About Freemasonry

Information For The Candidate

Interested in Freemasonry? What you need to know

Introduction

Now that you have shown an interest in Freemasony, it is appropriate to give you some more information on the background to the Craft. We hope that you will find the following interesting and of use. There is a great deal to learn about Freemasonry and many find a lifetime is all too short, but should you become a Mason, you will come to appreciate of how much it has to offer.

What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular fraternities. It is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual 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. It has over 300,000 members within England and Wales making up nearly 8,000 Lodges making it the largest fraternal organisation in the United Kingdom, and there are a further 30,000 members overseas. It is unknown precisely how long Freemasonry has been in existence. However our 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

The Lodge provides the foundations to Freemasonry. A typical Lodge will have between thirty and forty members and will meet four or five times a year. A Master who is elected annually governs each Lodge, there are also other Lodge officers including two Wardens, a Secretary, Treasurer and Almoner.

The long history of Freemasonry becomes apparent when looking at some of the local Lodges. The Union of Waterloo Lodge No.13, which meets in Dartford, was founded in 1761 and the Saint John and Saint Paul Lodge which meets at Welling was founded in 1853 and they have both met regularly ever since. However most Lodges have been formed more recently. During its evolution a Lodge constructs its own traditions and ways, of which its members become proud and there is often a spirit of friendly rivalry between neighbouring Lodges. Most masons belong to only one Lodge.

What happens at a Lodge meeting?

Lodge meetings are usually held in the evenings; starting times vary depending on the Lodge and the length of the agenda, but are generally around 5 o’clock. Meetings are attended by the Lodge members and often by guests from other Lodges. 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. Normally the Charity Steward and the social event organiser 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. Most Lodges conclude their meetings by singing the National Anthem.

Dinner will follow the meeting concluding with the loyal toast to the Queen, and if it has not been sung during the meeting, the National Anthem. The whole evening will occupy four or five hours, generally finishing around half past nine.

Interview

Every candidate for Freemasonry is interviewed by the senior members of the Lodge that he has applied to join. This gives the Lodge the opportunity to meet you and learn something about you, and gives you the opportunity for you to ask questions to determine if Freemasonry is for you.

If the Committee decides to recommend your application for membership, then your application will be balloted by the full Lodge.

Dress at a Lodge meeting

It is customary that at Lodge meetings for members and visitors to wear a dark suit, white shirt and black tie, black shoes and socks, and white gloves.

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 12 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 be an Entered Apprentice, a Fellow Craft or a Master Mason, the Brother is a full member of the Lodge

 Regalia

Masonic regalia consists basically 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.

 Your mentor

When the ceremony of your initiation is complete, you will be introduced to your Mentor.  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 a certain amount of time to study and become proficient in the ritual used in the ceremonies. Most Lodges hold fortnightly meetings for instruction in the ceremonies, these meetings are called Lodges of Instruction.  They are very informal, you are not expected to wear a dark suit etc and there is no dinner. They generally end up with a beer in the bar and this is an excellent opportunity for members of the Lodge to get to know each other better.

Cost of Membership

Costs vary from Lodge to Lodge. There is normally a Joining Fee of typically £100 while membership dues amount to about £150 per year though this will normally include the meals following the four or five meetings each year. In addition and a Brother is required to purchase his own regalia costing about £35 for a Master Mason. In addition, members are also expected to give what they can afford to charity, but not more!

Family involvement

Lodges encourage wives and families to see themselves as part of the Masonic family, and draw that family together. Many Lodges hold a meeting each year to which families and friends are invited. In addition, some Lodges host an annual “Ladies Evening” Dinner or Dinner and Dance or a weekend away, and Lodge Family Lunches have become increasingly popular. 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. Widows are invited to the Lodge's family events and are always remembered at Christmas.

 The Province of West Kent

Lodges are grouped into Provinces, which usually correspond geographically to the ancient counties. The county of Kent originally formed a single Province but because of the large number of Lodges within it, it was split into two in 1973, East Kent and West Kent.

The Province of West Kent covers an area of approximately 180 square miles. It stretches from the River Thames at Erith in the North to Tunbridge Wells in the South, and reaches from Gravesend to Beckenham and Bromley. Within the Province of West Kent there are nearly 200 Lodges meeting in nine Masonic centres and about 6,000 members.


Each Province is headed by a Provincial Grand Master who is assisted by a team of Provincial Grand Officers. The Provincial Grand Master presides over the Provincial Grand Lodge meetings, which takes place at least once a year, and is open to all Master Masons belonging to Lodges meeting within that Province. The Provincial Grand Master of West Kent is currently Right Worshipful Brother Jonathan Winpenny.

