AYER — The Masons are alive and well in Massachusetts.
The 275-year-old fraternal organization is held together with friendship and brotherly love and support, according to Rick Dickson, a fourth-generation Mason.
Dickson never knew much about Masonry until he spoke with members after his father’s death. “Masons used to be seen, not heard,” he said. “I remember my Dad having a little book.”
He is doing his part to raise awareness. He runs the twice-yearly open house events at the Caleb Butler Lodge in Ayer.
“If you’re not involved, you may not know what is going on,” he said. “You just have to ask.”
Masons hold monthly members-only meetings, plus other events open to non-members like the open house. Meetings are largely social and a meal is served.
He said there is nothing political or religious about the organization. There are, however, some requirements for membership.
Members must be male, of good character and must believe in a higher power. Although there is a bible, members could be Christian, Jewish or even Hindu, Dickson said. “In Masonic principles, it doesn’t matter.”
After being nominated by a member, applicants are interviewed and go through a reference check. All of the members present must vote to accept the prospective member in order for him to be accepted into the lodge.
History is important to the Masons and many artifacts are on display at the lodge in Ayer. Some of them came from Dickson’s family.
After he became a member, he saw a box on display in one of the rooms. The inscription reads: “This gavel and case, fashioned from a piece of olive wood taken from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem by Walter Dickson, missionary in the Holy Land in 1855, were presented to Caleb Butler Lodge, A.F. and A.M., by his grandson, Brother Philip Owen Dickson, July 1925, in memory of his brother, Wor. Walter Fredrick Dickson, Past Master of Caleb Butler Lodge.” (A.F and A.M. stands for Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Wor. stands for Worshipful, a Masonic title.)
“This was the biggest surprise,” Dickson said. He knew nothing about it until he saw it while in the lodge. Then, while preparing the family home to sell, he found the steamship diary his ancestor had kept and read a written account of the 19th century trip.
Prominent New Englanders have been Masons. Paul Revere was a member of the Masons in colonial Massachusetts and designed (and made) the “jewels,” the ornate neck jewelry worn by the leaders of the organization.
Some of these pieces are now at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, an American history museum founded and supported by Masons.
In addition to supporting social activities for members and preserving and presenting history, the Masons give to their communities in other ways.
The Shriners are a familiar branch of the Masons, known for their burn center hospitals. Scottish Rites Masons fund special education centers.
The open house at the Ayer Lodge is scheduled for March 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dickson said all Massachusetts Lodges will be holding open houses that day.