Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library

Pietre-Stones Rivista di Massoneria: brief history of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales

How Masonry in New South Wales will enter into the Third Millennium
With a brief history of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales.
by W.Bro. Juan Carlos Alvarez, PJGW

Australia is changing very fast, and as the next millennium approaches we areemerging as a nation with a very sophisticated economy.We will be entering into our third millennium in a few years time. For Australiain general and for NSW in particular, this event is going to be enhanced by theparticipation of the City of Sydney, hosting the year 2000 Olympic Games.This is a golden opportunity for the Freemasons of New South Wales toparticipate in this magnificent event, and to improve the lines of communicationwith the community at large in an endeavour to obtain a high profile, and berecognised throughout the community as a worthy and acceptable organisation.Freemasonry is an institution of laudable principles and teaches that the rulesof propriety tend to provide an incentive for all that is good. These principlesare not new and are universal insofar as they are applicable to anycircumstances of time, place or form. Its intrinsic value depends, not on theperson or institution enunciating or implementing them, but on the principlesthemselves. This presents a powerful reason to raise our moral authority toenable us to administer those principles. Organised Freemasonry in nearly threecenturies of existence has suffered many changes, but its essence is immutableand its objectives of improving the intellectual and spiritual values of itsmembers remain unchanged. However, there is no doubt that we are at dangerouscross roads in the world at the moment, a world which is moving extremely fastwith so many rapid changes, and not all for the better.Everyday we are able to see more of the economic upheavals that are plaguing theworld economies, and I venture to say, the decaying of moral issues. In the last50 years we have certainly advanced in the technological field, but regretfullyregressed in moral values; however, we have to remember that the moral andethical teachings of Freemasonry have not altered and will always be part of ademocratic and civilized society. Is there a pattern, in which the greater arethe technological advances, the less is the moral fabric of our society?. Thedrop in our membership may run parallel with this trend. This is something thatwe cannot ignore as it may be seen as being indifferent to the communitysurrounding us. Today we find more people out of work, some of whom have noincentive to find jobs and are willing to depend on the social services providedin many of the developed countries.If we are going to undertake a comprehensive study of the last Two Millennia,and of our entry into the Third, perhaps we can apply this study to Freemasonryin New South Wales. If one may be allowed to use poetic licence, I would like tocompare our first 50 years of existence, from 1888 to 1938, with the firstmillennium, and our second 50 years as a Grand Lodge, from 1938 to our Centenaryin 1988, with our second millennium. From then on, namely 1988, one may be ableto see how this Jurisdiction started to prepare for the future; the equivalentto our entry into the Third Millennium. It was in this particular year, duringthe celebration of our Centenary that steps were taken to catapult the UnitedGrand Lodge of NSW into the next century, as will be explained later. In thefirst millennium of the era Anno Domini, or Common Era for those not religiouslybiassed, literacy was very low and reading and writing were confined to the veryhigh classes and the clergy. The laws of the Kingdom were released orally bymeans of the herald, and as there were no newspapers, television, or radio, thenews and edicts were passed around mainly by hearsay and rumours, therefore inmany instances the news became badly distorted. What we know today of the firstmillennium is unfortunally not a complete and accurate historical picture of thereality, but is largely based on accounts of unreliable witness, speculation,and shreds of information passed to us mainly by well intentioned means.Brief history of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales

