Maine Masonry looking to future

12 years ago

Looking back at the future of Masonry in 1723 and to its future under newly installed Grand Master A. James Ross, one senses a stir of excitement for this oldest fraternity following the recent annual meeting of the Grand Lodge of Maine.
In Rev. Bro. James Anderson’s “Masonic Constitution of 1723,” one finds that Masons were “… oblige(d) … to that Religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves: that is, to be good men and true, or men of honor and honesty, by whatever denominations or  persuasions they may be distinguished…”
    Bakhtawer “Bill” Bilal is a relatively new Mason but one who is proud to be a member. He appreciates its lessons and finds them to be consistent with his up-bring, his education, and his religion in his native land.
Bilal was born in and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. His early education was at St. Anthony’s High School which had been established in 1892 by the Marist Fathers of Ireland.  He went on to graduate with a degree in Civil engineering from Punjab University in 1984.
In 1988 he married Dr. Rahila Bilal and they have a son and a daughter.  His son has graduated from U. Conn and will continue his studies in medical school.  His daughter is a junior at University of Connecticut as well.  Their mother not only practices medicine but is also a teaching doctor at SUNY UpState Medical University Hospital in Syracuse, New York.
In 1994 they came to America and lived in Florida and Indiana where Dr. Bilal completed her medical residency and fellowship.  In 2004 they settled in Houlton where Dr. Bilal was Medical Director of the Department of Anesthesiology at the Houlton Regional Hospital.
In 2005 Bill Bilal came to an open house program that Monument Lodge was hosting on religious toleration with three monthly guest speakers. The first was a representative of Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Portland who was unable to attend personally.
The second speaker was an Islamic doctor from Bangor who spoke on toleration as presented in the Koran. Bilal came to that meeting as his son was with the high school class which was videoing the program for replay on the public access television station.
The following month Bilal came to hear a Rabbi from Bangor speak at the lodge’s final program. Attendance at these public meetings ranged from 30 to 65.
During a break in the program, Bilal, who lived across the square from the Masonic lodge said “I see the lights on and men up here sometimes and have wondered what they did.” He then asked “Where can I get more information on the Masons?”  And the rest is history.
When Bilal took his Masonic vows, the volume of the sacred laws of each of the three great monotheistic religions of the Western World were on the altar. Bilal placed his hands on the Koran which the lodge had bought for initiation ceremonies.
Bilal was diligent in learning his Masonic lessons and truly sought to understand  the significance of what the words told him of his experiences in the three degrees he had taken. He saw and appreciated that they sought to make him a better man, husband and father.
Although Dr. Bilal’s teaching opportunities have since taken them to Jamesville, N.Y., Bill is still a member of Monument Lodge in Houlton. Grand Master Ross wanted him to be one of the officers of the Grand Lodge of Maine. Ross said “I am proud for Bill to represent the Grand Lodge of Maine and what he is helping us to do in bringing Masonry back to its future of toleration.”
When Masonry was formed in England in 1717, the Church of England was the only recognized church while the Congregationalists, the Presbyterians of which Anderson was a member, and the Anabaptists were tolerated and known as “The Dissenters.” At that time Catholicism was out-lawed in England.
The Lords and Nobles needed the craftsmen and merchants found among “The Dissenters” but where and how could they interact with the strict social restrictions which then existed? In Masonry and the security of the lodge room they found such a place where the only restriction was that religion and politics were not to be spoken of.
Within a few years men of the Jewish faith joined lodges for they too shared a belief in a Supreme Being. Promoting toleration and the need for free thinking to create a better society. Freemasonry truly united good men around the world as the British Empire expanded to such lengths that the sun could never set on it.
Bilal said “This is an organization with great lessons and I look forward to sharing them with its many members as we get to know one another.”
Grand Master Ross sees Masonry’s future as did Rev. Anderson in 1723 when he concluded the First Masonic Charge “Concerning God and Religion” with the following: “… whereby Masonry becomes the Centre of Union and the means of conciliating true Friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance.”
“This is an exciting time to be a Freemason, let us make the most of it while we have the opportunity” said Ross.
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