The organizers and presenters for the Partners for Progress Seminar are (l-r): A. J. Garvey, Chief of Staff, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania; G. Kent Hackney, Deputy Chief of Staff; Bro. Dudley Davis, Consultant and Facilitator; Ms. Debra Moxley, Executive Director of the Westmoreland Council, Girl Scouts of America; and James L. Ernette, R.W. Grand Master.
It was an "exhilarating day" on Feb. 6 when 35 leaders of Freemasonry and appendant bodies Grand Lodge, Shrine, Scottish Rite, York Rite, Tall Cedars, and Grotto met in the new Samuel C. Williamson Multimedia Center on the Patton Campus in Elizabethtown.
"The Partners for Progress Seminar was the first held anywhere in North America, as far as we can tell," said R.W. Grand Master James L. Ernette. "It was designed to see if the leaders of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania could agree that there needed to be a unified effort designed to stop the losses of members by developing a strategic plan for the future."
The seminar was facilitated by Bro. Dudley Davis, the consultant for the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and its effective OVERTURE program. Partners for Progress was viewed by some as a risky venture in light of its never having been done before. "Actually, I was looking forward to the meeting," said Bro. Davis. "It was a rare chance to make an impassioned plea to a group of men who had the capacity to make a unified effort for renewal of the Craft if they would only agree that continuity of purpose was essential. Judging from the reactions and the reception of the ideas of a unified plan for the future, we may have accomplished our goal. However, only time will tell.
"Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master Robert L. Dluge, Jr., said that the concept of cooperation among all the leadership of Freemasonry is necessary, as is their collective efforts to unify the fraternity in working toward common goals."
R.W. Senior Grand Warden Marvin A. Cunningham, Sr., and R.W. Junior Grand Warden William Slater II agreed, "We need to keep this moving. We can't afford to let this stop. We're going to have to keep this enthusiasm rolling."
Masons Learn from Girl Scouts
Ms. Debra Moxley, Executive Director of the Westmoreland County Girl Scouts, addressed the Brethren and shared what the Girl Scouts have been doing to get their membership to grow. She told them, "The same ideas that you are hearing today about the importance of meeting your members' needs are what we heard in the Girls Scouts. There were some who said the girls wanted to learn to cook and sew; but we thought there was more to it than that and asked the girls what they wanted. And, we got an earful!" Moxley said that by listening to members and analyzing their needs and providing benefits to joiners, the Girl Scouts had grown over the last five years at a rate unlike many other organizations.
The Message is Clear
So, what is the message of "Partners for Progress?" It boils down to three points:
1. Men need to find Freemasonry more appealing and more in line with their needs when they join.
2. We need to change the way we treat members in all Masonic organizations, cooperate with one another, and build a helpful strategy for the future.
3. No plan will work for only one year. Continuity of a vision and a strategy for the future is imperative for our survival.
Look for more about "Partners for Progress" in future issues of The Pennsylvania Freemason.
Leaders from the Grand Lodge and the various appendant organizations of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania met in the new Williamson Multimedia Center to discuss unified strategy for the Craft in the future.