History of Freemasonry
Donations to Charities
Province of Surrey
Freemasonry under the United Grand Lodge of England is the UK's largest, secular fraternal and charitable organisation. It has over 300,000 members working in nearly 8,000 lodges throughout England and Wales. and 30,000 more members overseas.
What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry teaches moral lessons and self-knowledge through participation in allegorical two-part plays, which are learnt by heart and performed within each lodge.
Freemasonry offers its members an approach to life which seeks to reinforce thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things.
Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but importantly Freemasonry also teaches and practises concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need.
Why do people join and remain members?
People become Freemasons for a variety of reasons, some as a result of family tradition, others upon the introduction of a friend or out of curiosity to know what it is all about.
Those who become active members and who grow in Freemasonry do so principally because they enjoy it. They enjoy the challenges and fellowship that Freemasonry offers. There is more to it, however, than just enjoyment.
Participation in the dramatic presentation of moral lessons and in the working of a lodge provides a member with a unique opportunity to learn more about himself and encourages him to live in such a way that he will always be in search of becoming a better man, not better than someone else but better than he himself would otherwise be and therefore an exemplary member of society.
Each Freemason is required to learn and show humility through initiation. Then, by progression through a series of degrees he gains insight into increasingly complex moral
and philosophical concepts, and accepts a variety of challenges and responsibilities which are both stimulating and rewarding.
The structure and working of the lodge and the sequence of ceremonial events, which are usually followed by social gatherings, offer members a framework for companionship, teamwork, character development and enjoyment of shared experiences.
What promises do Freemasons make?
New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in the lodge and in society. These promises are similar to those taken in court or upon entering the armed services or many other organisations. Each member also promises to keep confidential the traditional methods of proving he is a Freemason which he would use when visiting a lodge where he is not known.
The much publicised 'traditional penalties' for failure to observe these undertakings were removed from the promises in 1986. They were always symbolic not literal and refer only to the pain any decent man should feel at the thought of violating his word.
Members also undertake not to make use of their membership for personal gain or advancement; failure to observe this principle or otherwise to fall below the standards expected of a Freemason can lead to expulsion.
Who can join?
Membership is open to men of all faiths who are law-abiding, of good character and who acknowledge a belief in God. Freemasonry is a multi-racial and multi-cultural organisation.
It has attracted men of goodwill from all sectors of the community into membership. There are similar Masonic organisations for women.
Is Freemasonry involved in the community?
From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been involved in charitable activities, and since its inception it has provided support for many widows and orphans of Freemasons as well as others within the community.
All monies raised for charity are drawn from amongst Freemasons, their families and friends, while grants and donations are made to Masonic and non-Masonic charities alike.
Over the past five years alone Freemasonry has raised more than £75m for a wide range of charitable purposes including those involved in medical research, community care, education and work with young people.
Freemasonry has an enviable record of providing regular and consistent financial support to individual charities over long periods while at the same time making thousands of grants to local charities, appeals and projects throughout England and Wales each year. For the future, opportunities to obtain or provide matched funding are periodically examined with a view to enhancing the impact of the support Freemasonry can give to specific projects. The personal generosity of Freemasons and the collective fundraising efforts of almost 8,000 lodges, however, will continue to determine the contribution Freemasonry makes within the community.
The content of this page is taken from a booklet entitled 'Freemasonry: An Approach to Life' issued by the United Grand Lodge of England. Copies may be obtained from:
The Grand Secretary
The United Grand Lodge of England
60 Great Queen Street
Tel: 020 7831 9811
Fax: 020 7831 5719