Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular (non religious) organisations. It is a society of like-minded men who meet in a fraternal and social environment and share a desire to give charitable support to the community. Freemasonry is based on three great principles: Brotherly Love (respect for others); Relief (charity) and Truth (morality). The practice of freemasonry goes back many centuries. Its function and purpose was, and is, to raise funds and undertake charitable work in the community. It does so in a self-effacing way without the glare of publicity. Freemasonry raises money for a wide range of charitable purposes (including medical research, air ambulances, community care, emergency relief work, education and work with young people). Indeed, over £100 million has been distributed since 1980 by the Grand Charity alone (£14 million since 2010).
Our charitable efforts in 2012 were directed toward the Metropolitan Masonic Cyberknife Appeal for St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, which has purchased a £ 3 million ’CyberKnife.’ This is not actually a knife at all. It’s a state-of-the-art piece of equipment that allows specialist oncologists to treat tumours and other medical conditions painlessly without the need for an operation. CyberKnife uses pencil beams of radiation which can be directed at any part of the body from any direction via a robotic arm. The robotic arm tracks the tumour’s position, detects any movement of the tumour or patient, and automatically corrects its positioning before targeting the tumour with multiple beams of high-energy radiation, destroying abnormal tissue without damaging surrounding areas. The treatment is so accurate that it’s now possible to treat tumours previously thought to be inoperable.
Freemasonry was established many centuries ago and now has more than 300,000 members in England and Wales, and millions worldwide. Freemasons are organised into ’Lodges’; in London these Lodges (including The Old Chigwellian Lodge) are part of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London.
It evolved from the need for ancient stonemasons to prove their skills and abilities in the days before printed certificates. They did this by means of so-called secret handshakes. On being accepted into the craft of masonry, an apprentice stonemason was given unique type of handshake to prove that he was genuinely qualified to offer his services, albeit as a lowly apprentice. When he completed his apprenticeship, having proved his skills, he was promoted and entrusted with yet another handshake and so on and so on, until he reached the pinnacle of his profession.
Organised Freemasonry became established in 1717 when four London Lodges came together at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House, near St. Paul’s Churchyard. In 1737 the first Royal Freemason was made – Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales son of King George II. He was the first of many, although Freemasons ‘come from all walks of life.’
What happens at a Lodge Meeting?
The meeting is in two parts. As in any association there is a certain amount of administrative procedure-minutes of the last meeting, proposing and balloting for new members, discussing and voting on financial matters, election of officers, news and correspondence and collection of charity.
Then there are the ceremonies of admitting new Masons and the annual installation of the new Master and appointment of officers. There are three ceremonies for admitting new masons. Each ceremony is in two parts- a slight dramatic instruction in the principles and lessons taught in the Craft followed by a lecture in which the candidate’s various duties are spelled out. Needless to say, those members who play a part have to learn by heart, various texts, the Master having the lion’s share!
At the completion of each ceremony, the candidate is given particular regalia to wear. At the completion of the third ceremony, the candidate becomes a Master Mason and wears his regalia to every meeting of his or any other lodge that he visits. For every meeting, Masons wear dark suits, a black or Craft tie and white gloves. Such clothing and regalia have historical and symbolic meaning and like a uniform, servers to indicate to members where they rank in the organisation.
Because one of the goals of Freemasonry is fellowship, a meal is usually served, generally after the meeting. This goes by the name of “festive board” and ceremonial toasting takes place, not least to welcome the newly made Mason as well as visitors and guests.