“That’s not how we’ve always done it!”
Many new and excited members of our fraternity have had their enthusiasm and zeal for Freemasonry obliterated by this phrase. Granted, not every idea is a good idea but we lose good brothers every year because of our unwillingness to entertain new ideas in our lodges.
Many brothers simply leave once they feel as though they can have no impact or, even worse, that Freemasonry isn’t what they expected. Others will still stick around, maybe find some like minded brothers at their lodge, and try to create change over time only to constantly run into a brick wall.
Fact is, many ideas, even great ones, will run counter to the culture of your lodge. If this is the case then small victories will take a lot of time and effort and the end goals you have for improving your lodge may never happen, to be frank.
Several brothers have reached out to me asking what their options are when they run into situations like this. Fear not, when your ideas are ‘not how we’ve always done things’ and you can’t build ‘buy in’ with your brothers, you still have options.
They just aren’t easy.
Then again, nothing worthwhile ever came easy.
I’ll go in order from the most difficult to the easiest from my perspective, this can vary depending on your location and Grand Lodge.
Start A New Lodge
Sometimes we just need to start from square one.
The idea being that if enough like-minded brothers come together and start a new lodge then there shouldn’t be much opposition to new ideas because there’s already a general concensus about how an ideal lodge should operate.
While this may sound wonderful, it’s not easy. If you want to get dispensation for a new lodge then you may need signatures…possibly lots of signatures.
The actual number of required signatures can vary depending on your Grand Lodge and your location within its jurisdiction.
When creating a new lodge with a very specific culture and goals in mind you’ll need to be intentional when looking for signatures. You’ll want the signers to be like-minded because they often become members of the lodge once it’s chartered. If you collect signatures just for the sake of getting dispensation then you’ll end up right back where you originally started.
Restore A Demised Lodge
This may not be an option for every jurisdiction, but it goes without saying that there are less lodges now than there used to be and, if allowable, you may be able to restore the charter of a demised lodge.
The advantages of this is that it could require less initial members and signatures, you can often still change the name, and you aren’t necessarily limited to meeting in the same area the original lodge used to exist.
If founded a new lodge seems daunting or near impossible in your jurisdiction, this may be a very feasible option as you’d have the benefits of creating a new lodge, potentially without as many hurdles.
Transfer To A Zombie Lodge
This one is bound to be controversial but let’s put emotion aside and look at it logically.
A zombie lodge is a lodge that is on the brink of demising. It isn’t dead yet but it’s not healthy either – it’s been in survival mode and it may have been for quite some time.
If a handful of like-minded brothers were to transfer to a lodge such as this, then it would be reasonably easy to begin adopting practices based on the goals and visions of the new membership.
Let’s address the elephant in the room here: this is a situation where brothers are essentially moving from a lodge where they are the minority to a lodge where they suddenly have a majority vote.
If you approach this like a hostile takeover then it wil quickly blow up in your face, regardless of your jurisdiction.
That said, you could potentially be saving a lodge that was on the edge of shutting it’s doors. The process of tranferring probably isn’t difficult in most jurisdictions, there are far less hurdles to jump through and you’ll already have an established building (though it may be in terrible shape).
I’d suggest that this is probably a close tie for the easiest method out of everything listed and many of us already can probably think of one or two nearby zombie lodges as we read this. It’s a matter of treading carefully and remembering our obligations to one another.
Transfer To A Like-Minded Lodge
This probably sounds like the easiest alternative, on paper, but if this was an option for you then you probably wouldn’t be very frustrated with your situation to begin with.
Depending on the type of lodge you’re looking for, the closest one could be hours away. Look to see if you find one nearby that resonates with you before exloring any other options.
We can and should expect opposition and challenges as we travel this long and winding road of Masonic improvement but nothing worthwhile comes easy.
If you are frustrated, don’t know where to start, and have tried everything already, it may be worthwhile to consider starting a new lodge or transferring to a different one.
Keep in mind that starting a new lodge may sound nice but it is bound to be very difficult…on the other hand, transferring to a new lodge may be easier but can come with it’s own challenges as well.
We all have different situations, these are just some options you may have available to you.