It has been more than a year since the first OVERTURE Seminar and more than 1,400 Masons in Pennsylvania have heard the same story over and over.

Better get your skills together as the leader of your lodge or the results will be more of the same.

Now, that's not a great way to start a Saturday, either as the participant or the facilitator; but, for Masons in Pennsylvania, it's been a way of life during the year of OVERTURE.

Only a few years ago, one could look across an audience of a hundred or more Masons and see the stares of resistance from almost all. Not so today! Thanks to a general re-awakening of the importance of some right things, and the recent influx of young men eager to make a difference, some lodges are making real progress toward the future.

To view it from afar, it doesn't seem dramatic. A lodge partners with a local non-profit group to provide community services; another lodge uses a ladies' night as an occasion to host a really special event. A lodge in the western part of the state decides to make a difference with youth sports and gets a lot of parents asking, "Who are these guys?" And, in eastern Pennsylvania, Isaac Hiester Lodge No. 660, Reading, adopts Jacksonwald Elementary School and makes news that attracts two dozen men to submit petitions for

It's not that Masons hated the idea of renewing their lodges. It was more that the change process was simply too painful. Remember, those who are currently the leaders in many lodges simply like things the way they have been, or they would have done things differently a long time ago.

Along comes Who Moved My Cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson, co-author of the famous One-Minute Manager. That latest book, according to the Masons who have read it -- an overwhelming number of OVERTURE participants have read it more than once -- say that the latest book "was written for us and about us and we need to take a lesson about the joys of finding new cheese."

The leader of a lodge in Pennsylvania, may find the job of turning his lodge toward the millennium too daunting a task to do alone. That's why every participating OVERTURE lodge is asked to appoint a membership chairman, form a team, and turn the team loose on the issue of member attraction, enrollment, and satisfaction. The chairman will need the leader's support -- but what a difference one man and a really good team can make.

Lodge membership chairmen seeking help with programs can turn to their respective District Membership Chairman and to 75+ Ways to Attract and Retain Members. The manual is like the Boy Scout Handbook: read only what you need at the time and save the rest for later.

O.K.! So, the Summer is supposed to be for vacations, time off, and relaxing with a good book. For the person looking at the prospects of four or more months in the East or an officer wondering about his plans for the future, the time can be put to really good use.

"It's a perfect time for planning," said R.W. Grand Master James L. Ernette. "Because many lodges do not meet in the Summer, we can get a lot of planning and good thinking done. With a Fall filled with activity, we encourage every Master to meet with his team and try to develop a plan and budget for the lodge. I do that with my business; we do that at Grand Lodge; and I don't see how a lodge can get away with anything less."

Lodges looking for help in planning can turn to their local library or they can use one of the Masonic Renewal Committee of North America's books, including the popular A Masonic Leaders Planning Guide ­ a seven step approach to planning and budgeting.

The Grand Lodge Overture Planning Team, consisting of Grand Master Ernette; G. Kent Hackney, Deputy Chief of Staff; David O. Meachen, Administrator; and Dudley Davis, Consultant, are using the summer to plan the Fall Conductor Series. Some of the topics being developed are: A report on the hard facts about becoming a Mason in Pennsylvania; the role of the Worshipful Master and his team in new member enrollment and retention; effective communication; and opportunities for the lodge.

Masons, and others reading this, will realize that we are halfway through the last year in this millennium and on the verge of a new century. What an opportunity to pause and think about what the future may hold in your life, with your family, and in your lodge. What a perfect opportunity to get control of events that shape how we spend time and concentrate on making a difference. The time will never be better. Why not ask yourself the millennium-shift question: "What is there about my old life at the end of this century that I can most afford to do without and what new behaviors must I embrace to thrive in the future ­ beginning today?"

You'll be surprised at the things you will think about.

Fall Series Schedule

The sessions for the Fall OVERTURE Series will be:

Sept. 1
Allentown, Holiday Inn Conference Center

Sept. 18
Pittsburgh (South-Region 4), Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Center

Oct. 2
State College, Penn State Conference Center

Oct. 6
Pittsburgh (North-Region 5), Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Center

Oct 23
Philadelphia, Twelve Caesars

Oct. 30
Oil City, Holiday Inn

Nov. 13
Wilkes-Barre, Woodlands Inn

Nov. 20
Harrisburg, Harrisburg Marriott