Pictou County District Meeting
November 7, 2008
Masonry and the
H. Meyer, D.D.G.M.
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Distinguished
Past & Present Grand Lodge Officers,
At my last official visit in the district, I
gave a short address on the topic of how to answer that dreaded question
�What do you Guys do?� or �What is Freemasonry?� The question had been
asked by a nice lady in her sixties and she was obviously not impressed
with my answer. She shrugged it off by telling us �I'll Google it when I
Whether we like it or not, in this twenty-first
century, the Internet plays a crucial role in how people get
information, how they conduct business, and how they interact with other
The demographics of our fraternity may not be
conducive to blanket coverage over the Internet, but the number of
'connected' members is steadily growing. Regardless of the number of our
own members that are 'connected,' however, as an organization we cannot
afford to ignore the importance of a meaningful presence on the
I won't bore you with depressing statistics, but a
quick look over our shoulders tells us that in the last 50 years
membership in our jurisdiction has shrunk by two-thirds and our own
District has 150 less members today then it had in 1996!
The picture is the same in other jurisdictions,
and other fraternal and social organizations. Our loss of membership is
a consequence of a general decline in social participation which has
affected every aspect of civic life.
Since I received my Master Mason Degree in
1975, I have seen our Grand Lodge trying to project an image of a
benevolent society to the public by focusing significant resources
toward charitable activities, no doubt in the belief that Masonry should
be perceived as a fraternal organization working for the public good.
Our Lodges have opened their doors to family and friends and Grand Lodge
has authorized the filming of a documentary in its Lodge rooms in the
hope of removing the aura of 'secrecy' from the public mind.
Unfortunately there is little evidence that
these efforts have stemmed the decline in membership.
What sets us apart from all other organizations
is Masonry. Permit me to quote a line from the EA charge: �No
institution was ever raised on a better principle, or more solid
foundation, nor were ever more excellent rules and maxims laid down than
are inculcated in the several Masonic lectures.� In other words: It is
Masonry that makes us Masons.
Maybe it is time to stop bemoaning our losses
in real numbers and focus on our loss of 'active' members. My estimate
is that in our District 75% of the members have not sat in open Lodge
for years! That's more than 300 Brothers we could welcome back to our
Meetings, discounting those who are unable or live outside the District.
But that's a topic which deserves its own consideration.
Masonry has always been based on community. For
the operative workman it was the community of the construction site, for
early speculative Masons it was the group that met in some Pub, and to
this date there are Lodges who draw their members from a narrow circle
of candidates � I'm thinking of the military oriented Lodges like Ad
Astra No. 130 and Cornwallis Lodge No. 95.
In our mobile society, the sense of belonging
to a community has diminished � probably more so in cities than in small
towns � as fewer and fewer of us live in the town or village they grew
But a new form of community has arisen to
replace that which we lost. It is a community, however, that is not
widely recognized as such, though it is in large measure the future of
Maybe we should ask first WHO is the future of
the Craft? And you will probably agree, that we are primarily looking
for an honest, upright man between 25 and 55 and open to the experience
only Masonry can offer � an elusive 'target' with all too few
Could it be that we are not making ourselves
known in the right place?
Our future candidate is a guy with a BlackBerry
or Cell Phone, his PC has a high speed connection to the Internet � and
he uses it often. He values his time and can't afford to waste it.
I dare say, that the answer to the question
'where will the new brothers come from?' is: They will come from the
The Internet is already the portal for most
prospects and those interested in researching Masonry. In speaking to
younger candidates, it is apparent that for many, the Internet was the
primary means they employed in making their decision to join.
This may be a concept that is difficult to
grasp � it is invisible and silent.
So let me give you some numbers. One of my
projects as your DDGM, was to create a website for our District. In May
I put it on line and kept an eye on the number of visitors I was getting
� from 13/day in May it has grown to 40/day in November with the average
visitor looking at four pages. In only six months, more than 4000
visitors have looked at 16000 pages!
There were 68,000 visits to the Grand Lodge
Website in two years. (Scroll down to the bottom of the home-page to see
What am I trying to say?
A well designed and up-to-date website is vital
to the continued well being and functioning of any Lodge in the 21st
New Masons and those considering joining expect
a lodge to have such a site. It is through websites that they select
many of the companies with which they do business and they associate a
quality website with a worthwhile organization. (Individual consumers
purchased ~$24 billions worth of goods in 2007 and that's beside the $39
billion in business-to- business e-sales [StatsCan 2007])
It is not only business, though, that is using
the Internet to reach a virtually unlimited number of people. To the
South, President Elect Barak Obama's campaign success is, to a large
extent, credited to his extensive use of Internet resources. Only a day
after the election win, he opened a new website: change.gov which
promises ongoing information about the transition process.
