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Masonic lodges in Nashua among many across the state hosting open houses this Saturday

NASHUA — If the mention of Freemasonry conjures images of a “secret society,” or perhaps a drinking club within a “playground” for the world’s powerful, elite men, local leaders of the storied fraternal organization would like the chance to explain why Freemasonry, in reality, is “far more compelling than any of the fiction that surrounds it.”

Anyone interested in taking the Masons up on that offer can do so this Saturday, when three dozen Masonic lodges statewide, including in Nashua and Milford, open their doors to the public from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

The Masonic organization began hosting occasional open houses some years ago as part of a renewed effort to “increase awareness of the fraternity and encourage the public to learn more about Freemasonry,” according to Chris Busby, chairman of communications for the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire.

Busby, who roughly 10 years ago joined Ancient York Lodge No. 89 – one of two Nashua-based lodges and one of several affiliated organizations – said he “sought membership in Freemasonry to be a part of something larger than myself … (and) to connect with community and history.

“I received so much more than I expected,” he added.

Nashua is unique in that it is home to two lodges, the other being the Rising Sun Lodge No. 39. Chartered in 1822, Rising Sun is among the state’s older lodges; Ancient York was chartered in 1871.

Milford’s Benevolent Lodge No. 7, meanwhile, ranks right up there in statewide seniority, having been chartered in April 1797.

New Hampshire’s eldest continuously operating lodge is St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in Portsmouth, which was chartered in 1736 – predating the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire by 53 years.

St. John’s is also the second eldest lodge in the nation.

As for Saturday’s open houses, folks who visit one of the state’s 35 participating lodges are invited “to explore the mysteries surrounding the centuries-old organization,” as well as learn about Freemasonry’s history and teachings, Busby said.

Freemasonry is open to men of all faiths, Busby said, adding that the main qualification for membership is the belief in a higher power, or what Busby calls “a supreme being.”

He said Freemasonry “utilizes the traditions” of various faiths “to convey the moral and spiritual teachings” of those faiths.

Kenneth A. Clay Jr, Grand Master of Masons in New Hampshire, said the open houses give the organization the opportunity to “open our doors to show the world that the real secret of Masonry is the brotherly love and affection we have for those around us.

“It is crucial that our communities know of the important impact Masons have in their neighborhoods,” Clay added.

Lodges closest to Nashua participating in Saturday’s open house include both Nashua lodges, which are located in the Masonic Building at 196-200 Main St.; Benevolent Lodge No. 7, 30 Mont Vernon St., Milford; Bethel-Souhegan Lodge No. 24, 2 Temple St. in New Ipswich; and Washington Lodge No. 61, 1505 Elm St., Manchester.

For more information on Freemasonry and Saturday’s open houses, go to http://bit.ly/nh-lodges or https://www.nhgrandlodge.org.

Dean Shalhoup may be reached at 594-1256 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.