Masons at St. John's Lodge No. 104 in Norwich consider renting space or amalgamating with another Masonic Lodge
Norwich Masons, from St. John's Lodge No. 104, recently gathered for their last meeting at the historic building on the corner of Stover and Main streets. Thanks to fire code issues, the group is looking to rent space nearby or amalgamate with another lodge. (Submitted)
Masons in the village of Norwich are moving out of their longtime home.
There are issues with their building – St. John’s Lodge No. 104 on the northwest corner of Main and Stover streets – that would are too expensive and time-consuming to fix, said immediate past master Sean McCoy.
After an order from Grand Lodge of Ontario, the group’s umbrella organization, to do a fire code inspection at all the provincial lodges, some violations were discovered.
“The repairs that would be required, in terms of cost, for us, was a little high,” McCoy said.
Paul Groeneveld, director of fire and protective services with the Township of Norwich, confirmed that there is an “ongoing enforcement matter” at the Masonic Lodge building. He couldn’t provide further details as the Township can’t speak publicly about enforcement issues.
The commercial ground floor spaces meet municipal requirements, McCoy said, it’s just the upstairs meeting space – classified as an “assembly hall” – that wasn’t up to snuff.
The news and resulting implications required some soul searching on the part of the Masons.
“What does our future look like and is it worth it to put in that time, money and effort if we can’t necessarily maintain ourselves as an individual lodge?,” McCoy said.
“It’s not that we wouldn’t get the money together to do it, but that coupled with dwindling membership (was an issue).”
For many years, Masonic Lodges have offered a strong sense of fellowship and community for their male members and, as McCoy noted, a chance to network before networking existed in the Internet age.
But participation, as with other service clubs and community groups, has decreased significantly over the past two decades, McCoy said.
“It’s trending down right now, especially for a lot of the smaller, rural lodges.”
Instead the group is considering other options, including amalgamating with other local masons or renting space in nearby lodges, possibly in Delhi or Mount Elgin.
“We still exist and we still own the building,” McCoy said.
“Lodges aren’t spaces – they’re people.”