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Every Freemason is a member of a lodge (also known as a ‘blue lodge’ or ‘craft lodge’) which generally meets once a month in a Masonic Hall. There are over 100 lodges in South Australia and the Northern Territory which meet in about 50 Masonic Halls.
At these lodge meetings members wear suits and what is called ‘regalia’ – including an apron (with plenty of meaning behind it), while some wear special collars with jewels attached. The Master of the Lodge presides over the meeting, and some of the members hold other positions of rank – think of the Master as the chairman, with others acting as deputy chairman etc. Each meeting is scripted according to ritual which has been used for hundreds of years, and all those involved know it off by heart.
There are two aspects to any Lodge meeting. Firstly business must be taken care of just like in any organisation, so the minutes of the previous meeting are confirmed, accounts finalised and projects planned.
The second aspect revolves around the ancient ritual which might include initiating candidates, raising members to higher degrees or installing a new master and his officers. All this is done in a formal ceremony that is centuries old and is designed to teach Freemasons important lessons and start them thinking about their own nature, actions and being.
Lodge meetings are followed by a meal called the ‘festive board’ which gives members a chance to unwind and get to know each other in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Meetings generally start at 7pm or 7.30pm and last between 1 and 3 hours, followed by an hour or so for the festive board.
Apart from their monthly lodge meetings, Freemasons are deeply involved in helping other people. From its earliest days, charity has been the most visible Masonic activity, with Freemasons concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged. Large sums are given to national and local charities, with Masons around the world giving away millions of dollars to various charities each day. They are also actively involved in a great deal of community volunteer work.
In South Australia, the charitable works of Freemasons are conducted through the Freemasons Foundation. The Freemasons also are very significant providers of aged care facilities in South Australia and the Northern Territory, which are operated through Masonic Homes Ltd.