Ambassadors for Freemasonry – Lets encourage all to be more open about their Freemasonry
Brethren, I wish to spend a few moments with you, discussing a most important aspect of Freemasonry, and that of being a Mason, an aspect which is very important in the way our Order is perceived by the public.
I would like to start with a question, directed at each of you.
Imagine yourself in a situation where Freemasonry is being discussed, perhaps at a dinner party, on the golf course, or at the local pub. This discussion may have arisen because of a local press article, or perhaps someone may have just told a joke about funny handshakes. Brethren, we have all been there.
How do you respond ? Do you join in the conversation without revealing your membership, or do you let them know you are a Mason ? If you do come clean, how do you answer the questions that may follow ? They may ask why you joined, what we get up to in our meetings, or perhaps question the relevance of Masonry in today’s society.
Your initial response to these questions is vital, both for your own credibility and that of Masonry in general. This seems so important, that you may just be tempted to keep quiet – why face possible controversy, when you could just say nothing ? After all, wasn’t that the traditional attitude of the Craft ?
Hear, See and Be Silent……….
This was the traditional approach adopted by Grand Lodge in speaking to the non-Masonic world, and for many years they kept silent.
This grew from the events of the time, when in the Mid 20th century, secrecy was an advisable, if not life-saving necessity in some countries. Into the resulting vacuum there flourished rumour, scandal and falsehood.
Thankfully brethren, this attitude has now changed, as has our publicity. Recent years have seen us challenge those organisations, mainly public bodies, who deemed it necessary to force their employees to declare their Masonic membership. In winning such cases, Grand Lodge has shown that it is not acceptable for Masons to be treated differently to other employees. Every time a newspaper printed a negative story about Freemasonry, they were invited to Grand Lodge and shown the error of their words.
These victories showed that we are now willing, and able, to defend ourselves vigorously against unlawful discrimination and slanderous publicity.
Our public relations and publicity now has a much more co-ordinated and pro-active approach, with 2002 seeing the first Freemasonry in the Community Week, a national series of events which saw local Masons reach out to their local communities, and start to highlight the good work we do, and the positive ideals we hold. Many Lodges now highlight their good deeds in the local press, and we exhibit at the Southport Flower show to further advertise our work.
So let there be no doubt that the old days of silence are gone, and great efforts have been made to ensure that the general public has a greater understanding of what Freemasonry really is, and what we stand for.
But there is perhaps one person who can do a great deal of damage to all this good work. By saying the wrong thing, or keeping quiet, this person could undo all the good work, and give the impression that Masonry is all about secrecy, and looking after their own, and allow the gossip and falsehoods to return.
Unfortunately that person may be you.
Let me return to that conversation about Freemasonry, when someone asks you if you are a member. How do you reply ?
The decision always rests with you, and will depend on the circumstances in which you find yourself. Prevailing attitudes at work or amongst friends may actually mean that ‘discretion is the better part of valour’. No-one is suggesting that you place yourself in a situation that would be detrimental to yourself or connections, to coin a familiar phrase.
But if you do feel it appropriate to let people know you are a Mason, you are in very good company indeed. Our highest rulers are all in favour of this new open approach to our Freemasonry, and promoting it in the community.
So you have decided to say you are a Mason – now what ? I hope the presentation in Lodge helped, but there is never a definitive answer here, and will depend on your audience, but perhaps a few guidelines will help.
Charity is always a good place to start – no-one can put a rational argument against this ! Our good deeds and funding are now advertised more widely than ever before, and demonstrate the positive aspects of our organisation to your audience. Such talk will no doubt impress your audience, but don’t stress charity too much, as Freemasonry does not exist purely as a charitable organisation, in fact it may be argued that charity is but a by-product of what we stand for. Please also remember that when talking about charity, it is also about the giving of yourself, your time, and your compassion, to those in need.
Our Order aims to help men from all backgrounds to develop themselves as individuals, and to have a beneficial effect on their family, their friends, and their local community.
You may wonder what you are allowed to say ? As a general rule, you can discuss almost any aspect of the Craft without fear of breaking your oaths and obligations. The only area that you must avoid is that of the signs, tokens and words. There is nothing sinister about this, but you have vowed not to reveal them, and in any case, if someone is really that interested in knowing them, they only have to visit the local library or log onto the internet.
However, it is not only what you say, but how you say it.
Always avoid Masonic terminology and phrases. The moment you describe Freemasonry as a ‘peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols’ may just be the moment you lose the interest of your audience. ‘Brotherly love, relief and truth’ means a lot to us, but won’t mean anything to others. It is far better to use words such as tolerance and respect for others, helping those less fortunate, and trying to act with fairness and honesty in business and life in general.
Try to explain what you yourself get out of Masonry; perhaps a desire to better yourself as an individual, or to make true life-long friends who you can trust.
You may also aim to extend your social circle, and to give something back to the local community. Your own personal examples will always be more powerful in communicating what Freemasonry means to you.
For some of our longer-serving brethren, talking about their Freemasonry may still be a challenge, coming as they have, from a time when this was always discouraged. It could be even more difficult for our newer brethren, and whilst it is only natural for them to want to talk about what they have just joined, with their family and friends, it is not always easy. There is plenty of help on hand.
Their own personal Mentor, the Lodge Mentor, and indeed the more experienced brethren in the Lodge, can all help to guide the newer member in the most appropriate and easy ways to talk about his membership.
So let us imagine ourselves once more at that dinner party, on the golf course, or in the pub. What will you say about the Craft ? If you do declare your Masonry, will you use this wonderful opportunity to highlight the many positive benefits of being a Mason ? Will you talk in such a way that your audience will at least understand, and maybe even applaud your membership, and perhaps even come to the same decision you did, and join ?
If you are able to speak well about the Order, you will be acting as a true Ambassador for Freemasonry. You will be letting those around you know that you are proud to be associated with an organisation that has stood for so many positive and worthy ideals for over 300 years.
I would like to end this talk by wishing you well. I also wish you the strength to speak of your convictions. I wish you the ability to do so in an easy and confident manner, but most of all it is my wish that you are able to convey the joy and happiness that we all feel, by being a part of this glorious brotherhood.