Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Future of Masonry

As a past master of Braden Lodge #168 here in Minnesota, I'm proud to see our lodge featured prominently in this article from the Wall Street Journal on the future of Freemasonry, and the role that the Internet is playing in attracting new members to the fraternity. I would also like to congratulate our own Brother Matt Gallagher on doing a great job representing Masonry to the general public. While many Masonic bodies are still declining, over the last five years Braden has experienced healthy growth thanks to an influx of younger members.

Secrecy gives Masonry its mystique. Yet the Masons have lately realized that they'd be lost in oblivion if it weren't for the Web.

"I looked for pictures," Matt Gallagher was saying of his Internet search for a Masonic lodge worth joining. "I really wanted to avoid a bunch of 80-year-olds."

It was Thursday evening, almost time for fellowship night at the "very young" lodge he finally did join: Braden No. 168, housed on a shady street in a columned temple the Masons built in 1910.

Mr. Gallagher is 32 years old and between jobs. He was initiated by Braden in 2009, rose to Master Mason and now is lodge education officer.

It's a post that didn't exist for 290 years after Masonry came out of its historical shadows, in 1717, as a London club for enlightened gentlemen. Mr. Gallagher's Masonic tag, if his digital function had one, might be Worshipful Webmaster.

"I started a blog, Facebook, Flickr," he said, descending a narrow stairway to a faded meeting room with its old pool tables and portrait of brother George Washington. "I want video essays on our site," he added. "People need to know what they're getting into."

It's also worth noting that I'm not the only member of Braden who is also involved in the local body of Ordo Templi Orientis, and that there are quite a few additional members who are interested in ritual and esotericism of various sorts rather than simply treating the lodge as a sort of glorified social club. Besides a strong Internet presence and a younger membership, as I see it this serious approach to Masonic ritual and philosophy is part of what makes our lodge special.

The Braden Lodge web site is currently in the process of being revised and updated, but the new version should be available soon. You can find it here.

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