearful of alienating potential viewers by presenting old-school male role models — unless it’s to point out that they are dinosaurs in our modern age.

Have these kinds of influences led the newer generations of young men into turning Freemasonry into not just a men’s society, but a masculinity rediscovery society?

 

 

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Where is your lodge?

January 15, 2015 8 comments

I have mixed feelings whenever Gloomy Gus Chris Hodapp writes “another building lost” post – which, to be fair, almost seems to be every other month.

On one hand, it’s always sad to see a nice older Masonic Temples — or any well designed and decorated building, for that matter — falling into disrepair because the upkeep is too expensive for the membership. The period from the early to mid 1900s that saw so many fine temples erected didn’t have the expensive issues of heating and air conditioning costs, specialized maintenance, accessibility upgrades, or power needs that we now think of as essential, and even just maintaining those buildings, let alone improving them, is a huge drain on the resources of the members.

On the other hand, how much of a drain on our membership does it take before we all will figure out a new model? Lowe's Lodge & Community Center in Meriden, CT

The late 1800s to early 1900s saw a different model: have a large building in which several different lodges could meet on different nights, so it wouldn’t sit unused. All the different lodges would pay a little rent to the building association (and this raises the question if Masons “invented” the co-op), and the steady influx of members would assure that the capital reserve funds would be adequate to repair the boiler or to shovel more ice onto the roof, whitewash the picket fence, or do whatever the heck was normal repairs back in those days. And I’m sure that many of the brothers at the time were proud to belong to a lodge that emulated – to some degree – the Temple of King Solomon. Many of the older buildings were richly appointed, and had massive columns, arches, and other fine details.So, yes, it’s disappointing to see those old temples fading, or being sold off so that they can be turned into office condos or meeting centers. As the membership declined, there was simply no way to keep them forever.

But on another level, maybe we need to ask ourselves: is a lodge the building or the members?

Back in the 1700s to 1800s, when many lodges were essentially a few dozen guys meeting in a pub, they probably didn’t worry about that kind of thing; if the pub closed, they found another one. Having  a building was a bit extravagant for guys who might only meet once a week, and certainly ridiculous for a group that would only meet once a month. Some found a home, literally, in the older home donated or sold off from a member’s estate. New England is full of lodges that meet in these small buildings, and almost every other town seemed to have one during the boom years. But even that becomes expensive as turn or the century houses need to be upgraded with better electric and plumbing service, new stairs, fire exits, better insulation, and other upgrades to make them more accessible for our older members.

Nick Johnson recently posed the idea of a “dinner lodge,” a return to the older days when brothers met to discuss some bit of education, and enjoy some friendly association. Maybe the next few decades will see more large temples being sold off, but — hopefully — more active members meeting to enjoy fellowship, without worrying about fixing the potholes, repairing the roof, or wondering how they are going to pay for the upkeep on a mausoleum that only gets used once a week by a dozen guys.

After all, is your lodge the building, or is it the members?

Edit: I should have mentioned Connecticut’s own take on this: both Quinta Essentia Lodge No. 500, and Hospitality Lodge No. 128.

Back (ward?) to the Future

November 6, 2014 7 comments

Several contentious years of Grand Lodge politics have culminated in an unprecedented (in Connecticut, anyway) upheaval in which the progressive Grand Line officers were voted out and replaced by a new line of elected officers.  The hotly contested elections (reportedly needing four votings to arrive at a majority) ended with the election of two Past Grand Masters and the re-instatement of a former Grand Line officer. The future of the Grand Line officers appointed during the past year is uncertain, as is the standings of the dozen or so Grand Lodge committees.

Edit: At the time of publication, several of the appointed GL officers appear to have resigned, as have several District officers.

In the time-honored tradition of keeping Masonic news as dry as possible, that would almost seem to be the entire story. Indeed, the only thing that would appear to be missing at this point would be a picture of MW Simon LaPlace presenting a gavel to our new Grand Master MW Tom Maxwell as both of them grin into the camera. Unfortunately, that is not the situation.

