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Masonic Lodge Officers
This article relates to mainstream Craft Freemasonry, sometimes known as Blue Lodge Freemasonry. Every Masonic Lodge elects or appoints Masonic Lodge Officers to execute the necessary functions of the lodge's life and work. The precise list of such offices may vary between the jurisdictions of different Grand Lodges, although certain factors are common to all, and others are usual in most.
All of the lodges in a given nation, state, or region are united under the authority of a Grand Lodge sovereign to its own jurisdiction. Most of the lodge offices listed below have equivalent offices in the Grand Lodge, but with the addition of the word "Grand" somewhere in the title. For example, every lodge has an officer called the "Junior Warden", whilst the Grand Lodge has a "Grand Junior Warden" (sometimes "Junior Grand Warden"). A very small number of offices may exist only at the Grand Lodge level - such offices are included at the end of this article.
There are few universal rules common to all Grand Lodge jurisdictions of Freemasonry (see Masonic Landmarks for accepted universal principles of regular Freemasonry). However, the structure of the progressive offices is very nearly universal. While the precise hierarchy or order of various officers within the "line" of officers may vary, the usual progression is for a lodge officer to spend either one or two years in each position, advancing through "the chairs", until he elected as Worshipful Master. In addition, there are some offices that are traditionally not considered to be part of the "line", and which may be held by the same brother for many years, or be held by Past Masters.
Progressive office refers to a series of offices within the lodge, culminating in the office of Worshipful Master. Ideally, a mason starts at the most junior office and "progresses" to the next in line each year. However, each office is an elected office and progression is preferred, but not mandated. The exact composition of the progressive officers varies slightly by jurisdiction, but will typically finish with the series: Junior Deacon, Senior Deacon, Junior Warden, Senior Warden, Worshipful Master.
Offices common to all Masonic jurisdictions
The senior officer of a Masonic Lodge is the Master, normally addressed and referred to as the "Worshipful Master" (in Scotland, and in Lodges under the Scottish Constitution, the "Right Worshipful Master"). The Worshipful Master sits in the East of the lodge room, directs all of the business of his lodge, and is vested with considerable powers without further reference to the members. He also presides over ritual and ceremonies.
The office of Worshipful Master is the highest honor to which a lodge may appoint any of its members. The office is filled by election, generally by means of a secret ballot. However, in most lodges the progression is such that the post will almost always be filled by the previous year's Senior Warden.
It should be noted that the honorific Worshipful does not imply that the Master is worshiped. Rather, use of the word implies its original meaning, "to give respect", similar to calling a judge "Your Honor" or a mayor "Honorable". In fact, mayors and judges in parts of England are still called "Worshipful" or "Your Worship." French Masons use the word Vénérable as the honorific for their Masters.
At the conclusion of his term of office, a Worshipful Master becomes known as a Past Master. The duties and privileges of Past Masters vary from lodge to lodge and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, in some jurisdictions Past Masters are considered voting members of the Grand Lodge, while in others they are not. In most jurisdictions, a Past Master continues to be addressed with the honorific "Worshipful" (as in "Worshipful Brother Smith"), however there are a few jurisdictions where this honorific is used exclusively for sitting Masters.
The corresponding grand rank is Grand Master. The Grand Master may preside over his Grand Lodge when it is in session, and also has certain rights in every lodge under his jurisdiction. Grand Masters are usually addressed as "Most Worshipful".
The Senior Warden (sometimes known as First Warden) is the second of the three principal officers of a lodge, and is the Master's principal deputy. Under some constitutions, if the Worshipful Master is absent then the Senior Warden presides at meetings as "acting Master", and may act for the Master in all matters of lodge business. Under other constitutions, including Grand Lodge of England and Grand Lodge of Ireland, only sitting Masters or Past Masters may preside as "acting Master", and so the Senior Warden cannot fulfill this role unless he is also a Past Master. In many lodges it is presumed that the Senior Warden will become the next Worshipful Master.
The third of the principal officers is the Junior Warden (or Second Warden). The Junior Warden is charged with the supervision of the Lodge while it is in recess for meals or other social purposes. In some jurisdictions the Junior Warden has a particular responsibility for ensuring that visiting Masons are in possession of the necessary credentials. In others, this is the job of the Tyler. In some jurisdictions the Junior Warden presides if both the Master and the Senior Warden are absent.
The Wardens are regular officers of the Lodge, meaning that the positions must be filled.
The role of the Treasurer is to keep the accounts, collect annual dues from the members, pay bills, and forward annual dues to the Grand Lodge.
The annual presentation of accounts is an important measure of the lodge's continuing viability, whilst the efficient collection of annual subscriptions is vitally important, as any lapse in payment (deliberate or unintentional) can lead to a member losing voting rights, being denied the opportunity to visit other lodges, and finally even being debarred or excluded from his own lodge.
It is common for the Treasurer to be an experienced Past Master, but this is not required.
The Secretary's official duties include issuing the summons (a formal notice of an impending meeting, with time, date and agenda), recording meeting minutes, completing statistical returns to the Grand Lodge, and advising the Worshipful Master on matters of procedure. Many individual lodge bylaws add to these duties by mandating, for example, that the Secretary serve on specific committees.
Although any member may hold the office of Secretary, it is typically held by an experienced Past Master.
A Deacon is a junior officer in the lodge. In most jurisdictions, a lodge has two Deacons, styled Senior Deacon and Junior Deacon (though First Deacon and Second Deacon are sometimes encountered as an alternative.)
