The basic unit of Freemasonry is a Masonic Lodge. There were, of course, lodges before Grand Lodges, the latter being a relatively modern invention. Most Grand Lodges consist of a large number of constituent lodges.

Put in elemental terms, a lodge is the primary means for Freemasons to congregate, to make new Masons and to assimilate the teachings and principles of the Order. A lodge is presided over by a Master who is elected annually, and his two Wardens. The Master is elected from those members of the lodge who have served the office of Master or Warden, or who, in very exceptional cases, have been rendered eligible by dispensation. Any member, usually on progression through the junior offices of the lodge, can aspire to the Master’s chair. On completion of his office term, a Master simply becomes a Past Master. Lodge meetings include ritualised ceremonies known as Degrees, which are conferred on candidates at intervals.

In our Province the governing body is called the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario. It is under the leadership of a Grand Master. He presides over the 60,000 Masons who belong to one or more of the 595 lodges in our jurisdiction. Each of these lodges is under the direction of a Master. A Grand Lodge is the governing body of “Craft”, or “Blue Lodge”, Freemasonry in a particular jurisdiction.

The head of a Grand Lodge is called the Grand Master, and the other officers of the Grand Lodge prefix “Grand” to the titles of Lodge officers. Some Grand Lodges have established Provincial Grand Lodges as an organizational layer between themselves and member Lodges.

The Grand Lodge of a geographic area, such as Provincial Grand Lodge, adheres to the guidance and direction of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) or Grand Orient de France (GOdF).

In addition to the more commonly known bodies of Masonry, there is Prince Hall Masonry. It was formed while Masonry in the United States was effectively segregated and now has a predominantly African-American membership. Various philosophical and technical reasons historically prevented US “mainstream” Grand Lodges from recognizing or acknowledging Prince Hall Grand Lodges as regular bodies operating in accordance with the Landmarks of Freemasonry.

Other organizations which only accept Master Masons, such as Scottish Rite and the Shriners, have their own governing bodies, not called Grand Lodges, which are not directly accountable to the Grand Lodge in the jurisdiction in which they operate. Other Masonic-affiliated orders, such as the Order of the Eastern Star and DeMolay, are also independent. However, these organizations’ governing bodies, as a rule, defer to their Grand Lodges as the essential authority over Masonry in their regions.

There is no central body to oversee all of the Grand Lodges in the world, and therefore, individual Grand Lodge policies and practices can and do vary, though they have a similar basic framework in common. The lack of a central authority means that Grand Lodges are held together simply by fellowship with one another.

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