In England and Wales, freemasonry is governed by the United Grand Lodge of England (U.G.L.E.)
The U.G.L.E. then administers through Provicial Grand Lodges and, in the case of London, through the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London.
ALL ABOUT FREEMASONRY
What is Freemasonry, what does it offer & where can I get more information about it?
The Formal Answer
Whenever we are asked "What is Freemasonry?", the formal answer includes much of the following:-
Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest secular fraternal societies. The essential qualification for admission is a belief in a Supreme Being and to be of good repute.
Freemasonry is open to men of many religions and it expects them to continue to follow their own faith. Freemasonry is a system of morality, not a system of faith or salvation and is complimentary to the belief of the individual. Indeed, lodge meetings, in order to ensure harmony, expressly forbid the discussion of either religion or politics.
Freemasonry asks that each of its members shows tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow man. Its members, in varying degrees, are involved with numerous local, national and international charitable works, both by charitable giving and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.
Freemasonry demands from its members a respect for the law of the country in which a man works and lives. Freemasonry does not override the individuals duty to one's self, one's family ones God or work.
Masonic meetings have a set structure and consistent content and although their organisation and ceremonies have been shrouded in secrecy in the past, are now largely open to public scrutiny one way or another - United Grand Lodge of England even hires PR consultants these days to help get their message across fairly. Whilst Masonic lodges are private, their members are happy to talk about virtually any aspect of Freemasonry, except their modes of recognition.
A Freemason is encouraged to do his duty first to God (by whatever name he is known) and then, without detriment to his work or family, to his neighbour (in the broadest sense) through charity and service. None of these ideas are exclusively Masonic, but the setting in which they are practiced, the spirit of friendship which is prevalent among its members and the opportunity for a convivial dinner after such meetings surely is.
The More Casual Answer
The more casual answer would add that Freemasonry is a body of like-minded, responsible men, who in their own way, wish to progress as individuals and share a journey of personal development towards self enlightenment ie make good men better.
Freemasons will also enjoy the customs and theatrics and within the lodge room which, in an appropriate context, are used to explain symbolic meaning. There is also good humour, spirit of friendship and a dinner afterwards (which is known as the Festive Board) and the potential to visit other lodges in the UK as well as abroad which all adds to the enjoyment.
In between lodge meetings, many freemasons will try to find opportunities to put something back into the community at large. They will also appreciate that humility and the conduct by which they run their lives outside the lodge room is important. Finally, they do not regard Freemasonry as a secret society, merely one that is private that would lose some of its special significance and meaning to newcomers should every aspect of lodge business become widely known or be taken out of context.
These days, any quick search on the internet will reveal all sorts of signs, signals or so called secrets and secret practices with rolled trouser legs ascribed to Freemasonry. Whilst some might reveal a germ of truth, none of them warrant the wild rantings from the conspiracy theorist or cult lobby in our society. However, if you happen to hold those views, or got carried away with Dan Brown's fascinating book "The Da Vinci Code", then email us and we will be happy to separate masonic fact from media fiction.