I have been reading much (as many of you faithful readers have noticed) of the work of Jim Collins in his books Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall. Recently, I have been attracted, once again, to his thinking in one of his earlier works, Built to Last. In the introduction to the paperback edition, Collins writes, “Contrary to popular wisdom, the proper first response to a changing world is not to ask, “How should we change?” but rather to ask, “What do we stand for and why do we exist?” Put another way, visionary companies distinguish their timeless core values and enduring purpose (which shall never change) from their operating practices and business strategies (which should be changing constantly in response to a changing world).” In like manner, the core values of our Scottish Rite will continue to define our mission well into the future.
Recently, during a visitation to the Valley of Dayton, a member of the Valley spoke to me about the problematic missions of both the Masonic fraternity and some mainline Protestant churches. He observed that as the Masonic fraternity has lost its focus on fraternalism; so, too, have some churches lost their focus on religion and worship. I was intrigued by his comparison of these two seemingly different types of organizations. He observed that as Freemasonry has lost its focus on fraternity through an ever increasing array of institutionalized charities that somehow always benefit the secular world and its emphasis on the perfection of ritual, so, too, have these churches lost their focus on the worship of God, emphasizing instead political and secular issues which do not meet the needs of their members. In other words, the core values which established and guided both of these institutions have been routinely ignored by their respective leaders.
We may well ask ourselves if our fraternity is doing what it can to focus on membership, relevancy and effectiveness, asking all kinds of questions about these concerns at every Masonic gathering. We have reached a point in our history where we must be proactive and no longer reactive if we are to enjoy a Masonic future. We must, of necessity, ask ourselves another question, “For whom does our fraternity exist? Is it for the leaders or its members?” If we are unable or unwilling to focus beyond the vain service of self, then we are condemning ourselves to irrelevancy and, possibly, extinction. Let us, then, determine just where we want to take our society of friends and Brothers and how to build our future together.
Jim Collins wrote: “Those who built the visionary companies wisely understood that it is better to understand who you are than where you are going, for where you are going will almost certainly change.”