The Oriental Martha’s Vineyard Masonic Lodge in Oak Bluffs, an Island organization more than 150 years old, hosts an open house on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 9 am to 3 pm. Members are welcoming the community to come inside and discover what the lodge is all about.
Alan Reekie, a past master of the lodge, explained that the Island lodge had special dispensation to hold its open house this coming weekend rather than last weekend, like the rest of the state. “Normally, every lodge should do it on the same day, but we got special dispensation by the Grand Lodge. Because of the fishing tournament, they allowed us to go one week later,” Reekie said.
He also noted that there are many misconceptions about the organization and what it does. “All sorts of strange and silly ideas crop up on the internet. We are not a secret society — if it was a secret society, it would be the worst secret society,” Reekie laughed, noting that the lodge in Oak Bluffs is clearly marked with the Masonic square and compass emblem. “Masons do a lot of charity work throughout the U.S. and abroad.”
Reekie explained that in order to be a Shriner, you must first be a member of the Masonic Order, but you don’t have to be Shriner if you are a Freemason. The Shriners Hospitals serve children — regardless of the family’s ability to pay — all across the U.S., including in Boston. On the Island, the fraternity formed the Masonic Angel Fund, which supplies goods and services to local children in need — whether it be a new winter coat or a special calculator or other technology they need for school but might not be able to afford. “Only our representative knows who that child is,” Reekie told The Times.
Even though the organization may still have some mystery surrounding it, the history is undeniable. It is a worldwide organization that’s been around since the Middle Ages, when it was first formed in Europe as a guild of skilled builders. The first Island lodge didn’t last long, but was founded in 1791. The current lodge is the product of a 1994 merger between the Martha’s Vineyard Lodge of Tisbury and the Oriental Lodge of Edgartown. At one time, there were seven lodges on the Island. Nantucket, Reekie said, has had a continuous lodge since 1771, making it older than the U.S. itself.
“When masonry came from Europe, it came to the seaports first,” Reekie explained. “Charleston, Nova Scotia … places with a port tended to have lodges first.”
Originally from Scotland, where Freemasonry is “very big,” Reekie said he has been a Mason for 30 years, and has lived on the Island for 40 years. His father and both of his grandfathers were Masons. “I love it on all levels — the historical aspect, the camaraderie,” he said. “If you travel abroad you can meet Masons almost anywhere.”
Reekie described a trip he made earlier this year when he met Masons from Belgium, Canada, and Bermuda. “There are nine lodges in Bermuda — three Scottish, three Irish, and three English.”
There are minimal requirements to be a Freemason, but they include being a male 18 years and older who is not atheist. “What you believe in is your business,” Reekie said, “but you must believe in a higher power and not be an atheist.” The organization is social and philanthropic, and meant to help members achieve a more virtuous life — or “to be a good man,” as Reekie described.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Freemasons, come to the open house at the Oriental Martha’s Vineyard Masonic Lodge, 52 Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs, on Saturday, Oct. 22, 9 am to 3 pm.