Pennsylvania Masons loosen up

Click here for an interesting NY Times op ed. Its gist is that Pennsylvania’s newly-installed Right Worshipful Grand Master is making some dramatic changes:

“Brethren, ladies and friends,” Mr. Sturgeon greeted the audience for his installation. “The 21st-century Masonic Renaissance starts today!”

The “renaissance” is Mr. Sturgeon’s agenda for reform, jump-starting a membership drive with a new strategy that permits “selective invitation,” replacing the old “To be one, ask one” policy that forbade Masons to proselytize. He also decreed a lifetime dues exemption for any Mason over 60 who brings in two new members under 30. Like other Pennsylvania grand masters before him, Mr. Sturgeon designed a necktie, to be distributed as a token of appreciation. Typically, the ties are a vehicle for the Masonic insignia; his is more in the style of Jerry Garcia, something he thinks younger guys might be more inclined to wear.

In his most radical move, Mr. Sturgeon has mandated that the ritual be published in book form. In Pennsylvania, since the order’s beginnings, each Mason has learned his obligation from another Mason, one on one. The ritual had never been written down. For the two lowest ranks of Freemasonry it lasts 30 minutes or so; for the third and highest degree it takes roughly an hour and runs to some 8,000 words. “It might take a man away from home maybe 50 nights to sit and learn it,” he said.

Though candidates will still be required to perform the ritual from memory, the printed text allows them to learn it on their own. Mr. Sturgeon assured his fellow masons that photocopying will be prohibited, that all copies will be signed out and strictly audited. Even so, this announcement met with silence, a response he had foreseen. “Many Masons will tell you that one of the great bonds of this fraternity happens when I meet with you 40 times to go over this work, and I become your mentor,” he said. “Now, that’s true. But for the greater good, we have to make a decision.”

For anyone local, I will be giving a talk at the Masonic Temple at 71 W 23rd Street in New York City, on Wednesday, February 10th, some time after 7:30 pm (after the restricted part of the meeting is over). Not sure what I’ll talk about yet.


One thought on “Pennsylvania Masons loosen up

  1. Interesting article. With such a high median age that means they may be nearly gone in twenty years. In my opinion, it must a huge challenge to increase membership in a club that takes time, energy and providence from a household.

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