Tracing the history of our " First Millennium& ", or the first 50 years of theUnited Grand Lodge of New South Wales, would represent a much simpler task,since it started in 1888, and it is based on more accurate sources able toproduce a more realistic view. Masonry in New South Wales is relatively young,as we have just celebrated our Centenary in 1988. The foundation of the UnitedGrand Lodge of NSW took place in 1888, but the history of Masonry in NSW has anearly beginning.The earliest record of Freemasonry in Australia appears in an early minute bookof the Grand Lodge of Ireland when three Privates from the NSW Corps petitionedthat Body for a warrant. Discussed on 6th July, 1797, the record says simply"Deferred", it was never raised again. (R.E.Parkinson, History of the G.L. ofIreland, 2, 1957, p.306, and Cramp and Mackaness, History of the United G.L.ofNSW, 1938, 1, p.1.)The oldest record of an Australian masonic incident in our possession is datedin 1802, when Captain Anthony Fenn Kemp (1773-1868) was raised to the MasterMason Degree on board the French ship "La Naturaliste" anchored at Port Jackson,N.S.W..This is in opposition to statements made in the majority of the history books orpublications describing this event as Bro Kemp being "Perfected" in the 18§Degree of the Rose Croix. A full description of this interpretation is to befound in "Australia's Oldest Extant Masonic Document, a factual interpre-tation", by WBro. Allan McL.Sharp, The Research Lodge of N.S.W. No 971proceedings, Vol. 13 No 3 June, 1993, and Ars Quatour Coronatorum, Vol. 104,1991, pp.150-165.The first permanent Masonic Lodge in Australia was established in NSW. Accordingto RWBro. Grahame H. Cumming PAGM, in his book "The Foundations of Freemasonryin Australia"(1992) the warrant, No 260 from the Grand Lodge of Ireland, arrivedin Port Jackson on Saturday 5th August, 1820, in the care of Brother SurgeonPrice of the ship "Hadlow", sailing from Cork. This Lodge was named AustralianSocial Lodge and the ceremony of dedication and installation was performed bythe members of Lodge No 218 Irish Constitution attached to His Majesty's 48thRegiment of Foot. As more Lodges were established, and communications withDublin were difficult, approaches were made for a Provincial Grand Lodge in theColony in the years 1839, 1842, and 1847, but they were denied. In 1848 arequest was made for the establishment of a Grand Lodge of Australia, but thiswas also unsuccessful.Chartered under the Jurisdictions of England and Scotland more Lodges wereformed. Eventually unhappy disagreements between the Irish and Scottish Lodges,and their respective Grand Lodges led to the formation of the original GrandLodge for New South Wales, into which were merged all the lodges of Irishorigin, with the addition of six Scottish Lodges; another Scottish Lodge joiningsoon after, and one English Lodge. What followed was a bitter and protracteddispute between the English, and Scottish Lodges on one side, and the GrandLodge of New South Wales on the other, until negotiations supported by the GrandMaster of the United Grand Lodge of England, the Prince of Wales, later KingEdward Vll, brought about masonic union with the formation of the United GrandLodge of New South Wales in 1888. According to VWBro. T.K. Taylor PDGIW, in hispaper presented at the Research Lodge of N.S.W. No 971 (Vol.10 No 9 August,1988) "A short history of 100 years of Freemasonry in New South Wales", "noinstitution of comparable worth and reputation was founded under brighterauspices than the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales, whose inaugural meetingtook place in the Great Hall, University of Sydney, on 16th August, 1888, andincluded the election of Lord Carrington, Governor of the Colony, as the firstGrand Master." The Grand Installation following this event was held in theExhibition Building on 18th September, 1888, and was attended by over fourthousand Brethren , more than half the total membership of the Lodges holdingmeetings at the time.From the foundation of our Grand Lodge in 1888 to our first Jubilee in 1938,many interesting events developed, events which eventually formed thefoundations and the firm base on which our Grand Lodge operates today. Theperiod from 1888 to 1903 was one of consolidation of resources, as each of theGrand Lodges operating in NSW before the amalgamation had their own Boards,Committees, and Charity Organizations. The first consolidating years were alsoused in healing the problems of having Masons from different Constitutions,working together with a Grand Lodge which was once called the "spurious" GrandLodge of N.S.W. by the other Constitutions.The Masonic Hall in Castlereagh Street owned by the Grand Lodge of NSW becamethe headquarters of the newly formed United Grand Lodge of NSW and the YorkStreet Hall used by the English and Scottish Lodges was profitably sold someyears later.The Freemason's Benevolent Institution (F.B.I.), established in 1880 by someScottish and English Lodges became very successful under the direction of theamalgamated United Grand Lodge of NSW.The Carrington Centennial Hospital established by the English District GrandLodge, and the Freemason's Orphan Society founded in 1868, also came under thecare of the newly formed United Grand Lodge.One peculiar event occurred during the installation of Grand Master WilliamThompson in 1914, this occasion being also selected for the celebration of theSilver Jubilee. As a smallpox epidemic during the previous year prevented publicmeetings, the Silver Jubilee, which was due