A typical London Freemason will be a member of a Masonic Lodge which will meet several times on set dates through the year and Rahere Lodge is no different, meeting four times a year. As with any society, the Lodge has officers, the most important being the Master. Members, or Brothers, work through progressively more senior office over several years until they are ready to take on the responsibility of being Master and presiding over all aspects of the Lodge. It is a challenge requiring much preparation but, for many, it is one of the highlights of their Masonic career.
At a meeting, all the usual business of a society needs to be discharged (minutes, motions, news), but what distinguishes Freemasonry is that, after that business is done, a number of different ceremonies are then led by the Master and in which the candidates and many other members of the Lodge take part. The objective of these ceremonies is to instruct the candidates, in somewhat dramatic form, in the history and underlying principles of Freemasonry. They parallel a Brother's entry into this life, his interactions and relationships with others, and the understanding he gains of himself.
The ritual of the ceremonies illustrate how a Brother should interact with others and conduct himself not only in the Lodge but at all times. The parts played, often expressed in very descriptive language (often the English of two hundred years ago) are usually learned by heart. There are some variations in the ritual in different Lodges in England and in other countries, but they take a similar form wherever they are peformed. Across the world, Freemasonry has a membership that includes those of all races, religions, nationalities and political beliefs who believe in a supreme being - although Freemasonry is not a religion or a religious society.
Because of the consistency of the ritual, a Brother can visit any regular lodge in the world and recognise what is being done even if he does not understand the language of that country. These ceremonies bind Freemasons together and they give the Brothers the enjoyable experience of acting in them in the Lodge.
Once the ceremony is over and the Lodge formally closed, Brothers then retire to what is called the Festive Board: a combination of dinner, speeches and toasts. Meetings often start about 5.30 pm, the Members move into dinner at about 7.30 pm and the meeting is usually over by 10 pm.
Visiting other Lodges is one of the joys of Freemasonry. Most Brothers will know members of other Lodges and there is frequent visiting between Lodges (both local and national, and sometimes international). Some Lodges are very old (2017 is the 300th year since the founding of the United Grand Lodge of England) and the conduct of ceremonies in other Lodges can be quite different and interesting.
An important aspect of Freemasonry is our charitable work. In days gone by the main effort was in supporting Masonic Charities but today all forms of charity are actively supported. Freemasons tend not to draw attention to their charitable work but many local and national charities are supported and assistance is also provided for international disasters. In London we are very proud to have supported the Air Ambulances and the rapid response vehicles. Rahere retains links with Barts Hospital, supporting studentships and prizes, and contributed £10,000 to the Barts Cyberknife appeal.