Sunday, July 10, 2016

Masonry on the Channel Island of Jersey


An article on the BBC website today about troubles the lodge on the Channel Island of Jersey (between Britain and France) are having with the local churches:
Freemasons in Jersey have had their request to host a 300th anniversary service at Town Church rejected. 
Next year Freemasons will celebrate the founding of the first lodge in 1717 with services set to take place in major religious buildings worldwide.
Reverend Chris Jervis said granting the request would have been "problematic" due to an "inconsistency between Christianity and freemasonry".
Jersey provincial grand master Ken Rondel, said he was disappointed. Next year more than 20 cathedrals will host services across England to mark the event.
Mr Rondel said: "I wrote to the Dean of Jersey, The Very Reverend Bob Key in 2013 and he deliberated over it and responded saying he didn't think it would be appropriate.
"The only reason he gave was that he didn't feel his church wardens would accept us attending."
Mr Jervis said it was due to the purpose of the building and he was "standing firm on this one".
"Within the context of the building, which is set aside for Christian Worship, it would be problematic to have something that is multi-faith," he said.
"I know of others and I accept that but I can't tie that up. Yes they are disappointed, good and honourable people, that is not the issue." 
Former [provincial] grand master, David Rosser, said they had applied to use other churches but needed a space suitable for more than 300 people.
He said: "We could hold it anywhere, even in the town hall, but I don't expect it would give us the same verve I'm expecting a church will give us."
The Catholic and Methodist churches also rejected requests to host services as they have an international ban on freemasonry.

Well, I know where the Catholics stand, but that's the first time I've ever heard of an "international ban" on Freemasonry by the Methodists. That should come as a surprise to the substantial bunch of them we have as members here in Indiana. But far be it for me to suggest that the venerable Beeb be incorrect.

There are ten lodges that meet on Jersey. Yarborough Lodge No. 244 celebrated its own 200th anniversary on the island in 2012, but all ten of the lodges meet in the central temple building in St. Helier, along with the many appendant bodies.

Jersey is one of the Channel Islands, in the stretch of ocean that divides Britain and France. During WWII, the Islands became the only British territory invaded by Nazi forces, after their occupation of France (Jersey lies just twelve miles off the Normandy coast and had no chance of being defended). There were almost 2,000 British Freemasons on the two main Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, and they were evacuated with most of the inhabitants who were willing to leave once it became clear the Nazis intended to take the territories.

When the German troops occupied Jersey in late June of 1940, their treatment of the British civilians who remained was very different than it had been in other regions throughout Europe. 