in 1913, was celebrated one yearlater. The Great War of 1914 caused havoc in the world, and Freemasonry did notremain untouched. The Craft was effected as a result of the war, but under theleadership of William Thompson, the needs of the Brethren serving in the ArmedForces, as well as their families, were relieved by a special War BenevolentFund, although the Lodges were, at the request of the Grand Master, contributingto the National Patriotic Fund since the outbreak of hostilities.Our "Second Millennium", or the second 50 years of our existence started in1938, just about the beginning of the Second World War, when our membership,which had fallen due to the Great Depression, was to remain steady until the endof the war, after which it again increased so that by 1944 it had reached thelevel of the year 1930. Masonry in New South Wales, once more found the way toprovide for the Brethren at war and their families with contributions to thePatriotic Fund, as well as to the Grand Master's Benevolent Fund initiated byLord Gowrie early in the Second World War.Lord Gowrie was Governor of NSW and then Governor General of Australia for atime, and during his term as Grand Master he gave many stirring wartimeaddresses. (Grand Master Mason Governors of NSW, The Research Lodge of NSW, 6,2,1/4/1979, pp.31-36, and Kent Henderson, The Masonic Grand Masters of Australia,1988, p.48.) After the war, Grand Lodge also contributed to the project "Foodfor Britain", and this was supplemented by food parcels presented to BritishLodges by Lodges in N.S.W.The "Frank Whiddon Masonic Homes of NSW", a registered charity, was born in1947, with its first homes ready for occupancy in 1949. This organization grewin such a way that by 1986, it had 14 Homes with 1,088 residents and 146 furtherunits under construction. The Frank Whiddon Masonic Homes, together with theRoyal Freemason's Benevolent Institution (R.F.B.I.) account for over 120 milliondollars worth of investments in the retirement Villages and Hostels for the Agedin NSW. VWBro. T.K.Taylor PDGIW, expressed the view that these and similarorganizations "are an ever visible witness to the practical aspect of theprinciples of Freemasonry". Paradoxically, after the war, Grand Lodge tried tocope with the rapid increase in membership, to ensure that high standards weremaintained in the candidates, but the fall in membership from 1959 onwards wasfollowed by research and activities attempting to arrest the decline.In 1954, a Masonic Temple Fund was established to provide assistance to updatethe condition of masonic buildings, which were showing the effects of neglectduring the war years. In 1961, the Committee of Masonic Education was formed toimprove masonic knowledge, and in 1967, plans were commenced for a new MasonicCentre to cope with the needs of a modern organization.The year 1976 saw the Grand Master, MWBro. Victor C.N. Blight, setting theFoundation Stone of the new Masonic Centre, which was inaugurated three yearslater in 1979. The next highlight was the preparation for the Centenarycelebrations, the Grand Master, MWBro. Harold G. Coates reporting in 1985 thatseven country committees were already in place working for the implementation ofthat important event in 1988. The final preparations for such an illustriousevent, coincident with the Bicentennial of the Settlement of Australia in 1788,were under the leadership of MWBro. Professor Roy A. Woodman, LLM, Grand Masterfrom 1985 to 1988.The second part of our "Millennium", or the second fifty years from 1938 to ourCentenary in 1988, was perhaps more colourful in its history, maybe to our owninterpretation, as many of the Masons who helped to shape policy and guidance,and were instrumental in forging a strong and solid Grand Lodge are still withus today. However colourful this past was and how much we are able to learn fromit, I would venture to say that we must look firmly into the future, learn fromthe past and enter into our "Third Millennium", or into our next hundredyears, with the firm conviction that we have to work hard and try to set thefirst steps to provide our children and future Brethren, not only with a betterworld to live in, but with a much stronger Freemasonry to enjoy.If we intend to forecast and bias the development and the future role ofFreemasonry in the next century, we should endeavour to examine the actualsituation of today's Freemasonry and compare it to the far reaches of the past,without overlooking into the evolution which occurred after the foundation oforganised and speculative Freemasonry in 1717 up until near the end of the 18thCentury. Our Third Millennium is full of challenges, challenges that we mustaccept if we are going to survive, not only in the outside world but within theworld of Freemasonry. We must be aware that as times change, we need newapproaches to the arising new challenges, even if they are old problems. Everyperson or institution is effected by changes whether