On a cold February morning in 1940 I was born the fourth child of a Regimental Sergeant-Major stationed at Catterick camp in Yorkshire. He was also a life-long Salvationist. He became a Freemason many years later and had been Chaplain to Eden Park Lodge No. 123 in Surrey.
On his death-bed he turned to me – I was dressed in my uniform as a full-time Salvation Army officer – and said wistfully: “I always wondered, David, why you never asked to join my Lodge?”
He then proceeded to recite the working tools of an Entered Apprentice Freemason:
“The twenty-four inch gauge represents the twenty-four hours of the day, part to be spent in prayer to Almighty God, part in labour and refreshment, and part in serving a friend or Brother in time of need…”
Was this, in essence, so different from the Covenant and Dedication that I had signed and pledged my allegiance to, 17 years earlier, at the time when I was Commissioned and ordained to serve God through the ranks of the Salvation Army?
I spent many days, months – indeed, over five years thinking and pondering on these thoughts before a very fine friend asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a Mason?
I answered – ‘Yes!’ And so, on the first day of April 1981, I was initiated, as a Lewis, in company with a second candidate, into Freemasonry and became a member of the Lodge of Integrity No. 5149, which meets at Chelmsford.
‘….Masonry is free, and requires a perfect freedom of inclination in every Candidate for its mysteries. It is founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue…vows of fidelity are required; but let me assure you that in those vows there is nothing incompatible with your civil, moral or religious duties….’
Oh! I have found this to be so very true.
Freemasonry is not a religion – ‘it is a peculiar system of morality’ but its teachings provide so much of…‘what’s good to be understood by a …mason.’
Twenty-six years have now passed and they have been a most thrilling and rewarding part of my life. As a Salvationist and a Mason there has been no conflict with my faith, no conflict in my daily living, and no conflict in my dealings with other people.
Both the Salvation Army, a branch of the Christian Church, and the Fraternity of our Brotherhood, have parallel ideals – both require an acknowledgement of God as the Creator, both require truth in all our dealings, and both require commitment to the care and service of others – so there need be no conflict.
Prior to my present Masonic appointment as Provincial Grand Chaplain for Buckinghamshire, I enjoyed the great honour of being the Provincial Almoner.
The role of Almoner is very special and I have felt privileged to be able to seek out those who were experiencing difficult circumstances, and to be able to bring about change in quality of life for so many of our brethren and the dependents, by accessing our various Masonic Charities.
Those years have truly been a most fulfilling period, not only of my Masonic experience, but of my life. This ‘work’ has been so very compatible with my religious duties, and the great joy for me has been that I have always been able to carry out those Masonic duties as if I was wearing the Salvation Army uniform ‘S’ insignia on my collar.
There will inevitably be those who will say “Ah! But what about the Gospel of Christ – where does that fit into your belief as a Salvationist and your Masonic teaching!
Well, I don’t have a problem with that - but perhaps it could, or maybe should, be for a future discussion or article!
David M Sawyer is Provincial Grand Chaplain, Province of Buckinghamshire