On the Road to Membership Recovery
Friend-to-Friend dialogs in lodges across the state are fostering an understanding of Freemasonry in our communities that can lead the Fraternity along the road to membership recovery. Achievements so far in 2002 confirm progress. Forecasts for more Friend-to-Friend activities in the Fall signal a promise for achieving or even surpassing the break-even membership goal.
"There is good reason for optimism," said John E. Adams, Jr., Chairman of the Grand Lodge Membership Committee and leader of Operation Rescue/Recovery. "I'm gratified by how enthusiastically so many of the districts have charged into the program," he said. "There are districts where all of the lodges have hosted Friend-to-Friend programs and among the rest of the districts, except for one or two, a good percentage of the lodges have presented programs."
"It works," says James A. O'Connor, D.D.G.M., 21st Masonic District. "There's a lot of excitement among the brethren . . . all seven of the lodges had programs this Spring and will again in the Fall and we'll have them again in 2003. Half those guests who attended this Spring sought a Masonic friend to be a recommender."
Bro. O'Connor gave his opinion as to why the program is effective: "Every lodge is at liberty to 'do their own thing' in setting up the meetings within the guidelines. Many of the brethren are eager to join in hosting the guests and want to join in presenting the program. They find the discussions are not only interesting for those who are not Masons, but also enlightening for themselves."
According to G. Kent Hackney, P.D.D.G.M. and Director for Region 1, "This is a simplistic program that generates its own results. At first, the master of one lodge was concerned about solicitation; but the established agenda that stresses Friend-to-Friend dialog and answering questions for those who are not Masons, puts that concern to rest. That lodge had excellent Friend-to-Friend meetings and over the following six weeks 11 friends sought petitions."
It's the same story in the 6th Masonic District according to Hal E. Zweiback, D.D.G.M., who described the typical program as ". . . successful in terms of the guests' high level of interest. The dialog was stimulating . . . especially when (the guests are) in the lodge room where there is a question and answer session. After the 'Tools of the Craft' video is shown, there is another question and answer session, which again commands high interest and involvement."
Bro. Zweiback said, "It's really a great experience for the Masons, too. I note how excited the brethren are when they make presentations and answer questions. They learn as much from the interchange as do the guests."
Thomas R. Reich, P.D.D.G.M., Area Chairman for Regions 3 and 6, remarked: "When the program was announced, some asked, 'How do I do that?' But, when the program was explained and the materials provided, they found that the format is so simple that, with easy organization and personal enthusiasm, it clicks like clockwork and it's fun.
"Brethren really do have fun explaining their lodge to their neighbors to those people who had no idea what those men dressed in tuxedos do. At a Friend-to-Friend get-together, the answer to one question leads to another question and that answer leads to another. Instantly, there is a genuine interest and a wholesome dialog."
"It has been a total commitment and a really positive experience in the 49th Masonic District," said John W. Hisiro, D.D.G.M. All of the lodges in the district have hosted Friend-to-Friend meetings. He reported that the eight lodges have hosted 22 men who were not Masons, 14 of whom were accompanied by their ladies. He explained that the whole family is welcome to the program that lasts 35 to 40 minutes, followed by refreshments.
Every Mason can help his lodge along the road to recovery simply by cultivating an understanding about Freemasonry among his friends and neighbors. Personal contact, with the Friend-to-Friend brochure as a tool, is the best way to talk to a friend about the values of Freemasonry and create a congenial opportunity to invite him to a sociable meeting at your lodge. If you need Friend-to-Friend brochures, just ask your lodge Secretary. At the same time, why not put a petition form or two in your pocket so you're prepared to help your friend when he comes back and asks to become a Mason.