A journey begins with a destination in mind or a goal to achieve. My journey to the Grand East began in 2010, when several Past Grand Masters asked me to consider offering for Junior Grand Warden, but at age of 51, I was not in a position to consider such a prestigious office. I continued to serve on committees and actively support my Lodge, Grand Lodge and the Scottish Rite, where I was serving as Sovereign Grand Inspector General for the 7th year. By 2012, I had numerous young Masons, who witnessed the positive changes that we were and still are experiencing in the Scottish Rite, approach me from all parts of the Jurisdiction to consider offering as Junior Grand Warden. After listening to my Brethren, and serious discussion with my family, personal discussion with all the Past Grand Masters, Lynn and I began what has been a wonderful journey. This is and has always been about serving the best interests of the Brethren and Freemasonry in South Carolina and to improve the experience of our members.
From my years of experience in business and The Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, I have found opportunities to research, discuss, and most importantly, to listen to the Craft about where we are and the roadmap to a brighter and better future for those men that join, engage in and eventually, lead the Craft. I have witnessed many wonderful things on this journey from the promise of a family at a Lewis Degree for infant sons of Master Masons, to the generosity of South Carolina Freemasons at home and in the support of other Jurisdictions of so many in need, to the great joy of visiting Veterans in all of our VA locations in for a friendly handshake, prayer and humble gift to just say thank you for their service, to the hard work of Grand Jurisdictions that are literally fighting for their recognition, to the grandeur of the established Ritual and Ceremony when I see excellent Ritual at home and other Jurisdictions.
I have had the honor of visiting with grieving widows and families at the death of some of our Brethren, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, visiting and touring Gettysburg Battlefield and visiting many with many great Lodges and presenting George Washington Portraits.
Sadly, I have seen and spoken to men who have lost their way, and unfortunately, far too many that decided by their selfish motivation to tarnish the very core of our Brotherhood, through their total disregard for their obligations and their Brethren. I have seen where the complacency of leaders has led to discouragement and disgust of members that has led to their decision to leave our beloved Craft. Most often, it is related miscommunication or poor leadership. The leadership gap that some of our Fraternity is experiencing comes from members who want status, presumed power and inexperience. This comes from misguided and even a total misunderstanding of what it takes to be a true Freemason and Servant Leader of our Fraternity. I am deeply concerned for our Fraternity, when I see men who have gained leadership roles, when their actions and personal bias has shattered the true meaning of Masonic Brotherhood.
So Where ARE We Now! We are much better off today than just a few short years ago because of several initiatives that have been emphasized for several years including improved membership awareness, improved Lodge management tools, improving Masonic Education, and a new spirit of hope and success.
In most parts of the Family of Freemasonry in South Carolina, true leaders, who have listened and studied, are now more aware of the issues facing our Fraternity including membership engagement, listening and working to improve communication with all the members, and thus improving the VALUE of membership rather than simply talking about financial problems all the time. After all, isn’t Brotherhood about supporting one another and taking time to celebrate our faith, fellowship and our successful actions with each other, the critical part of our beloved Fraternity.
Value increases when all members feel and know that they are an important part of the success of our Fraternity! All of Freemasonry, including our Appendant Bodies and Lodges, benefits by increasing membership value. If your Lodge chooses to improve value, then you must have serious discussion and civil debate to plot a course forward, instead of simply fading away.
Today, we are much better off due to the tireless efforts of MW Gerald Carver and our Grand Lodge Staff, and Lodge Secretaries that have implemented our Membership Management Tools. Thank you, MW Brother Carver, for your passion for our Fraternity. We are now using the features to review, plan and prepare our Leadership to really “lead the Craft!” Today, our Worshipful Masters, Secretaries and Wardens have the capability to connect with all members and to examine what needs to be done to improve their individual needs. But like all tools, used properly, they can improve the results of work. Used improperly or neglected, they will be of little or no use to those that have access to the tools. Are you listening to your members? Are you even trying to reach them?
We see in many places a renewed spirit and enthusiasm for our Fraternity because those that are using the tools are seeing results from listening and moving forward by implementing better meetings, better outreach to members and more visibility in our communities.
Finally, Gentlemen, my time as your Grand Master has come to a close, and it has been my strong belief, indeed, my commitment to the Craft that we must look to the future so as to prepare for success. We need to be cautious and guarded to make certain that we are working together. Treasure your membership and take a positive approach to moving forward! We have many issues facing us in the coming days, Stand Tall for what is right! Stand Tall against those that do not have the best interest of the Fraternity at heart. Eliminate fear of change by doing the work to plan based on facts and not just emotion. It has been the honor of my life to serve Freemasonry, now and in the future as well. Remember “It is not how much a man or person may know that is important, as much as the purpose for which he knows it.” (MW T. Harry White, Grand Master) Thank you, my Brethren all and may God Bless Freemasonry in South Carolina! Sincerely and fraternally, Michael Smith, Grand Master