Bro. and Dr.
Boettjer is a member of Cypress Lodge
#295 of Naples, FL. He is the managing
editor of The Scottish Rite Journal.
This STB Was taken from am article
appearing in the 12-96 issue of The
Scottish Rite Journal reprinted here.
October 1996 Scottish Rite Journal
carried the article "Garden of Evil?"
about several members of the Westwood
Hill Baptist Church, Virginia Beach (Kempsville
Borough), Virginia, who joined their
pastor, the Reverend Jess Jackson, in
destroying a memorial garden dedicated
to Arthur Sedrick Ward, a Mason and
former member of Corinthian Lodge No.
266, Norfolk, Virginia. Brother Ward
died in 1979, and the garden, with its
memorial plaque dedicated in loving
memory to Ward, was a joint project of
about 20 members of the church's Sunday
School Class that Bro. Ward had taught
for many years. Two of the members who
worked on the garden were Masons.
In April 1996,
17 years after Bro. Ward's death,
certain members of the Westwood Hill
Baptist Church, reflecting a spiritual
malaise in the congregation, came to
believe an evil force lurked in the
garden and was affecting the church. To
them, the garden's cobblestone walk
appeared to contain curious, possibly
"occult," symbols; someone remembered
that Ward was a Mason; others believed
the garden's cross, entwined by a rose
bush, was a Masonic symbol and evidence
that Freemasonry was the malevolent
force they were experiencing. Without
consulting the church's general
congregation, the Rev. Jess Jackson, two
associate pastors of the church (the
Reverend Allan Riley and the Reverend
Randy Goode), and seven other church
members destroyed the garden on April
Mrs. Donna Ward-Meekins, Widow of Arthur
When I became
aware that the garden to the memory of
my late husband, Arthur. had been
viciously and sadistically, I was in a
state of shocked disbelief. The pastor,
Rev. Jess Jackson, would only answer my
questions with, "It has been done away
When I pressed
for information about what had become of
the garden's benches, bricks, and
cobblestones, I got the same answer,
"They have been done away with." I asked
specifically about the stone with the
memorial message, "In Loving Memory of
Our Teacher and Friend, ARTHUR S. WARD,
1979," you guessed it, I got the same
answer, "They have been done away with."
I finally got
the truth from my friends Betty and John
who told me the following amazing story.
Five members of the church supposedly
had made a "prayer walk" of the church
grounds and had seen a "vision of evil"
in the garden. These people, along with
the pastoral staff of the church, and
two wives of the staff members, without
knowledge of the church membership,
entered the garden area on the afternoon
of April 23, 1996, and began to dig up
and destroy every shrub and tree in the
garden and break up every piece of brick
and concrete they could find. They
removed a cross and burned it and
removed every plaque with the name of
Arthur Ward on it. They disposed of the
plaques apparently in a truckload of
brick and stones to the city garbage
One week after
the garden was destroyed, word reached
Betty and John. They contacted the Rev.
Jess Jackson and had a meeting with him
on Wednesday May 1, 1996, after the
Wednesday night prayer service. John
asked the pastor for an explanation, and
he was told the story about the five
members having discovered "evil in the
garden." Rev. Jess Jackson said the
garden had been destroyed and that he
was "comfortable" with that action.
meeting with the pastor, Betty had
observed two cobblestones in the garden
area during a brief look at the former
garden's site, and she asked the Rev.
Jackson's permission to retrieve them.
The pastor gave his permission, and the
next morning John and Betty went to the
former garden's site with digging tools
and unearthed 12 cobblestones, placed
them in the trunk of their car and took
them home, placing them in their yard.
evening, May 1, Betty and John's
daughter returned home from five weeks
in St. Louis. Early the next morning,
she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and
was taken to the intensive care facility
of a local hospital. On Sunday night,
May 5, Betty and John received a visit
at the hospital from two ladies from the
church who had participated in the
After all other
visitors had left, one of the women
informed Betty and John that "We are
here by divine appointment." She stated
that John's and Betty's daughter's
illness was "not physical but spiritual"
and was the result of their possession
of the stones. The women asked where the
stones were and, after learning they
were at John's and Betty's residence,
asked if they could go and get them.
The same lady
said the stones were "too dangerous to
be picked up in one vehicle." Six
vehicles would be necessary to pick up
the stones, she said, because the evil
forces in the stones would be increased
if the stones were kept together. She
said that John and Betty and their
daughter would be in great danger as
long as they had possession of the
stones. The two women did not receive
their requested permission to remove the
stones and left the hospital soon
immediately called Rev. Jess Jackson
expecting to receive spiritual comfort,
but got only scriptural references to
read, references which appeared to
justify the destruction of the garden.
After about 45 minutes in prayer in the
hospital chapel, John and Betty decided
to call another pastor of their
came to the hospital in the middle of a
very powerful and drenching
thunderstorm. He heard their story in
amazement and anguish since he was well
acquainted with the Westwood Hill Church
and its pastor. He gave them much
encouragement and prayer support and
assured them that he did not believe God
worked in the manner in which the garden
was destroyed and the way the two women
visited the hospital.
He said in his
opinion God worked through order and
unity rather than through confusion and
disorder. He agreed that this was a
matter that should be brought before the
congregation of the church. This pastor
ministered lovingly to John and Betty
for about three hours that night, ending
at about 3:30 AM the following morning.
despite the fact that the stones were
not surrendered to the women, Betty and
John's daughter recovered fully. Later,
the stones were brought to my son's
home, and they are now in his garden.
With grim humor, my son Gary said, "Look
Mom, they don't even glow in the dark"
My family and I
continue to feel the pain and live under
the shadow of this incident I grieve
that my husband's memory has been
tarnished. I was always proud of his
Masonic affiliations, and when I
remarried, I was happy that my second
husband, now deceased, was a Mason who
served as Master of his Lodge.
experience, Masons have been men of high
caliber. Incidents such as this should
never happen. The destruction of the
garden was unconscionable. To assure
this never happens again to the widow of
any Mason, I have retained a lawyer and
have filed suit against the people who
took part in this terrible act.