Chesterfield Freemasons will open their doors to the public in a bid to dispel the secrecy associated with the movement.
Residents are being invited to attend the town’s Masonic Hall on Saltergate between 10am and 8pm on Friday and from 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Among other things, Freemasons will dispel myths and misconceptions about the organisation, give guided tours of their meeting rooms and answer questions during the free open weekend.
Stuart Riley, who has been a Freemason for 13 years and is the press officer for Derbyshire Freemasons, said: “Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations.
“Its roots lie in the traditions and ceremonies of the medieval stonemasons who built our cathedrals and castles.
“It holds dear the principles of integrity, kindness, honesty, fairness and tolerance.
“Our members would all answer the question ‘what do you enjoy most about Freemasonry?’ differently, it means different things to different people.
“Common reasons given are making lifelong friends, the charitable activities undertaken, the opportunity to spend quality time with like-minded people, performing ceremonies – it brings out the thespian in many of us! – and a feeling of belonging to something worthwhile and meaningful.”
Asked what myths about the Freemasons he would like to dispel, Mr Riley said: “There are quite a few but the suggestions that Freemasons can gain business advantages, job promotions or even leniency in legal cases are especially inaccurate.
“All Freemasons take an oath when they join never to use their membership for such things and would suffer disciplinary action if they did, including expulsion if appropriate.
“Equally, we see comments that Freemasons are all well-to-do, middle class white men and this is totally inaccurate.
“We welcome all men of any colour, creed or religious belief to join. Wealth or social status is equally irrelevant.
“The public are genuinely interested in what we do – secret handshakes, rolled-up trouser legs and so on and we will explain what all of these are about this weekend.”
Mr Riley added: “There are two women’s grand lodges in existence with their roots dating back to the early-1900s.
“Some of the suffragettes were Freemasons and even today we are told that our aims and objectives and even their ceremonies are largely the same as ours.
“The organisations are, however, administered separately.
“Women’s Freemasonry is, of course, for women-only and they tell us they prefer it that way!”
Mr Riley described Freemasonry as an ‘open society’.
He added: “Our members are encouraged to disclose their membership.
“Our head office in London has a museum and library and conducts public tours.
“All Masonic halls have signs outside.
“There are websites on a national, regional and local basis.
“On the Derbyshire website all meeting places are shown with details of the lodges meeting there and this year it is our intention to invite the public in to all of our meeting places to look around and ask any questions they would like to.
“We look forward to welcoming the people of Chesterfield to our hall this weekend.”