1. What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is a non political, non sectarian organisation of considerable age based on principles of consideration of others and self development. In 2017 it will be celebrating the 300th anniversary of the first unified Grand Lodge in England. Some believe it evolved from Stonemasons Guilds and was certainly in existence in some form since the 1500s. The first recorded "making" of a Freemason is that of a Warrington man, Elias Ashmole in 1646.
2. Is it a Secret Society?
Certainly not, most Regions or Provinces as they are called have interesting and informative web sites which are easily accessible by the public. Members are also encouraged to talk freely about the subject and helpful and accurate leaflets are readily available.
3. What 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.
4. Is it a religion?
No, neither is it a substitute for religion. There are no Sacraments. Every member expresses a belief in a "Supreme Being" and there are members of all faiths working harmoniously in Freemasonry.
5. Does the Roman Catholic Church allow its members to be Freemasons?
Membership of Freemasonry in the UK is currently permitted.
6. Is it a men only organisation?
The mainstream organisation is, but there are other similar organisations for women in most areas.
7. It only looks after its own
This is totally inaccurate. It is true that Freemasonry tries to look after widows of members and members in distress of one sort or another, but it is also one of the biggest donors to Charity in the UK. Every year millions of pounds are raised for non-masonic and masonic Charities. In many areas Freemasons are also active in their own communities.
8. Can you gain an advantage by being a Freemason?
No, a Freemason should not expect to gain any advantage from membership. If he seeks to do so he may be expelled.
9. What is its structure?
Like many other organisations there is a "Head Office" based in London and called the United Grand Lodge of England, regional centres called Provinces and local clubs called Lodges.
10. What do you do at Lodge meetings?
The meeting is in two parts. As in any association there is a certain amount of administrative procedure – Minutes of last meeting, proposing and balloting for new members, discussing and voting on financial matters, election of officers, news and correspondence. Then there are the Ceremonies for admitting new members and the annual Installation of the Master and appointment of officers.
11. Who can become a Freemason?
The principle qualifications are that he is usually 21 years or older (although in certain exceptional circumstances he can be younger), be of good character and believe in a "Supreme Being"-his God. He is expected to have good morals, compassion and a kind and charitable disposition.
12. How many Freemasons are there?
Under the United Grand Lodge of England, there are approximately 330,000 Freemasons. There are Grand Lodges in Ireland, which covers both the North and the South, and Scotland which combined total 150,000 members. Worldwide there are probably five million members.
13. How much does it cost to be a Freemason?
It varies from Lodge to Lodge. Anyone wishing to join will find a Lodge to suit his pocket. There is an initiation fee on entry and in due course regalia will have to be bought. The meeting is normally followed by a dinner, the cost depending on the venue. There is, in addition, an annual subscription.
Members are invited to give to charity but this should always be within their means and it is entirely up to the individual how much they wish to contribute.
14. What is Freemasonry's relationship with politics?
Freemasonry as a body, will never express a view on politics or State policy. The discussion of politics at Masonic meetings has always been prohibited.
15. Is Freemasonry an International Order?
Freemasonry exists throughout the world. However each Grand Lodge is sovereign and independent. There is no international governing body for Freemasonry.
16. What would be expected of me?
Members do as much as they wish. The administration, ceremonial, accounting, fund raising and general running of the Lodge is carried out voluntarily by its own members.
17. Can anyone visit your meetings?
Only Masons who have been made a member of a regular Lodge may visit and enter a meeting. However, from time to time Masonic Halls are opened to the public and visitors are accepted. This is usually known as an Open Day at which visitors will be shown round the building, including the Lodge Room, and have various Lodge offices explained to them. Also Masonic Halls are often made available to members of the public for functions such as business meetings, conferences, weddings, birthday parties and funerals. Most have licensed bars and catering facilities.
18. Why do you wear Aprons?
Masons are continuing an age old tradition practised by the ancient Stonemasons' Guilds. Originally they would have been worn for protection whilst stonemasons were working, but now they serve a symbolic purpose, like so many other things in Masonry such as the rolled up trouser leg, which only happens to the new member when he goes through his three Ceremonies.
19. Is there a social side?
Yes, the family plays an important part in modern day Freemasonry. In addition to the fellowship enjoyed by members in visiting other Lodges and attending Special Events, there are functions where wives and partners play an active role and "Family Fun Days" are always well supported. There are also sports and social interest groups that cater for many hobbies.
20. What's special about Freemasonry?
An independent report has concluded that, contrary to much misleading commentary, Freemasonry demonstrates genuine openness and transparency and concludes that it is arguably more relevant today than ever before.
Freemasonry acts as a "constant" providing members with a unique combination of friendship, belonging and structure, with many Masons saying they have made valuable lifelong friendships.