PAST the sword-bearers and guard of wooden wands, officers of the Bendigo City Freemason lodge recited age-old scriptures before being installed for a new term.
The usually secretive ceremony was open to the public at Saturday’s official launch of the newly renovated Bendigo Masonic Centre.
Secret handshakes, symbolism and traditional rituals were part of the occasion as Freemasons Victoria’s Grand Master Bob Jones installed Richmond Foster as Bendigo City Lodge master.
Mr Jones said having the previously unseen aspects of the ceremony open to the public was a way of sharing the Freemason rituals.
He said the organisation that had historically been shrouded in secrecy was evolving all the time to stay relevant and modern.
“We’re proud to be able to share this glimpse at our traditions with the community,” Mr Jones said.
“It’s about adapting to modern times if we want to keep growing in the future.”
Master-elect Mr Foster said the organisation was steeped in history but denied suggestions the Freemasons represented any type of secret society.
“Some people have weird conspiracies and ideas,” he said.
“It’s not a religion and it’s not a cult, it could be a Lions or Rotary club.
“You get to do a lot of charity work and work in the community.”
Mr Foster served in the Vietnam War before working in prisons, guarding the likes of “Chopper” Read and other notorious criminals at Pentridge Prison.
He said the organisation had helped him through difficult times.
“It gives you that support and friendship,” Mr Foster said. “It’s like a large family.
“I’ve loved every minute of being involved in it.”
One of the youngest members of the Bendigo Lodge, Joshua Heritage, said the camaraderie was an important part of being involved in the Freemasons.
Mr Heritage, 27, is the fourth generation of his family to join as a Mason.
“It was something I wanted to do after pop passed away, to become a better person,” he said. “It helps you with public speaking and self confidence.”
He said most of his friends had no idea what was involved in the Freemasons and had only heard vague references in Dan Brown novels.
“They mainly just ask me what it’s all about,” Mr Heritage said. “Or they read about it in books or on the internet.
“A lot of that stuff online is made up as they go.”
At the installation ceremony, members spoke of the charitable work the local lodge had done, including helping fund a men’s shed and a drop-in centre.
Mr Foster said part of his role as master was to continue that work.
“We want to try and recruit more members, and assist where we can in the community,” he said.
“It’s about giving back.”