At the time that this On-line Edition of The Pennsylvania Freemason was completed, nearly a thousand Masons representing the leadership of more than half of the lodges in Pennsylvania, had attended four of the eight Overture sessions planned statewide and offered enthusiastic feedback. "Overture" is the recognized identification for Grand Master Ernette's Program for Membership Development and Membership Retention Through Excellence in Leadership.

The first of the dialogue sessions was held in Philadelphia on Feb. 28, with subsequent programs in State College on March 7; Oil City on March 14; and Fogelsville on March 21. The remaining sessions were to be held in Wilkes-Barre, April 4; Harrisburg, April 18; and Pittsburgh, April 25 and May 2.

For six hours at each of the get-togethers, the leaders among Pennsylvania Masons explored, debated, questioned, and accepted a new definition of their roles as leaders of their lodges. By attending these seminars, they are being helped to discover new skills that will be required of them for their lodges to succeed in the 21st Century and they will be receiving the tools and materials that will help to make them successful.

Grand Master Ernette has attended most of the sessions and expressed the same kind of enthusiasm shown by the participants. Reiterating his membership development and retention goal as "Net Zero for 1998," the Grand Master said, "First, we have to stop the bleeding, that is, turn around the decline; then we have to keep our members by offering programs and services they want." As a businessman, he sees a solution in providing customer service principles to the Fraternity. He points out to the leaders of lodges, "The new member is your new customer."

The Overture Program is designed to make lodge leaders aware of their new responsibilities in member services and satisfaction. Among the topics covered were: A look at who are those men called members. How are customers and members alike -- and different? Who's in charge of member relations? What's your role as the elected leader? What are the right choices you can consider? What to do when your programs need fixing.

Bringing together the lodge leaders in these seminars was the result of outstanding support by 58 District Membership Chairmen who assisted the lodges in arranging to send three representatives, comprising the Senior Warden, Junior Warden, and one brother charged with membership development. To enable the District Chairmen to guide the lodge leaders, they first attended day-long Overture seminars during January.

The Overture Series in the Spring will be followed by the Conductor's Series in the Fall, when the leaders will learn important lodge management skills.

Philadelphia's First Overture Session
G. Kent Hackney, P.D.D.G.M., Deputy Chief of Staff of Grand Lodge Operations and Director of the Overture Program, passes the microphone to one of the participants in the first seminar in Philadelphia. At right, R.W. Grand Master James L. Ernette observes while Anthony J. Garvey (standing), Chief of Staff of Grand Lodge Operations, looks on.