the changes are liked ornot, and even if we think of Freemasonry as being a very stable and conservativeinstitution, it cannot remain isolated from the changes surrounding it. We hadbeen changing for many years without greatly realizing it, but in the last fewyears it has become more apparent. We are moving, at least in NSW, from being anintrospective organisation to one that is endeav- ouring to obtain a highprofile within the community.Many changes have occurred in Freemasonry over the centuries without losing thebasic ideals and principles, but now we have to be prepared to enter into thethird millennium with the firm conviction that we do really need other changes,changes that will not effect our ancient landmarks, but will catapult us intobeing part of this modern world. The political and revolutionary action by theleaders of the 19th Century who were masons would not be tolerated today becauseour Fraternity has changed. The ideals of those leaders have not changed, as westill apply them in our masonic teachings. We still postulate equality beforethe law, fraternity and parity between people, freedom of expression, educationfor all, succour to those in distress and many other things that are an integralpart of our society and which have now been taken up by the numerous voluntaryassociations which have proliferated during this century.Because of the restrictions imposed by some Grand Lodges claiming that humanismis not within the realms of true Freemasonry and therefore outside theguidelines of our Ancient Landmarks, the true leaders of men, the leaders ofindustry, commerce and science, who are Freemasons,in their pursuit of the nobleobjective of improving our society, to prevent falling into irregularity withtheir own Grand Lodges, have to translate any action onto a personal level orparticipate in another organisation with detriment to the Craft and its image asmakers of better men. So now we are experiencing a situation in which in thepast, Freemasonry as an institution, did have a big input in changing socialconduct for the betterment of the people, but today depends on the personallevel of its members to achieve the same result, therefore, these actions arenot identified with the Craft. If we observe very seriously the quality of pastand present membership, history perhaps may be able to tell us how masonry haschanged, and the steps that may be taken to rectify masonic work and live up tothe glories of past generations.Some Grand Lodges are now reverting to what we were practising a century ago,and in consequence, are being condemned by others Grand Lodges who believe that"their Freemasonry" is the only one that should be universally practiced.Perhaps they fail to see that each Grand Lodge is different, and is required toact within its own peculiar problems and those inherited by its geographicalposition.Freemasonry as we know it in Australia consists of a mixture of Ritual work, afestive board for fellowship and, to a different extent, most lodges showing anattitude towards benevolent and charitable actions. However, in many other GrandLodges outside of the Anglo-Saxon influence, there is a tendency to deal morewith intellectual and philosophical issues. There is no doubt that ritual andfellowship at the festive board are two basic ingredients to endeavour to attainperfection, but surely it does not constitute an end in itself as there must beother ambitions and means to be serviceable to our fellow man. It would be wrongto concentrate on these two basic points and disregard the ideas and works ofour Brethren of the 19th Century, the golden era of Freemasonry and what itrepresented without a deep study of the full situation.One question that must be evaluated is why are brethren now leaving the Craft orwhy can't we have a proper number and quality of members in our Lodges. Could itbe that we are not offering a proper incentive to be relevant to the everchanging needs of our community? Sometimes changes are necessary and establishedby conditions imposed by external influences or by the normal changes insociety. Can anybody define the position of our Order today within our socialand institutional functions?. We have to be seen not as a stale, dated, or oldfashioned organization, but as a Body of men ready and willing to adapt tomodern conditions without losing or compromising in the process our moralrectitude. Nature is always showing us that only those plants and animals thathave adapted to environmental changes have been able to survive. To us, it is amatter of using strategies adapted to the new circumstances in which we livetoday, and this particular planning is essential to Freemasonry.In NSW we were very fortunate in that during our Centenary Celebration we had ayoung and visionary Grand Master, MWBro. Ronald Lewis H. Johnson, who assumingleadership in 1988, instituted, as part of his contribution to Freemasonry, theCommission for the Future for the United Grand Lodge