Published: 00:03, 30 April 2017
The Cinque Ports Masonic Lodge in Sandwich is opening its doors to visitors in a bid to shake off its secret society image and attract new members.
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations.
Its roots lie in the traditions and ceremonies of the medieval stonemasons who built our cathedrals and castles.
While some of its rituals are still celebrated today, modern groups are just as focused on the importance of making new friends, contributing to society and having fun.
Members of The Cinque Ports Lodge are inviting people to an open evening at the Masonic Hall in the High Street, Sandwich, on Wednesday, May 10 from 7.30pm.
Secretary Nick Bushell said: “Like most clubs, we need to maintain a healthy membership and next year will be our 150th anniversary of the Cinque Ports Lodge.
“We want to dispel some of the myths that exist about Freemasonry and we want people to understand what goes on in our building.”
The event is a chance for visitors to see the temple where the ritual takes place and ask questions. There will also be a free glass of wine and a chance to chat.
The open day ties in with Inside The Freemasons – a five-part series offering a unique and unprecedented access to the Freemasons, being shown on television.
Mr Bushell said: “When I was a kid, I would see all these men in dark suits, carrying cases and I wanted to know what was going on and I think there’s probably still a lot of people that wonder.
“That’s why we’d like people to come in and have a look and learn a little bit more.”
The Cinque Ports Lodge meet at the hall on the first Wednesday of the month seven times a year. They do not meet from June to September and in January.
Past master Jake Jackson added: “We get together and we have ritual which makes us different from other fraternities.
“The ritual is based on the old testament of the Bible so it’s open to other denominations as long as you believe in a supreme being.
“We then come down have a meal and enjoy each other’s company.”
Worshipful master of the Cinque Ports Lodge Phillip Ansell said: “A lot of people say we’re a secret society but we’re not. We’re a society and we have privacy, just like any society.
“Freemasonry is founded on the basic premise of brotherly love, relief and truth.
“We’re just like-minded people who like to enjoy ourselves.”
As well as offering friendship, Freemasonry gives money to charity. It is the second biggest charity giver after the National Lottery, paying for its own school, hospital and care homes.
Mr Bushell said: “We have a collection at each meeting but members are only expected to give what they can afford.”
In the past year, the lodge has raised funds for mobile chemotherapy unit Hope for Tomorrow, Age Concern in Sandwich, Martha Trust and Canterbury Cathedral’s restoration as well as national charities.
They also hold an annual ladies night at Princes Golf Club.
There are few requirements to become a Freemason. People should be 21 unless a relative is already a member, must not have a criminal record and have a belief in a supreme being.
There is an annual subscription of £120 a year and a charge of £15 for the monthly four-course meal.
Mr Bushell added: “One of the biggest myths is about the need to be asked to join. This isn’t true, if you are interested then contact your local Lodge. They would be delighted to hear from you.”
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