Some years ago I was the Transvaal Regional Manager for a leading international computer supplier. The economy was going through a difficult phase, while, at the same time, our overseas principal’s had problems of their own and were putting enormous pressure on the South African team to produce almost impossible results. Generally, life for those of us in the local management team was pretty stressful. We were giving it our all, working extraordinary hours and really didn’t feel that we were winning.
One day, our General Manager walked into our monthly Executive meeting and, without saying a word, wrote a World War II quotation of Winston Churchill’s on the white board. The quotation was :-
“It’s not good enough that we do our best, we must do what is necessary for success!”
I think I remember it so well because of the impact it had on the approach of our team. I suspect that it was on that day that we realised that we’d have to make some pretty dramatic changes to our strategies. If working day and night wasn’t going to result in success, we’d have to try something different. Failure wasn’t acceptable “as long as the reasons were sound” – our company’s survival was at stake. If our plans weren’t working, it was up to us to change them. It didn’t matter whose fault it was, we were responsible.
We all learned a great deal that day. Above all, however, I think that we realised the importance of accepting individual ownership of the problem. Each and every one of us had to meet the challenge.
Now, “What”, you may ask, “has this got to do with Freemasonry?”. Well, over the past few months I have listened to many discussions on our declining numbers. I have been provided with documentary evidence that it’s not just a local issue, but is being experienced all over the world. The fact is, brethren, that this doesn’t make it acceptable. I’m a firm subscriber to the view that “that which does not grow, dies”. Our beloved craft cannot carry on declining in numbers and seriously believe it has a future.
We, as individuals, cannot waste any more precious time bemoaning the problem. We each have to take personal responsibility for making a positive contribution to reversing the trend – and I don’t mean just pushing the numbers up, I mean attracting good men who will become effective Freemasons. I mean retaining the good men that we already have and ensuring that they are masonically stimulated.
Brethren, I often tell people that joining Freemasonry is one of the finest things that ever happened to me. It’s basic precepts of truth, morality and brotherly love are as sound today as they have always been. It’s a way of life, rich in moral and spiritual rewards and stimulation. I know that most of you share that view. Listen to the reaction at a festive board when somebody passes a comment such as “if all men were Freemasons, most of the world’s problems would be resolved”. The fact is, most of us firmly believe that.
So, how then, I ask, can we let Freemasonry just fade away? If Freemasonry means as much to each of us as I believe it does, surely we owe it to the order to see it has a future. We also owe it to our fellow men.
Brethren, reversing the decline in numbers is essential to our future. It’s not good enough that we do our best, we have to succeed. If, in your Lodge, the actions being taken are not having the desired results, perhaps you need to try something different. Our order has become so much more open of late - take advantage of this change. Organise functions, promote your Lodge to outsiders, get involved with your community. Talk to your brethren and see that you are all in harmony about the direction being followed. Listen to new ideas they may have. If some of your plans don’t work out, so be it. Try other ideas.
Above all though, Brethren, the time has come for action. The future of Freemasonry is in our hands and I would urge each and every one of you to accept the challenge that comes with that responsibility.
R Wor Bro Geoff Edwards
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