Your Questions Answered
Who can be a Freemason?
The general rule for Lodges that are part of the United Grand Lodge of England is that you must be a man. (We won’t get into the sexist argument here, but if you are a lady then there are Lodges exclusively for women, as well as some for both men and women.)
The other criteria is age. The rules say that the minimum age is 21 years old. However, this isn’t written in stone and can be reduced to 18 years; but there normally needs to be a reason. If you aren’t yet 21 but interested in joining please get in contact as you may be able to join sooner!
You also need to a “Free Man”. That basically means you are coming from your own actions and because you want to – not because someone is pushing you to.
You also need to believe in some sort of higher power – though it doesn’t matter which faith you belong to! The great thing about Freemasonry is Christians, Jews, Muslims, Bhuddists and any other religion can all come together a join in. You don’t need to be practicing or even attend church, or take the Bible as true Gospel. If you believe in a man with a big beard who rides on the back of a giant tortoise then you pass the test!
When you contact Witham Lodge we’ll contact you to ask if you have any questions in particular. We will then arrange a time for you to met a few of us – normally in a pub where we can have a chat over a drink.
Once you have agreed we aren’t a bunch of loonies you can fill out a formal application and have a formal interview. In the old days this was quite a big deal almost like a job interview, but it’s not quite so much pressure now. We usually have this at The Nightingale where we meet, so it also gives you the opportunity to have a look at a Lodge room and the facilities the building offers.
Let’s assume you pass the interview we’ll set a date for you to join. There is then the final vote on the evening of your Initiation in Freemasonry. This is when every member of the Lodge votes – a white ball for yes, a black ball of no. (This is where the term ‘being black-balled’ comes from.) It’s very unlikely you’ll be voted out at this stage of the process, but it is a traditional formality!
What do Freemasons do?
Well, sorry to disappoint, but don’t sit around in darkened rooms plotting the downfall of foreign governments and dreaming up conspiracies.
Basically, a Lodge meeting is split into two main parts.
The first part is the formal Lodge meeting itself. This follows an agenda (like a regular meeting of any club or society) and includes the general business of the meeting, such as confirming the minutes of previous meetings and reports from those that hold office – such as the almoner and charity secretary.
The main part of the meeting though is the ceremony (which is often refered to as “ritual” – though not in the Hollywood sense!) The ceremonies are usually the introduction of a new member, or for them to go through the varies “Degrees” to become a Master Mason, or Worshipful Master – the Masonic way of saying the ‘Chairman for the Year’.
Following the formal part of the evening there is the “Festive Board”. This has nothing to do with Christmas, but is the Masonic term for the meal after the meeting.
This is normally a three-course meal and is a great way to get to know fellow members and visitors to the Lodge in a relaxed and social environment. At the conclusion of the meal there are various toasts and speeches.
There are two topic off limits for conversation at the Festive Board, those of religion and politics. The reason is because these are two topics that are likely to cause arguments, so are therefore avoid to preserve the harmony of the meeting!
How much does it cost?
Well, this question is a little tricky to answer exactly because there are variables. The biggest cost is annual membership fee, and this varies from Lodge to Lodge, especially around the country.
There is a one off joining fee of £75, and the annual membership fee for Witham Lodge is £150, which can be taken as a monthly direst debit.
Bear in mind though that it may at first glace appear expensive, but your membership does allow you to visit other Lodges in the Country. Therefore, you may only attend your Lodge seven times a year, but visit ten other Lodges – greatly reducing the average cost per meeting.
When you first join you only need a dark suit and tie (which most people have already). After about a year you will need some white cotton gloves that cost about £5, and an apron which costs about £35.
There are also costs per meeting, but these are only incurred if you attend:
Three Course Meal: £12:50
Granted, it isn’t the cheapest hobby, but considering you are getting fed (and may even win a bottle of whisky in the raffle) it is not too excessive, and over the course of the year it is cheaper than some hobbies – and a lot cheaper than golf club membership!
How to be a Freemason
Well, to start you should contact us so we can talk you through the process! It’s not that pain, and not as expensive as you may think – Freemasonry is a hobby that gives it’s members fantastic value for money.
To summarise the process:
Contact us to let us
know you’re interested,
We’ll support you along the way and answer any questions you have. It’s in our interest to make sure you are the right sort of person who would benefit from Freemasonry – unfortunately Freemasonry isn’t for everyone.