Brian Handley, Provincial Membership Officer, reflects on the selection of good candidates at a time when Lodges are under pressure to boost numbers.
Recruitment is without doubt the lifeblood of Freemasonry, but have we lost our way?
We are urged, understandably, to adapt to a changing world, to review, for example, lodge starting-times and festive boards.
However, as with ritual, there are areas where we should stick to our guns. Among these is the process of selecting Initiates.
The internet has shrunk the world, with people relocating more frequently than ever before. Masonic ‘recruitment’ style chosen by our ancestors has become more difficult.
The safest way to identify members who will remain as Freemasons rather than drift away, is to apply at the outset a diligent process of assessment.
Hard though it may when new members are sparse, we must accept that some prospective candidates arriving for interview should not have been invited in the first place. The question of suitability should be addressed in the initial stages, first by the proposer and the seconder, followed very importantly, by the interviewing committee.
Identification of good candidates may not be as easy as it used to be but we should not drop standards in respect of the qualities we expect in candidates, simply to make up numbers at the expense of high standards.
It is of paramount importance that proposers, seconders and interviewers should have sound understanding of the essential qualities expected in every candidate and their suitability for individual Lodges.
Nerves may prevent some candidates from demonstrating those qualities at interview, but discreet enquiry and genuine acquaintance should reveal their potential before they are put forward.
Likewise, matching a candidate to a Lodge is important and filters such as age, interests, peer groups, school or military association, will be important in ensuring that he feels comfortable in what may at first seem an alien environment.
Being male, keen to join and of a certain age are not the only criteria; nor should we be pressurised to propose or second a candidate simply because we were asked to, or to approve them automatically at interview.
Quantity is not quality: it never has been and never will be. Lodges must be brave enough to decline applications falling short of what is expected in a Freemason.
If you have doubts about a candidate, speak frankly, seek more information, press the proposer and seconder for an assurance that the choice is right.
Or simply say no.
In the long term, this bravery will produce a healthy, united and long-lasting Lodge.