of NSW. The Commission forthe Future was formed to set the pace and recommend the implementation ofsweeping changes in order to strengthen Freemasonry in NSW, to improve itsimage, and to try to restore some of its former glory. The idea to form theCommission for the Future was originally conceived during the planning of theCentenary Celebrations and a recommendation from the Finance Committee inOctober, 1988 to the Board of General Purposes was adopted by the Board.This Commission established the following seven goals:  a) To stabilize Membership and achieve Membership growth  thereafter;  b) To maximize (through rationalization) the utilization and  enhancement of Masonic buildings;  c) To improve the image of the Craft in the eyes of Freemasons  and non-Freemasons;  d) To create a greater public awareness of Freemasonry;  e) To streamline the administrative and management functions of  Grand Lodge;  f) To maximize the utilization of The Masonic Centre, Sydney;  g) To develop a policy for Grand Lodge Fees and Dues consistent  with Membership growth and sound financial management.The Commission reported that "these seven goals formed an important benchmarkfor judging the many recommendations made to the Commission from many quarters",including submissions coming from Brethren up to eighteen months after the GrandMaster's invitation in December, 1988. When the Commission presented its FinalReport on November, 1990, the Grand Master, MWBro. R.L.H.Johnson, penned theforeword by saying that "this final report marked the most important milestonein the history of the Craft, as it will make suggestions to take Freemasonry inN.S.W. into the next century". These suggestions were duly evaluated at GrandLodge level by the Board of General Purposes and brought to the consideration ofthe Brethren in N.S.W. by means of the Regular Quarterly Communications.Perusing through the Commission's Final Report, one can see that membershipproblems held the key to the Commission's deliberations. The Commission reported"that it may sound too simplistic, but if a solution could be found to halt theerosion of the Craft consistently diminishing membership, Freemasonry will be ina healthier state."The Commission reported that "it did not seek to provide all the cure for theCraft's ills, but a vital step towards halting the outflow of members andestablishing a vision for the future." It stressed the need for theimplementation of measures to address the negative membership trend to beeducative rather than legislative.Some of the recommendations were;  a) To obtain professional advice in Public Relations;  b) The erection of prominent masonic signs on masonic buildings;  c) To unify some of the current Masonic Charity Bodies to cut  administrative costs;  d) To adopt a short and more convenient "Trading" name;  e) To establish a Mission Statement;  f) To investigate the reasons behind the resignation of members  from the Lodges;  g) To encourage Brethren who had called off to reaffiliate;  h) To continue the positive support of the Lodges to the Ladies  Auxiliaries and Masonic Widow's Associations;  i) To encourage the care of and the continuing involvement of  Masonic Widows within the social life of the Lodge;  j) That it be mandatory for the mode of dress to be stated on all  Lodge Notice Papers;  k) That Worshipful Masters be encouraged to admit visitors, if  practical, at the beginning of Lodge meetings;  l) That Lodges be encouraged to introduce the practice of keeping  all Brethren of the Lodge well informed by the use of a regular  newsletter;  m) To make every effort to raise the standard of catering and  refreshments after Lodge meetings;  n) That the Strategic Planning Group be charged with carrying on  the work of the Commission for the Future.In 1992, MWBro. Noel Frederick Dunn, another dynamic and talented Grand Masterin this Jurisdiction took in the process of consolidating the gains flowing fromthe Commission for the Future by implementing a Strategic Planning Groupoperation to take us into the next century and to reaffirm his commitment to abetter awareness of Freemasonry within the community at large. Now, nearly fouryears later in 1996, when most of the recommendations have been or are in theprocess of being implemented, we will be able to observe new horizons in NSWunder the firm leadership of the new Grand Master, MWBro. Reverend RaymondCharles Green. The Strategic Planning Group is looking very closely intotomorrow's needs and "will provide a professional structure which ensures thecontinued and systematic development of Freemasonry within this Jurisdiction"At two Special Grand Lodge Communications held on 8th April, 1995 and 3rd June,1995, it was agreed to implement substantial changes to the Book ofConstitutions to prepare Freemasonry in NSW for the future. Most of the changesare reflecting a sincere wish of the members in NSW to deal with problemsassociated with the drop in membership, whilst