Writtn by: W.Bro. Bill Hickey, Boulder, CO
So … is everyone “ZOOMed” out by now? I mean, after all, it’s pretty much been the ONLY way any of us have been able communicate and to participate in any kind of Masonic meeting activities for the past couple of months. And, it’s not just the U.S. and Canada – it’s all around the world! Many jurisdictions have given blanket EXCEPTIONS to their constituent bodies to meet virtually and address routine business matters without meeting in person – and not just to do health and welfare checks on their Brethren, but in some cases to do limited ritualistic work. The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite has been presenting video presentations of their degrees via a secured system to their members. And, when I, as a member of the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction approached a friend of mine (Brother Wayne and I know the #2 in NMJ, and have known him for probably 30 or more years now) about trying to get access, I was vectored to the person in charge of the program. He told me, very politely and regretfully, that because the programs relied upon them being able to query their NMJ membership database to verify eligibility to attend meetings, they simply could not offer that courtesy to the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction because they did not have access to the appropriate database to verify our credentials. That, of course, is a “technical” problem, but it’s also a “political” problem. It CAN be solved, but not quickly and quite possibly not easily. Whether both sides WANT to solve it is yet another matter.
In any case, before people get up on their high horses and exclaim that you simply can’t do things like that, YES YOU CAN, you simply choose not to do so. You CHOOSE not to embrace technology to help you solve a difficult problem. You use technology to help you attack a PART of the problem, but not the “big elephant in the room” kind of problem.
There are, of course, certain aspects of our craft in any body which imply a very “personal” contact with the candidate. We may need to look closely at how much of a “requirement” that really is versus how much of a DESIRE it is.
What almost every jurisdiction of every appendant and concordant body in Masonry is finding out as they navigate this COVID-related change to our everyday lives is:
1. Like many brothers find out as they progress in Masonry, their in-person meeting schedules get so filled up that they find themselves over-committed and unable to attend every meeting, so they have to prioritize which ones they attend. ZOOM isn’t any different in that aspect. With more and more groups using it (and similar tools like GoToMeeting, CISCO, TEAMS, etc.) and also finding that separation by TIME ZONE is no longer an impediment to attend a session, you can’t possibly be “present” for every session you might WANT to attend. You have to prioritize. Think of this as the digital age equivalent of the 24-inch gauge lesson.
2. UN-like many of our in-person meetings, what almost everyone is finding out is that some of our lost brethren (Missing in Action for YEARS) are tuning into these online sessions. Renewing friendships from years past, and enjoying that fellowship they haven’t had in a long time. This is because perhaps they moved away and are no longer “local” or perhaps they can no longer get out and drive at night, or they don’t move as easily as they used to do. Whatever the reasons, these returning members are a JOY to experience and they too are enjoying it when they re-connect with us.
In any case, we’re all finding these “newly re-found” Brothers to be a pleasant and unexpected surprise and they are a DIRECT RESULT of these ZOOM sessions. They are re-engaging with us as we had always hoped, just not “live,” instead being “Memorex” (for those of you who remember that rather famous commercial).
HERE’S MY CHALLENGE TO YOU (in TWO parts):
PART 1: FIND A WAY to KEEP these ZOOM sessions as a part of your routine schedule to keep these re-engaged Brothers connected to you. If you were able to change YOUR behavior and use ZOOM to conduct routine meetings and do health and welfare checks on your members during this crisis, you can sure has HEQQ keep doing that to benefit these lost Brethren and show them that you really do care about them. Yes, you may well be able to meet in person again, and yes, there are some issues with blanket use of technology while practicing some of the more “private” parts of our craft, but … as with most things in life, WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY!
PART 2: Do yourself and your Brothers a huge favor. THINK about the content of your meetings. If a Brother stopped coming to your meetings because you spent 95% of the time opening, reading minutes, paying bills, arguing about some inane point of jurisprudence, and closing the meeting, they will stop coming to your ZOOM sessions if that’s all you do there. These ZOOM sessions are a WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY for you to practice what you preach – that you are all about EDUCATION and IMPROVEMENT of the Brother – not just about parliamentary procedure ad nauseam. Look around for speakers … look around for special programs … and remember, not everything you present MUST be “Masonic” related. There is a myriad of subject matter out there of interest to just about everyone. And frankly, if you look hard enough, you can probably even find some Masonic-connection in the strangest and unexpected places. Plus, you have an opportunity to approach out-of-state speakers and not have to worry about travel expenses to get them to come speak to your members. I just recently participated in two separate meetings – conducted by a brother from Ohio for the benefit of a lodge in Virginia. One was on the Masonic activities of concentration camp detainees in WWII, and the other on Masonic influence in the US Space program.
THINK ABOUT IT. Maybe COVID was a mixed curse and blessing all at the same time. A curse in that it stopped us from living life as we’d always done, but a blessing in that it made us get back to reality and understand what is truly important in life. Let’s not let that lesson go to waste. Remember, the Chinese have a saying – “May you live in interesting times” – it’s usually a curse, but can just as easily be a blessing if that’s how we want to take it.
Copied from the “Sunday Masonic Papers”, July 26, 2020