Despite what you’ve seen depicted in popular culture involving strange symbols, mysterious rituals, and men clothed in curious regalia, the Freemasons are not a secret organization, says Guy Olsson, a member of the Cloverdale Masonic Lodge, which has been around for more than 50 years.
A better word than secret might be “private,” says Olsson, a past Grand Master who suspects the Masonic tendency towards discretion may the source of many of the misconceptions that persist about Freemasons.
But secret, they are not.
“Otherwise we would not have websites, be listed in phone books, or have buildings with emblems proudly displayed on the front,” reasons Olsson, who is a lively ambassador for the Craft, and is master of ceremonies at the upcoming open house on April 16 called Freemasonry Explained.
The public is welcome and encouraged to attend to find out more about Freemasons and the other Masonic orders.
It’s billed as an evening of explanation and discovery – everything you’ve always wanted to know about Freemasonry but didn’t know who, or how, to ask.
“We will answer any and all questions,” Olsson says. “We will definitely, pretty much lay the cards on the table.”
As if to prove it, he offers up the following: “Always remember, to be one, you must ask one,” he intones, somewhat cryptically, before adding: “That’s it. No one will ever ask you to join.”
Don’t know any Freemasons personally? Simply visit the Cloverdale Lodge’s website, www.cloverdalemasons.com. There are more details about how to join there.
Olsson, possibly on a roll, reveals another Masonic secret.
“The first question you are asked on entering a lodge room is, ‘Are you here of your own free will and accord?’”
Those are just two of the revelations that will unfold at the upcoming open house, which aims to build on the successes previous open houses which have drawn upwards of 120 people each year.
The model has been so successful, in fact, that Cloverdale’s “Freemasonry Explained” program has now been adopted by a number of other districts, resulting in a rise in new memberships, particularly among the under 30 set.
The evening’s format – which provides an overview of Freemasonry itself, how the lodge offices work, and delves into Masonic degrees – is broader this year, with presentations from the other members of the Masonic fraternity: Order of the Eastern Star, Job’s Daughters, and the Shrine.
“We’re making a conscientious effort to make ourselves more visible in the community, through public relations events like this,” says Olsson. “We also have a larger presence on the web and through various other avenues.”
This May long weekend, you’ll see the Cloverdale lodge members rustling up chili samples at the Cloverdale Chili Cook-off during Rodeo Week. (Turns out the one Masonic secret he’s not willing to share involves their chili recipe.)
The Cloverdale Freemasons are also responsible for the Christmas tree that lights up the historic Dale Building on 176 Street during Santa’s Parade of Lights and they offer educational bursaries.
Freemasons date back to the Middle Ages when Europe’s cathedrals were being built, but some believe their origins go back even further, to King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, Olsson says.
Strictly speaking, Masons aren’t a service organization like Kinsmen or Rotary. The focus is on self-improvement, and, by extension, the greater community, he says,
Unlike other organizations that were once bastions of male preserve but have since opened their doors, women still can’t join the Masons. They can, however, join the Order of the Eastern Star and the youth order, Job’s Daughters.
You have to be 21 or older to join Freemasons. For younger men and youth, there’s the Order of Demolay.
– Freemasonry Explained is April 16 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:40 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.) at the Eureka Masonic Hall, 20701 Fraser Highway in Langley. For more on Cloverdale Lodge #168, visit cloverdalemasons.com.