Article by Right Worshipful Brother Larry Sprague, Senior Grand Deacon
I became a member of Cheshire-Mt Vernon Lodge No. 23 (then Cheshire Lodge) in 1995, at the time there were 38 members. It’s small Lodge in a small town, we had no running water, a 160-year old building in need of major repairs and our restroom facility was an outhouse. Like all Lodges today we’ve faced many challenges over the years. Declining membership, involvement and dedication of the members and the effort and cost it takes to maintain and improve an old building took its toll.
Things started to change with the efforts of just a few members. We got involved with the community by having a booth at the local Cornish Fair each year. One of our Past Masters contacted the town and asked if there was anything the Lodge could do as a service to the community. They said a cemetery fence needed to be painted. The town provided the paint and the pizza, the Lodge provided the manpower. We got it done in one day. The town was very appreciative, and it was great publicity for us. About a year ago we started having monthly community breakfasts at the Lodge. The cost is by donation, there’s no required fee. We’ve now had hundreds of people come into our building who never would have before. This community service has not only become our best fundraiser but our best open house too! We’ve even had 1 man and his wife come visit us to find out more about Masonry and he has asked for a petition.
As our financial situation started to turn around, our building started to become a better place to visit. The first thing to go was the outhouse! A septic system along with a modern kitchen and bathroom were installed. The hundred or so year old asbestos shingles were removed and standing seam roof put on. The old single-pane windows were replaced with new energy-efficient ones.
So, what will work for your Lodge? There is no single answer, it varies from town to town and city to city. But my suggestion is to take advantage of everything you have. Participate in the annual open house. Advertise it, combine it with something else. One suggestion is free pumpkin carving for kids, their parents have to bring them. Contact the town and find out what you can do to help the community. All it takes is the effort and dedication of an individual member to make a difference. Be the spark that ignites the flame in others. In the DeMolay Ceremony of Light, the closing line says, “If you can reach into the innermost depths of his soul and set his flame afire then therein lies the purpose of the Order of DeMolay and therein lies your purpose for living.” Apply that line to Freemasonry and be that spark.