Today, we present part four of our MEGHP’s 10-part commentary on ideas to rejuvenate and restore Freemasonry here in Illinois, with a special emphasis on Capitular Freemasonry. These essays are based on Texan Brother Lance Kennedy’s, “10 Propositions for Texan Freemasonry.” You can read his whole article here.
Brother Kennedy’s fourth point in his essay is entitled “Academia,” and discusses the need and justification of lodges that originate at college and university campuses. His argument is that the close proximity of the student and “collegiate pride” could very likely yield lodges that would attract and maintain a membership of active and interested college-aged men. The lodge would also allow alumni, faculty, and staff in addition to students.
Many examples of success were given in Brother Kennedy’s post, including Harvard University’s Harvard Lodge, Apollo Lodge at Oxford, and Isaac Newton Lodge at Cambridge. These — and other — academia lodges meet with great success and are, according to Brother Kennedy, examples of how to attract and retain Millennials to the lodge.
I think I’ve had the discussion about college and university lodges with every Grand Master here in Illinois in the past ten years. Living in a college town — DeKalb — home to Northern Illinois University, we have had moderate success — when the effort is made — to bring in college members. Yes, they almost always leave the area when their time at school is done, but most go on to be members of other lodges.
When we were heavily “recruiting” college students (during my year as Worshipful Master) at DeKalb Lodge, almost all who came out desired three things: Local involvement in the community, such as fundraising and charity; a desire to pay their “fair share” of dues (and they were frankly shocked ours were so low!); and fellowship through a mentoring relationship. It is this last point — the distinct age between our “typical” Mason these days and the age of our college/university prospects. Our fraternity is uniquely situated to give these young men one of the things they most desire — a paternal figure who can guide them, give them advice, and not provide harsh judgment.
To me, a successful college- or university-based lodge (or Chapter!) would partner with a local lodge (or Chapter) and initially draw some Masons in as plural members, helping to get the organization started. Then, perhaps faculty and staff could provide a permanent “backbone” of membership, but, instead of 12-month terms for officers, 6-month terms could be considered. The “local” lodge or chapter could partner with their academic counterpart for conferring degrees, events, fundraisers, and activities.
We are sadly ignoring concentrations of just the type of members we all seem to want in our lodges and other Masonic Bodies — those in their late teens to mid-20s. They are waiting, wanting to join the fraternity. Like the Entered Apprentice, we need only make the first step.