Shaping our future
The results from a new survey about Freemasonry conducted by the Membership Focus Group reveal an organisation that cherishes mutual respect and moral values, while still embracing fun and enjoyment
In the autumn 2014 issue of Freemasonry Today, we reported on the formation of the Membership Focus Group (MFG), a body tasked with ensuring that the Craft continues to attract and retain the most suitable members. By looking at the whole organisation, the MFG is seeking to identify what’s worked for the past three hundred years, what’s good to keep and what needs to be modified. Further still, as Chairman Ray Reed explains, ‘The MFG wants to ensure that any decisions about Freemasonry draw upon the views, talents and ideas of members at all levels, from all areas and from every type of background.’
With this in mind, a survey was designed to enable the MFG to assess the views of Freemasons on the value of friendship, masonic ceremony, charity work and many other subjects. From new initiates to high-ranking Grand Officers, 5,265 Freemasons took part, giving a representative view of the membership as a whole.
The survey invited members to rank aspects of Freemasonry in order of importance, on a scale from not at all important to very important.
By combining the results for fairly and very important, having respect for others topped the ranking, with 98.9% of members finding it important.
This was followed closely by being with people who respect others, which 97.4% of members found important. Meeting people with integrity (95.5% considered it important) was a runner up, with the ethical and moral ethos of Freemasonry coming in at 94.8%. At a glance, it therefore seems that our fundamental values and being with others who share those values is of prime importance.
In recent years there has been a great deal of discussion on the subject of ceremonies and the part they play in Freemasonry. Different schools of thought have developed regarding whether we should adapt the way we learn and perform. According to the survey, following on from the shared principles, 95.4% of members also found masonic ceremonies important.
Lest anybody should conclude that Freemasons are a dry and sombre lot, ranked next in importance was enjoyment and having fun, although when ranked individually, activities such as barbecues, garden parties and ladies nights were not seen as so important in themselves.
Something that might surprise outsiders to Freemasonry is the fact that by far the least important factor was being part of an elite fraternity. Gaining friendships; meeting like-minded people; belonging and feeling valued; and meeting people from different backgrounds were all more important.
It seems that the traditional structure of a lodge meeting is still valued by members. A significant percentage found the structure and formality of a lodge meeting important (91.3%), with going to the lodge in a suit and tie and the Festive Board also scoring highly (83.6% and 89.7%, respectively).
Speech-making was considered to be of only moderate importance (53.7% found it important), yet tellingly, gaining confidence and skills by taking part was ranked important by 92.5% of members. Initial indications are that new members in particular do not like long speeches and that the start time of meetings is important. The MFG will be following this up with surveys of new members in several Provinces and the Metropolitan area.
While the MFG programme is moving forward quickly, this is not a quick-fix project. Thoroughly analysing the survey data and considering the masonic implications will be a huge job, and action will only be taken once the MFG has the full facts and views of the membership. Bearing this in mind, it has engaged the skills of specialists in various fields in order to create sub-groups. With many younger members, these sub-groups are now focusing on particular aspects, including image, leadership, strategy, attracting members and retention.
Have your say
Everybody in Freemasonry has the opportunity to shape its future and the MFG is keen to see more members participate. While the first survey has been completed and sign-ups have now grown to more than 7,400 members, there is still an opportunity to register and participate.
Over the coming months, the MFG will be seeking the assistance of members by way of short surveys on a variety of topics associated with Freemasonry. If you wish to have your say and are willing to help, then please register at www.ugle.org.uk/mfg. Your registration will be confirmed by us asking for your name, lodge number, masonic rank and years of membership (so that we can ascertain whether particular views are expressed according to these differences). All insight and comments are collected anonymously.
‘The Membership Focus Group wants to ensure that any decisions about Freemasonry draw upon the views, talents and ideas of members at all levels, from all areas and from every type of background.’ Ray Reed