"We've been, quietly, you understand, absorbing lodges from those other, offshoot grand lodges that are popping up all the time," said Steven Wayne Macy, District Deputy in the Chicago area, and director of the re-fraternalization program. "It's great for us, because instead of just one or two candidates at a time, we can get 20 or more in one shot. And we don't even need to waste time with all those degrees, since they've already taken them."
When asked if there weren't issues with bringing in men who were made irregularly, he told us, "Well, first of all, we stopped using the 'C-word' to describe these guys. They took pretty much the same degrees that we did, so in that respect, they are just as regular as you or me. I mean, sure, it's been difficult to introduce them into some of the other lodges, but we've already been giving serious consideration to switching our official work to Duncan's anyway, since there's really not much difference. "
Acknowledging that there have been cultural issues to iron out, RW Macy said "One of the more interesting things that we don't understand, is that they have lodges named after TV characters. Like, we're just finishing up the paperwork on a lodge in the next town that named their lodge after a Sesame Street character. I haven't had a chance to ask them what significance Elmo has, but it's kind of cute."
The Past Bastard asked RW Macy what benefits the incoming members saw. "Oh, it's definitely a win for both of us," he explained. "First, we get new members who come in as Master Masons, so right away they can start paying dues. On their end, our dues are usually a fraction of what these guys were getting charged, so they're happy to be getting what they see as a discount."
Apparently there are other benefits, too. "Those lodges that come over, they have bling like you can't believe. We don't have to worry about supplying them with aprons or jewels, or hats, staffs, or any of that stuff, It's a turnkey operation for us, and for them, the get lowered dues, and membership that will allow them to travel to any other lodge in the US. I mean, some of those jewels have this little key at the bottom of the square, but we're trying to figure out a way to remove them without damaging the rest of the jewel."
Naturally, the re-fraternalization process hasn't been entirely problem free. "Some of the older Past Masters from these lodges are a little miffed that they can't paddle the new guys. We hadn't realized that this was such an important part of their ritual, but we really don't want the threat of a lawsuit; it's already bad enough that once or twice a year we end up with a new Master Mason with a broken rib or something. No point adding to the risk."
RW Macy assured us that despite the handful of minor issues, the re-fraternalization program seemed to be a success. "I mean, I don't know why nobody thought of this before," he said. "We're picking up at least one new lodge every month. I can't believe that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge just let these guys slip through their fingers."
-- Conte Calvino Gliostro