Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Province of East Kent, United Grand Lodge of England
Permanent Correspondent for MASONIC FORUM Magazine in England
In my last letter I talked about the development of communication channels through the ages and how modern communications media enable us to engage directly and effectively with our brethren – wherever they may be. Those media – most especially digital and social media – also provide us with an amazing opportunity to engage positively with those who are not Masons.
To enable us to fully embrace this incredible opportunity to promote and explain our raison d’etre to the world at large, we must first commit ourselves to a frank and honest openness about our Fraternity. That can be a difficult process for the very many brethren who have experienced and witnessed the irrational and extremely violent persecution of Freemasonry by generations of dictators and oppressors. I have discussed in a previous letter the enormous effect that the threat of Naziism had upon English Freemasonry in the late 1930s and into the 1940s, which then developed into a culture of secrecy for subsequent generations of Masons. In Romania, of course, you will have far more recent memories of state oppression. This magazine has served you well (and continues to do so) as a very important tool for promoting the goodness of Freemasonry to an otherwise misinformed – and habitually hostile – public, and it is precisely that kind of candid openness that we must all adopt, individually and institutionally, if we, as an international fraternity, are to prove to the world the happy and beneficial effects of membership.
Here in England, we have recently embarked upon a professional, well-planned and well-executed press and publicity campaign, to promote openness to the general public.
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) first commissioned an independent research organisation, The Social Issues Research Centre, to produce an objective, third-party report entitled “The Future of Freemasonry”. The report explored, through classic research methods, the relevance of Freemasonry in the modern world; it concluded unequivocally that if: “…its (Freemasonry) central features (brotherly love, relief and truth) are retained to preserve the true ‘spirit’ of Freemasonry, then its future may well be assured – for the next century or two at least!” The report is a comprehensive exploration of the fraternity and how it engages with the communities around it. It was carried out objectively by non-Masons.
That report was then circulated to members of the press – newspapers and broadcast media – across the whole of the country, which led to a broadcasting tour by Nigel Brown, The Grand Secretary, where he was interviewed at length by broadcast journalists from a wide range of radio stations. The report also led to many other interviews around the country of Provincial Grand Masters and their teams. For example, I was personally interviewed by an Investigative Journalist from the largest regional newspaper in the South East of England, which itself led to the publishing of a very positive article about Freemasonry.
The whole essence of the PR campaign has been to dispel the public myth that Freemasonry is a “secret society” by promoting openness and inviting questions and discussion about the fraternity; questions about our aims, our ceremonies, our structure. All questions are answered with openness and candour.
So, it is this spirit of openness, which must prevail if we are to be effective in our use of the new digital and social media. Yes, of course we must be thoughtful about the manner in which we express ourselves, but that is one of the great lessons taught to us all by Freemasonry; that we should at all times conduct ourselves with modesty and correctness. It is that quiet integrity, which speaks volumes about the beneficial effect of membership. The modern world has more need than ever before of compassion (brotherly love) altruistic care (relief) and integrity (truth).
With those lessons constantly in mind, let us embrace this opportunity to harness the potential power of blogging, Facebook, and Twitter to extend our worthy and worthwhile messages to the wider world. Explain our raison d’etre, invite questions, provide answers. Dispel the myths. Help the hitherto misinformed doubters to accept Freemasonry as a worthy and virtuous organisation.
Let us utilise those channels to communicate regularly with one another, exchanging thoughts and ideas, commenting on the meanings expressed allegorically in our ancient ceremonies, seeking local assistance for brethren and dependents in need of help. Let us delight in the warmth and sense of belonging that our membership of this international fraternity affords us all.
There are many additional opportunities, in addition to the internet and social media channels, for us to engage with people within our communities. For example, our Lodges can open their doors to members of the public from time to time. Such “Open Days” provide an opportunity for interested members of the public to spend some time exploring the Lodge Room and asking questions, which provides the local Lodge members an opportunity to answer questions, reassure people and explain what they enjoy about their own membership. Another way of engaging members of local communities on a face-to-face basis, is to have a presence at community events such as town fairs, craft shows, etc., with a small marquee with display boards and information leaflets, or a fitted-out exhibition trailer. Let those people see you as an integral part of their local communities. Give them the opportunity to talk to you about Freemasonry. Embrace the opportunity to dispel the myths. As a result, you will probably also begin to recruit good men to join local Lodges, who would otherwise have remained ill-informed and opposed to Freemasonry.
It is very clear to me that all of these communication channels – traditional press and broadcast, digital and social media, face-to-face engagement at events – can and should be fully utilised by us in our endeavours to dispel the myths, correct the historical misinformation, gain the widespread trust and acceptance of our communities, and attract good men of quality to join our Lodges. In fact, it is absolutely essential that we do just that!
It all begins, however, with a will and a commitment to be open and public about our fellowship.
Until next time, my friends