Masons bridge gap

Local groups reaching across racial divide
Jul. 05, 2014 @ 09:27 PM

Local Masonic lodges across the region have integrated to break racial barriers.

During a meeting in June, Beacon Light Lodge No. 249, which is composed of black Freemasons, inducted Archy Coghill, worshipful master of Henderson Lodge No. 249; Woodrow Freeze of Oxford Lodge No. 122; and Jeremy Vargo of the John H. Mills Lodge No. 624 of Epsom — all white — as honorary brothers.

Lamont Noel, Beacon Light’s worshipful master, said the three men have been visiting him and his brothers frequently now after the March meeting that brought black and white Freemasons together for the first time.

During that visit, members from Coghill’s, Vargo’s and Freeze’s organizations sat in on Beacon Light’s official meeting to discuss fundraising and community improvement opportunities.

Beacon Light Lodge also presented the Henderson Lodge with a plaque representing friendship and brotherly love.

Freeze said he felt part of the community during the visit.

“It was just amazing how we were received and welcomed,” he said. “It was almost embarrassing because we just wanted to be a part of it, but we were treated in such as special way.”

Vargo said he felt honored to be accepted into the Beacon Light brotherhood.

“It’s great that we can finally come together and sit down and socialize,” he said.

The lodges have discussed hosting events together in the coming months.

Vargo said it was about time.

“I think it shows that the old ways are gone, and we can come together and work together on things,” he said.

Freeze said there was some who were reluctant in his lodge, but he is happy they are moving forward anyway.

“The worst thing you can ever say is change,” he said. “I think that is one of the nice things from our perspective, and from Beacon Light’s, is that we are not going to change the world overnight, but we are making those small changes every day.”

Noel said after he became worshipful master July 1, 2013, he realized both lodges in Henderson needed to work together.

“Since 1908, we’ve been in existence,” he said. “For the most part, we didn’t even know them.”

Black Freemasons operate under the jurisdiction of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of N.C. Free & Accepted Masons, while white Freemasons are under jurisdiction of The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of N.C. Ancient Free & Accept Masons.

Both organizations trace their origins to the mother lodge in England.

Noel said there were many reasons why collaborating took so long, but Vargo said he blamed routine.

“History stayed so long, and our ways were dated back to the 1800s,” he said. “We just never tried to break it.”

Noel said he extended the invitation to Coghill in September 2013 and received a confirmation shortly after. Other local lodges learned of the invitation and committed to attending, as well.

He said his main purpose was just to establish a relationship.

“I just felt it was time we know who our cross-town brothers were," he said. "If nothing else, we can just support each other in our endeavors.”

Vargo said he thinks the visits have been successful so far, and everyone has been open to building new relationships, regardless of race.

“The majority of Masons don’t really care about that,” he said. “It’s time to move on and make things better.”

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.