In his new book, Robert Lomas is in his element with statistics, graphs and projections, all of which he uses to predict how the current pandemic will effect Freemasonry. Indeed, the statistics and graphs reveal how the membership of English Freemasonry experienced a boom time after World War II, reaching a peak in the early 1990s, only to fall as the society grasped to find an identity in a modern world.
Why did this happen? Lomas presents a number of events that ultimately effected the decline of membership, one of them being the publication of The Brotherhood by Stephen Knight, a book that was published in 1984 and became a best seller, tarnishing the image of Freemasonry, particularly in England. Of course, the publication of The Brotherhood was part of the growth of anti-Masonic feeling that emerged around the early 1980s after the murder of Italian banker Roberto Calvi, who was found hanged under Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982, Calvi being associated with the infamous P2 Lodge in Italy.
The graphs that Lomas presents show the drop in overall new membership, and of course, as we reach 2020, the line in the graph freefalls to zero as there have been no new members as we haven’t met (or at least the majority of us haven’t met – some lodges managed to meet in late Summer and in September under the rule of six). So, with no new members coming in, and with some of the elderly brethren passing to the Grand Lodge above, and some brethren leaving altogether, we have an obvious hastening of the decline in numbers.
Lomas does give us a glimmer of hope; if Freemasonry can adapt quickly, using the now common zoom meetings to provide what he terms as hybrid lodge meetings, so the elderly, or more vulnerable brethren could participate at home, while the younger brethren work in the lodge, and perhaps more lodges meeting during the summer months when Covid numbers are low, may help to keep lodges open and Brethren active. Lomas presents ideas on how to educate new members and to keep them engaged, and to celebrate and promote Freemasonry’s more esoteric values. In short, Lomas urges that Freemasonry needs to reassess itself and become a beacon of Truth and Light in a world that needs it more than ever.
Freemasonry after Covid is part of the Masonic Tutor’s Handbooks series and is available through the Lewis Masonic website.