Meridian Lodge #93
454 West 155th. Street
New York, New York U.S.A. 10032
What is Freemasonry? |
Freemasonry is the oldest and largest worldwide fraternity dedicated to the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of a Supreme Being. Although of a religious nature, Freemasonry is NOT a religion. It urges its members, however, to be faithful and devoted to their own religious beliefs. As a fraternity, Freemasonry provides an opportunity for men to meet and enjoy friendly companionship. In the spirit of helpfulness and brotherly love and guided by strict moral principles it encourages goodwill toward all mankind.
Freemasonry is of a personal nature in its private ceremonies. Its ritual dramatizes a philosophy of life based on morality. It promotes self-improvement. The tools of operative masons are used to symbolize and teach the basic principles of brotherly love, charity, and truth which Masons are encouraged to practice in their daily lives. Charity is a tangible way in which Masons help those whose circumstances in life fairly warrant it.
Our traditions can be traced directly to the associations of operative masons. They were men of outstanding character and high ideals, who built the cathedrals, abbeys, and castles of the Middle Ages.
With the decline of cathedral building in the 17th Century, many guilds of stonemasons, called "Operative" masons, started to accept into their membership those who were not members of the masons' craft and called them "Speculative" or "Accepted" Masons.
It was in these groups, called lodges, comprised mainly of "Accepted" masons that Freemasonry, as we know it today, had its beginning.
In 1717, four such lodges, which had been meeting regularly in London, united to form the first Grand Lodge of England under the direction of a Grand Master. From that first Grand Lodge, Freemasonry has spread throughout the world. Today, some 150 Grand Lodges have a total membership of approximately four million Masons.
One of Freemasonry's customs is not to solicit members. However, anyone should feel free to approach any Mason to seek further information about the Craft.
Membership is for men, 21 years of age or older, who meet the qualifications and standards of character and reputation, who are of good moral character, and who believe in the existence of a supreme being.
A man who wants to join a lodge must be recommended for by two members of that lodge. He must understand that his character will be investigated. After approval by the members of that lodge, he will be accepted as an applicant for membership in Freemasonry.
The doors of Freemasonry are open to men, regardless of Race, Creed or Color, who seek harmony with their fellow man, feel the need for self-improvement and wish to participate in making this world a better place to live.
Any man who becomes a Mason is taught a pattern for living - reverence, morality, kindness, honesty, dependability and compassion. He must be prepared to honor his country, uphold its laws and respect those in authority. He must be prepared to maintain honorable relations with others and be willing to share in Masonic activities. Freemasonry is a way of life.
What is Prince Hall Freemasonry? |
Prince Hall is recognized as the Father of Black Masonry in the United States. Historically, he made it possible for "Men of Color" to be recognized and enjoy all privileges of Free and Accepted Masonry.
Prince Hall pressed John Hancock to be allowed to join the Continental Army and was one of a few blacks who fought at the battle of Bunker Hill. Religiously inclined, he later became a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cambridge Massachusetts, where he fought for the abolition of slavery.
Free Masonry among Black men began during the War of Independence, when in 1775, Prince Hall approached Provincial Grand Master Joseph Warren to ask for a warrant to be constituted into a Lodge of Masons. (recorded in the minutes of the Lodge of St. Andrews). Joseph Warren was favorable to this request but he was killed at the battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 and the Lodge of St. Andrew went dark (did not meet) until December of 1776. This put a halt to the plans of Prince Hall until meeting John Batt in 1777. John Batt was a Master Mason from Irish Military Lodge # 441 Irish Constitution. He was assigned to the 38th. Regiment of Foot which was sent to Boston Massachusetts in July of 1774. According to updated research, Prince Hall and fourteen other free black men were initiated By John Batt on March 6, 1778.
The Master of the Lodge was Sergeant John Batt. Along with Prince Hall, the other newly made masons were Cyrus Johnson, Bueston Slinger, Prince Rees, John Canton, Peter Freeman, Benjamin Tiler, Duff Ruform, Thomas Santerson, Prince Rayden, Cato Spain, Boston Smith, Peter Best, Forten Howard and Richard Titley.
For nine years, these brethren, together with others who had received their degrees elsewhere, assembled and enjoyed their limited privileges as Masons. Finally, on March 2, 1784, Prince Hall petitioned the Grand Lodge of England, through a Worshipful Master of a subordinate Lodge in London (William Moody of Brotherly Love Lodge # 55) for a warrant or charter.
The warrant was granted on September 29, 1784 under the name of African Lodge, # 459 on the register of the Grand Lodge of England by authority of then Grand Master, the Duke of Cumberland. It was delivered to Prince Hall in Boston on April 29, 1787 by Captain James Scott, brother-in-law of John Hancock and Master of the Neptune. Prince Hall was the first Master of the lodge which was organized one week later, May 6, 1787.
