The oldest fraternal organization in the city recently underwent an amalgamation, but some things haven’t change – especially when it comes to internal activities.
“It’s not a secret organization, it’s an organization with secrets,” explained Ivan Bryce, the Deputy Grandmaster of Sarnia District.
Sarnia’s Victoria Lodge, which was founded in 1854, recently amalgamated with Sarnia’s Tuscan Lodge, which dates to 1895.
The reason for the merger wasn’t a secret, however. It was due largely to an aging membership and the challenge of maintaining meetings and activities.
“It doesn’t matter what your organization is, you definitely have a cyclic issue. Life is that way,” Bryce said.
Community work is highly valued by the Masons, which have more than 500 lodges and 42,000 members in Ontario, including about 1,000 in Sarnia-Lambton.
“Charity is one of the pillars of the organization. We feel it’s important,” said Bryce.
The lodge recently donated $3,000 to St. Joseph’s Hospice, and other Masonic groups support other causes and provide scholarships to high school and college students.
The most visible group locally is the Lambton Shrine Club. While every Shriner is a Mason not every Mason is a Shriner.
Two things that haven’t changed are that women are barred from joining, and potential members must believe in a deity or Supreme Being – atheists need not apply.
“Religion has been a pillar to any organization that’s lasted for as many years as this,” Bryce said.
The onus is on potential members of a lodge to ask to join. Though candidates might be encouraged to ask they are not invited.
Many notable people have been Freemasons including most U.S. presidents, John Diefenbaker, Joseph Brant, Sir Sanford Fleming and Tim Horton.
But membership isn’t something that’s flaunted, Bryce said.
“We don’t go out and advertise the fact that we’re Masons. We just happen to be.”