As far as I know there is only one single “traditional observance” (TO) lodge in the province of Ontario under the jurisdiction of GLoCPO: Templum Fidelis in Bath – Frontenac district.
They had the last meeting before going into the summer break this last weekend on Saturday, 18 June. After I’ve read all the pertaining information for visitors (and if you plan to go I recommend that you do the same!) I contacted them by email and all the details of the visit and what to expect have been discussed and communicated in advance.
For those of you not familiar with the traditional observance and the Masonic Restoration movement, there are a few very useful documents on the lodge’s website:
— About Templum Fidelis lodge #746
— from the page above you can reach a paper explaining the Traditional Observance
— the Masonic Restoration Foundation (the old link is dead on TF website)
We often say that even if someone reads all the “secrets” and “ceremonies” published everywhere on the interweb… they still wouldn’t understand the essence of Masonry because they’d miss the experience of living it: To be part of the degree work and be received by the brethren into the lodge. I had very similar thoughts while participating in this lodge’s work.
On the surface, Templum Fidelis lodge uses the very same ritual as everywhere in Ontario lodges (yes, your little black book). Everything that is said in the lodge room is exactly the same as in any other lodge: they didn’t change one single iota of what is written there. This is important because some may think the TO lodges use some strange unusual ritual.
What they have changed, however, is what they do in the lodge, before and after. The way they behave in the lodge. How they interact in the lodge and in the banquet room…
There were some “external” aspects that reminded me of my mother lodge’s customs back in Europe: the (real) candle lights lit up before we go in, the procession as the members enter the lodge, the white gloves, the quiet talk in the anteroom… All these details are meant to bring (back?) the solemnity of the meeting, of the work in the lodge.
In my student years, and even later I was heavily involved with theatre performances and I’ll never forget what an old actor once told me: you should never enter the stage with dusty shoes… but when I instinctively looked down at my shoes, he laughed and added – I didn’t talk about your real shoes, I meant to have a clean soul and mind AND leave behind the profane world!
Somehow, when getting ready to be led into the lodge room by the DoC, I remembered this episode of forty years ago: we were prepared and instructed to leave the profane world behind and to elevate our mind and awareness to the solemn dignity of the lodge work.
Thinking back a few days later to the experience I went through at Templum Fidelis lodge, everything else seems to be secondary to the solemn character and dignity of the whole evening. Of course, there were quite a lot of small details during the work in the lodge and during the agape (the very elegant and festive dinner after) that were different. Like the music selections introduced by the Organist and the silent moments.
We had the opportunity to listen to not one but two very interesting presentations: one paper was presented in the lodge by a member still in his second degree about the meaning of the Fellowcraft degree. The discussion and questions were postponed until we met for the agape in the dining room. The second lecture took place during the agape, and it was presented by a (non-Masonic) guest speaker, an expert on medieval art and architecture from Queen’s University.
In many lodges everywhere in Ontario, we have different “lectures and presentations” under the disguise of Masonic “education” – most of them boring regurgitations of some mediocre texts, read fast and without any purpose, just to be able to “check” that item in the agenda. Now that’s something that should be changed in all the lodges!
At Templum Fidelis the questions and discussion period along both papers were interesting, intellectually stimulating and the brethren were sincerely interested in listening and debating. It was a lively discussion with many participants – and all in a disciplined, civilized manner… as the WM ruled his lodge. It was an intellectual and spiritual experience never seen before in this jurisdiction!
I would be happy to participate in the activities of a lodge like this. My only “concern” is their place is over 300 km from my residence… I admit, I might be biased because of my different Masonic and cultural background, although I am sure every true Mason would enjoy the experience!