others are to line up the changesrequired of a vigorous organisation on entering the next millennium. The work ofthe Strategic Planning Group already carried out and also that in progress, isbeyond the scope of this presentation and very much limited by the timeallocated to each speaker, however, to those interested Brethren moreinformation could be made available through our Grand Secretary. In such a largeworld, with so many people, nations, ethnic groups, and many culturaldifferences linked together by the powerful force of instant communications, itis becoming increasingly difficult to leave a mark on the world community.Freemasonry with its valuable precepts, tenets, and teachings, is capable ofleaving its mark because it has remained unalterable in its principles for manycenturies, and is still as valid today as it was then, having a commitment tothe betterment of men.Grand Lodges are fully independent of each other and Freemasonry does not have acentral government, but its principles are the same and should present a unitedfront and lead by example. One should be aware that Freemasonry in differentparts of the world is separated by a great division in practice, as some GrandLodges see themselves more as an educational and philosophical institution,while others are orientated towards more social and benevolent functions.Quoting the words of Bro Marcos E. Folange, Past Grand Historian of the YorkGrand Lodge of Mexico, who said that Freemasonry in the Latin Countries aredivided in two different methods, the Humanistic or social, and the Mistic, orspiritual and initiatory society.Each Grand Lodge should make efforts according to its own peculiar problems andsurrounding social and political environment to spread the ideals ofFreemasonry, but these must represent ideals that are compatible with today'sworld, with modern thinking and trends and not be pressurised by other GrandLodges which may think their ideas are the only true ideals. Every Grand Lodgeshould develop its understanding of the human environment in which it isoperating. The operating conditions of a Grand Lodge in Europe or South Americamay differ very greatly from the one in the USA, or the British Isles, so whyshould they have an equal approach? This is of course provided they all abideand operate within the Ancient Landmarks. There are some Grand Lodges that arenow endeavouring to create mechanisms to allow an even greater interchange ofinformation at international levels with the view that this will promote agreater understanding between Grand Lodges, and could provide a valuablecontribution to the well being of Freemasonry and dissipate some of the problemswhich exist between Grand Lodges. We are now living in an era of instantcommunications with the inherent lack of personal relationships, and eveninstant communications can sometimes become distorted.A clear example today would be the indiscriminate use of the Internet system bymasonic computer enthusiasts and the very early efforts by some Grand Lodges tostabilise any damage that may be caused by this action. In some cases one is beable to see in the Internet pages that portions of the ritual are beingdiscussed. As the Internet is a public domain information system available toanybody with the right computing equipment, it could prove a difficult task forany Grand Lodge to control the manner of its use, except by appealing forvoluntary restrain and good masonic practices.Many Grand Lodges are preoccupied with the problem of the decline in membership,and are more concerned with concentrating on the membership's statistic figuresinstead of planning a more effective workload for members to contribute to theorganisation. There is no doubt that the concern for the number of members isdue in great part to economic considerations of having a viable administration,but some efforts should be made for the effective use of existing members. On aninternational level, foreign relations should be improved by the simple methodof using forums in which personal relationships could be cultivated for thebenefit of all.From these international forums, joint policies could be developed for thebenefit of Freemasonry where we all could discover what other Grand Lodges aregenuinely doing to improve the Craft, in the most suitable and appropriatemanner. It would serve us well to learn that while many do work in differentways, all are working for the same ideals. As members of the Craft, we shouldtry to reach perfection by the strict adherence to our beloved principles andthe teachings inculcated by our rituals and ceremonies, but each of us is adifferent individual with his own soul, as Grand Lodges are, so it is quitepossible that we may approach the next millennium with a completely differentperspective, peculiar to our Grand Lodge. The reasons for a different approachmay arise from individual bias, cultural background, and some times theinfluence exerted by historians with or