LIFESTYLE

Masons let the public inside

PAT FRIDGEN
Bob Brindle, Walter Shives and Mark Eberly gave a tour of the Masonic Lodge during Old Home Week.

Members of Mount Pisgah Lodge No. 443 Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania opened their doors to the public during Old Home Week  for an open house. Anyone able to walk to the third floor of the Tower Bank building was treated to a peek into the meeting rooms of the 141-year old Greencastle men's club.

Walter Shives, secretary; Mark Eberly and Bob Brindle, trustees; conducted the tours. All are also past Masters of the chapter. The monthly meetings are held in a cavernous, stately room with red carpet, and blue-cushioned pews along the sides. At each end are high-backed chairs for the officers. A large painting of George Washington, considered to be the number one Mason in the United States, hangs on the wall. The same picture is in all grand lodges.

Mount Pisgah held a similar open house at a previous OHW. Both times they welcomed visitors to see what goes on behind closed doors and to possibly attract new members. They know their reputation.

"We are not a secret society," said Eberly. "We are a society of secrets. Most of it is on the Internet now."

"Everything we do is based on something in the Bible," Shives added. "Every member must believe in a Supreme Being."

Members advance through the ranks by memorizing material. Nothing is written down, Shives said, which perhaps adds to the mystery in the public's eyes.

One piece of artwork features famous Masons, including Benjamin Franklin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Buzz Aldrin, and King Solomon. The teachings of the Masons date back to his time, when the temple of Jerusalem was constructed.

Mount Pisgah has 235 members, and approximately 10 percent attend a meeting at any given time. The average age is the mid-50s to 60. The group added seven new members last year, considered unusual, the men agreed.

Business is conducted first, and then a guest will speak for the program, similar to the speeches given to any civic organization. The lodge hosts family and other social events. Its main outreach to the community is participation in CHIPS, a child identification program to help identify and recover missing children. A free kit for parents contains a fingerprint card, physical description, video, computer disk or DVD of the child, a dental imprint, and DNA sample.  

Mount Pisgah has members from a wide spectrum of churches. Shives, 83, has been a member for 56 years; Eberly for 14 and Brindle for 3. Considering themselves conservative in their beliefs, they say nothing about the Masons compromises their Christian faith. "Religion has nothing to do with it," said Shives.