I used to begin a lot of my articles with a Webster Dictionary definition. Remember those thick books with definitions of words in the English Language. Now, it is much easier to get out your iPhone and use Siri to ask, “What is a vacation?” Just like that, you will get a response indicating a vacation is, “an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling!” Sounds like fun!
I must chuckle when I hear members of the Order indicate, “attending the Grand Lodge Convention is like going on vacation.” Yes, the convention is held away from home and yes, there are parts of it with the sole purpose of providing leisure and recreation along with fraternity, the main tenet of the organization. However, to call it a vacation is a stretch.
When I spoke at the convention on behalf of our Roma Lodge membership, I emphasized making the convention “positive versus punitive” to get more participation. In my archives I found the Grand Lodge convention book from 1999. There were 73 lodges, with a membership of 8,533 and 285 delegates, grand council members and commission members. Now, 22 years later we have 42 lodges with only 3698 members! Of the 40 lodges in attendance, only 22 had full representation and 8 were not even represented at all!
Other than the Mail Box presentation and soliciting a statewide membership chair, the last business item at the convention, why weren’t we spending the bulk of our time on ideas how to get more members and lodges involved? I think we can all agree we have to turn this trend around or there may not be a Grand Lodge in our future! Here is a start:
1. Complete the convention on Saturday at noon. This would require the Black and White Ball to be held on Friday night. This would allow delegates to travel home on Saturday. We had delegates this year who had to wait until Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. to get a flight home. This would safe each delegate $200 for hotel and parking and our lodge alone $1,200 if we send 6 delegates.
2. Have breakout sessions for local lodge officers on one day to share ideas on how to improve their own lodges. This would allow local lodges to send these officers for one day, attend the evening event and return home the next day to save travel costs. These people may want to go to future conventions if we give them a learning experience.
3. Hold the Royal Pageant every year and not every other year. This would allow the contestants to serve only one year and increase participation. Make fundraising a part of the contest rather than all the contest.
4. Donations to various charities is a great thing. However, we wasted a lot of time listening to Lodge X giving $25 to the Western Foundation Scholarship Fund. Have lodges turn in donation sheets on the first day of the convention allowing those in charge to inventory the donations and printout a list for each delegate by the last session. The list could be read, and local lodges could be recognized at that time if so needed. This year we would have finished well before noon.
5. Allow lodges to send as many participants as they would like. We had voting cards that were never used. They would not have to buy the entire convention packet and choose events they wanted to attend. I know it is a bigger headache for the planners of the convention but would increase participation.
I would encourage other delegates to submit their ideas on how we can increase participation at the Grand Lodge Convention. I know we book hotels two years in advance; however, we can change the way we do things and reduce costs to local lodges. We all need to work together to ensure we have a future. The convention is NOT a vacation as we have a lot of work to do to make it better.
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