This article demonstrates that freemasonry is universal and that, if you are travelling to other parts the world, you will be made welcome by the local masonic community.
Roy Croucher from Snodland, a Past Master of St Mary’s Gillingham Green Lodge No 6499, is a Freemason in both East and West Kent. He was initiated in the Paddlesworth Lodge No 6162 in West Kent in 1984, joined St Mary’s in 1997 and is still an active office-holder in both lodges.
Roy and his wife recently travelled to Canada to visit one of their daughters and her family and, while there, he enjoyed the international fraternity of freemasonry by visiting two lodges in the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Alberta.
Prior to his trip, and with the help of the Provincial Office, Roy contacted the Grand Secretary of Alberta – Jerry Kopp – who agreed to help Roy with his interest in Canadian Freemasonry. The Grand Lodge of Alberta is loosely equivalent to one of the Provincial Grand Lodges in the United Grand Lodge of England, except that it covers a much larger geographical area.
On his arrival in Canada, Roy phoned Jerry and was told that a visit had been arranged to Irrecana Lodge No 137, in the “Dinosaur District” just North of Calgary, and that Roy would be collected from a designated car park at 5pm on the due date. Roy donned his masonic suit, picked up his regalia case and made his way to the agreed meeting place. Jerry was waiting for him in his car exactly as arranged and greeted Roy with “You’re a bit overdressed – it’s fairly casual tonight”! Jerry was dressed in jeans, red shirt and a cowboy hat. With him, and dressed in a similar manner, was the newly appointed Head of Alberta Freemasons – Grand Master James Ratchford – who was making his first official visit.
They drove for an hour and a quarter to the lodge meeting place where Roy was welcomed by everyone present. The lodge held its Festive Board before the meeting so Roy was offered a glass, which was continuously topped up with whisky, and a plate which was loaded with more food than he was used to. Chatting to James Ratchford, Roy learned that the Grand Master of Alberta is appointed for just one year unlike in the United Grand Lodge of England where the current Grand Master has served for nearly fifty years. Provincial Grand Masters in England usually serve for about ten years.
The Grand Master invited Roy, as an honoured guest, to join him when processing in to the lodge. The meeting was jointly held by two lodges, which seemed to be common practice over there. The host Master opened the lodge and carried out the lodge business. He then handed over to the Visiting Master who presided over his lodge’s business, before handing the chair back. Roy said: “At this stage in proceedings, the floor was opened for propositions and any other business. Visitors were invited to stand and give their lodge name and number. When it was my turn I stood, gave my details and conveyed best wishes from the Provincial Grand Masters of both East and West Kent.”
“I also gave out three Provincial ties for the Master and his Wardens, which were received with great pleasure.”
After the meeting Jerry drove Roy back to his daughter’s and, on the way, they planned the next visit a few days later to an Installation meeting in Lethbridge.
A few days later Roy was again collected as arranged and, during the 2½ hour drive through miles and miles of farm land to Lethbridge, Jerry talked about his fifteen years’ service as Alberta’s Grand Secretary, from which high office he had recently retired. On their arrival Jerry busied himself with the preparations for the meeting while Roy joined the 80 or so Brethren present for the Festive Board. Once again he was warmly welcomed by all those he met.
This was a joint meeting of four lodges, hosted by the Lethbridge Lodge No 39 in the Chinookarch District. Roy said: “Once the lodge was opened a Grand Officer led the Installation ceremony of not one, but all four lodge Masters! They took their obligations together and were then invested by another Grand Officer who explained the symbolical decorations on their collars and chains of office”.
“The Addresses were given to all four at once – it was a very moving ceremony! Once installed, the new Masters then took turns to invest their officers.”
The installation ceremony over, the Head of Chinookarch Freemasons – District Deputy Grand Master David Rogers – rose and asked that that Bro John Rodgers of Charity lodge no 67 be escorted to him. Bill was initiated into freemasonry in Scotland in 1946 and, after travelling the world with his work, landed up in Alberta where he has served as Tyler for a number of lodges. David Rogers presented Bill with a 70 year long service certificate and jewel. Roy said: “Bill was over the moon with the presentation and said he was looking forward to his 80th!”
Currently Alberta Freemasons are concentrating their charitable support for young people in their communities as well as, at the other end of the age range, support for Alzheimer sufferers. Fund-raising is mainly through sponsored casino nights where anything up to $30,000 (about £17,000) can be raised in one evening.
Roy went on to say: “The lodge then presented a bursary of $5,500 to a local girl to help her with her education”. It was another lovely night out with people I will remember with affection”.
Roy returned home with a pledge to keep in touch with his new found masonic friends in Canada.
In conclusion Roy said: “They say that visiting is a good way to meet new people and make friends. That was certainly the case in Canada. Jerry and I left each other and I felt we had been friends for years. God willing I will get to see some of them again”.
Read more about the Grand Lodge of Alberta in Canada here:- www.freemasons.ab.ca