More often than not, the mere existence, as
well as the condition of a lodge website, will of itself influence the
potential Mason in deciding to submit a petition and will determine to
which lodge he will submit it.
Unfortunately, neither our Grand Lodge nor its
subordinate Lodges give the Internet much priority.
Let me just make one comment with regard to the
Grand Lodge Website. On the 25th of October we had the rare
celebration of the cornerstone laying and consecration of our new Grand
Lodge building. A 'publicity' committee was formed and it put together
an interesting four page insert for the Halifax Herald which was
distributed a week before the event. On the Grand Lodge website this
event never happened! Our M.W.G.M. wrote a well researched history of
the tradition and milestones for the GLNS � but if you did not look up
the Grand Masters Calendar you would not have known when it was
An impressive parade was held with all
concordant bodies represented in their colorful costumes and regalia,
speeches were made and pictures taken � and I am still waiting to see
all this even mentioned on the official Grand Lodge Website!
When it comes to the Lodges in the
jurisdiction, much work lays ahead. Of the 104 active Lodges in Nova
Scotia, 27 list a website � I visited them all � 5 proved current and
up-to-date, 3 are minimal giving only a list of officers, 6 were out of
date anywhere from 1 to 5 years, 4 were dead links, and 9 are part of
the Pictou County Website.
My Brethren, counting our own, that makes less
than 14% of Nova Scotia Lodges having a valid presence on the Web!
I mention all this, because there is also a
dark side to the
Internet as it relates to Freemasonry: it allows irregular or
clandestine masons a wide audience. In fact, such masonry has latched
onto the Internet with a vengeance. Google the word �Freemasonry� and at
least half of the initial hits will be websites condemning Masonry or
featuring irregular masonry.
In this confusing digital world it can be very
difficult for a non-Mason or a prospective Mason to differentiate
between clandestine and regular Masonic websites. Even regular Masons
can be easily misled. Popular Masonic forums often feature routine
postings from regular Masons, and from irregular ones, as well as
from co-masons and feminine masons. All are mixed together and mingled
in a way that gives each equal credibility. Many blogging Masons,
especially on the most prominent sites, seem to be angry men with an ax
It is sad to say, that the state of today�s
Internet Masonic message is largely unrepresentative of regular Masonry.
Clandestine masons and disgruntled regular Masons engage in unMasonic
conduct primarily driving a destructive digital discourse. It is
essential to our future that regular Masonry take control of the digital
Masonic message. If we don�t, these forces will.
The reality is
the negative or misleading Internet Freemason message remains unchanged
it will become dominant. It will not only influence how non-Masons think
of us, new members will be influenced by it and will form an initial
false belief in the actual nature of regular Masonry.
Brethren, we have
light to diffuse. To set the record straight with an eye on the garbage
so freely dumped on the digital highway.
to re-connect with as many of our 'absentee' Brothers as possible.
How Grand Lodge will tackle this challenge is
probably best left to the Public Relations, Editorial and Masonic
Education Committees of the Board of General Purposes and I beg the
M.W.G.M. to give this issue some consideration.
In our District, we have a head-start. The
framework is in place. Lets flesh is out. Let's post your summons as
early as possible. Announce any and all special projects and events as
soon as they are decided. Tell the brethren of your Lodge if there is an
ill or ailing brother. Bug your historian for a Lodge History if it has
not already been written. List all brethren who have received long
service or meritorious service recognition. Let's be proud of our
achievements � between the 8 District Lodges we have 1100 years of
Masonry in Pictou County.
We have a calendar where all Masonic events of the
Craft Lodges and the Concordant and Appendant bodies can be listed
including details. If we all contribute, it should prevent the
scheduling of conflicting events.
There is not enough time for your Webmaster to
gather all this information by himself. So, put a sticky-note on your
computer (or telephone) saying: �Inform the Webmaster.�
Many of us are not quite sure what can and cannot
be made public about Masonry and a Lodge. The Grand Secretary, in his
'Internet Protocol' letter, in summary, prohibits three topics:
The procedures, processes and results of
ballots and votes taken.
Canvassing support for any Grand Lodge office;
and endeavouring to obtain support for propositions that might come
before Grand Lodge or a Lodge of this Jurisdiction
Specific or detailed discussion of any signs
and tokens, or their significance
That leaves a lot of screen-space to fill with the
things we can say.
And finally, my brethren, being a 'googler'
myself, I looked for a definition of 'Community' and found that:
A community is a group of people who form
relationships over time by interacting regularly around shared
experiences, which are of interest to all of them for varying individual
A better description of the aims of our noble
Craft I could not think of and I can only hope that we find a way of
using the vast potential of the Internet in helping us to bring OUR
community together and strengthen the ties that already bind us.