 Freemasonry in Kent
The history of Freemasonry in Kent is long and honourable. Records show of the first Lodge in Kent being formed in April 1730; it met in the Red Lion Tavern in Canterbury, but sadly did not last for long. In those days meetings were informal and most Lodges met in Inns and Taverns, as this was all that was available. The first Provincial Grand Master was the Honourable Robert Boyle Walsingham who was installed in 1769. The following years saw the foundation of many more Lodges in the area, but the hard times following the Napoleonic wars saw many of them disbanded. However when the Viscount Holmesdale (later Earl Amhurst), became the Provincial Grand Master in 1860 a new life was given to Freemasonry within Kent and by the beginning of the 20th Century there were 66 Lodges in the Province. Lodge meetings continued to take place during the First World War but were much disturbed by the Zeppelin attacks. Throughout the Second World War, meetings took place as best they could, sometimes in members homes or even whilst air raids were taking place.

 The United Grand Lodge of England
The governing body of Freemasonry under the English Constitution is "The United Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of England" or more generally "Grand Lodge" and this is a title that has been used since 1717. Grand Lodge has its administrative offices at Freemason's Hall, Great Queen Street, London and meets every three months; these meetings are referred to as “Quarterly Communications”.  The Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent presides over these meetings whenever he is able but in his absence his place is taken by the Pro Grand Master, The Most Worshipful Brother Peter Lowndes. Masters and Past Masters of every Lodge under the English Constitution are entitled to attend and vote on matters raised.

Masonic Charities
Charity is one of the priorities of Freemasonry and its members are encouraged to give what they can reasonably afford - but no more! Masons do not raise money from the general public, contributions are raised from the members themselves and are given for the benefit of those less fortunate, both masons and non-masons and their families.

Masonic giving takes place on three levels:

  • Lodges support their local charities such as hospices,
  • Provinces support larger charities in the area,
  • Grand Lodge supports national charities.

Grand Lodge charity is administered by four bodies:

 

1. The Grand Charity
The Grand Charity was set up to respond quickly to urgent needs such as natural disasters. It helps individuals and many charities. Recently the Grand Charity donated £2.1m to Masonic causes and £2.9m to non-Masonic causes within one year. Additionally the Grand Charity supports Masons, their widows and other dependants who have fallen on hard times.

 2. The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution
The Masonic Order maintains 19 Old Peoples Homes, which look after some 2,000 old people. Prince George Duke of Kent Court at Chislehurst is the nearest. Some of the homes are specially equipped to care for those with mental or physical illnesses and are tailored to meet people’s needs.

3. The Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys
The educational needs of over 1500 orphaned children or grandchildren of Freemasons are looked after by the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. The trust has recently launched a major new initiative to provide educational equipment - especially computers - to the specialist hospices for children in England and Wales. It also supplies grants for students.

4. The New Samaritan Fund

The New Samaritan Fund supports the needy, sick and infirm Freemasons and their families, particularly where they cannot

obtain treatment from the National Health Service without undue delay or hardship.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Is Freemasonry a Secret Society?
Freemasonry is emphatically not a secret society, but in common with many other organisations, its meetings are private and, as might be expected, only open to members. The rules and aims of Freemasonry are readily available, as are details of every Masonic Lodge and the names of all senior members of the organisation. The locations and addresses of all Masonic centres are given in telephone directories. Many centres hold open days where the public is invited to visit and see for themselves the aims and objectives of Freemasonry. The Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Street, London is open to the public and guided tours take place regularly.

 What then are the Secrets of Freemasonry?

The so-called secrets of Freemasonry are the traditional ways of recognition. These signs in the past enabled a complete stranger to arrive at a building site and at once establish his status as a craftsman. Those signs were a sort of PIN and as such were closely guarded.

 Is Freemasonry a Substitute Religion?

Although Freemasonry requires a belief in a Supreme Being, it does not in any way try to either replace religion or act as a substitute for it. While it demands a belief in a Supreme Being, every member is encouraged to practice his own religion. Freemasonry is complementary to and supportive of religion, allowing all cultures and creeds to meet in harmony and understanding.

 Why “The Great Architect Of The Universe”?

Freemasonry embraces all men of goodwill who believe in a Supreme Being and its members follow many faiths. Referring to God as “the Great Architect of the Universe” permits men of different religions to meet together without giving offence to any of them or their faith.

 Who can join?

Membership is open to men of all faiths and all races providing they are of good repute, honest, law-abiding and acknowledge a conviction that there is a Supreme Being to whom we are all ultimately accountable. However, it is unlikely that anyone with a criminal record would be considered for membership.

 Masonic Preference

Freemasons are certainly not expected to prefer fellow Masons at the expense of others. Such an action would be a fundamental abuse of membership and would be subject to Masonic discipline, possibly expulsion. A man who becomes a mason must expect no material gain.

 Why just men?

One could just as easily ask why the Women's Institute is only for women. In fact there are four organizations in the UK calling themselves 'Masonic Orders". Two of these are exclusively for women, one is mixed and our own (admittedly much the largest) which is exclusively for men.

 And in conclusion

We hope that you will have found this interesting, and that it will increase your understanding of the Fraternity.

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The above information is obtained from http://www.freemasons-westkent.org.uk/doc.php?doc_id=70