THE PRIVATE LODGE
Regular Private Masonic Lodges and are the entry point in to Freemasonry. The voting membership of a Private Lodge is made up of the Master Masons, who are members who have already completed the first, second, and third Degrees.
The purpose of Degrees is to teach Freemasonry to a member over the course of time and in stages. Each degree carries with it progressive commitments, moral and intellectual lessons. The normal progression through the Degrees can take several years depending on the Mason and the Lodge. However, it is the goal of every Lodge to move all of its new members through the Degrees and raise them to the “Sublime Degree of a Master Mason” in a timely manner, as the privileges of membership are also limited for members who are not yet Third Degree Master Masons.
First Degree, Entered Apprentice (EA)
The First Degree is really just an introduction. A candidate for this Degree has been investigated and voted on by the members of that Lodge, and does not need to prepare anything before attending the Lodge to have this Degree conferred on him. The Degree itself involves a commitment, an experience, and a lecture. It really is just the foot in the door of Freemasonry, and the lecture includes an overview of moral lessons we hold valuable, and an introduction to the meaning of common symbols used.
Second Degree, Fellowcraft (FC)
The Second Degree follows a similar format to that of the First Degree. A Brother is eligible for this Degree once they have passed the prerequisites required by that Lodge, being either the memorization of ‘ritual’, or the delivery of Lectures. The strict adherence is determined by the individual Lodge’s traditions and Grand Lodge Regulations. The Degree itself follows a similar format to that of the First Degree, but there is greater depth with regard to the obligation needing to be taken, and the depth and content of the lecture.
Third Degree, Master Mason (MM)
Finally, the Third Degree… Becoming a Master Mason, essentially makes you an “Adult” member of the Lodge, and is like coming of age in Freemasonry, allowing similar Masonic privileges to that of becoming a legal adult in society. Being a Master Mason, allows a member to visit other Lodges unattended, run for office, and vote.
The majority of the Degree follows the format of the other two degrees, with a large exception for which it has earned its legendary reputation, which has infused the phrase “The 3rd Degree” into our everyday dialect.
Once a member is raised to the Degree of a Master Mason, he is eligible for office, or leadership of the Lodge. The officers of the Lodge are elected by the Lodge annually at a specially convened Election Meeting.
Key Lodge Officers:
- Worshipful Master: The Worshipful Master is essentially the president of the Lodge, and sits at the head of the Lodge room. “Worshipful” was a term used in the early 1700s in England in a way that is essentially interchangeable with “honorable” and would sometimes be used to address Lords and Judges. The Master of a Lodge is bound by his commitment, made at his installation, to uphold the constitutions of his Lodge and Grand Lodge, and is held responsible for the actions of his Lodge. He oversees the ceremonies of opening and closing the Lodge, he runs the meetings, verifies the election of candidates, and invests the Lodge officers. Essentially, he is the Head of the Lodge, and it is his job to ensure that his Lodge’s members are the best Freemasons they can be.
- Senior Warden: Essentially, he is the vice president of the Lodge and will always sit directly opposite of the Worshipful Master, in his station at the western wall. If the Worshipful Master is ever absent, it is his job to step up and become acting Worshipful Master. While this position has ceremonial duties in the Degrees, opening and closing of the Lodge, his position is also charged with overseeing the “Craft” or the Degrees and ritual of the Lodge.
- Junior Warden: In the case of the absence of the Worshipful Master, and the Senior Warden becoming acting Worshipful Master, the Junior Warden then becomes acting Senior Warden. Also the Junior Warden is charged with overseeing fellowship of the Lodge, make sure that fun is had, while also making sure that things don’t get out of hand.
- Director of Ceremonies: A key figure in the Lodge and responsible for the quality and regularity of all the floor work and Ceremonies that the Lodge carries out.
- Secretary: This position is vital to the functioning of the Lodge. The Secretary records the minutes of every meeting, submits them along with other reports to Grand Lodge, manages communication with other Lodges and general oversees the agenda and schedule of work for the Lodge
- Treasurer: The Treasurer controls the money. That’s pretty much it. It’s important, but straight forward.
Other officers of the Lodge include:
- Immediate Past Master
- Senior Deacon
- Junior Deacon
- Charity Steward
- Assistant Director of Ceremonies
- Inner Guard
GRAND LODGE OFFICERS
Grand Lodge is the governing body over all Private Lodges. It consists of elected officers in much the same way that Private Lodges do, but they also have committees who carry out various functions and business of Freemasonry as a whole in order to administer governance and facilitate the institutional and financial business of the larger superstructure that is Freemasonry.
- Grand Master: The Grand Master is the man in charge. In Hungary, his appointment term is for three years; however this is not the case for every Grand Lodge in the World. He is the one who oversees all of Freemasonry, and has final say on general policies, appointment of committee members, and has the power to issue charges and edicts including the formation of new Lodges.
- Deputy Grand Masters: The Deputies for the Grand Master each control different aspects of the Craft such as the Consitution itself, Ritual and Foreign Relations.
The Grand Master and his Deputies are supported as in the Private Lodges with Officers who assist in the well ruling and governing of Freemasonry within the Jurisdiction and are elected for a period identical to the Grand Master.
GLOBAL GRAND LODGES
Freemasonry is a global organization of Grand Lodges that view each other all as sovereign and equal. However, not every organization that claims to be a Grand Lodge is in fact recognized by other Grand Lodges. Rather, each Grand Lodge recognizes others based on adherence to traditional values, ritual, and regulations. Relationships between Grand Lodges are managed by consent between their leaderships. When a Mason travels to the Jurisdiction of another Grand Lodge, he must first ensure that his own Grand Lodge recognizes the other as “Regular.” When traveling within one’s Grand Lodge Jurisdiction, or from one Grand Lodge Jurisdiction to another, a Mason usually must only have his “Masonic Passport” or “Certification” and proper identification. However, if a Mason travels to a foreign country, he may also need to have a letter of introduction from the Grand Secretary of his home Grand Lodge to the Grand Secretary of the Jurisdiction he is visiting.
General Grand Lodge Websites http://www.freemasonry.fm/By-Countries.html