This paper has been written in response to a paper titled “Freemasonry Is Dying” by Bro. Lance Kennedy. If you’ve followed this blog for very long then you may recall that this isn’t the first time that I’ve directly responded to his work but Bro. Kennedy has a way of creating content that warrants our attention as Freemasons.
Before proceeding further you should read his article that I linked above if you haven’t already. I won’t be discussing the data, it’s already presented in the article for you to review, instead, I’ll be discussing my conclusions and what I believe it means for our fraternity.
Looking At The Data
When data is properly collected and presented it can say a lot. When collected correctly it gives us insight into unbiased truths that remain true regardless if we like the conclusions we must inevitably draw from it.
Bro. Kennedy admits that the data collected for his paper isn’t flawless but it is the most accurate data that has been collected on our membership numbers in North America. There is no better source for the information that has been collected and the numbers that have been collected are sobering.
Freemasonry is dying. Look at the data again if you must but the numbers don’t lie.
“Freemasonry is dying.”
I realize that I’m being contradictory but I don’t believe Freemasonry will die.
Dying doesn’t mean dead, it is referring to the degradation of health that may ultimately result in demise. There are three things that can happen when someone, or in our case, something, is dying:
- It will recover naturally once the body regains equilibrium.
- Actions are taken that returns the body to equilibrium.
Here’s what I believe: our fraternity enjoyed massive growth during the middle of the last century and very few people (certainly not those in charge) were concerned that Freemasonry might be experiencing a membership bubble that was destined to ‘pop’ (albeit a slow pop) somewhere down the road.
Freemasonry is an organization which was meant for a select few. When we began accepting so many new members and rapidly conferring degrees we created Masons that would eventually accept leadership positions and begin running our fraternity like any other organization at the time.
The problem is that Freemasonry isn’t like any other organization. It was created to be completely unique from the ground up and when new members are introduced to a marvelous mystery school through their degrees only to find a mundane organization once they begin attending stated meetings it’s no surprise that they leave the fraternity.
“The problem is that Freemasonry isn’t like any other organization.”
Until fairly recently, lodges could survive by operating ‘the way they’ve always done it’ because the brothers that have always done things that way were still alive and active enough to keep their lodges running when they didn’t retain the majority of their new members. Unfortunately, that generation is passing away in greater numbers every year and the younger men that weren’t retained aren’t active enough or too few in numbers to carry the torch.
I predict, based off of the data and my own thoughts, which I’ve just shared, that lodges will soon experience a period of ‘survival of the fittest’. Simply put, lodges which are adapting and implementing practices which will both retain younger generations and plan for the ongoing success in the decades to come will grow and prosper. Those that continue to do things the way they always have while they complain that younger generations are too distracted (in order to refuse accepting responsibility for the future of their lodge) will die or be forced to merge.
Our fraternity is losing members at a very alarming rate but I predict that this decline will level out once we reach an equilibrium. We will experience a period of ‘survival of the fittest’ where it may seem to us as though lodges all around us are closing or merging but there will still be a number of exceptional lodges that will stand the test of time.
The practices that these lodges operate by will eventually become the new norm and, while some new aspects of our fraternity may seem very different than the standard operation of many lodges today, we will actually be going back to the basics.
Our fraternity will survive.