A FAMILY AFFAIR
The Blue Lodge is the bed-rock of the Masonic family, yet there are several appendant organizations which a Mason's family members can join to share many more of their common interests and activities.
Family-oriented activities include a range of social and entertainment programs, family outings, and community service projects, as well as numerous occasions for statewide or regional travel.
Among the appendant groups for adults, both men and women may be welcome as members, but women typically hold the principal offices. These groups include, among others, the Order of the Eastern Star, Order of Amaranth, and Ladies Oriental Shrine.
Groups for young people build self-esteem and prepare them for citizenship through successful experience with responsibility and leadership. Masonic youth groups include the Order of Rainbow for Girls, the Order of Job's Daughters for young women, and the Order of DeMolay for young men.
With many opportunities for growth and friendship, these family-centered groups typically develop active social calendars, so the "Masonic family" truly is a family affair.
FREEMASONRY: THE CRAFT
For centuries, millions of men of every race, color, creed, and political persuasion throughout the world have found in the Symbolic Lodges of Freemasonry the light to guide their search for answers to eternal questions: What is the meaning of life? The nature of God and man?Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory, illustrated by symbols. Not a religion but religious in character, it is a philosophy of ethical conduct which imparts moral and social virtues and fosters brotherly love. Its tenets have endured since man turned the first pages of civilization. They embody the understanding by which man can transcend ordinary experience and "build a house not made with hands" in harmony with the Great Architect of the universe.
Yet Freemasonry can never conflict with a man's relationship to God or fellow man. Sectarian religious or partisan political discussion in a lodge is strictly prohibited. Every Mason stands equal among his brothers, regardless of walk of life, and none is turned away for financial need.
The purpose of ANCIENT CRAFT OF FREEMASONRY is to unfold a message where "truth abides in fullness," invoking greater understanding of the inward life and a spirit of fellowship in which every Mason can also lead a better outward life.
BROTHERHOOD AT WORK
Freemasonry has been characterized as a fraternity devoted to high ideals and admirable benevolence. Community service and charitable work are, in fact, principle Masonic activities.
Easily the best-known is the world's largest single charitable institution, the Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children and Burns Institutes, which are located throughout Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.
Other Masonic bodies support their own statewide and national foundations for research, teaching, and treatment or rehabilitation services for children with learning or speech disorders, cancer, visual problems and need of dental restoration.Masons everywhere assist distressed brother Masons and their families. They also sponsor or support local projects ranging from the recognition of the achievements of others to scholarship programs. Masons support community volunteers and quietly extend help for countless thousands - from providing a child with shoes to assisting the handicapped.
Altogether, the budgets for these community services exceed two million dollars per day, which Masons support without regard to the Masonic affiliation of their recipients. With this spirit of working together to serve mankind, brotherhood works well, indeed.A PROGRESSIVE SCIENCE
Once raised to the "sublime degree" of Master Mason in his "Blue" Lodge, a Freemason steps onto a broad vista of opportunity for fellowship and advancement.
First, concordant bodies of the York Rite and the Scottish Rite offer ritual instruction for advanced degrees. Then, every Shriner is a Mason first... as are members of other Masonic groups, each serving a particular need or interest.
Advancement through these concordant bodies not only invites participation in this Masonic network, but also promotes a more comprehensive understanding of its sacramental system of ceremonies, doctrines, and symbols.
A statewide Grand organization governs every Masonic body, and all but the Blue Lodge have national governing councils as well. These offer further opportunity for growth and responsibility.
No Mason is required to advance beyond his Blue Lodge or participate actively in its ritual or business affairs, but those who do so find personal fulfillment in the rewards of public speaking, teaching, community work, and even music and the dramatic arts.
Whether their commitments are to Masonic ritual, study or organizational and charitable work, most active Masons simply speak of the camaraderie among trusted friends and a satisfying sense of purpose.
ANCIENT TRADITIONSThrough its heritage in antiquity is unmistakable, modern speculative Freemasonry was founded more recently upon the structure, ceremonies, and symbolism of the lodges of operative or working freemen stonemasons, who built the magnificent Medieval Gothic structures throughout much of Europe and England.
Dated in 1390 A.D., the Regius Poem details the charter of a lodge operating in the 900s A.D. "Masonry" then meant architecture and encompassed most of the arts and sciences. Because lodges held knowledge as competitive secrets, only trusted, capable companions were instructed in the craft - and then only by degrees, orally and through symbols, because of widespread illiteracy.
In the late Renaissance, lodges of freemason began to accept as speculative masons those educated men who were attracted by the elegance of Masonic traditions for their philosophic expression. In time they were passed through the inner circles.Thus, the framers of speculative Freemasonry began to describe a code of conduct through the symbolic nature of architecture and the stonesmason's craft. Signaling modern speculative Freemasonry, the first Grand Lodge was chartered in 1717. Constituent Symbolic Blue Lodges were soon established throughout the world.
The first Lodge in the Colonies was chartered in Boston in 1733, and the first Masonic Lodge communication was held in the Ohio Territory at Marietta in 1790.
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