without bias, as history is usually inthe eyes of the historian, sometimes because of faulty evidence, factors aroundat the time that could eclipse the significance of a contribution, or evencaused by the advocacy of small groups who have limited or shortsighted aims. Weneed to identify what current masonic goals are postulated by other Grand Lodgesaround the world, and try to identify their own peculiar environments, which mayor may not be adaptable to ours, and to identify trends that are likely toimpinge upon or to affect Freemasonry.Some of today's trends are fairly obvious, the enhanced status of women insociety, the steady escalation in the number of unemployed, the constantchanging economic situation of the world, the disproportionate growth in theinfluence of minority groups, the decline of Masonic attendance to our meetings,and I am sure there are many others which I could not readily identify, but willhave sufficient importance to be considered. How these modern trends will affectFreemasonry is very difficult to determine, but I would venture to suggest thatGrand Lodges will be better served by using the resources of their ResearchLodges to help study those trends and their future influence in Freemasonry.Just recently, in November 1993, the Christian Research Centre, conducting anational survey in Australia, found that the current attendance rate would notsupport many churches into the next century as only 15% of the Anglican Church'sfour million believers attend church regularly. This Church is not alone in thiscrisis of faith as the Catholic Church is in a similar situation with only 40%of its followers attending church more than once a month. Would the findings ofthis report put the blame on the Churches' failure to recognize the changingneeds and pressures of its modern congregation? Would for some attending churchbe a chore to attend religious services, as some parishioners may believe thatlong-winded teachings seem far removed from daily realities, and where valuesare perceived to be out of touch with modern day practices.? Perhaps the answerlies in a recruitment drive to lure people back. This may even sound familiar toall Freemasons by now.RWBro. Harry Kellerman, O.B.E. P.D.G.M., the Librarian and Historian of theU.G.L.of NSW in his paper presented at the inaugural meeting of the AustralianMasonic Research Council held in Melbourne in 1992, stated that " Masonicleaders and those interested in Freemasonry have watched with dismay the regularannual drop in membership throughout the world, especially during the last 25years". Bro. Kellerman felt that for Freemasonry to survive, this tendency hasto be reversed, and in his view, the most important problem is to retainexisting members and the recruitment of new ones. I would like to add to hisstatement, what I would regard also an important issue, and that is to regainthose members who for one reason or another ceased to subscribe to a Lodge.The recruitment of new members, while it may be a kind of panacea to ourproblems, requires handling with the utmost delicate care and consideration. Weshould strive at quality rather than quantity, and by leaving the doors wideopen, we may find ourselves dealing with another set of problems brought aboutby stringent modern anti-discrimination laws. Grand Lodges must be particularlycareful to ensure that their Membership Assistance Committees are fully aware ofthe implications of any slight deviation from these laws. If we try to mend themalaises of the Craft by arresting the decline in the number of members, we musttake extreme care in the selection of candidates, to make sure that not onlythey are good men to become our brothers, but to ascertain that Freemasonry willbenefit in the long term by having members that understand and appreciateFreemasonry in all aspects, not only the ritualistic part or the history of theCraft, but all that Freemasonry represents. If we are not careful now in theselection of members, we may be sorry in the future. We may find we have asignificant proportion of our membership who, not appreciating the value of theCraft, on becoming the leaders of tomorrow, change the fabric of Freemasonry, nodoubt with the best intentions, but not for the better.Having the privilege of membership to the Committee on Foreign Correspondenceand being able to peruse the Annual Proceedings of many Grand Lodges around theworld, one can easily observe that in many lodges the attendance at their statedmeetings hardly ever reaches 20% of their total membership. It is quite possiblethat some Grand Lodges have far too many lodges in relation to their attendingmembership, providing grounds for diminishing the standards required in ourCraft for the selection of Installed Masters. Perhaps, this could be the time toconsider the gradual reduction in the number of lodges, so as to increase thecompetency of the Officers, and by association the high standards required ofits Masters to "Rule