Sunday, May 13, 2007

Defining Freemasonry - Freemasons Ceremonies

In this article in my 'Defining Freemasonry' series I'd like to take the opportunity to explore some of the details of what goes on in a Masonic meeting. If there are any specific issues you'd like me to me to cover in future articles then please do not hesitate to get in touch but I will again point out that this purely my opinion and not neccessarily those of other Freemasons, my Lodge or the United Grand Lodge of England.

The Ceremony is only part of what happens at a Freemason meeting and much of the meeting is taken up by the business of the Lodge such as Minutes, Charity collections and Reports from various Officers on the work they have done in respect of their respective duties. For this purpose the Lodge has specific Officers much like those in any other area of life where a Committee structure is essential to promote open and honest activity.

It is the duty of the Secretary to keep minutes of each meeting which are either circulated in advance or read out at the next appropriate meeting. It is also his role to issue the Summons each month to every member which act as a reminder that the meeting is due to take place, including an agenda of what business will be conducted during that meeting. This is one of the most important roles as the Secretary ensures the smooth running of the Lodge and acts as a point of contact for any correspondence with the Lodge members, The United Grand Lodge of England, Provincial Grand Lodge, other Freemason’s Lodges or anyone else wishes to contact the Lodge for whatever purpose.

Likewise a Treasurer is elected to act as the point of contact for anything related to Finance. A position of great trust, it is his responsibility to ensure that all subscriptions are collected from the members and that all fees are paid in respect of the rent for the Hall, the Caterers and any other expense that may be required of the Lodge.

The Almoners role is to oversee the needs of the members of the Lodge. He is the point of contact for Charity and looks after the welfare of the members. As part of his duties he also makes regular visits to those suffering from illness, the elderley and the infirm. He is also responsible for ensuring that the members are kept informed of the health and well-being of any dependants of the Lodge which include the widows of any previously serving members, wives, daughters and also sons if under the age of twenty-one. The name is taken from Christian activists who were responsible for charity and giving out Alms to the needy.

Apart from the business the main part of a Masonic meeting is the Ceremony, this is when a candidate is being initiated, passed or raised – known as his First (Degree), Second (Degree) and Third (Degree). Usually the Ceremony is performed for an actual candidate but if a Lodge has no candidates in the pipeline they may choose to perform a Demonstration Ceremony, present a paper of Masonic interest or arrange for another form of demonstration for that evening. The focus is always to offer an item which will satisfy the Brethrens aim in making ‘a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge’.

Lodge demonstrations come in many forms and can demonstrate equivalent ceremonies from other recognised jurisdictions or they may recreate how Ceremonies were conducted in the past to display the differences with those of today. The subject may also cover in more detail some element of the symbols or history utilised in one of the Masonic degrees, providing much more depth to the understanding for those in attendance.

The three Masonic degrees are ‘worked’ by the Officers of the Lodge in the form of short plays which moral, symbolic and ethical value. The Officers learn the words and then recite the separate pieces from memory, this is known by the Brethren as ‘ritual’ and a good ritualist is held in high esteem by the other members. In saying that, however, a Brother who has difficulties learning the words is never chastised or seen as inferior and the other members will go out of their way to assist him in the course of the Ceremony with prompts and hints.

The First Degree is the member’s initiation into Freemasonry, the Second Degree marks the progress he has made in the Fraternity and the Third Degree establishes him as a Master Mason. All three ceremonies contain an introduction, an obligation, the communication of the ‘secrets’ of that degree followed by various explanations of the symbols of that degree and how they can be used as a guide to becoming a better person. The ‘secrets’ are nothing as exciting as depicted in books and film and are merely the methods we use to recognise a fellow Freemason – these consist of the famous ‘funny handshake’ and a password.

I hope that has provide a further insight into the world of Freemasonry and dispels some of the myth and negativity which it has wrongly attracted over the years.

Fraternally yours,



Jennifer said...

Hi Damian, very interesting artcle.

I would be interested in reading an article about the history of Free Masonry if that is something about which you feel inspired to blog! :-)

I look forward to reading more of your blog in the future! Jennifer

Nathalie said...

I agree, it's very interesting to learn more about this, especially since there are so many 'wild' stories going round about Freemasonry.

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