Every Mason and practically every Royal Arch Mason knows full well the condition of our bodies, especially on the membership side of things. We are losing more members, typically, then we are taking in a year. It is that simple! It is however, more importantly, just as evident that we are losing a tremendous amount of leadership each year. Death is taking away Masonic leaders all too rapidly.
Every week on the Internet and the various list servers that I frequent, messages come in that some Masonic leader has passed away. Each week I read e-mails that another Masonic leader has entered the spiritual house not built with hands. During this past several months the Grand Chapter of Iowa lost three PGHPS. I am sure that other jurisdictions have suffered similar losses in the recent and not so recent past. With these losses, Masonry is losing leaders.
The three I am most familiar with were of course the ones from Iowa. These three PGHPs were very unique individuals, each with a different leadership style. Each was dedicated to Masonry in his own style and made a sizable contribution to Masonry in general, and the York Rite in particular. They were there as I progressed through the line to becoming and they each offered their leadership to me personally in their own way.
Charles Crocker was the first GHP to appoint me to a position in the Grand Chapter. He appointed me DDGHP and thus got me very active, for the first time in the GC. Dwayne Shalia was one of the men who I admired for his ritualistic ability and his quiet leadership role in every task that he undertook. Vic Folkers was the “loud” one, advising me on every move that I made, before, during and after I was in the Grand Line. Leadership comes in many forms and they certainly had three different styles.
These three Companions were not only PGHPS, they were active in every body they joined. I would imagine that together they served well over 100 years of Secretarial roles for the various bodies they belonged to. They served, but more importantly, they served well. Every Mason knows full well that the Secretary’s job can be and usually is the most demanding job in any Masonic body. In these jobs they filled the roles with the utmost care and with the detail that was needed.
We are losing members, we know that full well. I see and hear about Brothers and Companions dying all the time, but it took Iowa losing three before it sunk in to me that we are losing something more important than just members. We are losing leadership … leadership that is so vital to our organizations. Leadership that we must have to survive. We can take in new members, hopefully more each year than we are losing, but we must remember to take in leaders as well.
Leadership is such an intangible that you can’t put your finger on it, but you know it when you see it. In my opinion, you can’t make a leader. I believe that a leader is born and then the qualities are developed. Contrary to some popular theories out there, I believe you can only develop someone’s leadership abilities, not give them ability to do it. Masonry needs all the leaders it can find, we all know that. We need leaders with vision and foresight and the ability to step on a few toes in the process.
We tend to be a little wrapped up in what we ‘used” to do, making it hard for a true leader to function well in our organizations. A true leader gets tired of hearing “we’ve tried that before.” it is never mentioned that we tried it, but that was in 1957, and it is now 1999. Times change and we must be willing to let our organization change, where change is allowed, for future growth.
These three men who were willing to try new things and to look at what we might be able to do. They were willing to allow the future to enter our organizations where it was possible. Granted, they were willing in their own ways and styles, but they were willing. Two were willing to try anything while one, occasionally had to be shown that it would be all right. Yet, they were all leaders and leaders who were willing to do the right thing for Freemasonry. Freemasonry needs leaders … we are losing too many. It is time that each of us either begin to use our leadership abilities, if we have them, or help those with the abilities to develop them. If we are not leaders, we must become good followers (and goodness knows, we need them, too!). Our job is to help Freemasonry survive by finding the right leadership for the right situation. If we can do that, I believe we will help in the future development of the Fraternity. Remember, we don’t all have to be leaders to contribute, but we all have a contribution to make to leadership. Next time you are at a Masonic meeting … look around … Lost any leaders lately? I bet you have … what are you going to do about it? How will you help to replace Charlie Crockers, Victor Folkers and Dwayne Shallas of the Masonic world?
– Royal Arch Mason Fall 1999