A certain amount of mystery, for those outside the Masonic Lodge, has always surrounded the fraternal organization of FreeMasonry that some say dates back to the days of Old Testament. And it is true, said Aaron Winburn, current Worshipful Master for Cheraw Masonic Lodge 15, those within the organization have “ways of recognizing” one another in a crowd, or even in a room full of strangers.
According to Winburn, “the Masons built King Solomon’s temple and it’s been a brotherhood organization ever since.” Winburn explains that Freemasonry is “not a religion, but a religious-minded organization.” One of the most important criteria for becoming a Mason, he said, “is to believe in a supreme being.”
“We’re not a secret organization,” said Winburn. “We have an address, with power and light bills to pay. But there are identification secrets the individual member learns.” But what one also learns, he said, “is the development of self-confidence and public speaking, as all degree work within the Masons is taught mouth to ear.”
An overview of the fraternity, published by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Washington, focuses on the history of the organization’s contributions to society. “Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy. During the late 1700s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.”
The same article also claims, “During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social ‘safety net’. The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew.”
But there was no mystery surrounding the message guest speaker Right Worshipful Brother Robert M. Saverance had for those attending the 25th District Inspirational Meeting last Saturday evening, that included family members, the widows of former members, and invited guests.
“It’s how we live outside the lodge that matters most,” said Saverance, who serves as the Masonic Service Association, MSA, Committeeman for the 25th, 26th, and 27th districts of South Carolina. In reference to the kind of life one should strive to live, he also said, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.”
Eddie Price, a Mason and member of McBee’s Lodge 313 attending the event, said he joined the organization about 15 years ago. When asked what motivated him to join the fraternity, he said, “A man by himself is just one man to make a difference. I wanted to be part of something bigger.”
In this century, worldwide, the Masons are estimated to be four million strong.
For many people, outside the lodge, to mention the Masonic Lodge on Third Street is to conjure memories of Ham and Grits meals. For years the lodge has sponsored this fund raiser for the betterment of the community. This year, the second weekend in October, Lodge 15 will again offer Ham and Grits on Friday evening and Saturday morning. This time the profits will help benefit one of their own active members who is currently experiencing “distress,” said Winburn, from family health problems.
The Masons do not solicit, or ask people to join their organization. Like the bumper sticker says, “To be one, ask one.” Winburn said anyone with an interest in becoming a Mason should simply ask someone they know is already a member.
The group’s monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of each month.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at email@example.com.