How Should Freemasons Relate to the Public?
W. Bro. B. Malkinson P.A.G.D.C.
MY ANSWER: "By example and communication: by the public work they do and by the written and spoken word".
MY ARGUMENT: Freemasons should relate to those who are not Freemasons 'Today — Tomorrow — 2000" by a greater acknowledgement of the value of communication in its many forms. Our secrets and our privacy have long since gone: why labour under the misapprehension, as some still do, that they are still with us? Let us now speak out.
Masonic principles and teachings make us aware of a quality of life that would not be ours but for our membership of the Brotherhood and this is often used to advantage in the community work in which many Freemasons are involved. Both the work and those responsible for it should, where appropriate, be made more widely known by better communication and by an even greater commitment should circumstances fairly warrant. In this way we could also relate from where our inner or differing strengths are derived.
In a dignified way which reflects those things we hold dear Brethren should emulate the work already being done by Grand Lodge and those Provinces that have a Public Relations and Press Officer and seek wider recognition of what our organisation stands for and in individual members do for others.
The national press now acknowledges some of the major non-masonic work that is done. At local level items of genuine news value are printed with increasing frequency. This does not cheapen the image of Freemasonry: it enhances it and also lets those who do not already know that the charitable work of Freemasonry is not just for Freemasons.
In a changing world some aspects of Freemasonry have been changed in recent years. How we relate to the public must also change and that change must be by more individual communication and more community endeavour outside our Lodges.
Rather than be accused of a vested interest by those who know I once worked within the media I asked several friends, all Freemasons involved in public life, how they thought Freemasons should relate to the public. This is what they had to say:
W. Bro. P. Croshaw (Insurance Broker)
Some Freemasons have difficulty in relating to the public which questions its motives and ideals. Membership of Rotary, the Lions, Round Table and similar organisations is readily acceptable because their work within local communities is known and without mystery. This should be countered by making the public more aware of the extensive non-masonic charity work done by Freemasons with, perhaps, the recipients of the larger donations making suitable acknowledgement. We do receive regular information of what monies are distributed but there appears to be a reluctance and suitable opportunity to discuss them. This reluctance is because the adverse publicity in recent years has suggested Freemasons are elitist who collaborate with each other in business life to the exclusion of others. The support for each other is part of our teaching, it will exist but no more so than within any other organisation or indeed sports and social club.
Adverse publicity follows the secrecy inherent in the Craft. The work within our ceremonies should continue to be so. We are not a secret society but a Society with secrets and membership of it should not be confidential. Unless we are more open in this regard recruitment to our ranks will continue to be difficult.
W. Bro. J. A. Daniell (Service Industries — Manufacturing)
Brethren should at all times appear to others to be just and upright ensuring that the image of Freemasonry is not reported as a secret Society which itself breeds fear of the unknown. It should, however, acknowledge that like many service organisations it is a society with things it wishes to remain private.
Those who are not Masons should be made aware where possible of the many charities, large and small, that are supported by Freemasonry and made aware, not by vast advertising campaigns but by word of mouth or in the news columns of local newspapers. It is important to stress that while we support our own charities a vast number of those in receipt of monies are often not masonically connected.
Freemasons should make sure that it is more widely known that Freemasonry is not regarded as a substitute to religion but that it is based on belief in a Supreme being, which in many faiths is interpreted as God.
W. Bro. G. F. Hodson (Chief Fire Officer)
The ideals of Freemasonry have ever been and will always continue to inculcate into its members the philosophy of a spiritual, moral and philanthropic way of life that will help to promote the highest possible standards of the manner in which they conduct themselves towards the world and their fellow creatures. It is not sufficient merely to proclaim to the general public and those who are not Freemasons that the principles and tenets of Freemasonry which we try to incorporate into our general way of life are necessary but we must show to the world not just by words but by our actions and the very way we live and conduct ourselves in our daily lives that by so doing we are endeavouring to try in some small measure to make ourselves better persons and the world a better place in which to live.
W. Bro. J. M. Morehen (Practical and Scholarly Musician)
In our public relations we should remember that we are often highly respected for our charitable work, which is usually imperfectly understood, yet highly suspected for our privacy, often misconstrued as 'secrecy' which, too, is often misunderstood. Like many minority groups we are rarely observed and perceived with total impartiality.
And so, when we meet a Mason or a non-Mason alike we should behave as though to a Brother for even if he is not, he may tomorrow experience the joys of our Masonic fellowship. Even if he never participates in our fraternity, this does not make him in anyway unworthy of our Order. Many of us sought Freemasonry because men we knew and respected we understood to be Masons. Can we claim that, by our comportment, we have induced others to seek the Craft?
We should always remember that through our words and deeds we speak and act for several million members of our Order.
W. Bro. E. H. M. Seaward (Civil Servant)
Freemasonry is not a society apart, it is a part of society. It represents stability and integrity in a constantly changing world. Sadly this is not the impression held by a substantial number of the general public. For too long too many of our members have hidden behind a pseudo secrecy which has put a barrier between ourselves and the public. Only by adopting a positive approach can we avert suspicion. It is unlikely that a high profile publicity campaign would of itself arouse much public enthusiasm towards us. It would be better tenaciously to use all opportunities to show what Freemasonry is and does and to combat the mischievous attacks made on us.
We need to be seen publicly to be continuing and expanding our help to non-Masonic charitable organisations and to gain publicity from joint ventures with them. We must emphasise our insistence on high levels of integrity in our members and similarly our intentions to disbar those who deliberately flaunt our principles. Above all we must have the courage of our convictions and be willing to show the public how these convictions can effectively relate to life today.