A recent psychic medium experience is just one of the many events that the lodge’s new events committee has recently cooked up to generate buzz, interest in the building and freemasonry itself, and (crucially) fundraising for the continuous renovations required to keep the 224-year-old building going.
The 50 people who had gathered in the large meeting room on the second floor of Warren’s Masonic Lodge sat in hushed silence, awaiting the next words of the captivating speaker with bated breath. Hieroglyphic murals loomed over the proceedings, adding to the mystifying experience. Finally, the speaker made a proclamation.
The spirits had come through.
Although you might assume this event occurred under a cloak of secrecy, following a lengthy, hundreds-year-old ritual that conjures frightful images of men in dark cloaks, it was actually just a ticketed event, open to the public, held on a rainy Saturday night at the Historic Washington Masonic Lodge at 39 Baker St. If you came during the social mixer before the big show, you could have enjoyed some freshly popped popcorn and a glass of wine.
The event itself — a psychic medium experience courtesy of Lincoln, Rhode Island’s own Debbie Squizzero — is just one of the many events that the lodge’s new events committee has recently cooked up to generate buzz, interest in the building and freemasonry itself, and (crucially) fundraising for the continuous renovations required to keep the 224-year-old building going.
“I was born in ’61 in Warren. My aunt owned the house next door and I never knew that this was a Freemasons Lodge,” said Scott Mlynek, a U.S. Army veteran who joined the Washington Lodge about six years ago, and is now part of the effort to open up the lodge to the greater area for community events. “These are the stepping stones where if we can show community use of the building and we can show that we’re important to the community, we can apply for grants. And that’s the end goal, to apply for bigger grants so we can restore the building in the right way.”
Mlynek said he was inspired to join the Freemasons after seeing the role they played in community service. As a veteran, the camaraderie between the brothers in the lodge was also a draw. And being from Warren, something about the history of the building — built in 1799 by Warren sea captains and utilizing timbers from one of the vessels in Britain’s “stone fleet” (the Juno) that was sunk off Newport in 1778 — drew him to want to be involved and keep that history alive.
“We want people to know that the Freemasons exist, who we are, what we do, what we can offer, and that we have a place that they can use, too, for the community,” Mlynek said.
For Andrew Giovannini, a Cranston-based attorney who has been a freemason for 20 years, participating in the group has provided him an opportunity to give back in ways that he can’t do through his day job.
“I do banking, consumer lending, and there’s always somebody who is upset or thinks I’m a villain. So I have a cosmic need to do good,” he said. “And I get to do that here.”
Giovannini’s experience with the freemasons began when he was growing up in Pennsylvania. He had a cousin with muscular dystrophy that needed a lift into the city for treatment, about an hour and a half journey. No one in the family could make the trip work, and he recalled a group of people he didn’t know coming to take his cousin with no questions asked, and that it was a big relief to his family they had done so.
“They were Shriners,” he said. “So even when I was very young I was compelled to somehow participate in charity.”
The Warren lodge also connects Giovannini to a greater sense of history, which he is passionate about sharing with anyone who will listen. He said he was very encouraged by the efforts being made to open up the building to the greater public.
“This building is a national treasure, and it’s right in your back yard,” he said. “Since I’ve been a member, there hasn’t been this much enthusiasm from the officers and caretakers of this lodge that I have seen in the last five or seven years. These guys are going above and beyond to tell the story, and that enthusiasm is contagious.”
To keep up to date with all the events happening at the Washington Lodge, check them out on Facebook.