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Greensboro Masonic Lodge No. 76 celebrates 200 years
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Greensboro Masonic Lodge No. 76 celebrates 200 years

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This year, one of Greensboro’s oldest institutions celebrates its 200th year of existence: Greensboro Masonic Lodge Number 76, also known as “Old 76.”

Someone may see the letters “A.F. & A.M.” associated with the lodge. The letters represent “Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.”

The lodge’s original charter, dated March 1, 1821, is displayed at the front of the lodge’s meeting room, which is inside the Masonic Temple at 426 West Market St.

A special book was written to commemorate the lodge’s 200th year with March 1, 1821, signifying the date North Carolina’s Grand Lodge of Masonry chartered the lodge.

The lodge’s Masons, who call themselves “Brothers,” meet on the second and fourth Thursday of the month at the temple. Supper is at 6 p.m. followed by a meeting at 7 p.m. The public is welcome to attend supper, but only Masons can attend the meetings that follow.

Masonry is open to men only. Two other requirements to become a Mason are a belief in a Supreme Being and having good character (criminal background checks are conducted on those applying for membership). Lodges and individual Masons cannot solicit other men to become Masons: anyone wanting to be a Mason must approach a lodge or a Mason on his own initiative.

Lodge meetings are conducted according to parliamentary procedure and secret Masonic rituals. The head of the lodge, the worshipful master, is equivalent to the commanding officer of a military organization. The current worshipful master is Worshipful Brother Ray Hall.

“We welcome anyone who wishes to unite with our fraternity,” Hall said.

Meetings open with a nondenominational prayer and brothers reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Contrary to popular belief, Masonry is not a secret organization. Rather, it is an organization with many secrets. And, it is not a “self-help” organization since the goal of Masonry is to make good men better.

Brothers advance to the various levels of Masonry by ritual initiations. The entry status for a Mason is entered apprentice, the first degree. The brother can advance or “pass” to fellow craft, the second degree. Finally, the brother can advance or “be raised” to master Mason, the third degree.

To advance, a brother must recite a question-and-answer catechism from memory. He learns a catechism through coaching: guided by a senior brother called a “coach,” the candidate for advancement learns the catechism for reciting it many, many times. Very little written material can be used in learning Masonry’s various catechisms. The standard for recitation is proficiency, not perfection.

Some brothers have phenomenal memories allowing them to speak, without notes, various parts of the many and different Masonic rituals. Some brothers can speak entire rituals nonstop from memory for as long as 30 minutes nonstop.

The lodge supports various charities including the Masonic Home for Children in Oxford, N.C.

The lodge has also played a part in community affairs for 200 years. For example, lodge members placed cornerstones at West Market Street Methodist Church, the Old Guilford County Courthouse, a building at UNCG and at the Masonic Temple.

The lodge, like others in the state, is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. Masonry is organized by state; it does not have one superior national lodge that superintends all the lodges in the United States.

As with most organizations, the lodge suffered from the problems caused by the pandemic. The biggest problem was the suspension of meetings for several months during 2020 and the suspension of suppers (suppers were reinstated earlier in 2021). The pandemic also prompted the cancellation in 2020 of one of the lodge’s favorite and most popular activities: providing free lunches to police officers; sheriff’s deputies, city and county fire fighters, emergency medical service personnel, 911 call operators, and state troopers.

Worshipful Brother Hall, who heads Greensboro Masonic Lodge Number 76 during this important year, summarized best the effect that Masonry can have on a man and Masonic Brother: “The fact that I believe that all the work I could ever do could not repay all that Masonry has given me is indeed true. The way of life I have learned and attempt to follow had been most invaluable to me.”

Master Mason Charles A. Jones is a member of Greensboro Masonic Lodge Number 76 and is a retired Marine Corps Reserve colonel and lawyer.

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