Some people say it is the world's most well-known secret society.
It is not a religion, but it is a brotherhood — the world’s oldest and largest fraternity — that is rich with symbols and rituals.
Welcome to the world of Freemasonry.
“It’s true, we are referred to as a secret society,” says incoming Worshipful Master Chris Kinney, “but we really are visible and my goal is for the public to better understand what we stand for.”
At 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, the officers and members of Lakewood Masonic Lodge #728 are inviting the public to the 66th annual installation of officers at the lodge at 5918 Parkcrest St.
As Worshipful Master (similar to the president of the organization), Kinney says his goal for 2020 is to have his organization become more active and visible in the city.
“I’m looking at holding one or two open houses and invite the community inside the lodge,” he says. “We are going to look at the events the city puts on and see where we can make donations or perhaps sponsor a booth and just try a little bit more to be more noticeable to people.”
The Masons are philanthropic. The Shriners — part of the Masons family of organizations — support 22 hospitals for children, where patients don't have to pay. And according to CBS News, they reportedly donate $2 million to charity every day.
Its membership is a Who's Who of world history — George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, Mozart, Davy Crockett, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Houdini, Gerald Ford, Henry Ford, John Wayne and even Colonel Sanders.
The old saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? Well, Kinney’s grandfather was a Mason and Kinney’s son is now a member of DeMolay (a Mason organization).
“My Poppa loved to talk about three things: the weather, his yard and the lodge,” Kinney says. “His eyes would light up when talking about the brothers he had in the lodge and the charitable acts.”
The first grand lodge was created in London in 1717, but Lakewood Lodge #728 started in an unheated sheet metal shed at Pan American Park 235 years later, in November 1952. The Masons of California have more than 60,000 members and more than 340 lodges located throughout the state. Kinney, a Los Angeles County employee for 26 years, presides over a lodge with about 120 members.
Freemasons laid the foundation at some of its most iconic structures, like the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and the Statue of Liberty. Kinney hopes to strengthen the foundation between his organization and Long Beach.
“It’s almost hard to describe how amazing it is that no matter where I travel, if I need help or if I’m looking for a friend, I can basically knock on the door of any Masonic lodge and be treated like a long-lost brother,” he says. “The aim of Freemasonry is to take good men and make them better. And that is a fraternity that I’m really proud to belong to.”
Following the 5 p.m. ceremony, a reception dinner will take place. There is no charge for the meal. Reservations are not required, but in order to plan for enough food, email Kinney at TXchrisCA@gmail.com or call 562-354-0728.