Leaving aside the rumors of collusion and conspiracy (on all sides) that have strained the patience of Connecticut Masons for the last couple of years, the situation at hand seems to be that a number of members, unsatisfied with the changes (both made and proposed) in Connecticut Masonry, managed to convince enough of their brothers that the changes were damaging to our organization, and that the only remedy would be to remove the current elected officers and to replace them with those who had a different vision.

This, of course, is the purpose of a democratic system, and it’s good to see that Freemasons remembered how it works.  Sometimes the good intentions behind having a “progressive line” in most US states leads to stale, if not undesirable Grand Lodge policies. At a time in which our membership is continuing to decrease and our societal culture moves away from joining groups, the remaining members have often been slow to react or have been unwilling to make changes that would attract or retain new members. In the US, this has led to Grand Masters with little or no vision, or Grand Lodge policies or programs that have little relevance to the needs or desires of the younger members that are joining the ranks. The events last week in Connecticut will hopefully serve as an example to Grand Lodges elsewhere around the US that members of the Craft can – and will – take the necessary steps to get the kind of leadership that they want.

That said, there is something symbolical about the recent overturning of the Grand Line that has many Connecticut Freemasons concerned: Does the election of older Past Grand Masters, who served respectively 18 and 25 years ago, mean that we could not find anyone younger, or more attuned to the needs of the latest generation of Masons? Or does it mean that our vision of Masonry for the state looks more like the 1970s instead of the 2020s, and that our desire for the coming years is actually just a reboot of something from the past?

Personally speaking, I share these concerns. I became a Mason in 2001, just before the DaVinci Code and Nick Cage movies were reigniting an interest in Freemasonry. Back then, many Grand Lodges still did not even have a website, let alone electronic contact information, PDF Trestleboards, or online committee meetings. Connecticut Masons have been fortunate that Grand Lodge officers from the previous several years have been forward-thinking, and willing to adopt new methods. More importantly, some of them have been willing to take on the difficult task of changing the culture of our organization. For example, we have nine Masonic districts in Connecticut, ostensibly to correspond with the train system that was extant in the early 1900s. With nine Grand Lodge officers, we have had a century of a progressive line, one officer from each district, with a new one appointed every nine years from the outgoing Grand Master’s district. The last two years saw a change in the district structure, and with it, a different way of choosing new officers. Changes like this are huge in Masonic terms, and it would be easy to believe that the voting reflects a reactionary attitude from members who object to these and other kinds of alterations (or “innovations,” if you will) in the organization.

A reactionary mindset among the members raises other concerns for the future of our fraternity, mainly that younger or more progressive minded members will no longer desire to work toward improvements, or even to aspire to a Grand Lodge or District position if it means constantly butting heads with the old guard. Ours is a volunteer organization, and most of our members are paid only in the satisfaction of a job well done; feedback in the form of being voted out of office with little or no prior warning would seem to be a disincentive for many of those who would be qualified for those positions.

Again, democracy obviously works — the recent voting was proof of that.  But we should also remember the words of Comte Joseph de Maistre: “Every democracy gets the government that they deserve.” For the sake of Freemasonry in Connecticut, let’s hope that we all have not taken a big step backwards.

 

 

CIVL Liberties

May 8, 2014 15 comments

The story: The other night I came home from work at about 6:30 pm, had a quick dinner with my wife, then went to an installation of officers at a lodge, after which I spent some time in fellowship with the brothers. By 10:30 pm I was back in the family room.

Double take: The lodge was in Canada.

Plot twist: The lodge only meets on the Internet.

Castle Island Virtual Lodge No. 190 — CIVL — was started not in Silicon Valley, but in Manitoba, Canada in 2010, to help meet the needs of Masons who because of constraints on time and distance might not otherwise be able to regularly attend a lodge. After a few years of trying out several web-based formats, they now meet regularly on the fifth Wednesday  of the month (obviously in those months that have 5 weeks).