The warrant to African Lodge # 459 of Boston is the most significant and highly prized document known to the Prince Hall Masonic Fraternity. Through it, Masonic legitimacy among free black men is traced, and on it more than any other factor, rests their case. That charter, which is authenticated and in safekeeping, is believed to be the only original charter issued from the Grand Lodge of England still in the possession of any Lodge in the United States.
The question of extending predominately Black Masonry arose when Absalom Jones of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania appeared in 1791 in Boston. He was an ordained Episcopal priest and a Mason who was interested in establishing a Masonic lodge in Philadelphia. Delegations also traveled from Providence, Rhode Island and New York to establish the African Grand Lodge that year. Prince Hall was appointed Grand Master, serving in this capacity until his death in 1807.
In 1869 a fire destroyed the Massachusetts Grand Lodge headquarters and several of its priceless records. The charter in its metal tube was in the Grand Lodge chest. The tube saved the charter from the flames, but the intense heat charred the paper. It was at this time that Grand Master S.T. Kendall crawled into the burning building and in peril of his life, saved the charter from complete destruction. Thus, a Grand Master's devotion and heroism further consecrated this parchment to us, and added a further detail to its already interesting history. The original Charter # 459 has long since been made secure between heavy plate glass and is kept in a fire-proof vault in a downtown Boston bank.
the Prince Hall Grand Lodge has spawned over 44 other Grand Lodges. The subordinate lodges receive recognition once their grand lodges are recognized. Today, the Prince Hall fraternity has over 4,500 lodges worldwide, forming 44 independent jurisdictions with a membership of over 500,000 Masons whereby any good-hearted man who is worthy and well qualified, can seek more light in Masonry.
Prince Hall is buried in a cemetery overlooking the Charlestown naval yard in Boston's north end. His grave is situated near a large tree; his wife's grave is directly behind his. The site is marked by a broken column; a monument erected 88 years after his death by Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of Massachusetts. Still today, believers in the Deity and travelers from all walks of life can be seen winding their way to that sacred spot to pay homage at the final resting place of the first Grand Master of the "colored" Grand Lodge of Masons. This great Mason, Statesman, and Soldier, having traveled to that undiscovered country from whose Bourne no traveler returns; remains as the pillar of wisdom, strength, and beauty among all Masons today.
What was the wording of the original Charter |
WARRANT OF AFRICAN LODGE NO. 459
Warrant of Constitution, A.G.M.
To All and Every:
Our Right Worshipful and Loving Brethren: Thomas Howard, Earl of Effington, Lord Howard, etc., Acting Grand Master, under the authority of his royal Highness, Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, etc., Grand Master of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, send greeting.
Know ye that we, at the humble petition of our Right Trusty and well beloved brethren, Prince Hall, Boston Smith, Thomas Sanderson, and several other brethren residing in Boston, New England, North America, do hereby constitute the said brethren into a regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, under the title or denomination of the African Lodge, to be opened in Boston, aforesaid, and do further, at their said petition and of the great trust and confidence reposed in every of the said above-named brethren, hereby appoint the Prince Hall to be Master; Boston Smith, Senior Warden and Thomas Sanderson, Junior Warden, for the opening of the said Lodge, and for such further time only as shall be thought by the brethren thereof, it being our will that this our appointment of the above said officers, shall in affect any further election said Lodge, but that such election shall be regulated agreeable to such By-Laws of the said Lodge as shall be consistent with the Grand Law of the society contained in the Book of Constitutions: and we hereby will, and require of you the said Prince Hall, to take special care that all and every the said brethren are to have been regularly made Masons, and that they do observe, perform, and keep all the rules and orders contained in the Book of Constitutions; and, further, that you do from time to time cause to be entered, in a book kept for that purpose, an account of your proceedings in the Lodge, together with all such Rules, orders and Regulations as shall be made for the good government of same, that in no wise you omit once in every year to send us, or our Successors, Grand Masters, or Rowland Holt, Esq., our Deputy Grand Master, for the time being, and account of your proceedings, and copies of all such Rules, Orders and Regulations as shall be made aforesaid together with the list of the members of the Lodge, and reasonably be expected toward the Grand Charity.
Moreover, we will, and require of you, the said Prince Hall, as soon as conveniently may be, to send an account in writing of what may be done by virtue of these presents.
Given at London, under our hand and seal of Masonry, 29th day of September, A.L. 5784, A.D. 1784, by the Grand Master's command R. Holt, Deputy Grand Master.
Attest: William White, Grand Secretary.
What does Freemasonry expect of me? |
We feel strongly that your priority in life should be: Your Creator, Your Family, Your Vocation, The Lodge.
How do you advance in Freemasonry? |
There are three degrees in the Symbolic Lodge:
Full worldwide Masonic privileges will not be afforded until you obtain the Master Mason Degree.
