Fraternity

In the Masonic Lodge, Gen Z Is In Charge Now

At more and more masonic lodges, a younger generation of Masons are rising into leadership positions.

By Ian A. Stewart

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Duane Scott practically grew up in the Mountain View De Anza № 194 lodge room. His father, Glenn Scott, served as lodge master four different years, and as a result, Duane spent countless hours among its members, many of whom came to feel like extended family. He recalls being picked up from school and waiting in the clubhouse while his father went upstairs for his stated meetings. “In some ways, I think the guys still see me like that—15 years old, doing my math homework around the big table downstairs,” Scott says. “They have stories of me as a toddler running around on the floor.” 

It must have been a strange scene, then, when the younger Scott was installed last January as lodge master. “These guys are like uncles to me,” he says. “But they’re also my brothers.” 

At 24 years old, Scott is among the state’s youngest lodge masters—and perhaps its leading example of the rise of the Gen Z Mason. In that way, he’s also a harbinger of a larger change, as the fraternity has seen a significant injection of youth in its local leadership ranks, which have historically tended toward older members. In all, there were some 65 lodge masters in California in 2021–22 under the age of 40. Eight were in their twenties. 

It isn’t known whether those numbers are a historical anomaly. But at least anecdotally, it’s become more common to see millennial and even Gen Z Masons don the ceremonial top hat, says Jordan Yelinek, the assistant grand secretary and head of the Membership Services department at the Grand Lodge. 

That would seem to track with a larger demographic shift happening in California Masonry. The average age of members, after decades of growing older due to the swell of members who joined in the middle of the 20th century, has been falling for years. Currently, the average of prospects and Entered Apprentices is 36 and 45, respectively. 

“It’s an interesting dynamic to be working with guys who were master before I was even born.”

Unsurprising, then, that the officer line is also trending younger. 

By and large it’s been an amicable shift, say some of the current cadre of twentysomething masters, even if the experience of presiding over a roomful of baby boomers is an unfamiliar one. “It’s an interesting dynamic to be working with guys who were master before I was even born,” says T.J. Elliott, 26, master of Fellowship № 668, just east of San Bernardino. “With some members, I’m like half or even a third their age.” 

For Gen Z Masons, a Fresh Perspective

What younger lodge officers say they bring to the east is a fresh perspective. “A lot of the older leadership tends to be inundated with how things have been done in the past. I feel like I don’t have that burden,” Scott says. 

The relationship cuts both Duane Scott practically grew up in the Mountain View De Anza № 194 lodge roomways. Where young leaders are able to provide energy and a new perspective, they also gain confidence and support from the stability of longtime members. “The fact that the members put their trust in me—I’m still trying to internalize the love and respect they’ve shown me,” Scott says. 

In the case of Home № 721, the idea of a young master is old hat. Two years ago, Artin Aladadyan was elected lodge master at age 26. The following year, his brother, Andre, then 30, took over. And this past year, 28-year-old Peter Vogelsang took the reigns for the group. “I think the older membership wants to see younger guys coming into the line,” Vogelsang says. “They want to ensure a future for the fraternity. It assures them there’s going to be a next generation of Home Lodge.” 

As for what changes the ascendant leaders bring to their groups, there’s no single answer. Improving their lodges’ reputation with the public is a common refrain, as is a renewed focus on the ritual. Vogelsang’s Home № 721 is one of several in the “traditional observance” style that emphasizes an elevated lodge experience, right down to wearing tuxedoes for lodge dinners. “Oftentimes, I’ve found that the younger guys are into the more formal aspects of Masonry,” he says. “The older guys want to hang out, have social events, kind of goof around together.” 

If there’s one thread that unites the lodges being skippered by youngsters, it’s technology. Whether it’s putting more effort into their Instagram presence or meeting over Zoom, these Gen Z leaders are certainly digital natives. Vogelsang, for instance, implemented a Slack channel that members and prospects can use to chat and ask questions. “It’s a great way to keep everyone in the loop,” he says. 

And as for having the lodge embrace that quintessentially Gen Z medium, Tik-Tok? Scott chuckles at the thought, before adding, “We’ve talked about it.”

PHOTOGRAPH BY:
Winni Wintermeyer

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