History, tradition, brotherhood.
Those are some of the key principles of Freemasonry embodied by Vernon’s Miriam Lodge A.F. and A.M., which is celebrating its 125th anniversary July 28.
“It’s the oldest fraternity in the world,” said secretary brother Nick Jordan. “We actually don’t know when it started.”
Vernon’s Masonic Lodge, however, has its roots in 1892 when eight or 10 Freemasons met in a hardware store and formed what would become the 20th oldest Lodge in the province.
Now 73 members strong, Vernon brothers meet in the lodge home built in 1932 following a member’s generous donation.
“It was probably one of the most imposing buildings downtown,” Jordan said as he flipped through old photographs of the construction and the building’s early years.
Extensions to accommodate growth have been added to the building since with portions of the land rented out to businesses and offices. But, inside the Lodge’s door that lays back from the sidewalk is a building and lodge steeped in history, both of Miriam Lodge No. 20 and Kalamalka Lodge No. 160 who also call the building home.
Since it’s formation, Jordan said 16 Miriam Lodge brothers have held the role of Vernon Mayor. Of those 16, four were also Worshipful Masters.
Jordan, who was Worshipful Master in 2015 and again in 2016 and who currently holds that honour in the Spallumcheen Lodge No. 13, said Freemasons are treated as brothers wherever they go both in Canada and overseas.
Freemasons prefer to avoid the limelight, but contrary to what some believe, they are not a secret society. Furthermore, Jordan said they are committed to community support.
Last year, the Grand Lodge of British Columbia donated $45,000 to support therapy dogs in the province. Jordan also said the Miriam Lodge provides scholarships to local students.
“We’re not building stuff. We’re building human beings,” Jordan said, adding that the key purpose of Masonry is to help each member become a better person through character strengthening and improving morality and spirituality.
“There is one basic tenet: if you want to be a Freemason, you have to have belief in a supreme being. It doesn’t have to be God with a capital G or Allah,” Jordan said, adding that all prospective members have to do is believe.
However, Jordan, who has been a Freemason since 2009, stressed that it is not a religion.
“Freemasonry is different things to different people. If you’re a person of good character who is committed to working for the community and the lodge, we will welcome you with open arms,” Jordan said.
New members are always welcome, Jordan said, and should get in touch with current brothers to begin the process.
“I want the fraternity to keep going. To me, it’s all about being social,” Jordan said. “I’m hanging out with guys I consider to be my best friends now.”
Vernon’s Masonic Lodge will celebrate its 125th anniversary July 28 and will hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the general public. Anyone interested in joining the Freemasons or who are curious about the fraternity or the building is encouraged welcome to participate. The Lodge will hold a private re-dedication ceremony at 3 p.m. and an invite-only banquet at 6 p.m.
“It will be a full day,” Jordan smiled. “But the 125th doesn’t happen often.”