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Your vision of the future of Freemasonry
Presented at the Vancouver Grand Masonic Day, October 18, 2000
by W. Bro. Philip Durell, Maple Leaf Lodge No. 74

The Work of the Masonic Commission

Right now you are probably thinking, as I did, "What? Another Commission/Committee looking into the future of Freemasonry?" In the last decade we have had three such bodies:
1. 1991 The Special Committee on Retaining Membership,
2. 1994 The Craft Review Committee,
3. 1997 The Masonic Advancement Committee.
For such an important theme it is impossible for us to succeed on an intermittent basis. All of these bodies did an enormous amount of work in one year, but who of you can remember any of the recommendations that were made and passed by Grand Lodge that have made a difference in your Lodge? It is not that good recommendations were not made but that in all but a few instances (e.g. Master’s & Warden’s Leadership Training, Community Relations Committee) the execution and commitment to them has been intermittent and sporadic. How many of you know that the Grand Lodge has a Strategic Plan? And if you do, what is contained in it? What is the Grand Lodge Mission Statement? See, we are true to our secrets!
I did not deliberately set out to be negative, but perhaps a little provocative, to set the stage for why a Masonic Commission that has a multi-year mandate is necessary for the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon.
Note the Mission Statement: The Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon as the parent organization of Freemasons in this jurisdiction, promotes and advances the Masonic fraternity and serves as a support system for individual Lodges. It does this by:
  • Making Freemasons more knowledgeable,
  • Stimulating pride in being a Freemason,
  • Enhancing the image of Freemasonry,
  • Furthering the practice of charity.
The Masonic Commission Mandate
The best way that I can outline to you our mandate is to read to you an excerpt from our Grand Master, M.W. Brother John T. Harper’s, installation address. Having identified the key principles of our focus as Freemasons as: knowledge, improvement, support and attitude the Grand Master identified ten strategies through which to put the key principles of our focus to work. He went on to say,
“We can begin, by listening and talking to each other. In a world where the speed of change outside our Craft is greater than it is within, and where our membership is declining at an increasingly rapid rate, it is imperative to initiate a dialogue about our future. Therefore, we will establish a travelling Masonic Commission to conduct improvement workshops throughout this jurisdiction to focus on your ideas about what is important to our future. We will listen to your concerns and suggestions. We will act on the recommendations of the Masonic Commission. And we will build a common agenda for the future. I believe that the process used in these regional meetings, one that encourages enlightened discussion, may prove to be as valuable in bringing our fraternity together as the information gathered.”
I should also point out that our Deputy Grand Master, R.W. Bro. James C. Gordon has committed to extend the Commission’s mandate through 2001-2002. The Structure of the Masonic Commission For the Commission to have any success it was necessary to have representation throughout the jurisdiction. The M.W. Grand Master appointed the following:
R.W. Bro. Murray Webster, Chairman Prince Rupert
W. Bro. Jack Barr Lower Mainland
Bro. Gerry Brumpton Kelowna
Bro. Bill Cave Quesnel
W. Bro. Alan Cross Nanaimo
W. Bro. Philip Durell Lower Mainland
W. Bro. Doug Easton Victoria
M.W. Bro. Clark Gilmour Lower Mainland
Bro. Richard Trippel Prince George
This geographical representation will facilitate the setting up of 12 “Masonic Improvement Workshops” which will be based on the 27 Districts in the province. Some workshops, such as those in Dawson, Terrace and Whitehorse will involve one District, whilst others, such as those in the Lower Mainland will have a maximum of 3 Districts at any one workshop. At each workshop it is planned to have at least 2 members of the Commission present, who, aided by representatives from the District(s) involved, will facilitate the workshop. The 12 locations are: Victoria Districts 1 & 21

