A typical Freemason will be a member of a Masonic Lodge which will meet once a month between October and June. University Lodge, Sheffield, for example, meets nine times a year – in October to December and January to June. As with any Society there are Officers of the Lodge, the most important being the Master of the Lodge. Members work their way up to being Master, and for many this is one of the highlights of their Masonic career. Other Officers include a Treasurer and Secretary.
At a meeting all the normal things you would associate with a Society meeting (minutes, motions, news, etc.) will take place, but what distinguished Freemasonry is the fact that a number of different ceremonies take place at the meeting in which the candidates and many members of the Lodge can 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 Member’s entry into this life, his interactions and relationships with others and the understanding of himself.
The various officers of the Lodge take part led by the Master and often other members contribute. The ceremonies illustrate how a Freemason should interact with other Freemasons and with non-masons as well. The parts are usually learned by heart and are often expressed in very descriptive language (often the English of two hundred years ago). There are some minor variations in the ceremonies in different lodges and countries, but they basically take a similar form across the world. Because of this, a Member can visit a Lodge in any country in the world and understand what is going on even if he does not understand the language of that country. These ceremonies bind Freemasons together and they give the Members the experience of acting in them in the Lodge.
Once the ceremony is over members then retire to what is often called a “Festive Board” where the Members enjoy each others company over dinner. Meetings often start at about 6 p.m., the Members move into dinner at about 8 p.m. and the meeting is usually over by 10-10.30 p.m.
Visiting other Lodges is one of the joys of Freemasonry. Most members will know members of other Lodges and there is frequent visiting between Lodges (both local and national and sometimes international). One interesting aspect of visiting is seeing how members in other Lodges carry out the ceremonies (particularly if there are local differences). Some Lodges are very old (over 250 years) and ceremonies in these Lodges can be quite different in detail (though broadly the same in intent)