The Imperial Shrine session has voted to keep all 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children, including Galveston, which was destroyed in Hurricane Ike and needs to be completely rebuilt. Thanks to Brother Chris Hodapp for pointing out this news.
The Shrine has voted to keep the philanthropy, lock, stock and barrel. While the compassion exhibited by this is exemplary, I worry what will happen to our cable-tow stretched as tautly as it will be for making this commitment. Does the Shrine have the resources as it stands now to honor this commitment, or will we have to change who and what we are in order to keep the hospitals open?
I don't have any objection to this vote, but I also see the recent history of the Shrine as one of declining membership and diminishing revenue. Will we have to drop the masonic requirement for membership in order to stay afloat? Will each Shriner double his financial commitment, or will we generate the revenue some other way? Will the aspects of Shrinedom that do not relate to the hospitals suffer through this? Will other appendant body philanthropies go the way of the Shrine in tough times, or will the Shrine become the focal point of masonic philanthropy, and other masonic philanthropies will disappear?
In my Shrine Temple, we have erected a bulwark against diminishing membership, which threatens to drop below 5000 Shriners. A campaign by the Illustrious Potentate, "5K No Way," is trying to swell membership, and I was swept up in this drive, and crossed the sands as a consequence. In the interest of full disclosure, my work is in medical data IT, and my interest is primarily in supporting the hospitals, but this campaign of Potentate Robert Smith moved me to join. Also, the interview with Brother Peter Millheiser on Masonic Central showed me how useful the Shrine can be for hosting informal masonic groups outside of blue lodge.
We have some difficult challenges ahead. I think having more Shrine units like the Hibiscus Unit Brother Millheiser describes in his interview might get more masons to cross the sands. I hope we have enough energy and determination to keep the hospitals afloat, keep the Shrine Temples afloat, keep the spirit of the Shrine strong, and strengthen blue lodge participation among Shriners.