HOW FREEMASONRY IS ORGANISED & MEMBERSHIP NUMBERS
The governing body of Freemasonry in England, Wales, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and some Districts overseas is The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). UGLE was founded in 1717 and has around 200,000 Members meeting at over 7,000 Lodges located throughout the country.
Lodges are grouped into Provinces by region and the Lodge of St Mark are within the jurisdiction of the Masonic Province of East Kent, which has over 6,000 Members and 250 Lodges, meeting at 35 centres.
WHAT IS FREEMASONRY?
Enjoyable pastime Above all, Freemasonry is there as an organisation within which its Members can enjoy their participation. It tends to mean different things to each of those who join, although for most it always remains an enjoyable and stimulating pastime.
Friendships, self-development & care for others Freemasonry brings opportunities to make new friends and acquaintances who come from all walks of life, who meet and socialise as equals and bond through common beliefs, whatever their race, religion or social standing. It enables its Members to self-develop and improve self-knowledge, acquire new skills and achieve full potential. It is very much about giving care towards others and providing help to deserving causes.
Freemasonry guides its Members along an enjoyable, fascinating, challenging and rewarding journey of discovery, taking them steadily towards self-fulfilment and helping to ensure a positive contribution towards and influence upon the lives of family and indeed all those around them, all to the ultimate benefit of society as a whole.
It is the ability of Freemasonry to create lasting friendships founded around common values, to achieve self-development and to have a major impact through the support of deserving causes that ensures that the organisation remains entirely relevant to the 21st Century. Each Member will have the opportunity to discover which of these particular areas bring them the most satisfaction, and to benefit from them all.
Non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations. It does expect of its Members a belief in a Supreme Being, but provides no system of faith. Religious and political discussions are not allowed at its Meetings.
Key values & principles, symbolically illustrated Freemasonry instils in its Members a moral and ethical approach to life. Its key values are based around compassion, fairness, tolerance, benevolence, kindness, honesty and integrity. Members gain an appreciation and understanding of its moral lessons and principles through a series of ritual dramas – a progression of allegorical plays performed within the Lodge Room – which follow ancient forms and use Stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides and illustrative symbols.
Care for those in need Freemasons are always encouraged towards having concern for people, caring for the less fortunate and helping those in need. Support to others is in particular provided through charitable giving generated from within the organisation, with very significant sums being raised from a sizeable membership that is committed to making a difference.
The benevolence exercised by Freemasons helps to address many of the real issues and needs facing their own Members and well beyond into the Worldwide community, enabling assistance to others in dealing with everything from natural disasters, homelessness, poverty, health and social care and ageing through to medical research, illness, injury, disability and bereavement.
Giving time & support within your means Freemasons are urged not to allow their input to the organisation, particularly in terms of time or expenditure, to detrimentally affect themselves or their family, which would include avoidance of interference with their work.
How it works The first point of entry into Freemasonry is known as ‘The Craft’, which is the form of Masonry practised by the Lodge of St Mark, where Members can progress through three levels, known as ‘Degrees’, to become ‘Master Masons’. In the Craft, Freemasons meet together in ‘Lodges’, such as the Lodge of St Mark, which are held in Masonic Halls and other similar venues. Closely allied to the Craft is the ‘Holy Royal Arch’, where the Members meet in ‘Chapters’, also in Masonic Halls.
Wearing of regalia At the Lodge Regular Meetings various items of historically based and symbolic regalia are worn by Freemasons, these in particular sufficing to evidence their membership and to signify their Office and ranking within the organisation. The apron worn, for instance, links back to the working apron generally worn by the ancient operative Stonemasons and still often used by that trade today.
Policy of openness, regularity and ceremonial practices Freemasonry operates with a policy of openness, where Members are able to declare their membership, all Lodge business is recorded and details of the nature of its activities are readily available and open for discussion. Lodges and their membership are constitutionally regulated and each Lodge has its own byelaws.
Through the private Ceremonies carried out by Lodges their Members will make promises regarding their personal conduct and contribution to the society in which they live and will learn certain modes of recognition for use as part of Lodge proceedings. These means of identification are generally typical of those likely to have been used by the ancient Stonemasons in their private trade lodges.
Lodge of Instruction & Rehearsals Most Lodges will also hold separately from its Regular Meetings what are normally known as Lodges of Instruction and Officers Rehearsals, where the Members can practice and rehearse the Ceremonies in preparation for the Regular Meetings.
300 YEARS OF FREEMASONRY
In 2017 Freemasonry celebrated the tercentenary of the first Grand Lodge that was established in London on 24th June 1717.
To mark the tercentenary Freemasonry organised many events both locally and nationally, culminating in a large gathering of Freemasons from all over the world at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on 31st October 2017.
In recognition of the occasion, substantial charitable donations were also made both locally and nationally. The Masonic Charitable Foundation awarded £3 million in grants to 300 local and regional non-Masonic charities, including eight good causes in East Kent which received a total of £79,000. In addition Freemasons from Kent, Surrey and Sussex raised over £300,000 to help finance the restoration of part of Canterbury Cathedral.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS & OTHER INFORMATION SOURCES
We have provided on this website an outline of what Freemasonry is about and what its Members are most likely to be contributing and gaining from their involvement. Particularly if you are considering joining, but also as an existing Member, we feel sure that you will have other questions or would like to source more information.
