Grand Masters Message, October 2016
Brother Stephen T. McGuire
Most Worshipful Grand Master
So far this has been a fun year. We had a great time with the Shrine in Tampa and the Northeast Conference of Grand Masters was well attended and well received.
As most of you know, I am still working and will represent this Grand Jurisdiction as well as I can. That means I can't travel as many Grand Masters have in the past, but it also means I can devote my attention to things that need attention in this Grand jurisdiction. I am extremely proud to do this.
I basically would like to cover three things in this column:
1. The Supreme Assembly of Rainbow coming to New England for the 1st time since 1938.
2. Membership in Rhode Island and the world as it has evolved over the years.
3. Ideas for public relations and issues within this state that have been placed on "back burners" for several years.
First, the Supreme Assembly of Rainbow for Girls was held in Rhode Island for the first time since 1938. In 1938 most events were held in Boston and the Past Supreme Worthy Advisor, Cora Ellen Moody, of Maine wanted to do the same thing this time. Unfortunately, the powers that be in Boston were only concerned in how much money the girls would be bringing into the convention centers and hotels of Beantown. Consequently, virtually every-thing the girls did was held in Providence. We, as the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island:
- Provided transportation to and from our Masonic Youth Center for these young ladies and their chaperones at no charge.
- Provided these young ladies with chowder, clam cakes, hamburgers and hot dogs at no charge to them.
- Hired a drone to take great video and still footage that will soon be available on our web site and sent to Rainbow Assemblies around the world.
- Provided an extremely nice fireworks display at no charge.
As a result of this we have received a thank you letter from Mrs. Moody, the highest ranking Rainbow Officer in the world, thanking us for all we do. After I spoke at their annual reception, a young lady said to me, "Mr. McGuire, we have a gift for you". I expected a pin or a certificate. Instead, I was presented with 5 poster boards, signed by hundreds of girls from around the globe, thanking us for our hospitality. In addition to just about every state, we received thanks from girls hailing from Bulgaria, Bolivia, Brazil, Australia and the Philippines just to mention a few. People who have been attending this event for over 30 years told us we are the new Gold Standard - no one has ever done it so well. Virginia is hosting this in two years and they are scrambling to take notes and try to live up to the standard we have set. Every Rhode Island Freemason should be proud of this. The poster boards will be on display at the Grand Lodge Semi-annual.
Secondly, I would briefly like to touch base on some membership numbers I have recently received. These are the most recent numbers published by the Masonic Service Association:
- U.S. Masonic Membership is listed from 1924, when total membership was 3,077,161 until 2015, when membership was at an all-time low, for the years provided, at 1,161,253.
- The all-time high was in 1959 when membership was 4,103,161.
- Masonic Services Association shows Rhode Island's numbers dropping from 3,294 in 2014 to 3,101 in 2015.
- Despite being the smallest state we have more members than Alaska (1,693), Hawaii (1,734), North Dakota (2,875), and Utah (1,808) and tie Wyoming at 3,101.
- The state with the greatest number of Freemasons is Pennsylvania with 101,745.
Thirdly, I want to discuss some ideas we have to move forward and improve our Craft. We've worked hard trying to reverse the trend of dwindling membership for many years. While our efforts can't be classified a failure, we haven't quite been able to turn the corner and enter a period of growth. I would like to introduce a little bit of a different tack (I know, sailing lingo) to see what new doors we may be able to kick open. With that in mind, we will be holding a Masonic Town Meeting at Grand Lodge on Saturday, December 3rd at 09:00. There will be a continental breakfast provided and all brothers are welcome to attend including Entered Apprentices and Fellow Craft.
There will be an agenda of things I want to cover but we will open the floor to discussion and welcome ideas, thoughts and opinions. Among the items I'd like to discuss, in addition to attracting new members are:
- Each Lodge's footprint within the community including interaction with individuals and groups. We have designed a new recognition certificate for Eagle Scouts and I'd like to see one presented to each new Eagle Scout who wants one. We need to discuss how our lodges can assist local students and schools, needy families and community beautification. A huge part of this falls under the area of Public Relations and we have an excellent Public Relations committee. I'm sure they would like to hear new ideas and share theirs with the membership. We have also created a new Social Media committee and I'm sure they will have things to share with all.
- Membership Retention: W∴Mike Southern has provided in depth information on our history in this area. We now have records of how many brothers are raised and dropped for NPD within a few short years. We need to discuss this issue and attempt to identify all potential causes.
- Masonic Leadership: In my opinion membership and leadership must be addressed together or you will fail at both. R∴W∴Paul Kokolsky's forums and workshops are well conceived and delivered. Yet we still face the same issues. Again, discussing our strengths and weaknesses, what we do well and what we need to get better at, can only serve to better our jurisdiction and the Craft.
The floor will be open to questions and discussion. We will attempt to allow every brother who so wishes, an opportunity to speak keeping in mind we will maintain proper decorum. It is my hope that this event is so well attended and fruitful that we will be compelled to schedule one or two more in the Spring.
In closing, I'd like to remind everyone that this year is the 225th Anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island. As part of our celebration we have already attended a wonderful church service on St. John's Sunday. We have also celebrated with an out-standing picnic (thank you R∴W∴Ken Poyton!) complete with a drone, music and fireworks. On Saturday, November 19th the annual Fall Festival will be held at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet. Again, R∴W∴Poyton is working hard to make this an extra-special event in celebration of this special year. I implore each and every one of you to come and celebrate with us.
A very special Thanksgiving, filled with love, health and the warmth of friends and family is wished to each and every one of you by the McGuire family.
Sincerely and fraternally,
Stephen T. McGuire