From a March 2014 article by Brother David Rosser in Freemasonry Today :
The atmosphere was more relaxed than had been expected, mainly because the German troops were in high spirits; they were convinced that the occupation of Great Britain was but a few days away. And while some restrictions were harsh – for instance, remaining Jewish shops had to display notices to this effect – proclamations issued by the occupying authorities were conciliatory if not, in some respects, almost bizarre.
For instance, islanders were allowed to say prayers for the British Royal Family and the welfare of the British Empire. Likewise, while the National Anthem was not to be sung without permission, it could be listened to on the radio. For Freemasons, the future seemed uncertain. Charles was anxious that nothing be done to make life more difficult for his members and was informed by the German military authorities that, provided no further meetings were held and the masonic temple locked up, the building and its contents would be left alone.
Relying on this, and the proclamation issued on the first day of the occupation, which stated that ‘in the event of peaceful surrender the lives, property and liberty of peaceful inhabitants is solemnly guaranteed’, Charles complied. Furthermore, he instructed that all the beautiful furnishings in the temple, as well as the thousands of priceless items in the library and museum, should remain in situ.
Unfortunately for Freemasons, the proclamation proved untenable. Soon after the establishment of the regular German troops (the Wehrmacht), the Sturmabteilung, or SA, were also despatched to Jersey – more sinister forces bent on pursuing the Nazi official policy against Freemasonry.
The first indication that something was afoot was the unannounced arrival at the masonic temple on 19 November 1940 of the Geheime Feldpolizei – the Secret Field Police – who demanded all keys to the building and proceeded to place seals on every door. Then, on Thursday, 23 January 1941, a squad of special troops from Hitler’s Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg arrived and proceeded to take an inventory of the contents and to photograph the main rooms, including the temple.
‘What was remarkable was that, having taken such drastic action against the physical attributes of Freemasonry, no action was taken to persecute individual masons.’
The investigations led to the despatch of further squads of Einsatzstab from Berlin, who commenced the systematic looting of the building on 27 January 1941. All the main pieces of furniture, the many beautiful furnishings, and the contents of the library and museum were stripped out, loaded onto lorries and shipped off the island. Anything that the looters did not want was either smashed and left lying around or piled in great heaps and burnt. Photographs taken when the building was repossessed by masonic authorities in 1945 reveal the scale of the devastation inflicted. 
It subsequently came to light, from articles published in the local newspaper, which was under the control of the occupying authorities, that the reason for the removal of furnishings from the temple was to transport them to Berlin for use in an anti-masonic exhibition. Likewise, the photographs were taken to enable exhibition managers to replicate the layout of a lodge room. 
Exhibitions were also staged in Paris, Brussels and Vienna using artefacts stolen in similar fashion from French and Belgian lodges; another was held in Belgrade. It is known that artefacts were also taken from masonic buildings throughout the Netherlands, so there was little shortage of suitable material with which to stage such exhibitions.
Thankfully, the main fabric of the building remained undamaged and for the remainder of the occupation it was used to store liquor and confiscated wireless sets. What was most remarkable was that, having taken such drastic action against the physical attributes of Freemasonry, and given the purpose of the notorious Black Book, no action was taken to harass or persecute individual masons, full details of whom would have been ascertainable from the stolen masonic records.
The situation becomes more astonishing given that in 1942, and again in 1943, Hitler ordered all high-ranking Freemasons to be deported to Germany. The orders were sent directly to the Commander-in-Chief, but no action was taken to identify, locate and deport these senior masons, of whom there were many. This opens up the intriguing line of speculation that some of the most senior military commanders had masonic connections or sympathies, or may even have been members of the Craft at some time.

A more detailed telling of the story of the sacking of the Jersey temple by the Gestapo can be FOUND HERE






UPDATE:

I did a little digging. There is not now, nor has there ever been an "international ban" against Masonic membership by the Methodists.  Only the Methodist Church of Great Britain has a policy (passed in 1985 and revised in 1996) restricting the use of their churches for Masonic meetings or other related purposes. The restriction is only regarding the use of their church buildings. And the Order DOES permit services of the sort described in the article above, and gives discretion to the church's local trustees.


Standing Order No. 919 reads:

919 Masonic Services and Meetings.
  1. (1)  Meetings of Freemasons’ Lodges or other meetings for masonic purposes may not be held on Methodist premises.
  2. (2)  Services exclusively for Freemasons may not be held on Methodist premises.
  3. (3)  If a Freemasons’ Lodge requests that a service be held on Methodist premises, the trustees may at their discretion either withhold permission or grant permission on the following conditions:
  1. (i)  the service shall be one of public Christian worship held in accordance with Methodist practice and complying with the Model Trusts;
    (ii)  the contents of the service shall first be seen and approved by the Superintendent;
    (iii)  it shall be conducted by a person appointed by the Superintendent. 
Note that the Methodists of Britain are not forbidden to join Masonic organizations. And outside of Britain, there are no such restrictions on their church buildings. 

1 comment:

  1. It's unfortunate that the denial was based entirely on ignorance of what Freemasonry is all about, but quite frankly I don't think Masonic lodges should be holding communications in sectarian houses of worship anyway.

    Not even if the reason is that they have more space for a large event.

    Dave Brown
    Garden City Lodge, Newtonville, MA

    ReplyDelete

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