On Wednesday 18th May I went along to the White Rock Theatre to attend the Mayor-Making ceremony (the present Mayor was re-elected) and presentation of the Freedom of Hastings to former MP Michael Foster. Having to keep on "be upstanding" every time the mayor entered or exited was a bit wearing. It was curious to note that the conservative councillors still observe the ceremonial aspects by wearing reddish-coloured robes, while the labour side were in normal dress. The "processing" in and out could well also be done away with. The best part of the show were the performances by children from local schools, though one of the songs was mildly religious. The dance by the older girls was apparently to celebrate the suffragettes.
On Saturday 21st May I accepted an invitation to attend a meeting of the Freemasons Lodge formed by Old Olavians from my former school. This was held at the Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Sreet in London. This is a very large building, in art deco style, built as a memorial after the first world war. We were admitted to the so-called "Indian Temple" which is apparently only one of the smaller temples in the building, and treated to a talk by one of the Masters. The temple was a large rectangular room with domed roof. The masons in their ceremonial aprons sat on thrones, three at each end, and one in the middle of each side, with lighted candles in front of them.
According to the talk the masons are now purely a philanthropic organisation, raising money for work done by other charities like the red cross, or to supply equipment to local hospitals, although they also provide relief for old masons fallen on hard times. However they require applicants to declare belief in a "supreme being" to become a member, and swear their oaths on a bible, which rules me out. Though doesn't this now contravene discrimination laws, if they are not an explicitly religious organisation?
I'm afraid I found their costumes and their "processing" only rather comical. They made me think of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, especially as most of the members were of portly proportions. This may be a consequence of their dinners, there was one following the meeting which declined to attend, since it cost £35, a price that represents a whole week of dinners for me.
On Monday I'm due to attend the AGM of the Rationalist Association. I wonder if they go in for robes and ceremonials? I hope not.