Here's the cookbook. Take a handful of diligent brethren, the six points below, give it three to five years and it will happen. It's nothing new, just a how to.
The purpose of this article is to share the processes and programs which took us from where we were to where we wanted to be, and how we got there. Every lodge has its own momentum, its own fit in the community, its own flavor and style. The resurgence of Gate City II started with Mike Bjelajac and myself as the main proponents. We worked diligently in every aspect of improvement.
We started by considering what we ourselves would like to see. We then moved to what would attract others to our lodge and ultimately how to keep them. Through difficulties and the naturally occurring personnel shifts of today's mobile society, the Lodge ebbed and flowed for a few years but still managed to gain and keep several key members: Doug Hrabe, Chris Wilson, Donald Hall, Nick Hayes, Bill Wallace and Edwin Demars. We established elements of all of the six points but could never really find time to fully implement the last three (we didn't even have a name for them).
We started to more clearly define what was needed around September of 2007. Everyone has day jobs and several of us had more than one role in the lodge to fulfill. We were all stretched a bit thin. I always knew that an active Craftsmen's club of PMs was the key. I ended my two year stint as master in December 2007. After resolving some difficult situations which ultimately made us closer, I knew it was time to seal the deal and finish what we started. Still, here was no real name for the points, just the clear idea that they were necessary.
With each stride in completing the six points, the change was palpable. By the time our annual retreat came around in 2008, everyone knew we were on to something. We closed the deal with the introduction of the Religion and Culture Series as well as an active blog and website which showcase the feel of the Lodge. These six points, were only named after David Herman asked Gate City II for a presentation at the DeKalb County Masonic Association. After a lot of consideration, these six points became concrete...or cement.
We are an in town Lodge operating in one of the largest and racially diverse cities in the United States. You may not agree with our approach or make up, you may not like our formality, you might think we have a Lodge ego the size of our great city, that's okay. These points are universal and common sensible and could help your lodge as well.
1. Appearance of the Brethren. Gate City already had the custom of having our officers wear tuxedos, and it was a small matter to reinforce this, and to ask the rest of the brethren to wear a coat and tie when at all possible; for many, this was already their normal lodge attire.
2. Ritual Proficiency and Execution. We decided that it wasn't enough to be "merely proficient" - we wanted to do the work with a crisp, military precision, having everyone move, face, or be still as a team. We decided to step up to this level of execution for the officers ourselves and for our sideline members - but most especially for our candidates, who come to us seeking something special, outside of and above their workaday experiences; we wanted our love of the ritual to shine through.
3. Appearance of the Lodge. Two weeks after I was elected Worshipful Master, I pulled the shag carpeting out of the South Lodge Room and installed a granite and marble tessellated floor. We turned off the fluorescent lights, turned down the incandescent lights, and began using actual candles to represent the Three Lesser Lights. We feel that this sets the tone nicely for a beautiful Masonic evening. A quick visit to http://gatecity2.org will give you a feel for the present appearance
- and, in fact, we worked out a brand new website, because that's all a great many people will ever see of our lodge, and we wanted to put our best foot forward.
4. Fellowship. One of the most important draws for a new brother is fellowship. Bonds of friendship are forged during unstructured time.
You don't get to know the fellow across from you while you are sitting in lodge; it is outside of the lodge meetings where you truly connect; it is at the planning sessions and at refreshment that men become brethren in the full realization of that bond. Gate City goes that all one further by having various social gatherings throughout the year and an annual weekend retreat, where we get to know each other between cycles of ritual practice, event planning, catechism work and pitching in to prepare and clean up the meals.
5. Education . People come into Freemasonry with a variety of expectations. Some are seeking enlightenment, or at least help along that path; most expect regular lessons on symbolism, morality, personal development and the meaning of life. They don't join for a place to have hot dogs and coffee (although that may be a welcome side effect). They come to find something that has been missing, something that is worth their time away from their families, the television, the internet and the myriad of other things that one could be doing during a lodge meeting. This year we actually combined Education, Outreach and Publicity, and bundled them up into our Religion & Culture series. With an aggressive kick off of eight programs, we are opening each one to members, families, friends, prospective members, brethren from other lodges and the public in general. These programs cover a variety of topics, including an Introduction to Hinduism and the Kashi Atlanta Ashram (65 guests attended); an Ancient Islamic Poetry reading and explanation, a recital of Hayden, Mozart and Mendelssohn (all Masons); remembrances of a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz and Russian purges; a Deacon will speak on the Catholic Church's historical and present position on Freemasonry; an overview of Shamanic practices; and more to be booked.
6. Programs: . The Atlanta Masonic Temple does not have any kitchen facility, so we had to think outside of the box if we wanted to contribute to charities in our community - no pancake breakfast or fish fry events. We have raised and donated money through bowling for Susan G. Kommen for the Cure Foundation and we have hosted GACHIP events, we've raised money for fallen police officers, but this year we will be branching out further, hosting a Jazz show in Decatur, with the proceeds going to the Doctors Without Borders charity. Additionally, our Senior Warden, Bill Wallace, will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa as a fundraiser for Doctors without Borders, and he will unfurl a Masonic flag at the summit. Other programs are the instruction of a productive website which features the flavor of your lodge and not a calendar from 2001. For our purposes, a program can merely be a specialized implementation of any of the preceding five points but also refer to presentations, communications or charitable endeavors.
Copyright, Gate City II, 2009
Gate City II is an Atlanta Masonic Lodge. We are Free and Accepted Masons working under the jurisdiction of The Grand Lodge of Georgia. We meet at the Atlanta Masonic Center (formerly The Atlanta Masonic Temple) 1690 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30309