Parksville Districts 5, 22 & 27
Vancouver West Districts 13, 17 & 24
Vancouver East Districts 14, 16 & 26
Langley Districts 2, 23, & 25
Chilliwack Districts 18 & 28
Prince George Districts 4N & 4S
Vernon Districts 3, 9 & 10
Nelson Districts 6, 7 & 8
Dawson Creek District 19
Terrace District 12
Whitehorse District 11
Planning for the Masonic Improvement Workshops
Members of the Commission have met over the last few months in Kamloops, Vancouver and Barkerville as well as at Grand Lodge to plan the organization of the MIWs. One of our Members, Bro. Bill Cave, has extensive experience in putting on similar workshops for industry. He facilitated a mini workshop in Kamloops in the spring using members of the Commission as well as members of the Committees of Education, Leadership and Research. The results obtained in a very short time were both stimulating and motivating to expand this process as the main forum for interaction with Freemasons in British Columbia. Since that date Bill has drafted a complete facilitators guide and conducted facilitator training sessions for Commission members. The aim of this guide and the training is to ensure as much consistency as possible in the conduct of the workshops throughout the province. No mean task as it is not intended that any Commission member should be present at more than 3 of the 12 workshops. The guide is flexible as it is anticipated that numbers at any one Workshop could vary from 15 to over 100.
The Commission members have been allotted to facilitate at 3 different workshops. Each Workshop has a Lead Facilitator whose job it is to contact the D.D.G.M.s of the respective Districts to set up the time and place of the Workshop. It is the D.D.G.M.s who will be hosts to the Workshops. D.D.G.M.s will be asked to provide the names of Brethren in the District who are willing to assist in facilitating the workshop and/or helping with the logistics of booking a location, arranging refreshments, setting up rooms for breakaway groups, materials, etc. Where more than one District is involved a planning meeting with the Brethren involved is envisaged.
The Masonic Improvement Workshop
The Workshops will be held on a Saturday and are expected to start at 9.00 a.m. and adjourn no later than 4.30 p.m. The outline schedule for the workshops are as follows:
0900-0915 Welcome from D.D.G.M.s, statement of purpose, housekeeping etc.
0915-1000 Participants will be asked to fill out the form “A History of Change” (Appendix 1) This form asks participants to write down the significant changes that have occurred in a) the world, b) my life and c) Freemasonry for each decade going back 50 years. Each participant will then be asked to write what they have written on flip charts that will be taped to the walls. Of course “In My Life” information need not be shared if it is too personal. Participants will then be asked to make comments on anything that they have observed as particularly noteworthy. The objective of this activity is to get participants energized and exchanging ideas.
1000- 015 Coffee Break
1015-1030 Analyzing our organization (Appendix 2). A short presentation by the facilitator. This will outline the process that the Commission is following.
1030-1115 The participants will be broken up into smaller groups and asked to consider “Today’s Environment for Freemasonry”. They will be asked to consider:
  • What things are influencing our “customers” in their decisions?
  • What would these customers be looking for in an organization they might choose to become involved with; what kinds of social and recreational and relaxation activities are people currently attracted to?
  • What social and business systems would they be familiar with in terms of how they interact with others, communicate and do their work, decision making and play?
  • What organizational structures would they be used to working in and be attracted to?
  • What demands are they faced with which might influence their decision to join an organization such as ours.
  • Any other ideas Each sub-group will return to provide a summary of their observations regarding the Environment in which we are marketing Freemasonry and their perception of the expectations of our potential customers. The groups will then report back their observations and perceptions of the expectations of our potential customers to the whole assembly. 1115-1200 Sub-group brainstorming exercise on “Freemasonry Today”. Participants will be asked to identify three things:
  • How would you describe our organization (what are the attributes of Freemasonry as an organization)?
  • What are the measures you would use to define our success (or failure) as an organization. Prioritize this list by multi-voting.
  • How do we succeed or fail to provide the things you have identified in your analysis of the environment which are important to our potential “customers”.
1200-1230 Lunch
1230-1300 Sub-group participants report back and will be asked to:
  • Describe the attributes you came up with to describe our organization.
  • Identify the measures that you would use to define our success (or failure) as an organization.
  • Provide a summary of how we are succeeding or failing to provide the things that are important to our potential “customers”.
1300-1345 Sub-groups again break away and are asked to describe the “Systems and Structures in Freemasonry” for example:
  • What is our organizational structure?
  • How are decisions made?
  • Who makes what decisions?
  • How do we communicate (what systems do we have for this)
  • Etc.
In considering this subject it will be important to concentrate on what the systems and structures are and not judge whether they are good or bad. The sub-groups will again report back to the full assembly.
1345-1415 Coffee and video “Who moved my cheese?”
1415-1630 Again sub-groups will break away and brainstorm “Strategies for Improvement”. The key question here is:
  • How can we improve Freemasonry in British Columbia to ensure a strong and vibrant future for our organization?
It is your strategies that the Commission is after and every opinion counts. Participants will be asked to prioritize the different options and report back to the main assembly. These points will then be discussed with the full assembly and if time permits an assembly priority list drawn up. These recommendations will be collated by the Commission and taken back to the Grand Master.
Although this seems like a very involved exercise it is only the start of the Commission’s work. It is just the beginning of the process. The commission will report the early findings at the Emergent meeting of Grand Lodge on December the 9th and of course at Grand Lodge in June. Some points may be able to be acted on quickly and I am sure that the Grand Master has that in mind. Others will need the approval of Grand Lodge and may be acted on in the medium term. The most difficult points to act on will be those which concern the structure of Freemasonry and these may take a longer time to act upon. For those of you that have experienced major changes at work you know that the only way that change can work is for there to be a consistent commitment to it, particularly from those who lead our Craft.
Appendix 1.
A history of change
(If possible, participants are encouraged to complete this activity prior to the workshop.) Identify Significant Changes that have occurred in your experience-- In the last...
10 years
20 years
30 years
40 years
50+ years
In the world:
In my life:
In Freemasonry:
Appendix 2.
Organizational analysis and design
  1. Define the current environment in which we “market” Freemasonry--this would consider the basic needs and wants of men and the community in which we currently exist. It might consider such things as changes in communication (to electronics/computers/ faxes, etc.), demand for increased involvement in decision making, higher basic levels of education, declining involvement in formal religions/churches, increased need for information and understanding, increased demand for flexibility, declining availability of free time, increased demands of family for available free time, need-to-know/right-to-know/freedom of information philosophy, etc.
  2. Evaluate the results and culture of our Masonic organization today in light of the existing environment. Consider how we measure up to the demands of the “marketplace”. We might note that we likely fall short in some of the areas brought to light for consideration and meet needs and expectations in others.
  3. Analyse the systems and structures, policies and procedures in Freemasonry today to determine which are relevant to the areas in which we fall short of expectations and then redesign our organization in those areas to eliminate those shortfalls in a manner which is consistent with the chosen strategy.
  4. Determine a suitable strategy for improvement in response to our understanding of the environment in which we are currently attempting to “market”, which addresses the kind of organization we wish to be and define the specific “market segments” (to stick with the business analogy) we wish to pursue. Also, when we choose to make certain decisions regarding design we do so recognizing their potential impact on results.


© 1871-2012 Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A.M. Updated: March 16, 2001