In reviewing the history of Mount Horeb Lodge as recorded by our forebears in the preceding pages, one is struck by the continuity of the friendship and brotherly love exhibited by the recorders and the old adage that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Indeed, if one were to strike the names and dates from each report of the status of the Lodge, excepting certain obvious identifiable moments in history, of course, one might not be able to distinguish one period from another. Perhaps this is what accounts for the strength and longevity of Mount Horeb Lodge.
Yet, Mount Horeb has faced – and continues to face – considerable challenges. The primary challenge is the status of our membership, specifically the erosion of the same since the high-point of 532 in the 1970’s. One may speculate as to the causes of the decline (perhaps the social turmoil and loss of respect for authority, tradition, and institutions as exhibited by young people during the 1960’s and 1970’s, the propagation of secularism in the public arena, and the effect on leisure time caused by dual-income families), but it is clear that nearly an entire generation of men between the ages of twenty-five and sixty, remain in darkness and have been deprived of the benefits of involvement in the Fraternity. As a result, membership in Mount Horeb Lodge has declined to levels not seen since our Fiftieth Anniversary in 1905 – but the situation is not entirely comparable. In 1905, the membership was growing. As of this writing, there are 184 members of Mount Horeb Lodge; and the demographics of our membership is not encouraging – fewer than a third of our members are under the age of 60.
Though some may become discouraged at these facts, others, i.e., those who come to Lodge regularly and participate and contribute to the day-to-day operation of the Lodge, feel differently. Those of us continuing to support the Lodge with our attendance every month have a special appreciation for what our forefathers achieved 150 years ago. One must not forget that attending Lodge meetings in 1855 was a considerable inconvenience for our late Brethren and the environment for Masonry was much more miserable in 1855 than it may be now. After all, in the mid-nineteenth century Masonry was only beginning to rebound from the so-called “Morgan Affair.” Even one of Massachusetts’s favorite sons, former President John Quincy Adams, had joined the Anti-Masonic Party. Lest we forget, notwithstanding that many of the Founding Fathers of the Republic (including Bro. George Washington and Rt. Worshipful Bro. Benjamin Franklin), as well as Revolutionary War heroes Most Worshipful Bro. General Joseph Warren and Most Worshipful Bro. Paul Revere, were Masons, it was not popular to be a Mason in 1855. Fortunately for us, eleven men, ignoring the hysteria and unfounded paranoia of the times (stemming from the Morgan Affair), took it upon themselves to establish a Masonic Lodge in Woburn. They traveled great distances by foot, horseback, and horse-drawn-carriages at a considerable inconvenience to themselves and their families to attend their new Lodge every month. They encouraged their fellow communicants at Church, their friends, and their neighbors to join the Lodge. The Brethren did not skip a meeting in those days without good reason. We are grateful for that. From eleven members in 1855, Mount Horeb grew to over 500 in 1975. Though the trend line is now declining, many of us are optimistic for our future and are doing what we can to build the Lodge for our future Brethren.
For many years after its founding, Mount Horeb Lodge always had a “two-year line.” That is, all officers served in their respective stations for two years in a row. This tradition was abandoned in 1919, allowing an opportunity for more of the Brethren to enjoy the honor and privilege of serving as officers. Although the unofficial policy of a one-year line has not changed, the de facto case is that most of the officers serving today have served for many, many years. This has almost always been the case for the Organist, Tyler, Treasurer, and Secretary, but this phenomenon is new for the office of Master, which, as most know, exceeds all other offices in terms of time devoted to the Lodge. Several of our recent Masters have served for more than two years in a row, for which we are most appreciative. Our current Master, Worshipful Bro. James R. McSweeney, is completing his second year in the East, with “confident expectation” that he will serve again for a third consecutive year in 2006-2007 and, perhaps, a fourth consecutive year in 2007-2008 (which would be a record for Mount Horeb Lodge). His predecessor, Worshipful Bro. Brian R. Wheaton, held the reins for three consecutive years, too (from 2001-2004). Other Past Masters who served in the East for consecutive terms over the past twenty-five years include Right Worshipful Bro. Charles E. “Bud” Myers, who served from 1994-1996, and Worshipful Bro. Charles A. Graham, who served from 1996-1998.
Despite recent chatter (some serious, some not) of the need for Mount Horeb Lodge to merge with another Lodge in the area, we are beginning to experience a renaissance at Mount Horeb Lodge. Truly, there is hope for our future and we are beginning to see changes. After several years of welcoming not a single new member into the Lodge, we are encouraged that by the end of this Masonic year, Mount Horeb Lodge will have raised eight new members this year alone. This turnaround in interest in the Fraternity is very much attributable to visionary leadership originating from the Grand Lodge and our current Grand Master, Most Worshipful Bro. Jeffrey Black Hodgdon. Advertisements, “Open Houses,” and a re-interpretation of the unwritten rules permitting more overt conversations of the Craft have permitted us to share the wonder and greatness of Freemasonry with other members of the Woburn community and its surrounding towns.
But why should anyone care whether or not Mount Horeb Lodge continues to exist? It has often been said that one of the goals of modern Freemasonry is to “make good men better.”
To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men, but particularly on Freemasons, who are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. To soothe the unhappy, sympathize with their misfortunes, compassionate their miseries, and restore peace to their troubled minds, is the great aim we have in view. On this basis we form our friendships and establish our connections.
Thus, as Masons, we “make good men better” through our charitable endeavors, which include, among other good works, visiting and aiding the sick, assisting the poor, and alleviating the distressed. The uninitiated may have little idea of how much Freemasonry contributes to the improvement of the community. But consider this: according to Grand Lodge statistics, Freemasons in North America contribute more than $2,000,000 eachday to charity; Freemasons, many volunteering from Mount Horeb Lodge, operate the Shriners Burns Hospital in Boston where more than 750 severely burned children are admitted each year and treated at nocharge; some 3,700 children are treated each year in the hospital’s clinic, again at nocharge; Freemasons are responsible for collecting more than 80% of the blood collected by the Red Cross in Massachusetts – more than 20,000 pints annually; Freemasons also provide more than $200,000 in scholarship assistance annually (for the past several years, Mount Horeb Lodge has made donations directly to the Woburn High School Scholarship Fund); and of course, through the efforts of many of Mount Horeb Lodge’s Brethren, especially the tremendous work by our late Brother Worshipful Kendall F. Stewart, Masonic Lodges promote child safety through the statewide Massachusetts Youth Child Identification Program. These are but a few examples of the charitable work performed by members of Mount Horeb Lodge. Indeed, owing to the efforts of the members of Mount Horeb Lodge, the City of Woburn is a better place.
Accordingly, for the benefit of our community, our neighbors, our families, and ourselves, we look forward to celebrating Mount Horeb Lodge’s 175th Anniversary in 2030.