In order to advance, you must show suitable proficiency in each degree, and when you think you are ready, you will be tested. After you pass each test, you will be advance to the next degree.
Each candidate will be assigned a mentor who will serve as a point of contact and who will be responsible to help guide him through his Masonic Journey.
What about the Prince Hall Mason's Lady |
A man in your family has received his First degree in the Masonic Fraternity. He is now an Entered Apprentice and you are now a Mason's Lady. We take this opportunity to extend our first greeting to you. While you personally have not joined our organization, there are certain things that may be helpful for you to know in the future. At the same time, there are matters of general interest about your Mason and his new Fraternity that we think you would like to know.
WHEN AND WHERE DID IT BEGIN?
The Fraternity of Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons (F.& A.M.) is one of the oldest, largest and most widely known fraternal organizations in the world. It has its roots in antiquity and is directly descended from the association of "operative masons," the Temple builders of ancient times. The organization, as we know it today, began on March 6, 1778 in Boston Massachusetts when Prince Hall, the first Black man initiated into Freemasonry in America, and fourteen others were made Masons by Worshipful Master John Batt of Lodge # 441 of the Irish Grand Lodge. Prince Hall later petitioned the Grand Lodge in England for a Warrant of Constitution for his lodge, which was granted and formally constituted African Lodge # 459. As a Memorial to Prince Hall, the descendent Grand Lodges from African Lodge # 459 voted to change their name to The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge. Throughout the world, there are over one million Prince Hall Masons, with nearly 75 percent of them in the United States.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF FREEMASONRY?
The basic purpose is to make "good men better "; better fathers, better husbands, better brothers, and sons. We try to place emphasis on the individual man by strengthening his character, improving his moral and spiritual outlook and broadening his mental horizons. We try to build a better world by building better men to work in their own communities. Membership is limited to adult males who can meet recognized qualifications and standards of character and reputation.
FREEMASONRY A SECRET ORGANIZATION OR A RELIGION?
The answer is NO. A secret organization is one which conceals its membership, has secret meeting places and which the public has little knowledge regarding its organization or its principles. This does not fit the Masonic Fraternity at all. Our secrets are very few in number and deal with methods of personal recognition, some details of our degrees and privacy of each member's ballot. Freemasonry is not a religion, although it is religious in character. Every applicant for Masonry must express a belief and a trust in God. Masonry does not take the place of religion, but stresses the personal commitment and involvement in the individual faith of each member.
WHAT ARE THE DEGREES?
Lessons in Masonry are taught in three separate stages in our Masonic Lodges. The degrees, in order are Entered Apprentice (first degree), Fellowcraft (second degree), and Master Mason (third degree). Each blends Masonic moral philosophy in a unique lesson which is intended to have a serious impact and
influence on the man who receives the degree.
WHAT ARE MASONIC APRONS?
The symbolic apron was worn by operative masons to protect themselves from rough stones and tools. Presently, it is a badge of fraternal distinction. It represents the white lambskin, a symbol of innocence. Some decorations may appear on Masonic Aprons and often designate an officer or special recognition. All are, however, a proud display of membership in this world-wide Fraternity.
WHAT DO MASONIC SYMBOLS MEAN?
The most widely recognized symbol of the Fraternity is the Square and Compasses with the letter "G" in the center. Members wear it to remind themselves of their obligation to the lessons learned in their Lodges, and to identify their membership to other Masons and all people. Masonic symbols have wide meanings, some directly related to the tools used by actual operative masons and some, represent the need for order and direction in life. The letter "G" represents God, the Supreme Architect of the Universe.
WHEN ARE MEETINGS HELD?
Lodges meet in regular monthly sessions and on such other days as are necessary to conduct its business and ritualistic work. While every Masonís attendance is earnestly solicited, yet it is not intended that a Lodge should not interfere with one's regular vocation or duty to family, God, or country. Your Mason has invested time and money in joining our Fraternity. He can best receive all that he should by frequently participating in its deliberations and events. We hope that you will approve and encourage him to attend regularly, and we hope also, that you, too, will join us whenever possible for the guest activities held by the Lodge.
SHOULD I CONTACT ANYONE WHEN MY MASON IS ILL OR HOSPITALIZED?
In the event our member becomes ill, we would appreciate knowing. You may call the Master or Secretary of his Lodge. Your Mason has joined an organization which wants to assist him and you when in need, and we need your help to do it.
WHAT CAN YOUR INVOLVEMENT BE?
Countless opportunities abound through active participation and membership in any of the numerous Masonic-related ladies' organizations. You are encouraged to share in many social activities, parties, dinners, dances, tours, civic events, and charitable efforts of the Lodge. Many full family activities are regularly scheduled. Non-Masonic friends and families may also take part in many masonically supported programs. We hope you will be proud that your significant other has chosen to become a member of the world's oldest and best fraternity.
We welcome you as a "Prince Hall Mason's Lady."