The other pages of this website, particularly those relating to About Freemasonry, Charity, Joining, Lodge Meetings, Lodge Officers and News and Events, will provide you with further details and information.
For answers to other frequently asked questions and further information relating to Freemasonry in general, its history, its principles and practices, its charitable activities and other important facts, including sources of further reading, regalia and Ceremonial rituals, please click here which will take you to a comprehensive list of useful links set out in the Contact page of this website.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO JOIN
If, after considering the information provided above and available through the other pages of this website, you would like to join Freemasonry, whether with the Lodge of St Mark or otherwise, please refer to the Joining section of this website.
BEYOND THE CRAFT
This website is concerned mostly with Craft Masonry, such as is carried out in the Lodge of St Mark, and much of the guidance will also apply in the case of Holy Royal Arch Masonry.
However, there are many other Orders and Degrees of Freemasonry, membership of which is restricted, at the least, to Craft Master Masons. These Orders and Degrees are autonomous and quite independent, although most of them are in amity with, and recognised by, The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).
For further information relating to other Orders and Degrees of Freemasonry please seek guidance from Lodge Members. You will find that the Lodge have an elected representative of Holy Royal Arch Masonry, who will be able to provide you with information and assistance in relation to that Order.
It is certainly recommended that you allow yourself sufficient time to become properly familiar and comfortable with your Craft Masonry before seeking to join other Orders or Degrees.
FREEMASONRY AND CHARITABLE GIVING
Relief as a guiding principle One of the guiding principles upon which Freemasonry is founded is that we seek to provide relief to those in need, be they our own Members and their families or the community as a whole. This is largely achieved through the practice of charitable giving and by exercising voluntary and instinctive care towards our fellow human beings.
With care and compassion for others being a key guiding principle for Freemasons, charitable giving is in many ways a natural by-product, creating a powerful force from which to spread help to many in society and its communities.
Masonic Charities and Lodge benevolent funds Whilst individual Lodges and the governing authorities in Freemasonry are not charities in themselves, Masonry has formed its own Charities to which it donates funds from within. From both those Masonic Charities and from the benevolent funds raised by local Lodges, support can be provided for Freemasons and their families who may find themselves in distressed circumstances, whilst significant support is also provided for national and local non-Masonic Charities and other individuals or causes needing help.
Masonic ‘Festivals’ Freemasonry does arrange special fund raising efforts, referred to as ‘Festivals’, where monies are raised over an extended specific period for donation to a particular designated Charity. The Masonic Province of East Kent, within whose jurisdiction the Lodge of St Mark falls, have launched a 2025 Festival and have been challenged to raise the sum of £3.5m to provide significant support for the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). Fundraising events and activities will be taking place across the Province. For further details regarding the MCF, please see under ‘National’ below.
Major donator In all, each year thousands of people in need are helped through millions of pounds in donations made to charitable causes by Freemasonry.
‘In-house’ fund raising Freemasons also take pride from the fact that they raise their charitable funds from amongst their own Members and through their own social activities, and not from general public appeals. Freemasonry does make it clear to its Members that they are not expected to undertake charitable giving beyond what their own financial circumstances enable them to properly afford.
Charity at all levels As already outlined, charitable activities within Freemasonry are taking place at local level, across individual provinces and country-wide. Further details and some helpful links to relevant websites are provided below.
Individual Lodges such as the Lodge of St Mark will raise charitable funds from their Members and through their social activities, which will be donated to charitable causes, being both Masonic and non-Masonic Charities, and to generally provide benevolence to those in need. Significant amounts will therefore be donated from local Lodges to many varying good causes.
For examples of donations made by the Lodge of St Mark, please refer to the News and Events page of this website.
The Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons’ Charity (CEKFC), which invests in a brighter future for the disadvantaged in our communities, operates under the banner of the Masonic Province of East Kent and is key as part of encouraging, maintaining and supporting the charitable response from East Kent Lodges and their Members.
At the annual Charity Awards presentation event held by the CEKFC in 2017 over £44,175 was donated to 15 local organisations, whilst at the same event in 2018 £25,000 was donated to 18 such organisations and in 2019 a further £26,500 was donated to 19 organisations. There are other activities, with for instance the Cornwallis Its A Knockout Challenge in 2017 raising £20,000 for Macmillan Nurses.
For full details and further information regarding the CEKFC, click here.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) offers a wide range of support at national level, particularly in the form of grants to assist with financial, health or family related needs arising for Freemasons and their families and beyond Freemasonry for the wider community. It is one of the largest grant-making charities in the country.
Each year the MCF supports around 5,000 members of the Masonic community with an amount totalling over £15 million and hundreds of charities with grants totalling £5.5 million.
In 2017/18 within East Kent the MCF supported 147 members of the Masonic community with grants totalling £438,548 and local charities received support with grants totalling £189,000.
For full details and further information regarding the MCF – click here
The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) makes available care homes for over 1,000 Freemasons and their families, providing residential, nursing and dementia care in 17 homes across England and Wales. For full details and further information – click here
To find out more about the RMBI care home in Kent, the Prince George Duke of Kent Court – click here