and Govern" their lodges.The decline of masonic membership in NSW has occurred previously in 1893-1899and 1931-1937, so today's losses in membership are nothing new, however, thecurrent steady decline from 1959 onwards is unique because of its duration, andthe losses, that are at a near constant figure of approximately 3,200 membersper annum. WBro. E.J. Buckman in his paper "A critical analysis of the declinein membership during the past 30 years in N.S.W." presented at The ResearchLodge of N.S.W. No 971 on June 1989 (Proceedings Vol. 11, No 3), said that ifthis severe decline cannot be arrested, then Freemasonry could be approaching aposition similar to that which prevailed in the seventeenth century OperativeLodges prior to the admissions of Speculative Freemasons. He advanced the viewthat the two previous membership losses coincided with the decline in thecommodity prices of wool, wheat, and base metals, and the consequent economiccrisis and social disorder of the Great Depression, and how in both situationsFreemasonry was adversely affected.We are entering into the Third Millennium with many and severe problems not onlyfor Freemasonry, but for the whole human race, with wars and famine in mostcontinents and in a great number of nations. The most pressing problem of theCraft today is the constant and steady decline in membership, and if we cansolve it, our other problems will, I am sure, be able to fall into place moreeasily.How can we solve it ?. By an increase in new members ?, by retaining thosemembers already in the Lodges ?, or by regaining those who have resigned fromthe Craft, but are active in other organizations?.We have to remember that inmost cases Freemason- ry provided the training ground for those former Masons.Are we Freemasons, in the eyes of the profane world, admired by our high idealsbut found to be clinging to former times, quaint and well meaning, but notsufficiently contemporary and dynamic? Maybe the problem resides in the timeavailable on today's society to dedicate to the Craft. The pace today is morehectic and longer recreation hours are sought. Now may be the time tocontemplate reviewing the rules of improper solicitation, which are peculiar tosome Grand Lodges, but not in others. After all, this rule is not considered tobe one of the Ancient Landmarks. In New South Wales new procedures have beenadopted to attract new members.Perhaps the answer lies in a better communication between Grand Lodges, throughthe personal efforts of the Grand Masters, Grand Secretaries, and the effectiveuse of Grand Lodge Representatives, a widely used system originated anddeveloped by the Grand Lodge of New York in 1838 designed to foster andencourage closer bond between Grand Lodges. Finally, this paper was written inthe hope of communicating to other Grand Lodges how Freemasons in New SouthWales are planning to enter into the Third Millennium, and also as a sternreminder of the decline in membership, which the majority of Grand Lodges aresuffering at the present moment and the impact the Grand Lodges can have bycareful communication.Selected parts of our history have been included for those Brethren interestedin the historical aspects of our Grand Lodge. You may find that it has beenwritten in very simplified language. As based on the findings of the WoolcottReport, commissioned by our Grand Lodge in 1989, masonic literature, especiallythose directed or dealing with non-masons are presented in old fashionedlanguage, for me to do so, would only tend to perpetuate the perception thatFreemasonry is old fashioned. I do hope that one thing emerges clearly from thispresentation, that is, that all Grand Lodges should join forces by exchangingvital information on how to develop a plan to take Freemasonry into the ThirdMillennium in a much better shape than it is at present.It is very encouraging for the future of Freemasonry that the Grand Lodge ofWestern Australia by organising the Indian Pacific Masonic Congress is providingsuch a forum for masons of other Constitutions to expound their points of viewin a climate of harmony and mutual tolerance.In summary, let's work together regardless of the directions of each GrandLodge, as some will feel inclined to concentrate on the social aspect ofFreemasonry while others will put more emphasis on an esoteric/philosophicalbase, stop the erosion of membership based on quality rather than quantity,allow every Grand Lodge to provide a solid masonic education to every member,show our leadership by example within the Craft and in our society, provideinternational forums for our masonic leaders to enable them to disseminate theaspirations of their members, and finally, stop looking with despair at themembership statistical figures and make firm decisions with perfect convictionin the justice of our doctrines and our principles.

Juan Carlos Alvarez, P.J.G.W.,Regional Grand Counsellor (NSW)


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