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Relevance - Are We Relevant?

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I just completed reading an article in the San Antonio "Express-News" that identifies some similarities to our Prime Timers organization. The article describes the organization of Freemasons, a secret society, dating back to the Middle-Ages. They are described as the world's oldest fraternity. In the United States, the organization surged in membership after World War I as returning soldiers sought to replicate the bonding that occurred among soldiers during the war through masonry when they returned home. The article says there were about 8,000 Freemasons in San Antonio in the 1920s mainly comprised of returning soldiers and members from protestant churches. Today, membership has dwindled to approximately 1,200 and almost no one is joining Masons now. To continue to fund their operation, they began providing tours of their once-secret Scottish Rite Cathedral in the late 1990s and renting it for weddings and other events.

Why am I talking about masonry in a Prime Timers newsletter? As we celebrate our 30th Anniversary of Prime Timers, we are in a changed environment from the days when Woody Baldwin founded Prime Timers Worldwide. As with the World War I returning soldiers seeking the bond of companionship and brotherhood with men of similar interests, Prime Timers was also formed as a society of men with common interests. Granted, our commonality is not based on the common experience of war and religious belief that bonded Masons. Our commonality was based on a set of social biases of age and sexual orientation in society as a whole and the gay community. Our experience in Prime Timers was designed to form a bond of companionship and social opportunity, despite our age. The common link that I saw in that article between Masons and Prime Timers is our relevance in today's environment.

Our Prime Timer chapters have been mailed information on the candidates for office in the upcoming election of a new PTWW Board for the 2017-19 term in Chicago at the PTWW Worldwide Convention on October 29th. If you've read that information, you will know that I am the only candidate for the office of president. That means I will be taking on the responsibility of Board leadership for Prime Timers Worldwide. Since the candidates were announced and it became apparent I would become president, I've been doing a lot of thinking about Prime Timers as a whole instead of having my focus more on my beloved chapter in San Antonio.

Over the past two years, I've served on the PTWW Board as we've seen chapters formed, others flourish, and some dwindle away. The difference among chapters, in my observation over the past two years, is in the way local chapters are making themselves relevant to today's potential new members. With social websites connecting men of all ages in virtual friendship, acquaintance or passing connection, you are not as alone as you once were and are less prone to join groups. However, there is no substitute for face-to-face opportunities in forming friendships. New and thriving chapters are creating social activities that are fun and appealing to those who will be the senior members of the future. And, how is the Worldwide organization relevant to the individual chapters? We need better communication and outreach to chapters. These are two issues that will influence the course of the next Prime Timers Worldwide Board's activities.

What is the health of your chapter and do you see relevance to the Worldwide organization? We do not have brick and mortar Cathedrals to rent-out as do the Masons. What we do have is that common bond of aging men of our persuasion that are still are outside the mainstream of the gay community. We need to have social opportunities rather than sitting alone or as a couple within the walls of our home. Woody's vision of a need for those opportunities is still relevant today. That will be the challenge for your next PTWW Board to strengthen and preserve.

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