Due to dwindling membership, a historic institution in northeast Rocky View County has amalgamated with its neighbour to the north.
The Irricana Masonic Lodge, which formed in 1925, has joined with the Acme Masonic Lodge, a similar group that formed in 1912. The newly combined lodge will be called Acme Irricana Lodge No. 137.
Doug Barnard, an Acme resident and member of the lodge, said memberships in the two freemasonry organizations have been decreasing for several years. With the communities of Irricana and Acme located just 22 kilometres apart, he said members decided the best way to keep the lodges robust was to combine forces.
“We were down to about 15 members [in Acme], and there were three members in B.C. who had retired, so they didn’t come anymore,” he said. “There were about eight of us coming to the meetings, and you have to have five to make quorum.
“Irricana was going the same way. A lot of members passed away, and young people aren’t joining right now. Ever since the war, young people have slowly not joined. There’s so much other stuff going on nowadays.”
Meetings will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Irricana Masonic Lodge, located at 2nd Street and 2nd Avenue, on the third Thursday of each month. Meetings are not held from July to September, Barnard said, due to the fall harvest.
Masonic lodges are fraternal organizations that meet privately. According to Brittanica.com, freemasonry is the teaching and practice of “the secret order of Free and Accepted Masons.” The idea evolved from the guilds of stonemasons and cathedral builders of the Middle Ages. Encyclopedia Brittanica estimates the worldwide membership of freemasonry ranges from two million to six million, making it the world's largest secret society.
The modern concept of freemasonry originated in the 1700s, according to Barnard, and many high-profile figures throughout history were members of a masonic lodge, including the first president of the United States, George Washington.
“What the philosophy is, is to make good men better,” he said.
“People who wanted to be politicians would become masons because they would learn how to conduct meetings. That would help them along in their climb to fame, or whatever it is they wanted to do.”
The discussions held at masonic lodge meetings are secret, he added, and follow the same rituals that have been in place since the 1700s. While meetings are private, according to the Irricana Masonic Lodge’s website, irricanamasons.com, the main aims of freemasonry are to "promote the Brotherhood of man under the Supreme Being,” to “render practical aid and assistance to less fortunate community members” and to “demonstrate to others that the teachings of the Craft have a profound and beneficial effect on those who sincerely embrace its precepts.”
Most masonic lodges are strictly for men, Barnard said, though some chapters allow women to join or are exclusively comprised of women.
“It was mainly a sociable thing over the years, and a men’s club,” he said. “When we’re initiated, we have to promise we won’t let anyone know our ritual or anything to do with the meetings. The only thing we let out is if we donate to [charity] or different things we do. It’s very private.”
Masonic lodges do not actively seek out members, according to Barnard, meaning anyone who wishes to join Acme Irricana Lodge No. 137 will have to contact the organization and undertake a three-stage initiation process. To begin the process, email firstname.lastname@example.org