A cook, a pipe fitter and a writer convene on a 99-year-old building rife with symbolism, seclusion and secrecy. They identify one another through specific means they won't disclose, but those same identifying traits can be applied anywhere in the world.
This scene plays out in downtown Port Coquitlam, but it can - and most certainly does - happen across the globe.
And it has for centuries.
In what is being hailed as Vie an unpreced-Fr ented first, local Freemasons will open the doors to their lodge hall at 2660 Shaughnessy St. in Port Coquitlam on Thursday, Feb. 21 to give the public a sense of who they are, and what they represent.
In a series of exclusive interviews with The NOW, three Freemasons from Coquitlam and Maple Ridge spoke about a wide range of topics regarding Freemasonry - everything from symbolism and history, to misconceptions and philanthropy.
"There's a long-held thought amongst many people that Freemasonry is a big secret, that we don't talk about it and that we don't let people know what we're doing," said Maple Ridge native Robert Prince, who celebrates 21 years as a Freemason this month. "That's really not the case, and it's never been like that as long I've been a Mason."
As much as the open house will represent a means to educate the public on what Freemasonry is all about, it will also serve to dispel long-held accusations and hearsay.
According to Prince, a writer by trade, Myth No. 1 is that there is a global headquarters for Freemasons. Instead, B.C. and the Yukon constitute what is referred to as one "grand lodge." That grand lodge is then divided into districts, with each district made up of roughly five to seven lodges that are grouped geographically.
The hall at 2660 Shaughnessy St. is home to six lodges that are considered separate entities unto themselves, and they make up District 28: DeWolf, Blue Mountain, Tuscan and Vimy represent the Tri-Cities, while Landmark and Prince David represent Maple Ridge.
Each lodge has a hierarchal order, which is headed up by a master and a handful of subordinates. All lodge rooms are laid out from east to west, and the lodge master and his subordinates sit in specific geographic locations facing various directions.
"Each lodge is a bit different, but there's very little difference between a Freemason in Scotland and Freemason in Port Coquitlam," said Coquitlam native Art Smith, a pipe fitter who serves as master of the DeWolf Lodge.
Myth No. 2, according to Prince, is that Freemasons are cult members - they often get branded as Satanists - hell bent on ruling the world. Instead, Prince said Masonry entails no adherence to a specific religion, though holy books of all types are found in a Masonic lodge. While religion is not a focal point, belief in a supreme being is. One cannot become a Freemason without a belief in a higher power. And while some Freemason lodges allow women to join, local ones do not.
The need for a belief in a supreme being, in particular leads to Myth No. 3 - that one can only become a Freemason through birthright, and that membership is exclusive to doctors, lawyers or others in high tax brackets, or positions of power.
"We don't ask people to become Freemasons - you come to the organization, as we say, of your own free will and accord," Prince said.
"People think it's an elitist organization where it's nothing but people who are making $250,000 or more a year. That's just not true.
There's no limitation or stipulation as to what kind of work you can do to be a Freemason."
A vetting process begins once a prospective member asks to join, and a person's background is checked.
"It's not like an investigation where we're digging into every aspect of your life," Prince said. "It's really a get-to-know-you kind of thing. We want the guy to come out to the lodge and talk with us. Or we'll meet him for coffee, or sit down over a beer."
James Wall underwent that vetting process just 18 months ago. The relatively new Freemason said he put in close to 20 years with other fraternal organizations before applying to be a member of the DeWolf Lodge.
"I was drawn by the history and the symbolism," said Long, who works as a cook in Coquitlam.
"I'm a fan of ceremony and ritual and there's so much history, not just within this lodge, but within the program itself."
Ultimately, the raison d'être behind Masonry is simple, according to Prince: the betterment of yourself, your family and your community.
"It's all about trying to make your community a better place and that's what it really means to be a Freemason," he said.
"We try to live up to certain ideals that would make any society or community better, regardless of your religion, politics or all of the things that divide people. We talk about how to bring people together and how to promote the brotherhood of man."