Palestine-Roxborough Lodge No. 135 turned 200 years old last week. The lodge celebrated with an anniversary banquet on April 6, an event hosted by its president, the Worshipful Master Richard Heath.
Lodge President Richard Heath’s great-great-great uncle, Aaron Levering, was a founding member of the lodge in 1813, which now meets at the Roxborough Masonic Temple at 344 Conarroe Street. Jerry Brown, the Junior Warden of the lodge, says the fact that eight generations of men have continued the lodge is evidence that Masonic teachings are “welcoming to each and every generation.”
Celebrating a brotherhood
Local and state grand masons, deputy grand masons and grand lodge officers gathered at the banquet, which also honored masons with fifty and sixty years of membership. Richard Heath could have held the celebration in the members-only lodge room, but he decided to have a ceremony that welcomed the families of honored men.
“I figured their wives were wondering where they were going on Tuesday nights,” he chuckled.
Heath has been a member of Palestine-Roxborough Lodge No. 135 for 37 years (“Palestine” is a biblical reference). He says the masons aren’t as secretive as society likes to think.
“We are a fraternity,” he said. “When we bring a man in … we say he can’t talk about the initiation ritual.”
Freemasonry, Heath says, is simply “about being a good citizen, a good father, a good grandfather.”
‘Making good men better’
Heath says that the single most important requirement for a mason is a belief in God. Traditionally, an interested candidate needed to seek out a mason, but now members can nominate community-minded men. Candidates must go before a committee and offer a reason for their interest.
“Curiosity is not a good reason,” said Heath. Acceptable answers include a desire to emulate one’s father, and an interest in community service and good citizenship. “Remember,” said Jerry Brown, “the premise of freemasonry is making good men better.”
Freemasonry came to America from the United Kingdom during the eighteenth century. Its symbolism is based in geometric principles used by masons in their craftsmanship. At one time, lodges only included masons by trade. By the time the first American lodge opened in Philadelphia in 1730, membership opened to others; these “speculative masons” included George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
Generations have kept the geometric symbolism and traditional rituals, says Jerry Brown, to remind members “of their universal principles of charity, citizenry and neighborly affections.” The lodge expels those who are convicted of a crime, and they use grape juice in formal toasts, a practice begun so that masons wouldn’t return home drunk to their families.
Both Richard Heath and Jerry Brown say that Masonic teachings will continue to draw members for generations to come. “When the dust of job mobility and technological advances settle,” said Brown, “good men will look to freemasonry as a means of support and fortitude of their universal principles.”