The Freemasons are a members-only society of men that make up the largest fraternal organisation in the world. It is also the oldest, with the first official lodge established in 1717 and masonry dating back to the Middle Ages, according to the Masons of California. Members focus on philanthropy and community outreach, and their leadership team is made up of ranked officers. In addition to the worshipful master, wardens, deacons, treasurer and secretary, a chaplain is present to perform certain duties.
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The chaplain sits at the left hand of the worshipful master, who holds the highest office possible in the Masonic order, according to the Masonic Lodge of Education. The chaplain's official symbol, or jewel of office, is an open book meant to represent the Volume of Sacred Law and can be interpreted to refer to any one of the holy books or ancient writings of the belief system embraced by his particular lodge. The chaplain is an appointed officer.
The chaplain is meant to serve as a nondenominational, nonsectarian spiritual head of the Masonic lodge. He opens and closes all of the meetings in prayer and also recites prayers at ritual ceremonies and prior to all meals. Chaplains are usually without formal training and are rarely ordained as ministers, priests or rabbis in the world outside of the lodge.
Much like a church chaplain, the Masonic chaplain is tasked with the duty of visiting sick and infirm Masons within the area surrounding the lodge whenever needed. The chaplain must be continually aware of the needs of the lodge members. He is tasked with uniting the brothers in recognition of their creator and a reverence toward creation and the sacredness of their rituals. Though Freemasonry is not considered a religion on its own, its members are encouraged to recognise the holy aspects of their pursuits, and the chaplain must keep the Bible placed squarely on the altar of the lodge along with the square and compass symbols.
The Masonic chaplain makes members aware of a brother's passing and makes the necessary arrangements to plan and execute a funeral, along with the master of the lodge. Special Masonic funeral rites are conducted when a brother dies. The chaplain may recite The Lord's Prayer at the discretion of the lodge's master, and the brothers repeat the recitation at some funerals.
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