Visit to Lodge of Ephesus no.42 Izmir, Turkey

In late September 2014 a group of Brethren and their Ladies from the Lodge of Amity 4148 Hoyle Court, Baildon, together with friends, visited the English speaking Lodge of Ephesus no. 42 In the city of Izmir, Turkey. The trip was led by the then Worshipful Master, Mehmet Tiritoglu, and his friend, Leeds Doctor Mehmet Sen. (Mehmet no.2) a brother in the Ephesus lodge. Izmir is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city of over 4 million people. Known as the City of the Infidels with large populations of Jews, Christians & Muslims, living in peace and harmony. It is known as the town where East meets West, the end of the ancient caravan trail to and from China via India. We stayed in the beautiful five star Boyalik Beach hotel in the seaside resort of Cesme, some 30 minutes out of Izmir on the breath-taking turquoise coastline of the Aegean Sea. On the Sunday of our arrival we attended a Masonic Wedding Celebration. A couple in our party, W. Bro. Chris Binns and his wife, Kay, had previously agreed to take part in the demonstration…and like the rest of us not really knowing what to expect. The Brethren of the Lodge of Ephesus together with their wives/girlfriends, greeted us with warmth and friendship giving us a red rose for our button hole. What followed was not a full Masonic Ceremony, the Lodge was not ‘open’. It wasn’t a blessing, nor a religious ceremony. It was more of a reaffirmation of wedding vows in the presence of the Lodge members and their wives. The Worshipful Master and his Wardens wore their regalia; with the remaining brethren wearing suits and white gloves. Our Wives were invited into the temple by the Ladies of the Lodge, and sat together on the Masters left, the brethren entered and sat on the Masters right. The temple was purified with incense and wedding music was played discreetly in the background. Meanwhile, for ease I will call them the bride and groom waited outside with we were all delighted to discover a ‘real’ bride and groom. A fellow craft from Ephesus Lodge who had recently married in a civil ceremony, had had their marriage blessed in their local mosque and were here today to reaffirm their vows in front of their masonic lodge. The couples handed over their wedding rings to the Worshipful Master who took them into the temple and placed them on a table in front of his chair. This table was decorated with love hearts flowers, masonic symbols, and other paraphernalia used in the ceremony. The couples were invited into the temple under a dome of honour (like an arch of steel) made up by seven brethren forming dome shape with their bright shiny Turkish swords. The Square and Compass, plumb rule and ruler were explained together with their symbolic meanings by the Worshipful Master Gerson Algranati who conducted the ceremony. The couples were then entwined together in symbolic blue ribbon, forming a cordon of unity. Replacing their respective weddings rings whilst reaffirming their vows…symbolising eternal togetherness. There followed the holding and taking possession of a clear glass ‘magic’ rod…symbolising that mutual love should be forever pure and clear and that carelessness will quickly break it. Love requires constant attention. Next a goblet of wine and a glass of water were mixed and the couple encouraged to drink from the unified drink symbolically meaning harmony and prosperity in togetherness. The brethren of the lodge then formed a chain of unity with a missing link and the ‘new’ wives were asked to bring forward their husbands to join and complete his position in the chain. Thankfully both ‘new’ wives did so happily. This symbolises that a Masons wife is never alone for as the Lodge supports her husband they will also support her. There followed much fraternal kissing and hand shaking and congratulations with the bridge and grooms being placed between the two pillars before leaving via the dome of honour with wedding music being played. A wedding breakfast followed at a nearby Tennis club, with good food and wine with dancing to a live band, enjoyed by the excellent company. A fantastic wedding cake adorned with the crests of both lodges inside the icing was produced and did in fact turn out to be the ‘icing on the cake’ to a superb Masonic experience. All agreed that the whole event a very special and pleasurable a way to spend ‘masonic’ time with our new found friends in Izmir. The next day the men returned to the Lodge and discovered an inner city high storey office block containing approximately 8 lodges using three Temples, a library, a Provincial Headquarters with office staff and dining rooms. In the entrance hall we couldn’t fail to notice two large and imposing cabinets The first in triangular shape contained the photograph and details of Brethren who had recently passed away, with the most recent death occupying the top position in the triangle, being gradually lowered down the triangle until dropping out after a few months. The biggest cabinet held the photographs and details of all prospective candidates for freemasonry at all the lodges in the building. A separate £500 joining fee, before lodge fees did not appear to put people off based on the hundreds of candidates details we saw. We all thought these displays to be an excellent idea and could be copied back at home. The Lodge performed a superb passing ceremony as well as welcoming joining member from Australia, whose mother lodge was in Tasmania. He being in Turkey working on the relatively new solar panel industry there. At the festive board we all took turns to introduce ourselves discovering that the Lodge of Ephesus contained Brethren from across a wide spectrum of professions and occupations. Like the Lodge of Amity we discovered that Ephesus Lodge had members from Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths. It was well after midnight before we ‘tore’ ourselves away. Before returning to our hotel, Mehmet no.2 took us to a busy bakery still open for business and bought two huge and fabulous cakes as a gift to our Ladies back at the hotel. The next few days were spent holidaying, promenading along the marina and markets of Cesme, and swimming in the sea and at the hotels private beach, spa and pools. Visiting the ancient site of Ephesus and walking in the footsteps of St John. Benefitting from local knowledge to eat in the locals’ restaurants and cafes. Some of us visited award winning vineyards, sampling Turkish wine. Whilst a few of us visited Mehmet no.2s home and gardens overlooking the turquoise Aegean Sea relaxing and eating freshly picked pomegranates. All in all a truly wonderful Masonic experience.

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