Local Masons celebrate 300-year anniversary of the worldwide organization

Send a link to a friend  Share

[June 28, 2017]   LINCOLN -  On Saturday afternoon, the local Mason Lodge opened the doors to their meeting hall, commonly called the Masonic Temple on North Kickapoo Street in Lincoln. The occasion was for an open house celebrating 300 years of the Free Mason organization.

Guests were treated to refreshments, personal guided tours of the building, and an opportunity to talk with lodge members about the Masonic organization and the group’s community service projects.

Gary Reichart and Worshipful Master Glen Bonaparte

Guests were greeted in the fellowship hall of the Temple by lodge members including Worshipful Master Glenn Bonaparte, and lodge members Gary Reichart and Steve Aughenbaugh.

Reichart and Steve Aughenbaugh

Reichart and Aughenbaugh were happy to show Lincoln Daily News around the building and speak about the organization.

Starting in the relaxation room, which is at the front entry of the building, Reichart noted the memorials and tributes to various local members including several well-known community leaders such as Darrell Klink, who was a local attorney and a 30-year member of Masonic Lodge 210 in Lincoln.

Reichart also talked about the size of the organization. In Illinois, there are approximately 500 to 600 lodges with about 60,000 members. He also explained that this is a worldwide organization, and the local lodge has a book that lists each Masonic Lodge in the world. He went on to explain that any member of any of the other lodges is welcome to attend a local meeting. However, no one just walks in and sits down. In order to attend the meeting, the membership must be verified. The large volume is used as part of the verification.

A notable portrait hanging on the wall in this front room was that of Robert E. McAllister. Reichart noted that McAllister had been honored with the “Thirty-third Degree” in the Ansar Shrine. It was explained that the thirty-third degree is the highest achievement within the Ansar Shrine. He also said that the designation is not one that a person can set their sights on achieving. He said one does not earn the degree; it is a gift from the organization, based on worthiness.

Reichart and Aughenbaugh went on to talk about the ladder from Mason to Shriner. Reichart said that he really couldn’t even name all the branches and offshoots of the Masons, but there are many. Inside the Mason organization, a member may achieve a “Third-degree Mason,” which is the highest degree within the foundation organization. Then moving into other groups degrees can be advanced until one reaches the 32nd degree in the Scottish Rite and may join the Shriners. Again, those who receive the 33rd degree do not seek it out; the organization gives it to the recipient.

Over the years, mystery and intrigue have surrounded the Masonic organization. In particular, television and movies have painted the organization as quite secretive, and one with a hand in some of the most important aspects of our modern society. Reichart and Aughenbaugh agree that there is some over exaggeration in those stories, and Reichart said there is nothing all that secret about the organization. He noted that anyone could join, with one exception. Atheists may not join the Masons. Reichart went on to say that anyone joining must believe in a supreme being. Aughenbaugh added to that, saying that meant any supreme being, including those such as Buddha, emphasizing that the organization is not a substitute religion or a group that acknowledges only one denomination.

Reichart commented, “We do watch stuff like that. About half of it is true, some we just kinda laugh at.”

Aughenbaugh would go on to say that the Masons are a fraternity. He noted he had been a member of the Masons since his early 20’s. In college, he belonged to a fraternity, and now, he belongs to another fraternity. Aughenbaugh also noted that he became involved with the Masons because his father was a Mason and brought him into the group.

Reichart was asked about the support the Masons offer to local organizations and charitable events. He said the group does support as many local organization’s and events as possible, including making donations to Relay for Life, support for the Lincoln Junior High School Band and other school projects, the summer reading program at the Lincoln Public Library, and Boy Scouts.

The Masons also put on a free workshop program for teachers at local schools. “We try to teach the teachers to see or find kids who are involved with drugs and alcohol and bullying. It is a three-day program that we provide to the schools at no charge. We also do the Illinois Chip Program that includes making a little video and fingerprinting (of children) and giving it back to the parents.”

Reichart also noted that the Masons play a role in getting children and families to the Shriner’s Hospital. He said that the process to assist a family with medical care through the Shriners starts with contacting the local Masons. The hospital, although often referred to in the singular, is actually a network of hospitals that includes twenty locations throughout the United States.

The Masons is a men’s club, currently with a membership of 125. When one joins the Masons, they have the option to maintain the local membership regardless of where life may take them. Reichart noted that anyone who wants to move a membership from Lincoln to another location may do so, but many choose to maintain the local affiliation. He also said that being a local member did not preclude a Mason for attending and participating in other lodges.

The only barrier is that one may not vote on business matters in a lodge where he does not hold a membership. He also may not hold one of the top five offices, but he can hold lesser positions within the organization. Aughenbaugh also noted that the Masons allow for dual memberships, so a person can maintain membership where he first joined, and add a membership if he relocates.

[to top of second column]

There is no women’s counterpart organization, though Reichart said there are ladies events on occasion such as teas. The Masons do however have several other counterpart groups that meet within the Masonic Temple. The Rainbow group for girls ages seven to 14, there is the York Rite, the Lincoln Chapter, the Constantine Commandery, which is the Knights Templar group, and the Order of the White Shrine.

Moving out of the relaxation room, Reichart led the tour on to the large meeting hall and explained that the placement of all the furniture within the room is significant to the organization. He explained that this larger room is used for more formal meetings and larger attendance. Regular meetings of the membership are held in a smaller room in another part of the building.

Moving on to that smaller meeting hall, Reichart pointed out a handcrafted altar that he said was made by one of the local members.

Reichart mentioned the Masonic Emblem. The emblem consists of a carpenter’s square and compass with the letter “G” in the center. He said that a lot of people assume or believe that the G stands for God, but it does not. The G stands for Geometry. Going back to the roots of the organization, the name of the organization was a literal description of an organization founded by bricklayers or masons. He said the geometry came from the usage of geometry in the formatting of bricks by the brick masons all the way back in ancient of times when the brick masons were building ancient buildings, such as castles.

Additional local history that was shared during the tour included the date when the Masons were organized in Lincoln, which was October of 1856 for this specific group, just three years after the city of Lincoln was founded. The current lodge was also the result of the merging of two different lodges in the community, and the dates of when those groups were formed wasn’t available, so it would be safe to say the Masons arrived in the area at the same time, if not before the city was founded. The Temple where the lodge members meet was built by this group, from their own blueprint in 1963. The large square-footage building was recently estimated for insurance purposes to be worth more than $1.8 million.

The Masons also take great care to acknowledge past leaders, and throughout the building there are pictures of members who have achieved certain levels and there is a wall of past Worshipful Masters.

The Masons hold local fundraisers to help support their community service projects. Fundraisers have included events such as sandwich sales at the Lincoln IGA, and coming later this summer, a breakfast fundraiser will be held during the weekend of the Lincoln Balloon Festival.

In the banquet hall, cake and punch were being served, and several local members were enjoying spending time with guests and thanking them for joining in their celebration.

[Nila Smith]

Back to top