Shrine Temples are located throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Panama, with Shrine Clubs around the world. There is, therefore, a special Shrine Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to my flag, and to the country for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Wherever Shriners gather, the national flags of the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Panama are flown.
Today, there are approximately 500,000 Shriners who belong to 191 Shrine Temples, or chapters, from Al Aska Temple in Anchorage, Alaska, to Abou Saad Temple in Panama, and from Aloha Temple in Honolulu to Philae Temple in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Temple memberships range from approximately 10,000 (Murat Temple in Indianapolis) to about 600 (Mazol Temple in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada).
The Temples, their units and affiliated Shrine Clubs embody the true spirit of fraternalism, and wherever a Shriner goes, he can be certain there are Nobles who will extend their hand in greeting and call him “brother.”
To better understand how all this works, an observer can start at a local Temple. All Temples are run by an elected Divan (officers), headed by the Potentate and the Chief Rabban. A Recorder, or record keeper/administrator, usually maintains an office at the Temple. One member is elected or appointed to the “lowest rung” each January and under traditional practice moves up one “rung” each year. Thus, by the time he becomes Potentate of his Temple, a Shriner usually has at least four years of experience in Temple leadership.
Stated meetings of the Temple membership as a whole must be held at least four times a year. In addition, each Temple holds one or more ceremonials every year for the induction of new members. There are also many Temple, unit, and Shrine Club social events each year.
Units are smaller groups within a Temple which are organized for a specific purpose. Many of these are the uniformed units so familiar to parade watchers: Oriental bands, Shrine bands, horse and motor patrols, Highlander units, clowns, drum corps, chanters, and Legions of Honor. Other Temple units can include hospital hosts or guides, and transportation units which work closely with their local Shriners Hospital — either with the children at the hospital or in transporting patients to and from the hospital.
Each Temple has a clearly defined territory from which it can obtain new members. Since these jurisdictions are often quite large, smaller geographical units may be organized for fellowship purposes. These are the Shrine Clubs, under the control of their mother Temple.
In addition, any number of Temples may form a Shrine Association for social conventions, if the Imperial Council issues an appropriate charter. There are currently 20 regional associations and 19 Shrine unit associations.
The 191 Shrine Temples are governed by the Imperial Council, which is composed of Representatives. The Representatives of the Imperial Council include all past and present Imperial Officers, Emeritus Representatives (who have served 15 years or more), and Representatives elected from each Temple. A Temple may have two Representatives if its membership exceeds 300, three if more than 600, and four if more than 1,000. These Representatives meet once a year — usually in July at the Imperial Council Session — to make policy decisions and legislation regarding both the fraternity and the hospitals. With nearly 900 Representatives, the Imperial Council constitutes one of the largest legislative bodies in the world. The Representatives also elect the Imperial Officers and the Chairman and members of the Board of Trustees for Shriners Hospitals for Children.
The Imperial Divan, the Shrine’s governing body, consists of 13 officers plus an Imperial Chaplain. The Imperial Treasurer and the Imperial Recorder may be elected for several consecutive years; they are the only officers receiving any type of compensation. As with Temple Divans, an officer (with the exception of Treasurer and Recorder) is elected to the bottom of the Divan and, barring unforeseen circumstances, moves up one position each year. These officers, elected from among the Representatives, are usually past Temple Potentates. The Divan plus the immediate Past Imperial Potentate constitute the Board of Directors of the fraternal corporation and they, with the chairman of the Board of Trustees, constitute the Board of Directors of the hospital corporation.
The chief executive officer for the Shrine of North America is the Imperial Potentate, who is elected for one year. He visits many of the Shrine Temples and hospitals and generally supervises both fraternal and hospital policy.
To help him with these tasks, the Imperial Potentate appoints committees to implement the various Shrine programs. One of the most important of these committees is the Endowments, Wills and Gifts Committee, which coordinates and supervises contributions and bequests given to Shriners Hospitals for Children.
The day-to-day operations — keeping the records and accounts of the fraternity and hospitals, supervising the estates left to Shriners Hospitals and producing printed materials for the entire Shrine organization — are carried out in the General Offices in Tampa. These offices are supervised by an Executive Vice President for Fraternal Affairs, an Executive Vice President of Shriners Hospitals, and a legal department, which is under the supervision of an appointed General Counsel.
However complex the Shrine may seem, its essence is the fraternal fellowship for which it was originally founded. It has been said that there are no strangers in Shrinedom. This is evident in the great times and laughter wherever Shriners get together, whether in a local Shrine Club meeting, a Temple ceremonial, a Shrine Association gathering or an Imperial Session. All Shriners share not just a Masonic background but a zest for living.
Though this quality remains consistent — from the original 13 members to the hundreds of thousands of Shriners today — the Shrine has adapted to many changes. Many more Temple and convention activities include the families of Shriners. Today, many Shriners are deeply involved in Shriners Hospital work in addition to their fraternal activities.
Most Shrine Temples sponsor fund-raising events to provide funds for Shriners Hospitals. In one calendar year there can be nearly 500 of these events, which range from the East-West Shrine Game and other football games to horse shows, hospital paper sales, and miscellaneous sports and social events.
During the 1980s, Shriners Hospitals experienced the greatest expansion in their history, with major building programs, increasing numbers of patients receiving care, and expansion of services. As the new millennium approaches, all 22 Shriners Hospitals are maintaining their position at the forefront of specialized pediatric orthopaedic and burn care. The Joint Boards plan to continue updating their facilities, expanding their research programs and increasing their ability to meet the needs of thousands of children in need of expert orthopaedic and burn care. In this way, Shriners Hospitals will continue to meet a special need for children.
Thus, whatever changes occur within the fraternal organization or within the Shriners Hospital system, the Shrine of North America will remain the “World’s Greatest Fraternity,” operating and maintaining the “World’s Greatest Philanthropy.”