What is Freemasonry? (and what it’s not)
A brief history of Freemasonry
The origins of Freemasonry are lost in the mists of time, but the Craft has existed in England for nearly 500 years.
‘Free and Accepted’ Masons adopted traditional elements of the medieval stonemasons’ guild, and by the time of James 2 some of the most distinguished men in England were using Masonic clothing, symbolism, titles and modes of recognition, as well as enacting ceremonies based on the story of the building of King Solomon’s Temple.-ceremonies which Masons keep alive to this day. Freemasonry became concerned with philosophy and science, and from an early period discussion of religion and politics was banned at all meetings, as it is to this day.
The Lodge is the basic unit of Masonic organisation, and is presided over by a Worshipful Master and two Wardens who are elected for the year. An Almoner sees to the welfare of the Brethren and their families. Other officers look after the administration of the Lodge, its charitable work, its ceremonies and so on. There is a place for everyone to contribute according to his abilities.
The first Grand Lodge was founded in 1717 in London, and paved the way for the expansion of Freemasonry to every part of the globe. It is now estimated that there are some six million Masons around the world, with over 250,000 in the U.K. Masons through the ages have included George Washington, Neil Armstrong, Wolfgang Mozart, Winston Churchill, Peter Sellers, Buffalo Bill Cody, Rudyard Kipling and Matthew Webb-Shropshire’s famous Channel swimmer-among very many other eminent names.
The Masonic Province of Shropshire was founded in 1885, its oldest Lodge being Salopian Lodge No. 262, which counted Thomas Telford among its members. The most recent addition is Ironbridge Lodge in 2015.
What are the requirements to be a Mason?
A Mason is required to have a belief in a single Supreme Being, by whatever name that Being is called. Candidates are usually 21 years or older, and of good character.
Isn’t your membership rather old?
Masonry is for life-there is no upper age limit. All men are welcome to join, and many continue to attend until they are no longer able to do so. The Craft offers enjoyment and instruction to all ages-a common complaint from older members is that they wish they had joined much earlier in life!
What makes Masonry special?
Ask any member. Enjoyment is the cornerstone, with a sense of fellowship, of doing a valuable job through charity and charitable actions and of self-improvement too.
Why is Masonry a secret society?
Freemasonry is most emphatically not a secret, but rather a private society. Our only ‘secrets’ are the traditional forms of recognition, which should not be used outside Masonic premises.
What about the rolled-up trouser leg?
Masonry is full of symbolism-and each element represents something. The rolled-up trouser leg, for example, reminds a Mason of the solemn oath he takes on that knee. Masons are fiercely proud of these old traditions, for they understand and embrace their meaning.
What does Freemasonry cost?
Lodges charge an annual subscription, currently £110 for the Longmynd Lodge which meets six times a year. Meals cost about £13, and charitable donations are voluntary, but usually a suggested minimum of about £40 a year.
What does a Masonic meeting involve?
Most Lodges meet in the evening, starting with a Ceremony and business meeting in Lodge (often at about 6.30p.m.) followed by a meal (the “Festive Board”) which ends at about 10 p.m .
Is there any personal gain from being a Mason?
Yes- a Mason has a great deal to gain in the moral sense!
It is, however, strictly forbidden to take advantage of membership for financial or other improper gain: candidates take an oath not do so and a Mason breaking this promise would be subject to Masonic discipline.
The Freemason – A charitable man
All Masons are encouraged, from the moment of their initiation, to be charitable people. Charity isn’t just about giving money, but also about giving time to others, and using one’s own abilities to benefit those in need. Freemasons are encouraged to offer assistance unstintingly to those who may require it, so long as they do not exceed their means or forget their commitments to their own families.
Masonic charities support Brethren and their families in need of assistance, and all of this money is raised within the Craft-you won’t see a Mason standing with a tin outside the local supermarket! Masonic funds and institutions provide for medical and other care in cases of special need, and this help may be extended to a Mason’s immediate family in some circumstances.
As well as helping Freemasons, our charitable giving also supports a wide range of non-Masonic charities across the country. It is not widely recognised that Freemasonry is the second biggest donor to charity after the National Lottery! Swift and significant aid is sent by Grand and Provincial Lodges to international disasters such as the Japanese Tsunami in 2011.
Shropshire supports such aid, but also many local charities. At the Province’s 125th anniversary, a specially adapted minibus was provided for the use of terminally ill children at Hope House Children’s Hospice and teddies are provided to local hospitals to comfort distressed children in hospital Accident and Emergency units.
Individual Lodges often go further still, and evolve projects of their own. As one recipient of such help remarked: “Few people realise how much time, effort and money Freemasons put into their local communities. Perhaps it’s because they don’t shout about it.”
The Freemason – A family man
Most Masons are married men with daily work and family commitments. A Mason is always expected to put his family first, and this principle is enshrined in Masonic ritual.
Shropshire Lodges usually meet six to eight times a year. Although encouraged to attend regularly, each Mason is aware that family, work and other personal commitments must take priority.
Partners are encouraged to be involved, and when a new candidate is interviewed, we hope that they will be part of the process as well.
Some of the proudest moments in Masonry see fathers initiate their sons into the Craft.
There are social occasions and special meetings where ladies are welcomed as part of the Masonic family. Some Lodges hold informal events at which partners play important roles in organisation and support. For those who are retired, there are several Masonic Fellowships which meet regularly in different parts of Shropshire.
Masonic charities give assistance to the families of Masons in cases of genuine need, and support the education of children, including university fees, as well as providing medical care, looking after the elderly and other forms of assistance, even after the death of a member. We care.