I happened to visit on an evening that was not the regular meeting night; technical issues had prevented the lodge from having a proper meeting on April 30th, so the next meeting (and officer’s installation) was moved up to the following Wednesday. I can imagine some people rolling their eyes and saying  something like “Ah ha, see? Can’t always trust technology!” While that’s a perfectly understandable sentiment, those guys might want to think about how many lodge events were cancelled or postponed this past winter by the snowstorms or cold weather.

My friend and brother Nick “Millenial Freemason” Johnson introduced me to CIVL, and wrote a nice article about it a few years ago. Since then, he’s been a frequent visitor. Nick is one of those Masons who gets sucked into every Masonic event for 50 miles around, and probably enjoys being able to get home from an event at a reasonable hour once in a while. A bonus for me, though, is that I got to sit with a fellow blogger for the first time in an actual lodge meeting, as Nick was able to join in for the events of the evening.

The lodge uses a form of Emulation ritual, so the opening would be a little unfamiliar to most US brethren, but the officers did a very nice job. They had a short, but moving memorial service for one of their brothers who had recently passed, and then moved on to the installation. CIVL normally has over a dozen attendees, but because it was not the typical meeting night, some of the officers were not able to make the installation, and will be properly installed in a few weeks.

WB Jake Mohn, the new Worshipful Master of CIVL, presented us with a 20 question quiz on Masonic symbolism, to which I’m almost embarrassed to say that I got 5 wrong. So much for the plan of always picking “C” on a multiple choice exam…

Are there issues with having a virtual lodge? Of course there are. The meeting quality varied over the course of the evening, with sound sometimes dropping out, feedback, video lags, and the other typical issues associated with any online meeting format. One or two brothers had some odd background noises, and we all know what staring into a webcam looks like on the other end. But virtual lodges are not necessarily a replacement for a live-action lodge. The idea is to have a connection for those Masons who might be otherwise separated because of work or military service, or who may be incapacitated by ill health, or who may find themselves — as do several CIVL members — literally several hundred miles from the nearest lodge.

I have to admit that I was a bit shy at first, not knowing anyone else there, but the officers were friendly, and I hung around after the meeting longer than I had expected, getting to know the other guys, and indulging in the Masonic pastime of comparing our idiosyncrasies and differences. I expect that I’ll be attending again, and I’m hoping to see the full lodge in action. I wish the officers and the rest of the members of Castle Island Virtual Lodge the very best of luck in the coming years.

 

Grand Lodge of Connecticut introduces plan for refurbishing buildings and rejuvenating lodges

April 1, 2014 16 comments

WALLINGFORD — One of the items that is being overlooked in the agenda for the upcoming Grand Lodge of Connecticut Annual Communication is a bold initiative to help finance the rejuvenation of the state’s older lodge buildings, a plan that may be the first of its kind in the North America, and which may be the key toward not only rejuvenating the buildings, but revitalizing the lodges, themselves.

Like most of the areas of the northeastern US, Connecticut has a number of older lodge buildings, many of them built in the early 1900s or even before. While many of these buildings are located in the center of their respective towns, these historic buildings were often poorly maintained, and the funds for much needed capital improvements were often neglected by the members from the 1960s until today. Indeed, it’s not unusual for lodges to lack air conditioning or updated heating systems, proper kitchen and dining areas, or in some cases, even modern bathroom facilities.

“While some members of the fraternity might see their facilities as ‘quaint,’ the sad fact is that many members of the public, including potential members, see them as ‘antiquated,’ ‘dated,’ or just plain ‘old,’ and it becomes a real turn-off,” said Grand Master Simon LaPlace. “Unfortunately, many of the lodges were short-sighted and skimped on saving money for improvements, and with the lack of new members, they simply can’t afford to put the necessary thousands of dollars into building improvements, and many of them are just barely able to keep up with the basic maintenance. This is why we are introducing this plan, which should help them to raise the money to bring the facilities up to date.”

