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Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star
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The Grand Chapter of Alberta, Order of the Eastern Star is a masonic order that oversees 29 Chapters across Alberta. The Order of the Eastern Star is a social order comprised of persons with shared spiritual values, but does not identify as a religion. The Order is distinct in its membership, being composed of both men and women, and is currently the largest fraternal organization in the world. The Grand Chapter of Alberta is considered a Grand Jurisdiction, belonging to the General Grand Chapter based out of Washington, D.C. The Order has approximately 10,000 Chapters, and approximately 500,000 members across the world.
The Order was established in 1850 in Boston, Massachusetts, by Dr. Robert Morris, a lawyer and former Freemason official. Unsatisfied with the exclusion of women from traditional masonry, Morris sought some method by which women could share in the work of Masonic Brothers without changing the Ancient Landmarks of Masonry. In 1850, while confined to his home after an accident, Morris fully developed the Eastern Star Degrees, and set down the principles of the Order in his Rosary of the Eastern Star. He conferred the Degrees upon his wife and daughters, and select neighbours. Morris based the Order’s teachings on the Bible, but determined membership to be open to people of all religious beliefs. In 1866, Morris passed the order’s control onto Robert Macoy, who organized the system of Chapters still in place today: Local Chapters operate under charter from state-level Grand Chapters, who are responsible to the General Grand Chapter at the International Eastern Star temple in Washington, D.C.
Prior to forming the Grand Chapter of Alberta, Order of the Eastern Star members in the province were organized in 12 Subordinate Chapters working directly under the General Grand Chapter in D.C. In October 1912, these Subordinate Chapters met in Red Deer to form a Grand Chapter for the province of Alberta. The first aim of the new Grand Chapter of Alberta was to provide for the care and comfort of the poor, including the establishment of a fund to assist the Masonic Brothers in developing a Masonic Home and School Fund.
Membership to the Order is restricted to those aged 18 and older, who must be either Master Masons in good standing or related to a Master Mason in good standing. The latter category includes wives, widows, sisters, daughters, mothers, granddaughters, step-mothers, step daughters, step-sisters, and half-sisters. In 1994, this was expanded to include nieces, daughters-in-law, and grandmothers. All members within the General Grand Chapter follow the same rituals and laws. While its rites contain only one ceremony, that of the initiation, the ritual incorporates five degrees which teach the lessons of fidelity, constancy, purity, hope and charity. In this initiation ritual, members must profess a belief in a Supreme Being.
Local Chapters are directed by a set of officers whose titles and functions mirror those of the officers directing the Grand Chapters. Local Chapter officers include the following positions: Worthy Matron (Presiding officer), Worthy Patron (a Master Mason providing general supervision), Associate Matron (assumes duties of the Worthy Matron in her absence), Associate Patron (assumes duties of Worthy Patron in his absence), Secretary (oversees correspondence and minutes), Treasurer (oversees Chapter monies and finances), Conductress (leads visitors and initiations), Associate Conductress (assists with introductions and handles ballot box), Chaplain (leads the Chapter in prayer), Marshal (presents the flag and leads in all ceremonies), Organist, Warder and Sentinel (guard the door inside and outside the Chapter room to ensure only members enter), and the Five Star Points positions of Adah, Ruth, Esther, Martha and Electa (each star point shares a specific lesson upheld by the Order). Chapters meet on a monthly basis.
Chapters determine their own membership and activities, though most Chapters pursue similar charitable and community-based activities. Chapters in Alberta donate funds to a wide variety of local charities, including health research projects, the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Shriners' Charities, and orphanages. Chapters also provide bursaries to students of theology and religious music, as well as other scholarships that support the ideals of the Order. Members of the Grand Chapter of Alberta meet once a year during the Grand Chapter Annual Session.
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