"Carbon Lodge No.16 and Joppa Lodge No.26 Oration" Gavin K. K. Wardrope, W. Grand Orator
As always it is a pleasure to be here in Carbon Country amongst the good Masons of Price.
A few short weeks ago I was approached by a Mason who is a Member here who enquired why are Grand Lodge not doing more to promote Masonry here in Price as, in his opinion, the Lodges in this area are struggling for Membership. As the Deputy Grand Master was in my company I swiftly passed him over to him to reply.
I do not know if that Member was satisfied by the Deputy Grand Masters reply but it got me thinking, not to the answer to the question, but more as to get to the reason for his concerns.
Brethren, why is Freemasonry struggling here in this area? The nearest Lodges are over an hour away, the Masons here, I am sure, are well known and respected in and about the local Community and I am sure the majority of people living here are aware that this is a Masonic Lodge Building.
Are there men living in this Community that do not fit our idea of Masons?
Have we got to the stage where we, as Freemasons ourselves, have the right to deny access to our ancient fraternity to men who would in other time or place be capable Masons?
I wish to quote the following; "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."- Charles Darwin
Are these not powerful words from a great man who, in some quarters, is vilified for his theories today?
Why are we so afraid to change? Change has been occurring since time began. "Change" is the bogeyman that ceaselessly plagues Freemasonry. Depending on whom you ask, either society changed and Freemasonry failed to adapt, or Freemasonry changed too much and compromised its traditions. Here is a little secret: both statements are true. The correct question, however, is not, 'should we change, but what should we change.'
Change is simply a brutal fact of life, and Freemasonry must face the brutal facts and learn to adapt if it expects to survive. But, in adapting, we must also have a firm grasp on what not to change. And, to do this, we need to articulate what it is about Freemasonry that should never change; for, once knowing this, we are then liberated to aggressively change everything else.
Without question, we should never compromise on our principles, and this is why we should never attempt to change into "something someone else wants us to be." Our core principles should be, by their very nature, timeless and unchanging. But Freemasonry, like every institution, must always grapple with the difficult question of what we should change in response to a changing world, and what should never change no matter the cost. We must know the difference between what is sacred, and what is not; between what should never change, and what should be always open for change; between, quite simply, "what we stand for" and "how we do things."
It may be surprising to learn that our Craft has been changing since its very formation. It is bitterly ironic that a society founded on a new style of thinking that dramatically changed the world is now itself a prisoner of its own dogmatic and stagnant traditions.
On June 24, 1717 the landscape of Freemasonry was fundamentally changed by the formation of the Grand Lodge of England. We now have one day classes and a new Master Mason can become a 32nd Degree Mason in a couple of days, all change.
Change is essential for survival, but we must know what to change, and equally importantly, what to preserve.
So, what should we not change?
We have, for centuries, believed that the premise of making good men better should be the fundamental belief of our institution. We allow through our doors and admit to our privileges worthy men of various creeds and classes. How can we make good on these premises if we deny them the very distinction we espouse? Freemasonry is the only organization that can claim a centuries-old tradition of attracting the finest minds from all races, faiths, creeds, and nations to lead the world to a better tomorrow. Now that sounds to me to be something worth preserving.
So, let us see if we can agree on what we cannot change. I am sure if we go round this this room there would be many different answers. However, let me go first. The following are my beliefs and must never, in my opinion, be altered; they are the foundation stones of our Fraternity.
We must never allow changing the belief that no man can become a Mason without a belief in a Supreme Being; inclusiveness as well as selectivity; toleration that transcends partisan politics and sectarian religion; an educational tradition that teaches progressive thinking; integrity in thought, word, and deed. They are found in our cardinal virtues: Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice. The simple words "brotherly love, relief, and truth" also elegantly capture much of our core values. We mention them throughout our Degrees but we never expand on them, they are just words on a page, we must educate our Brethren of who we are and what we stand for.
Am I advocating that we should be elitist? Yes I am. You know why? Because that is what we have always professed. I am not that naÃ¯ve to suggest that we close our doors to men because we are superior and deserve preferential treatment. I am suggesting elitist in the form of being dedicated to the freedom of thought, expression, and belief and open to all regardless of race, faith, creed, or nationality.
Now, what could we change?
For example, we could save valuable time by distributing minutes, committee reports, and Grand Lodge communications to members in advance (either physically or electronically) instead of reciting them aloud. Many such practices have a life of their own because they "are the way things have always been done," having gained a false aura of importance by the mere passage of time. Freemasonry should respect its members' valuable time.
Is memorization skill so important that Members are judged on their leadership abilities with being able to memorize most if not all the Ritual? How many potential good leaders have we turned away because of our insistence that each leader must also be a proficient lecturer in order to be qualified to serve?
Also, is the cypher so important to us? I am sure that if one wanted to at the click of a button the cypher text can be found online in full; however, we cling to the insistence that the cypher is so important; I have seen 20 minutes of numbing discussion over a single letter, why, what difference does it make?
Brethren, I could continue on this vein indefinitely, but I finally wish to talk about the elephant in the room, that is Social Media. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and ignore it. Social Media is here to stay and goodness knows with technology the way it is going goodness knows what it will look like in 10 or even 5 years. Therefore, we must apply safeguards and my opinion is the best safeguard of all, being more restrictive at the West Gate.
If we properly investigate Candidates, showing them that this is a Society by which fulfillment can be gained by actively taking part in a vibrant fellowship of like-minded individuals, the future will be brighter.
However, we cannot close our minds to progress. Look at this small item, a mobile phone; I have access to everything I could ever wish for at my fingertips. It is something I never would have thought possible, so let us put our safeguards into place, but use the technology to our advantage.
In conclusion, the great Temple of Solomon is the perfect symbol for Freemasonry. Like it, our Temple has been laid waste by the ruthless hand of ignorance, the devastations of war, and the unsparing ravages of barbarous force. But, the destruction of Solomon's Temple did not destroy the Jewish people or their culture; they and their culture thrive in spite of the loss. Their ultimate triumph serves as an example for the potential to build a growing network of new masonic lodges, all working to call the very best people together to labor for the betterment of all humanity. A Freemasonry for the 21st Century!
I wish to leave you with this thought from the play 'Inherit the Wind'; Brady: "Why is it, my old friend that you have moved so far away from me?" Drummund: "All motion is relative. Perhaps it is you who have moved away-by standing still."
Most Worshipful Grand Master I, once again, thank you for allowing me to say these few words and enjoy the rest of your visitation.
Fraternally, Gavin KK Wardrope PM Grand Orator July 26, 2013