So, you’ve been with your Mason for a while now, you know he goes off to Lodge every week or two weeks, and you know he comes back late, you’ve maybe even been to a few of the dinners that they put on before the meeting. But what do they actually do at these meetings? What’s so important that it has to go on behind closed doors? The answer might surprise you.
The Masonic Meal
Arguable one of the most important aspects of the Lodge meeting is the meal beforehand. Not every Lodge has them, but many of them do, some before, and some after the meeting. Usually potluck, although some Lodge’s have been known to cater dinners, the meal before the Lodge meeting tends to be the best opportunity for fellowship, not only between the members of the Lodge, but also between their families. I have never known a Lodge meal to not be open to families and friends, but some Lodges may have private policies. If it is open to the “public” (i.e. non-Masons), I highly recommend that you go. Not only is it a great homemade meal (it’s usually potluck, so ask of you should bring something!), but it also gives you a chance to get to meet all of the men that he spends time with every week. I know that it helped put my mind at ease to actually be able to put names to faces. Going to these dinners will also allow you to be more involved in the Lodge. At T’s Lodge, the women clean up after the meal (although, this is apparently not the norm elsewhere), and then we sit, chat, have coffee or play cards. It really helps facilitate the family feel of Masonry. We have family style dinners like this once a month, and I always look forward to it. Give it a shot at least once.
Opening of the Lodge
There are three main types of Lodge meetings. business meetings, where normal business is conducted; degree work, where a Mason receives a degree, this involves the majority of the secret ritual work; and other meetings, these may include papers or other presentations, or other special topics. How often each meeting occurs depends on the Lodge. Lodges meet anywhere from one to four times a month, plus any special committee meetings. Which of these meetings occurs when depends on the needs of the Lodge, some will only have business meetings with the occasional degree work, others may focus on the “fun” types of meetings. T’s Lodge (which currently has a waiting list!) only has time for degree work each week. However, every Lodge will have at least one business meeting each month.
Every meeting, regardless of what they may be doing, open and closes almost the same way each time (different degrees may be opened different ways, but always more or less the same thing). Please note that exactly what is said and done varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, however, many things stay the same throughout the country; therefore, I will be making this as general as possible. Before the opening of the meeting, all non-officer members sit where they please alongside the “north” and “south” parts of the Lodge room. (Some Lodges are not set up so that the Worshipful Master is sitting actually in the east, however, it is still referred to as the East.) The officers come in, sometimes to music, and each of the officers take their respective positions (You can read more about that here.) The Tyler is then put with the task of securing the meeting from intruders, and an officer is asked to make sure that all present are Masons or candidates. There is then a ritual where each officer is called upon by the WM, and asked to relay the duties. and sometimes signs or other meanings of their office. This helps to remind each member why they are there, and also helps new members recall which station is which. A prayer is then given by the Chaplain, and the Pledge of Allegiance may be done. The Lodge is then open.
Order of Business
Business is then conducted. Even though you may think that it would, Masonic Lodges do not follow Robert’s Rules of Order. Instead, each Grand Lodge jurisdiction will lay out the order of each business meeting. Usually, it ends up something like this:
- Reading and confirming of minutes– Just like you may in any other meeting, the minutes are supposed to be read, but they may be printed off, or displayed on a screen instead. They are then voted on, and if approved, archived.
- Introduction of visitors – This is usually done by the WM, and may be skipped if the person is a frequent visitor.
- Reading of petitions – The reading of petitions from potential new members. After a petition is read, the interview committee is formed.
- Balloting on petitions– The interview committee will come back and give report on the candidate that they interviewed. A vote will then occur of the person is to receive the degrees of Masonry.
- Reports of committees – Some jurisdictions may require this to be in writing, some may not. Committees are usually degree work, finances, fellowship committee, etc.
- Applications for relief- As I have stated before, a Mason is eligible to petition his Lodge to help him financially. Depending on the amount and situation, it may be voted on immediately. Often, Lodges will also include a list of members hospitalized, as well as recent deaths.
- Reading of communications- Lodges get a lot of mail, usually from other Lodges, or other Masonic organizations. These are usually read to inform the members as to what else is going on Masonically in the area. The Grand Lodge may send out communications so often, and it is required that every Lodge read this communication during their business meeting. Bills, usually for the Lodge building, are also read and voted on during this time.
- Unfinished business Exactly as it sounds, this is the time that any business that may have carried over from the last meeting is discussed.
- New business Again, pretty simple here, any new business that the Lodge needs to take care of is discussed at this time.
- Business for the good of the order- This is kind of open floor time, and gives members of the Lodge a chance to speak up about anything going on that they might want others to know about (usually things like fundraisers, school events, Girl Scout cookies, etc)
- Ritual work and lectures – This is where the meetings can deviate. If the Lodge is conducting degree work, now is when they bring in the candidate. If someone is to give a lecture or other presentation, now is the time. Please remember that this portion may happen at different times during the meeting in different jurisdictions. If it is just a business meeting, nothing happens here.
Closing of the Lodge
When all business has been conducted to the satisfaction of the WM, the Lodge begins its closing ritual. It is usually much shorter than opening. The WM lets the Tyler know they are getting ready to close, the Chapalin gives another prayer, and the WM declares the Lodge closed. That’s it. Remember when I said you may be surprised about what goes on? You may be surprised how mundane, and occasionally boring it can be. However, Masonry is not only what happens in the Lodge room, but also outside it.