Tuesday, November 30, 2010

M:.W:. Bro. Richard Fletcher Resigns

(Photo: From left: Judy Fletcher, Nicolas Cage, Darlene Alban,
and Richard E. Fletcher, at the premier of
National Treasure: Book of Secrets in New York City in December 2007)

M:.W:. Brother Richard Fletcher has announced his resignation as Executive Secretary of the Masonic Service Association of North America, to be effective at the close if the MSA's annual meeting in Denver next February. He has served with great devotion and courage in this position since 1987. Below is an excerpt from one of his initiatives, "It’s About Time!" a report completing a study undertaken by a special task force of the Masonic Information Center Steering Committee that focused on the need for Masonic "Public Awareness". The most important part to me is the part focused on Masons image of themselves and the Craft which is what is excerpted below. (A MSA video follows that.)

Facing the Facts and Accepting the Challenge

“Freemasonry evolved from 18th century European enlightened thinking. Today, Masonry is shaped by the 19th century concept of social benevolence and the 20th century emphasis on ritual as the completion of a Mason’s education about the fraternity.”
— MIC Task Force

In order to evaluate present-day Freemasonry, we had to assess the Fraternity’s strengths and weaknesses. The Task Force proceeded methodically to question Masonry’s past, present and future. We asked a series of penetrating questions, listed our findings, and then completed each section with a summary formed by observations and conclusions. In order to properly determine a course of action for a Masonic Public Awareness Program, we believe it imperative that we understand, as a fraternity, where we have been, where we are today, and what happened in the intervening years.

Forthright answers to the questions we posed did not come easily and required an enormous amount of soul searching and critical evaluation.

Much of the data used in this report came from United States sources because those were the ones most readily available and accessible to our Task Force. We have pointed out where data was specifically from a United States source, but we have reason to believe that data from Canada would be almost identical.

For instance, there were no Canadian membership statistics available to us unless we laboriously went through, year by year, the figures from each Grand Lodge to determine if the same trends occurred as in the United States. Because we have had many discussions with Canadian Masons, there is no doubt in the minds of the Task Force that the data trends are the same.

So this report needs to be considered in the context of North America, including the United States and Canada, even though, on occasion, we list a United States source.

Exploring the patterns of Masonry

The deliberations of the Task Force were lengthy and lively. Below are the questions that guided the discussions and the summaries of our findings.


1. What has Freemasonry done in the past?

For a fraternity that is centuries old, this question is extremely significant. It asks how Freemasonry developed and what Masonic affiliation meant to Masons of an earlier time. The Freemasons of the 1700s set a very high standard. In the late 1700s, Freemasons helped build two new nations founded on Masonic principles.

Patriots chose to help create the United States; Loyalists chose to help strengthen Canada. Both groups had many Masons in their midst. For detailed information, we turned to the historians on our Task Force who led a review of our Masonic past. The key points and summaries are listed below.

In the past, Freemasonry accomplished the following:
  • Provided camaraderie
  • Created elite status
  • Served as a stepping stone to military, arts, business and social contacts
  • Attracted leaders to its membership

Guilds of Masons (early labor unions) probably originated in Scotland in the 1600s. Early Masons concentrated on the following tasks:
  • Protecting workers’ interests
  • Helping Masonic families
  • Operating lodges
  • Opening lodges to non-stonemasons
  • Formally ritualizing the method of creating new members

In colonial America, Freemasonry provided leadership during the American Revolution and throughout the nation’s history. It also provided a moral philosophy relevant to the individual and to communities. In early America, Freemasonry:
  • Promoted a philanthropic focus supporting fraternal kinship.
  • Inspired authors to create a body of popular literature, offering satiric views, i.e. Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain.
  • Stimulated thought consistent with Masonic values. Lodges became sites of Revolutionary debating, responding to contemporary thought.

We looked for historical trends that reshaped our Masonic identity. We found several pivotal events:
  • (Speculative) Freemasonry evolved into and eventually from 18th century European enlightened thinking.
  • In the late 1800s, Victorian values influenced Masonic priorities both in Europe and North America by placing emphasis on heightening social awareness and stressing social idealism.
  • Twentieth-century Freemasonry sustained Victorian idealism and reinforced philanthropic emphasis of fraternity.
  • During World War II, President Truman said that men should join the Masonic fraternity before going to war, which reinforced a rise in Masonic membership.
  • Masonic tradition became locked in ritual as an end, not as a simply part of a process.
  • Today Masonry is shaped by the 19th century concept of social benevolence and the 20th century emphasis on ritual as the completion of a Mason’s education about the fraternity. (Structured study rather and focus on the ritual but not the free intellectual inquiry that will rise independently in the worthy candidate.)

 One thing that tells me a company is in trouble is when they tell me how good they were in the past. Same with countries. You don’t want to forget your identity. I am glad you were great in the 14th century, but that was then and this is now. When memories exceed dreams, the end is near.


2. What is currently happening within Freemasonry?

Obviously, this question has no right or wrong answers because—like public opinion—it asks for personal perceptions and observations. The Task Force members agreed that there were and are tensions inherent in our organization today, including but not limited to the following perceptions:
  • There is a slight movement toward wanting to educate the public about the fraternity.
  • There is recognition that traditional communications tools have failed to heighten public awareness.
  • The inclusion of family members at Masonic events has produced mixed results.
  • Masonry is no longer identified as an elite organization.
  • There are disagreements regarding priorities of financial commitments to Masonic buildings and charitable obligations versus starting new programs.
  • Current Masons generally do not understand the true meaning of our fraternity.
  • A reliance on historic heroes inhibits Masons from achieving contemporary significance. 

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