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Masons: The men behind the mask

Newberg Masonic Lodge's first goal is to serve the community


The Newberg Masonic Lodge dates back to 1892, but despite its lengthy past in Newberg, many couldn’t tell you who the masons are or what they do.

“For me it’s all out in the open, but I forget that for people it’s still very mysterious,” said Rick Fieldhouse, who holds the title of “lodge worshipful master” of the local fraternal organization.

The mystery may be due in part to the nature of the masons, men who are looking to help the community but who don’t typically advertise for membership or the services they provide.

“We believe that people should come of their own free will and not be sold on it. This is a choice,” Fieldhouse said. “We’re not just in it to get members into our social club. We want people who want to come and be part of what we do.”by: GARY ALLEN - Symbolism - The Junior Warden's apron and ‘jewel' represent the plumb, used to gauge if something is straight on a vertical axis. Most         symbols in masonry have ties to the craft itself.

What do the masons do? A little bit of everything

“There’s a lot of quiet things involving sponsorship of activities, children’s charities — our lodge likes to sponsor the Grad Night, (among other things),” he said. “We en­courage our members to volunteerism, so there’s a lot of things that we bring, volunteer opportunities, to the lodge. We’re not going out as a group, but saying here’s an opportunity, whoever’s interested go participate. Really the point of masonry is community service, building a stronger community, because especially in the U.S., masonry is really attached to this ideal of public service.”

This ideal stems from the fraternity’s inception, although even that story is shrouded in mystery and myth.

“It depends on who you ask,” Fieldhouse said. “The folklore is that it was originally established by King Solomon, biblical King Solomon. American masonry is really more a product of the Enlightenment. Many founding fathers — Washington, Franklin, Jefferson — were all masons. It was a popular format for Enlightenment ideas, the main being democracy and equality of men, regardless of state of birth, and freedom of religion without fear of repercussion.”

Religion plays a large role in masonry

“Masonry is not a religion, but to be a mason you must have a religion,” Fieldhouse said.

To join, members must answer a simple question: Do you believe there is a God that created the universe?

“However you believe that, whether you believe it was created in the seven literal days or by a guy who lit the candle that started the Big Bang, you just have to believe God created the universe and that you have an im­mortal soul,” Field­house said. “You don’t have to be a Chris­tian, you can be Jewish, Mus­lim, (etc.) as long as you can answer those questions affirmatively.”

He said this tenet is vital because they believe a man of faith is going to make a better citizen.

“That might make some people who are diehard atheists angry, but that’s the truth,” he said.

A reliance on symbolism

Aside from the religious aspect, the lodge relies heavily on symbolism. Fieldhouse said historically, this stems from the lack of literacy during the period of foundation.

“Part of becoming a mason is committing some things to memory,” he said. “But I can’t tell you what it is because that’s part of the secret.”

Common symbolic objects that remain in the lodge include a gavel, trowel, square, plumb bob and a 24 inch gauge — all tools used in masonry and with meanings that represent masonic values.

“Like the square meaning is we need to square our actions,” Fieldhouse said. “Unfortunately in modern terms it’s a little hard to understand, but it’s basically acting in an honest manner. There’s a lot of little object lessons.”

Tradition extends to apparel as well and includes masonic aprons. They aren’t useful anymore, but represent what traditional masons used to wear.

“And the different officers have different aprons for different offices, so if you’re familiar with masonic symbology you can know who is in what job based on what they wear,” he said.

And yes, there is a secret handshake.

“But the truth of the matter is anyone with five minutes of web search could find out what it is,” Fieldhouse said. “It’s more of a ritualistic thing.”

With 60 active members, the lodge is looking beyond ritual and tradition and into the modern era with an emphasis on community service.

“With the ongoing (Chehalem) Cultural District, we really want to be a part of that,” he said. “We don’t ever want to be in the way of community events happening. I’ve been trying to work with the cultural district board to really coordinate efforts.”

This may include pre-empting scheduling conflicts or participating in community events.

“We’re not a public entity but we are a public entity in that our members are all citizens,” he said. “So we want to be supportive and we really want to participate in the community and give what we can.”

To learn more about the masonic lodge, visit newberg 104.wordpress.com.



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