Lowe's Lodge & Community Center in Meriden, CT

The Lowe’s Lodge & Community Center in Meriden, CT will be getting a facelift over the summer of 2014 after the city council and zoning department approves the blue banners that will adorn the front.

The new program, called the Building & Organization Allied Sponsorship, or BOAS, allows lodges to partner with local or even national businesses and organizations in order to have a committed source of revenue that would be put toward building and grounds improvements, and updating the facilities inside the buildings. Lodges could look forward to new or updated lighting, handicap access, internet and wifi service, and cable tv, as well as kitchen and dining equipment, general upkeep, and yes, even more modern bathroom facilities.

When questioned about the criticisms that BOAS would lead to Freemasonry as being seen as “too public,” the Grand Master dismissed the concerns. “Corporate sponsored venues have been around for years,” he said. “A few large corporations put their names on ball fields, and nobody bats an eye. But a business puts a name on a small, little lodge, and everyone loses their minds.” Indeed, a quick survey showed that most people could not remember the previous names of the Xfinity Theater or the Comcast Theaters, although most people also did not remember that Toyota now sponsors the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford — ironically, the town in which the Grand Lodge of Connecticut is located.

A large concern for some is that the Connecticut Grand Lodge gets a percentage of the BOAS funds, and will start pressuring all of the state lodges or buildings to find businesses to partner with, or worse, may penalize some of the lodges for not doing so. “Grand Lodge needs to make money, too,” responded Grand Master Simon LaPlace. “None of those guys complaining think twice about spending money on a mocha latte several times a week; but if Grand Lodge asks for a five or ten dollar per member increase, suddenly we’re the evil empire. Sure, times are tough, but we’re talking about giving up the equivalent of a couple of coffees and donuts in a year.” He looked around and added “And believe me, many of our brothers could certainly afford to go without a donut once in a while.”

Not surprisingly, not all of the Masons are happy about this program. “It’s nothing more than plain, old Grand Lodge greed. They don’t actually care about the lodges, they just care about getting their cut of the action.” said one Past Master who refused to be named. “That’s not what we used to do back in the old days,” said another, “Back in 1968, when I was Master of the lodge, when we needed money, the wives around the lodge would help hold a bake sale, and we hit everyone with a ten dollar special assessment. Why, we once raised over a thousand dollars, which was enough to put on whole a new roof!”

A photograph shortly before the new signs and arches are placed on the McDonald's Masonic Center of New Haven. Many Freemasons are excited by the idea of partnering with large organizations in order to raise funds to revitalize the old buildings.

A photograph shortly before the new signs and arches are placed on the McDonald’s Masonic Center of New Haven. Many Freemasons are excited by the idea of partnering with large organizations in order to raise funds to revitalize the old buildings.

That’s not the attitude voiced by everyone, however. Many more members, and not necessarily the younger ones, seem to approve of BOAS. Several lodges around the state have already been testing the idea, and indeed, at least one partnership is in the final stages. “We have been fortunate to partner with a large, nationally recognized corporation that is known for its aggressive community outreach,” said a District Deputy from the 4th District. “We are just finalizing some details, like the new sign placement and promotional spots, and within a few weeks everybody should be seeing some big changes at the new McDonald’s Masonic Center of New Haven.”

While the larger buildings in the cities that host several lodges will probably benefit the most, smaller lodges in the towns will also be encouraged to seek out sponsorships, and the Grand Lodge will have suggestions for those who are interested. “Try to focus on the businesses that are important to your area,” suggested a Grand Lodge officer who would only identify himself as ‘Mike.’ “For example, Southington is known for its fruit orchards and large number of chain restaurants along the main street. I’d suggest that they approach Applebee’s. Newington has those shopping centers and the Berlin Turnpike running through it; I would tell those guys to look at Dick’s,” he said. “Or maybe they’d rather look at Hooters, instead. Unfortunately, towns like Putnam or Lakeville aren’t known for anything except being out of the way. We haven’t come up with any good ideas for them as yet.”

