Last year saw 150 new initiatives to Lodges in Lincolnshire – the highest since 2013, PGM Dave Wheeler told one of a series of gatherings of Royal Arch representatives in Lincoln.
But that didn’t mean the number of Freemasons overall wasn’t declining, because it was, by about 2% a year. For the whole of UGLE the number is down to about 175,000; for Lincolnshire it’s down from 3,500 half a dozen years ago to about 3,000 today.
At the seminar organised by Royal Arch Rep co-ordinator David Cartwright and his assistant Keith Bickley, Dave said it was important to understand what could be done to halt and ultimately reverse the decline, by increasing the number the right people coming in, and doing what we could to prevent members leaving. That thought has led to the introduction of UGLE’s ‘membership challenge’ for all Provinces and Lodges, a measure designed to eliminate the difference between those leaving and those coming in.
To turn that into reality for Lincolnshire a small working has just been formed with three principal objectives:
Dave told the reps: “I want us to be a thriving organisation in our communities. People are leaving us. We must know the reasons why, and we must engage with people and identify at the early stages why individuals are leaving.”
He said Lodges and Chapters had to know the challenge each of them faced. “Unless people know, they can’t do anything about it,” he said. “The response must come up from Lodges and Chapters, building on the god numbers we already have, with an average of 35 people attending meetings – those are numbers some Provinces would die for, where they have attendances of about 12.” But he said the trick was engaging with the people who didn’t go, and encouraging them to be more engaged.
“The Royal Arch representatives are crucial to explaining things,” he said. “I appreciate what you do. Spread the word, and get people enthused.”
David Cartwright reinforced his perception of the RA Reps role with vis AEIOU mantra:
He added: “In summary, whilst we all have choices, joining the Royal Arch first after the Craft is the natural step for the Master Mason to take because only the Royal Arch completes the journey through Pure and Antient Freemasonry; we are instructed how to live in better harmony with our inner self, other Companions and our own Supreme Being; and the Craft is illogical without this completion.”