I believe that one of the most significant aspects of Freemasonry which Freemasons themselves actually struggle to explain to non-Freemasons (and even amongst their own number), is ritual. Some feel it is out of step with the 21st century, an anachronism of a bygone time, lifestyle and values. It is an aspect we should play down – even dumb down – and rather, develop those aspects of Freemasonry which some feel would increase our appeal, afford greater understanding and ensure a greater relevance.
However, one need only switch on the TV at any time of the day and you soon get a sense of how fascinated the public are with the past and how they fit into it. How, in exploring the lives, expectations, achievements of others, they seek to find context for their own lives, their own past. And Freemasonry is an exciting example of that; founded in antiquity, shaped by its members and I would suggest, only still here because those members have trodden a very wise path between respecting and preserving its very nature whilst at the same time, allowing the organisation to evolve.
For Freemasonry, that ‘nature’ is its ritual. It provides a basis for whom and what we are as Freemasons and affords us a great opportunity: an opportunity which recognises that in exploring its nature, we explore ourselves; by retracing the steps of the Freemasons of centuries past and revisiting what they have done, what they have allowed to evolve, we establish our own context, our own journey, our own understanding.
Freemasons in the 21st century are beginning to realise that ritual is our strength. It defines who and what we are and consequently ensures a unique and fascinating place for it in the society of today and hopefully, tomorrow.
Exploring the workings of ritual from centuries ago not only allows us a glimpse through a window onto our past, it adds understanding and value to our membership today and is therefore a vital component in ensuring we value that membership and retain it.
The Burnley & Pendle 1759 Antient Ritual Demonstration Team is a fascinating example of that principle in practice and is the product of painstaking research many years ago which has now been taken up by a new group of brethren who are eager to breathe life into our history and add value to our Freemasonry and our understanding of it.
I am proud to have been invited to become the President of the demonstration team and I am immensely grateful to all the members for their hard work, commitment and dedication. In addition, they provide us with an excellent example of our charitable priorities by currently donating their proceeds to the East Lancashire Masonic Charity.
Please encourage them and give them your full support. They are playing their part in ensuring that we remember who and what we are and teach us all a valuable lesson concerning the importance of the past and how those lessons can shape our future in a positive, exciting and absorbing manner.
WBro John R Farrington, PSGD
Assistant Provincial Grand Master