Putnam Moon Lodge in Woodstock, CT

Unfortunately, the Masonic lodges in towns like Putnam will probably not benefit from BOAS, leading to an ever-widening gap between the urban/suburban lodges, and the rural or farm district lodges.

Indeed, this highlights one of the biggest issues with BOAS: Lodges in the cities and along the “Gold Coast” I-95 corridor will probably have no shortage of possible sponsors, while those in the northwest (and northeast) corners of the state are in economically depressed areas, with few business or organizations that would have the financial backing to pay for advertising and promotion, let alone sponsor building improvements. Ironically, BOAS could well accomplish the very opposite of what the Grand Lodge hopes to achieve; as the urban and suburban lodges draw sponsorships and become more modernized (thereby attracting more members), the older, rural lodges will look even worse by comparison, and not only fail to attract new members, but perhaps even lose some to the modernized lodges.

“The big companies aren’t going to partner up with a lodge out of the goodness of their hearts,” explained ‘Gary,’ a former Grand Lodge officer. “Lodge buildings in the city offer some good exposure, plus the opportunity to use the auditorium facilities for meetings or presentations. Even the smaller lodges in the suburbs are usually located in areas in which the buildings are highly visible, which is at least good for advertising and promotion. The lodges out in the boondocks, though, will have a more difficult time attracting a sponsor because there’s no visibility. I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe they’ll have to get several smaller, local sponsors.”

Some of the members of the fraternity are ambivalent about the partnership idea, however. “Grand Lodge is always pushing some program, and every year it’s something different,” complained one member from a lodge that will be getting a facelift from its new sponsor. “It wouldn’t surprise me if in two or three years, whatever Grand Master happens to be in charge will scrap the whole thing, anyway. Wouldn’t be the first time.”

Blog Aggravate

February 9, 2014 3 comments

The “Golden Age” of Masonic blogging was probably from 2005 to 2010; Facebook and Twitter became the most used social networks, and most of the existing blogs lacked for readers, which in turn discouraged many writers.

I recently went through my own archives, and over the years I have subscribed to or listed just under 200 blogs by Masons. Most are now dead or dormant, but surprisingly, there are still a number of active blogs, and once in a while I’ll run across a new one that I find enjoyable. I’ve been trying to list them on my sidebar, or add them to my RSS reader so I can keep up.

More interestingly, some intrepid bothers will take the time to sit down with a microphone and some recording software, and put together a half to one hour program of discussion. While Masonic podcasts aren’t nearly as common, they are generally an enjoyable alternative, and you can listen to them in the background as you’re working on other things, or save them to mobile device and play it in your car on that long, boring commute.

I know that some of my readers are always on the lookout for new or interesting Masonic reading, so I’ve put together a new Masonic blog aggravate aggregate; a collection of links to the more active blogs that I’ve been reading, and that other people have kindly pointed out to me. These are blogs that have all posted articles in the last year. Right now there are about 2 dozen, but hopefully that will grow. And since blogs are not the only Masonic writings available, the sidebar will have links to podcasts, web sites, essays, and other bits of interest to Masons.

Ashlar to Ashes: An aggregate for Masonic blogs and writings

This is just a little project that I put together in an afternoon, but if people find it useful, then maybe we can keep this going. If you have a favorite (or your own) blog, podcast, web board, or website that you would like added, please leave a comment here or on Ashalr to Ashes so we can check it out.

Open House? How about Open for Business?

October 22, 2013 6 comments

This past weekend saw another statewide “Open House” in which lodges across Connecticut were encouraged to open their doors to walk-in visitors who might be interested in the fraternity — and hopefully, interested enough to join. The Grand Lodge provided radio advertising and other promotional materials, and the participating lodges — over four dozen of them — hung out signs and notices directing the public.  Southington was typical of the lodges around the state; Friendship No. 33 was open between noon and 4 in the afternoon, and a handful of brothers came down to hang out, drink some coffee, and chew the fat while waiting for visitors to come calling.

