A Younger Mason Speaks
By Bro Andrew Harrison MBE
I first found myself thinking about Freemasonry when I was coming towards the end of my time in the army. A friend had told me that there would be a massive void of camaraderie that I was going to miss, and I had always done a lot of charity work, so Freemasonry seemed that it would tick every box for me. I first tried to join a local Nottinghamshire Lodge, but the timing didn’t quite work out. A friend of mine would post a lot about the positives of Freemasonry on social media, and I always ‘liked’ his posts, and I think subconsciously, it was because I wanted to join.
My friend eventually had a conversation with me about Freemasonry, and I decided to take up the opportunity. He brought me into Bowes Park Lodge No 3119, where I was initiated in December 2019.
I only had three months of being a Freemason before the first Covid-19 lockdown, but I was lucky in that I got to take in a lot of Freemasonry before then. In November 2019, on Remembrance Sunday, we were leaving the church in Saffron Walden, where I was stationed at the time, forming up to march back into the main square. Where we formed up was outside of the local Masonic Hall, and one of the guys who stood next to me noticed I was looking at the building. He asked me why, and I told him I was joining a Lodge in London the next month; he replied that he was a Fellow Craft in that Masonic Hall. So, less than a week after my Initiation, I went to his Lodge’s 150th celebration, with all the great and the good of Essex Freemasonry being present. I also got to act as a candidate for a demonstration of the First Degree in an old Lodge in Nottingham and attended Bowes Park’s Installation meeting. All this just before the lockdown began.
I feel I’m really lucky to be a part of Bowes Park, as they’ve been fantastic over the lockdown. We’ve got a great secretary in W Bro Mark Schito LGR, who’s very forward-facing with social media. He was very quick to set up Zoom calls, and we’ve had monthly online socials since. Lockdown helped expand my Masonic circle. I joined the Masonic Craft Beer Society (MCBS) and the Byron Club (the Nottinghamshire ‘light blues’ club). I was on the road a lot last year in the job I was doing for the army, and often staying in hotels with obviously no pubs or bars open, so those Masonic societies were lifesavers.
When we knew the lockdowns were ending and a sense of normality was starting to return, Bro Mark quickly applied for a dispensation for an emergency meeting in September. Everyone had started to learn for my Second Degree the previous year when we weren’t sure yet how long Covid would be around, so the Lodge voted that my Passing would be the ceremony for our first meeting back.
Everyone was keen to get me through my ceremony – the Worshipful Master even attended to conduct the ceremony despite having a new-born at home (though he couldn’t stay for the festive board!) Thanks to my new friends from the MCBS and the Byron Club, I had so many visitors there for my second that it almost felt like my Initiation all over again. It turned the evening into something really special. I felt that the support I received throughout lockdown proved that Freemasonry was everything I thought and hoped it would be.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 46 October 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 46.