County’s oldest organization celebrates 200 years
The oldest organization still in existence in Prince Edward County celebrated its 200th anniversary Saturday with a reception and banquet at the Prince Edward Community Centre.
“Freemasonry and our lodges have always been common ground for men to meet for the betterment of themselves, to advance the craft and for the betterment of a society as a whole,” said Dale Porter, Worshipful Master of Prince Edward Lodge #18. “There have been many challenges during the past 200 years and no doubt, there will be in the future… It is the desire of Freemasonry that every member live respected and die regretted, and that the genuine tenants of our time-honoured institution will be transmitted through our members, pure and unimpaired, from generation to generation.”
Porter grew up in Picton. His father and grandfather both became masons in the former lodge, then located above the Mary Street School. The current Masonic Hall is located on the Loyalist Parkway, just outside of Picton.
“What Freemasonry teaches us is not just words, but a way to live our lives honourably. If it were not for this commitment from the charter members in 1811 right through to the members of 2011, a volunteer organization like ours could never continue to flourish and prosper in the way that Freemasonry has, not only in Picton, but across the face of the earth.”
The reception was attended by numerous Grand Lodge officers from across the province as well as worshipful masters from the Prince Edward District and area. Dale Miller, Director of Ceremonies, introduced the head table and special guests. Bernie Gaw was the evening’s master of ceremonies.
The nearly 200 guests in attendance welcomed Raymond Daniels, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Canada in the Province of Ontario.
“Prince Edward Lodge was represented at the convention held in Hamilton, Oct. 10, 1855, when the Grand Lodge of Canada came into being. You are older than the Grand Lodge,” Daniels said in his address.
He spoke of his recent open letter to the masons of Ontario in which he posed the question ‘Does Masonry matter?’
“It stimulated much discussion and introspection, as intended,” Daniels said. “It is not about money, as some seem to think. It’s about attitude – commitment to an idea and the pursuit of an ideal. It’s about the zeal for Freemasonry displayed by those early settlers, the United Empire Loyalists, in establishing lodges here in their new homeland. It’s about the determination of the founding fathers of this lodge – Joshua Hayward, W.M. William Blakely, S.W., and Robert Caflin, J.W. It’s about the dedication of those faithful members that have maintained the principles of Freemasonry in Prince Edward Lodge, through good times and bad, for two centuries…It’s about the Brethren of this lodge that have displayed those principles of morality and virtue into the community at large, assuming leadership roles that have shaped this historic town and made it a better place for their fellow citizens. It’s about unswerving loyalty to the timeless and timely ideal that is the essence of masonic philosophy.”
He noted that in the space of two centuries, change was constant and inevitable and that Freemasonry had undergone a cultural evolution.
“Through all the changing scenes of life, the core values of Freemasonry never change… These are exciting times for Freemasonry as a renewed interest has been generated among serious young men seeking meaningful and satisfying answers to the great questions of life… Primarily, this generation is seek stability in an unstable world. An institution that has existed for two centuries can provide continuity and consistency in an ever-changing environment.”
Daniels said the Prince Edward Lodge’s milestone will be celebrated in the future.
“The greatest gift one generation can pass along to the next is the knowledge, insight, and wisdom gained from experience. Matsu Basho put it in these wise words: ‘Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.’”
Anniversaries, he said, provide an ideal opportunity to examine and evaluate our stewardship of the rich heritage inherited from our predecessors.
“One is tempted to ask ‘What would those founding fathers in 1811 say to us today?’ It is now up to us to preserve and enhance that heritage for the next generation – from this moment on, it is the future. What we do today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, will predicate what this venerable lodge will be when our successors celebrate the 250th, 50 years hence.”
Daniels had been introduced by Stewart Westhead, The 1st Principal of Prince Edward Chapter No. 31, of the Royal Arch Masons.
Prince Edward Hastings MP Daryl Kramp, a proud mason, brought greetings from the government of Canada. Leona Dombrowsky, MPP, brought greetings from the province of Ontario. Jim Dunlop offered congratulations on behalf of Mayor Peter Mertens and the County.
Past District Deputy Grand Master Ken Campbell gave the closing remarks as chairman of the Bicentennial Committee and also thanked Calvin Thomas for designing the special bicentennial pin that was given to every guest. He closed by offering “a sincere, heartfelt thank you for joining us on our anniversary.”