What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular fraternities. The Deputy Grand Master made it very clear in his address to Grand Lodge in September 2011 that we are ‘a secular organisation that is supportive of religion: it is an absolute requirement for all our members to believe in a Supreme Being. Freemasonry itself is neither a substitute for nor an alternative to religion. It certainly does not deal in spiritual matters; it does not have any sacraments; or, indeed, offer or claim to offer any type of salvation. It is a society of men concerned with moral and social values whose members are taught its precepts by a series of ritual dramas which follow ancient forms, and it uses stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides.
The United Grand Lodge of England currently has over two hundred thousand members meeting in 6,800 Lodges, which are grouped as follows:
Lodges meeting in London (an area generally within a 10-mile radius of Freemasons’ Hall), are administered by the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London, which is headed by the Metropolitan Grand Master.
Lodges meeting outside London, and within England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, are grouped into 47 Provinces, whose boundaries often correspond to those of the old Counties, with each headed by a Provincial Grand Master.
There are Lodges in many countries world wide which are recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England and meeting outside England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. These Lodges are grouped into 33 Districts, each headed by a District Grand Master, plus Groups (ie: currently too small to make up a District), with each headed by a Grand Inspector, and other individual Lodges abroad which are directly administered by Freemasons’ Hall.
All members follow the same aims and objectives as those of the Grand Lodge of England.
It is not precisely known how long Freemasonry has been in existence. However the earliest records detail one Elias Ashmole who was made a Mason in England in 1646; these ancient records show that Freemasonry has been existence for at least three hundred and fifty years.
The Three Great Principles
Freemasonry offers its members an approach to life, which seeks to reinforce:
Brotherly Love – Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow creatures.
Relief – Freemasons are taught to practice charity and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving, and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.
Truth – Freemasons strive for truth and honesty, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives.
The Lodge provides the foundations to Freemasonry. The Lodge of Peace is typical of many with membership currently in the mid thirties. Our regular meeting night is Monday. We have eleven regular meetings in a year but we do meet weekly to prepare for the following monthly meeting. A Master, who is elected annually, governs each Lodge plus there are other Lodge officers including two Wardens, two Deacons, a Secretary, Treasurer and Almoner.
What happens at a Lodge meeting?
The lodge of Peace monthly (regular) meetings are held in the evenings starting at 6.30 excepting the Installation meeting when the new Master takes up his office (Installed). That meeting currently commences at 4.00pm. Our weekly meetings (practices) are much less formal and commence at 7.00pm. Meetings are attended by the Lodge members. Like most meetings, they include the minutes of the previous meeting, apologies for absence and financial reports from the Treasurer. They also include ceremonies for the introduction or progression of a new member or a talk on some aspect of Masonic life such as its history or policy. If relevant the Charity Steward the will give accounts of activities that have taken place or ones that are planned. The Almoner will report on the sick and aged members of the Lodge, the widows and families of Lodge members and of any help that they may need. Other matters are also discussed such as the Lodge’s charitable activities.
Dinner will follow the monthly meeting which includes formal short toasts and responses including the loyal toast to the Queen incorporating the singing of the National Anthem if it has not been previously sung at the closure of the meeting. The whole evening will occupy approximately four hours, generally finishing between 10.00pm and 10.30pm.
All candidates for Freemasonry have to be proposed and seconded by a member and are interviewed by the senior members of the Lodge. Hopefully they will have been able to meet with us informally on our practice evenings over a period of time to allow them and the members to ‘break the ice’ and hopefully nurture lasting friendships. This gives the Lodge the opportunity to meet and learn something about potential new members, and gives them the opportunity to ask questions to determine if Freemasonry is for them.
If the Committee decides to recommend an application for membership, then the application will be subject to a ballot by the members at a regular Lodge meeting.
If a candidate decides not to proceed then the application can be withdrawn at any time prior to admission.
Dress at a Lodge meeting
It is customary that at regular Lodge meetings for members and visitors to wear a dark suit, white shirt and black tie, the authorized tie for the Province or the approved Grand Lodge tie, black shoes and socks, and white gloves. Smart dress for the weekly meetings.
Degrees in Freemasonry
There are three degrees in Freemasonry; new members join as Entered Apprentices, progress to Fellow Crafts and then become full Master Masons, a process which can take 6 to 18 months. Each degree has a different theme and progress from one degree to the next involves a ceremony in which the objects of the degree are explained to the candidate. However, whether he is an Entered Apprentice, a Fellow Craft or a Master Mason, the Brother is a full member of the Lodge.
Masonic regalia is basically comprised of an apron, a symbol of the working mason who wore an apron to protect his clothing; the design of a Brother’s apron indicates his degree, a Master Mason’s apron being more elaborate than an Entered Apprentice’s. You will be required to purchase your own Master Mason’s apron, but the Lodge will provide an Entered Apprentice’s apron and a Fellow Craft’s apron for your use. Office holders in the Lodge and some senior Brethren also wear collars. Brethren appointed to Provincial Grand Lodge office or to Grand Lodge Office wear more elaborate aprons and collars.
At the start of the journey towards membership a Mentor is appointed, a senior brother but quite probably your proposer. An experienced Mason, his role will be to be your guide leader and coach through the first years of your Masonic career. He will be there to give advice and explain to you the workings, tradition and organisation of the institution, making your introduction to Freemasonry as smooth, easy and pleasurable as possible.
Lodge of Instruction
In order to progress in Masonry, it is necessary to devote some time to study and become proficient in the ritual used in the ceremonies. As mentioned earlier these practice Lodges or Lodges of Instruction are held weekly for instruction in the ceremonies. They are very informal, you are expected to wear a suit etc and there is no dinner. They generally end up with a drink in the bar and this is an excellent opportunity for members of the Lodge to get to know each other better.
Wives and families are encouraged to be part of the Masonic family. We hold meetings each year to which families and friends are invited. In addition, we traditionally host an annual “Ladies Evening” Dinner Dance and other social events depending on each Masters preference. Should a member die, his widow and family are not forgotten but continue to be part of the family and the Lodge does its best to offer support through the Almoner and widows are always especially remembered at Christmas.
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