|Volume LVIII||August 2011||Number 3|
The Grand Master's Q & A
Changing Our Image
At a parade, Grand Master Sturgeon poses with a tractor similar to the one he operated in his youth.
Q: How important is it for Freemasonry to be more visible in our communities?
A: I truly believe that the leaders of our gentle craft must make it a priority to shed the aura of secrecy and make our fraternity more open and transparent. Over the years, Masons have faded from the public eye and lost their significance within the community. Public awareness of Masonry begins at the grassroots level. Individually and through our lodges, we must be visible in the community and demonstrate the importance of Masonic values in every aspect of our lives.
Our fraternity is frequently misunderstood and misrepresented in the press and by religious critics. In order to improve our public image, we need to clarify it by educating others through not only our words, but also our actions. The Masonic fraternity should be known as a serious men's organization - an inclusive brotherhood providing camaraderie, trust and support - that emphasizes individual excellence and advocates for the well being of others.
Mohandas Gandhi advised, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." If we truly want to make a difference in our communities and within our fraternity, we must be committed to making necessary changes, beginning with ourselves. While it is not in our nature or our heritage to tout our many good deeds, we need to remember that if we don't tell people what Freemasonry is all about, they will never know!Q: How do you respond to those who think that it is important to carry on as we have for the past 280 years, remaining private and reserved?
A: The whole world has changed dramatically over the past 280 years: our government, our churches, our military, our technology and our lifestyles. How can we assume that we don't need to change with it? The proof is in our membership numbers; they did not increase until last year, when we committed to the 21st Century Masonic Renaissance and made some necessary, long overdue changes. Our membership decline over the past 50 years is merely a symptom of the loss of Masonry's relevance to our busy lifestyles and our communities.
Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him." For too long, we have taken our fraternity's identity and reputation for granted. We've ridden on the coattails of former prominent brothers' successes and Freemasonry's immense influence in the past, and have been blinded to the challenges of the present. We've placed our Masonic obligations in the back seat and weakened our commitment to achieving our own distinction as a thriving, benevolent fraternity of moral, compassionate men who are core to the fabric of our society. We have allowed the general public to forget (in fact, perhaps we've forgotten ourselves) how we enrich the quality of life for our members, families and communities.
The public's perception and opinion of Freemasonry is often based on insufficient information. It is our responsibility to educate them about Freemasonry and show through our actions what it means to live a principled Masonic life. If we don't communicate effectively in this technologically-driven world, people will make assumptions based on what they hear and see in the media. I think we owe it to ourselves, the forefathers of this great fraternity and to the public at large to make sure Freemasonry is better understood, more pervasive and well promoted.Q: What do you think is gained by being so open with the fraternity?
A: I believe that the greatest membership development tools we can use are to be visible in our communities, to continue to offer assistance to those in need, to support our aged and our young, and to show the world that we enjoy having fun while still remaining committed to our ancient but beautiful traditions. If we do this, men will see us for who we really are and will want to join and be one of us.
Someone once said, "A rose only becomes beautiful and blesses others when it opens up and blooms. Its greatest tragedy is to stay in a tight-closed bud, never fulfilling its potential." Is our Masonic fraternity any different? I think not. Let's share this wonderful fraternity with the world and return our membership to the grandeur of its prime!Q: What have you done differently to make Freemasonry more visible in our communities?
A: I have continued to encourage all of our lodges to have open houses to enable the community to see behind those previously closed doors. We have built a beautiful parade float (pictured below) which we will display in at least six major parades throughout Pennsylvania this year. The parades will have scores of lodge and appendant body officers marching with us, showing the world who we are and what we stand for. We have had church services where we, as Masons, worship together in the regular weekly church service to show our friends and neighbors that we are regular men of God.
We have had more newspaper articles about our fraternity in the last few years than ever before. We are being recognized for putting our Masonic values into action within our communities. Many of these efforts also have been featured in this magazine. Through community service, others see and experience that Freemasonry is rewarding, enriching and relevant to its members, their families and the greater community. Bro. Danny Thomas said, "Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others." I couldn't agree more.
Q: Last month, ladies were featured on the cover of "The Pennsylvania Freemason." What reaction did you receive?
A: At first, I was not certain what I would receive, but in the end, it was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, so much so, that in this issue we are recognizing more of our ladies who do so much for us. Freemasonry is a men's organization, but it could not exist without the commitment of our wives and significant ladies in our lives. Bro. Harry S. Truman wisely said, "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." Thanks to our supportive ladies, much gets done behind the scenes - hard work, hours of volunteer efforts and selfless service - all without any expectation of reward or the recognition they deserve.
Q: Is there going to be a One Day Masonic Journey again in 2011?
A: Even with the popularity of last year's One Day Masonic Journey, we learned that just as many men enjoy the traditional process of joining the fraternity. Therefore, while we will not be hosting a statewide event this year, we have made some special accommodations for those men who desire to join but who are challenged by the traditional process due to their busy schedules and commitments. Regional One Day Masonic Journeys are being held across the Commonwealth on various dates and at several locations. If you know of someone who fits this description, contact your District Deputy Grand Master or Lodge Secretary for information on an event near you.
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