Similar programs have taken place in other states, with some reported success — “success” being that in many places people actually did go out of their way to stop in at a local lodge to ask questions. Friendship had two or three people stop by; ironically,  none of them from Southington. Several other lodges reported similar results. At the moment, I don’t have any data on how many of those visitors have actually become members, but at the very least, the Committee on Masonic Awareness views this as an opportunity to educate the public.

I had a few errands to run on Saturday, and didn’t make it down to the lodge until about 1:30, and a walk-in had just shown up. I mused on the idea of “walk-in visitors” because the despite the fact that Friendship is situated right in the middle of town — on the town green, in fact — the visitor, like the several others, had driven some distance out of his way to get there. And that’s when the idea came to me.

"Historic" Friendship Lodge No. 33

Friendship Lodge, like many lodges in New England, is situated in the center of town, in a place easily accessible… for farmers on horseback, or for merchants with a trap or carriage, or for those that lived close to the center of town.  But as the empty storefronts and lack of businesses can attest, nobody walks around the center of town anymore.  This is why the Open House program, like many committee-developed ideas, is doomed to failure: it addresses an issue with a solution that is no longer relevant. It’s time for solutions to our dwindling membership that are more ambitious, and more relevant.

The people aren’t going to come to the lodges, so let’s put the lodges where the people are going: To the shopping malls.

New England is filled with many historic, old lodge buildings. By “historic,” of course, I mean out-dated firetraps with inadequate electrical and plumbing systems, poor accessibility for the older members, and little room for expansion. Oh sure, every other week you hear Chris Hodapp moaning about how some ancient “historic” building is closing, but there’s a reason those buildings have closed: they aren’t as interesting as the modern shopping malls. In an effort to attract and retain shoppers, they have a variety of restaurants catering to every taste, water fountains, gathering places, coffee bars, and pleasant ambient music. Unfortunately, the poor economy has caused a number of the smaller stores in many shopping malls and plazas to close, with few prospects for new renters on the horizon.  It’s not unusual to see shuttered storefronts in even the busiest malls. In fact, some malls have even taken to creating fake storefronts to disguise the empty stores inside.

My proposal is that we start closing those old firetraps “Historic buildings”, and start renting long-term space in the malls. With the number of lodges that we could move, we could surely cut a deal with the mall management companies for low rental fees. We would have more than adequate parking, handicap access, janitorial services, and plenty of three-prong electrical outlets. More importantly, we could have an Open House program pretty much every week, and be assured of having all the pedestrian traffic that we could handle. In fact, we’d probably have to have an Open House Month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, just to accommodate the crowds.

To sweeten this idea, why stop at lodge rooms? Let’s capitalize on the recent spate of Nick Cage movies, Dan Brown books, and History Channel specials by putting a small Masonic bling shop in front. Brothers would no longer have to haunt Ebay or thumb through last year’s Macoy’s catalog looking for rings, Past Master jewels, or auto decals; we could have display racks full of pins, bumper stickers, and coffee mugs. We could run sales flyers for the regular mall shoppers, reminding them to pick up a Square & Compasses ball cap for that special Mason in their lives.

Before you turn up your nose at this idea, consider something else: Who else hangs out at the mall during the weekends? That’s right: teenagers. The dwindling enrollment of our DeMolay and Rainbow chapters could also benefit from having our lodges in the shopping malls; most lodges do not meet on Saturdays, so we could easily use the space for our Masonic youth groups. Parents could drop off the children, do a little shopping, and pick the kids up when the meeting is finished. And once we get the lodges and youth chapters moved over, then we could start looking at those OES chapters.

Categories: Freemasonry, Promotion Tags: ,
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