Recently I was researching a topic and ran across the history of Blendon Lodge, Westerville, Ohio.
I was reading through the history and discovered they were granted a dispensation in February 1862, to meet and form a new lodge. At that meeting, they established the amounts for initiation fees and annual dues, which were $20 and $2 respectively.
My immediate thought was the fee for initiation seemed to me a substantial amount for the year 1862. So I found some data which established the average daily wage in 1862 for a skilled worker was $1.62 a day, which would translate to about $600 a year if the man worked every day. So if he didn’t work Sundays that would leave roughly 300 days he did work, or about $500 a year. In other words, the initiation fee was about 4% of his annual income!
So take 4% of your annual income, and assume that is the amount it would cost you to join Masonry. To put that amount in perspective, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average family in 2017 spent about 6% of their income on food, 2.5% on clothing, 5.5% on vehicle purchases, 4% on entertainment, and about 7% on healthcare.
Since a great number of men reading this are already Masons, here are some questions:
- Assume you paid the amount just calculated to join your lodge, have you received and are you still receiving enough value to justify the amount paid?
- Having paid the amount calculated, what would you expect to receive?
- If joining Masonry cost 4% of your annual income and you had to sacrifice something to pay for it, what would that be?
Past Grand Master of Indiana Dwight L. Smith in his 1962 essay Whither Are We Traveling asked the question;
“Has Freemasonry become too easy to obtain?” He commented that fees for the degrees are ridiculously low and the annual dues are too low.
Based on what was paid at Blendon Lodge in 1862 Dwight Smith is right, today’s fees are too low. But, based on the Masonry some lodges are delivering, the low fees might be just right.
I leave it up to you to determine which.