Wednesday, November 24, 2021

‘Barbados: What is the future of Freemasonry?’

While it has been 370 years since Barbados first attempted to cleave itself from England, the final act of attaining independence will take effect next Tuesday, when the people of the Caribbean’s most densely populated island will declare a republic. And the country’s first head of state is to be a Mason—President Sandra Mason, that is.

It is said the island, now home to more than 300,000 people, was uninhabited when English settlers landed in 1627. Africans were enslaved for the torturous labors of sugarcane farming, catapulting the colony to prominence as the mother country’s primary source of the crop. That economic importance ended within a century, when Jamaica and other islands eclipsed its production, although sugar, molasses, and rum remained the basis of the Barbadian economy until recent decades. The economy is diversified today, as tourism and light industry, including energy, contribute to making Barbados the wealthiest nation in the Eastern Caribbean. While the flame of freedom was lit in 1651, when an opportune gambit for autonomy was attempted during the political perplexity following the English Civil War, it was snuffed promptly, as were subsequent rebellions. It wasn’t until November 30, 1966 that Barbados declared itself free—that date is Independence Day—and it joined the Commonwealth of Nations, the global network of countries mostly of former British colonies. On November 30, 2021, Barbados will become a republic. Governor General Sandra Mason will become president.

So what about Freemasonry?

One of the Barbadian national symbols is the trident, so perhaps it is fitting how there are three mainstream Masonic fraternities present on the island today.

The United Grand Lodge of England has five Craft lodges and one research lodge at labor there, organized within its District Grand Lodge of Barbados and Eastern Caribbean.

The Grand Lodge of Scotland has six lodges in its District Grand Lodge of Barbados.

And, of course, Prince Hall Affiliation Freemasonry is active there (the capital city, Bridgetown, is thought to be the birthplace of Bro. Prince Hall himself), with five lodges constituent to the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Caribbean and Jurisdiction.

Additionally, England and Scotland each has three Royal Arch chapters.

That’s a lot for an island of 166 square miles!

So, finally getting to the point of this edition of The Magpie Mason, what shall be the future of Freemasonry on the island once known as Little England when it at last blooms into sovereign nationhood? I don’t know. How should I know? What I do know is that I don’t know anyone down there, and I definitely know (from experience) better than to waste time sending queries to the grand lodges. But could a “Grand Lodge of Barbados” have potential?

Why not?

The island has a homogeneous, literate, and young populace in a society with ingrained democratic traditions. I envision a grand lodge seal incorporating that trident within the embrace of the Square and Compasses.

Then again, these three Masonic traditions are not strangers to maintaining lodges inside sovereign lands. For examples: Prince Hall lodges meet in countries where the United States deploys troops. Scotland has eleven lodges at labor in its District Grand Lodge of Lebanon. And the English? They have two lodges meeting on St. Thomas—United States territory!—in that same District Grand Lodge of Barbados and Eastern Caribbean.

Time will tell.

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