Monday, February 4, 2008

Fresh Faces in Masonry- Fraternities and Academic Lodges

Fresh Faces in Masonry: Article from Scottish Rite Journal with Commentary

R:.W:. Brother, Judge William A. Hill of Nebraska contributed an article to the Scottish Rite Journal a decade ago which we think is worth another look. In the article he shed some light upon how to expose young men in Greek Letter fraternities to Masonry who are already interested and exposed to Masonic principles. He proposes avenues for fraternity men to become familiar with the principles of Masonry and to see the architecture of the Lodge with guidance from brethren in their fraternities. By showing the support and respect for college institutions that were derived from Masonry or are Masonic in character lodges can tap into a large well of young men who are interested in Masonry and have a demonstrated affinity for fraternal organizations.

It is a process that takes time and effort to be sure but it seems well conceived and Brother Hill demonstrates its success. From the SRJ article:

"The Freemasons in North Dakota, have, for a number of years, made the Masonic Temple available to college fraternities and encouraged use of the facility for (college fraternity) meetings and initiation ritual work. Sigma Mu has eagerly accepted this offer as have others.


Typically, the building is opened by a Masonic alumnus of the particular fraternity who then sits in during the Greek fraternity initiation. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Masonic alumnus gives a brief talk on the fraternal relationship and Freemasonry. We ask visiting fraternity members to sign a guest book and encourage them to take informational materials home with them. This program has been received very well."


Later, having created this relationship Brother Hill then relates their more ambitious program:

"This year, our objective of cementing a relationship was taken a step further through the efforts of Shiloh Lodge No. 1. To impress on college-age men the value of Masonic membership, the Lodge, under the leadership of Worshipful Master Stanley A. Jordahl, 32, hosted a Friday evening dinner attended by members of Sigma Mu, Alpha Tau Omega, and Sigma Chi as well as by Brother Masons... Masonic alumnus spoke briefly on the relationship between his college fraternity and Freemasonry."

It is easy to get lost when a young man joins with no contemporaries age wise. I think part of the reason for the success that Brother Hill speaks of with his process is that these men are a community. He respected what they were part of and demonstrated the real and historical connection.

These young men upon getting older will eventually branch beyond fraternity and college fellows—but initially that Community is crucial. We may not have neighborhood Lodges anymore but we do have potential communities to create a comfortable initial experience-- and the thousands of men who are college fraternity and society members and alumni represent that.”

“Once we build the relationship and they join there is research for these young men to engage in and present. These young men obviously have good minds for performing rituals, with the necessary memorization and study. And these are also the type of men who are active in community service as individuals but have not had the sort of structure that Masonry offers. I think in doing such community service they will be a real credit to Masonry and will understand some important precepts of the Craft.”

In my mind how they come in and how they approach Lodge meetings once they are members is the most important factor for a positive involvement with Masonry. From personal experience some of the best and most productive times were when we had a chance to sit, talk and eat and drink. That's when we dealt with creating and acting upon agenda items from the Lodge and talked about things outside of Lodge business.

Brother Hill concludes with the notion that we might also expand the old system of specific university and fraternity affiliated lodges. There are fewer of these lodges than, say, "arts" aka "daylight" lodges, cultural and traditional lodges , military or police affiliated lodges, dining lodges, etc. Nevertheless "academic" (or "university") lodges have a long tradition here in the U.S. and are even more popular abroad. In the U.K. and other parts of the world academic lodges are the most rapidly growing branch of the Masonry.

"Perhaps some of students and alumni still need a university and or fraternity affiliated lodges for your districts. Here are a few examples from those steeped in academic-lodge tradition to those with a less formal relationship, not exclusive to university and fraternity:'

  • An interesting article about how university lodges declined during the last few decades in the UCLA campus newspaper.