Stodgy lodges, traditional initiations and secret handshakes would seem to be the antithesis of punk rock.
But a diverse group of Hub rockers are embracing centuries-old fraternal ideals to become the new face of the Freemasons in Boston.
“It’s not a religion, and it’s definitely not a cult,” said J.R. Roach, drummer for Sam Black Church and bassist for The Men, who also is master of the Masons’ Cambridge Amicable Lodge. “Everything is supposed to be dignified. There’s no hazing. We’re all brothers. It’s a movement for guys trying to find a deeper meaning in their lives.”
A new breed of Freemasons has surfaced locally, filling seats occupied for decades by community leaders, politicians and executives. Some join because their fathers or grandfathers were Masons. Others come for the male camaraderie or the intellectual challenge. And some simply want to get out of the house and go somewhere other than a rock club.
“It’s kind of like a history class that no one else can take,” said Dave Norton, drummer for Victory at Sea and The Men. He believes his membership in the fraternal organization will be especially rewarding when he tours Europe later this year.
“I can go anywhere in the world and find a brother,” he said.
According to the organization’s Web site, “Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternity dedicated to the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of a supreme being. Although of a religious nature, Freemasonry is not a religion. It urges members to be faithful and devoted to their own religious beliefs.” Its slogan is “making good men better.”
Masons have numbered artists as well as presidents, governors, judges and businessmen for centuries. Famous members include actors Clark Gable and Ernest Borgnine and musicians such as Mozart, Irving Berlin, Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington.
Masonry does have its critics who claim it is a secretive, chauvinistic and cult-like organization seeking no less than world domination. It’s been denounced by the Catholic Church and other religions and has faced political opposition for centuries.
“Some people just aren’t ready for it,” Norton said. “Any man can join. You just have to have the right reasons for it.”
Inside the Cambridge lodge, with its candelabras, velvet-covered pews, pipe organ and paintings of members past, members wear aprons indicating their level of enlightenment. Members meet monthly to discuss lodge business, which ranges from raising money for charities to electing leaders.
Gary Robley, drummer for Dashboard Jesus and J. Geils cover band Blow Your Face Out, said he joined because his father was a Mason, as are many of his friends.
“There were a bunch of musicians I knew in it,” Robley said. “It was kind of a brotherhood. Musicians have always been a part of Masonry since its inception.”
For Hank Peirce, a Unitarian minister and former roadie for hardcore band Slapshot, Masonry provided a safe haven when he went through a divorce.
“It’s important to have €˜men space,’ where we can talk about things going on in our lives,” he said. “The lodge is a sanctuary. When you’re here, you’re doing rituals that men have done for hundreds of years.”
The Boston Herald does not have a dedicated religion section. Find religion news in the Boston Herald.
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