Lodge Profile

Ask Us Anything

When a resort-town lodge went digital, prospects came knocking.

By Antone Pierucci

For the members of Big Bear Lodge No. 617, high in the San Bernardino mountains of Southern California, 2020 was shaping up to be a big one. In recent years, the resort-town lodge had dwindled to as few as a dozen active members. But thanks to a dedicated outreach push and a bit of luck, for the first time in ages the lodge had five new candidates lined up to take the degrees this year.

Then came the order to shut down.

Others might have grumbled about their bad luck or thrown in the towel. Instead, the lodge used the shutdown as an opportunity. Led by first-time lodge master James Morgan, the small cadre of Big Bear Masons forged a simple but effective plan. “We thought, what the heck, let’s just do what we would ordinarily, but do it remotely,” Morgan says. While stated meetings were off-limits, other kinds of online Masonic get-togethers weren’t. So on April 30, the lodge hosted its first-ever virtual Ask a Mason Night.

All five candidates were invited to the call, along with 15 lodge members. “They asked some pretty compelling questions,” Morgan says of the newcomers. Things like, “Has being a Mason made you a better man?” and “What does membership in the fraternity mean to you?” What followed were two hours of frank and engaging conversation—the kind you might struggle to maintain in the hurried hour before a stated meeting. “Everyone knows the best degree is the one that takes place in the parking lot after lodge,” Morgan says. “Talking, sharing, and learning from each other—that’s what Freemasonry is about, right?”

The success of that first night was evident the next day, when Morgan began receiving calls from members of nearby lodges who’d heard about the event. They wanted to join in the next call—and have their own candidates participate, too.

A week later, Big Bear No. 617 hosted its second Zoom meetup—this time with more than 30 people representing half a dozen lodges, including Havre Lodge No. 55 in Montana. Of those, a dozen were candidates interested in joining the ranks. “The fraternity is bigger than the lodge,” Morgan says. “These calls drove that home for the candidates, who all had a chance to meet us on the level.”

Thanks to a bit of flexibility and imagination, Big Bear No. 617 is poised to emerge from the shutdown stronger than ever, regardless of the size of its membership. Although there, too, they’re making hay: Since going online, they’ve received six more applications.

Courtesy of Garrett Bergthold


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