The principal duties of the Senior Deacon are to conduct candidates around the Lodge and speak for them during certain ceremonies, to assist the Worshipful Master as needed and to carry messages between the Master and the Senior Warden.
The office of Junior Deacon is similar in many respects to that of Senior Deacon. The principal duties of the Junior Deacon are to assist the Senior Warden, and carry messages between the two Wardens. In some jurisdictions he is also responsible for guarding the inside of the main door of the lodge and ensuring that the lodge is "tyled" (in other jurisdictions this duty is given to the Inner Guard or Inside Sentinel or Pursuivant).
Stewards fulfill a number of junior assistant roles. There is considerable variance, even within the same jurisdiction, as to the precise roles played by Stewards. Some of their common duties could include the following:
- Stewards are often tasked with an understudy role to fill the position of the Senior Deacon or Junior Deacons, in their absence.
- When a degree ceremony is performed, one or more Steward(s) may be required to assist the two Deacons in conducting the candidates around the temple.
- Stewards have a traditional role in many jurisdictions of serving wine during any meal served after the lodge meeting. This is often extended to a general supervision and planning of catering and refreshments.
Some jurisdictions specify that each lodge has two Stewards, known as the 'Senior Steward' and 'Junior Steward'. Other jurisdictions put no limit on the number of Stewards who may be appointed, and in this respect the office is unique. The Worshipful Master may appoint any number of Stewards, according to the size and requirements of his lodge. These additional stewards are commonly given the title of 'Associate Steward.'
Although newer members usually fill the office of Steward, in some lodges it is traditional for a Past Master to be appointed to supervise the work of the Stewards.
- Main article at Tyler (Masonic).
The 'Tiler' (sometimes spelled 'Tyler') is sometimes known as the 'Outer Guard' of the lodge. His duty is to guard the door (from the outside), with a drawn sword, and ensure that only those who are duly qualified manage to gain entry into the lodge meeting. In some jurisdictions, he also prepares candidates for their admission. The Tyler is traditionally responsible for preparing the lodge room before the meeting, and for storing and maintaining the regalia after the meeting.
In some Jurisdictions the Tyler is a Past Master of the Lodge while in others he may be an employed brother from another lodge.
Officers found in some jurisdictions and not in others
There are many officers that are found in some jurisdictions and not in others. Depending on the jurisdiction, some are "progressive" others are not. The more common ones include:
Inner Guard or Inside Sentinel
The office of 'Inner Guard' (or Inside Sentinel) is common to UK lodges, but is rare in American lodges. This position is commonly assigned to a fairly junior member, as it provides an opportunity for him to observe ceremonies and learn.
The task of guarding the door is shared with the 'Tyler' (see above). The Inner Guard is on the inside of the door, and in some jurisdictions is armed with a poignard, or short dagger. In those jurisdictions which do not appoint an Inner Guard (and even in some that do), this duty is given to the Junior Deacon (see above).
In most Masonic jurisdictions, each lodge will have a 'Chaplain'. The principal duty of the Chaplain is to lead prayer before and after the lodge meeting, and to say grace while the lodge is at dinner. In many lodges this position is filled by a clergyman (an ordained minister, priest, rabbi, imam, etc.) who is a brother of the lodge. However, it is not required that the Chaplain be a clergyman, as prayers are non-denominational. In some lodges the tradition is for the immediate Past Master to act as Chaplain.
Director of Ceremonies / Ritualist
The title 'Director of Ceremonies' is used in the United Grand Lodge of England and its subordinate lodges, as well as in many other jurisdictions. However, other titles found in other jurisdictions include, 'Lecturer', and 'Ritualist'.
Whatever the title, this officer is responsible for the smooth flowing of ceremonial and ritual and may hold rehearsals. He may be responsible for prompting other officers who forget their lines. In some jurisdictions, he directs proceedings during the installation of a new Worshipful Master. He is also responsible for forming processions and introducing visitors, except in those jurisdictions which appoint a 'Marshal' for these latter purposes (see below).
The office of 'Marshal' is quite common in the United States, but not in other countries. In some jurisdictions where it is found, the title is simply an alternative for 'Director of Ceremonies' (see above).
However, there are jurisdictions in which the office is distinct from any other, in which cases the duties of the office revolve around the organisation of processions and ensuring the correct precedence and etiquette in formal proceedings, including the introduction of visitors to the lodge. This is distinct (in such jurisdictions) from the role of the Director of Ceremonies in supervising the ritual of the lodge's degree ceremonies.
Masters of Ceremony
The offices of 'Senior and Junior Masters of Ceremony' appear in some jurisdictions. Their primary duty is to prepare candidates prior to each of the three degrees. They also help conduct the candidates during the degree conferrals. In some jurisdictions, the Masters of Ceremony are responsible for answering alarms at the preparing room, examination room or outer doors.
The 'Almoner' (sometimes called the 'Caring Officer') is responsible for the well-being of lodge members and their families. He remains in contact with members who are unwell, and also maintains a discreet presence in the lives of widows of former members, so that the lodge may readily assist them should they find themselves in any particular need.
Of necessity the Almoner must be well versed in local and national Masonic charities and the scope of their charitable work, so as to offer advice to those who might qualify for such assistance.
In some jurisdictions, these duties are handled by a committee (under various titles).
Organist / Director of Music
The 'Organist' or 'Director of Music' provides musical accompaniment to lodge proceedings, although there is no set form. Many lodge rooms are equipped with a pipe organ or electronic organ, and in others, there is provision for a wider range of instruments. In other places the Director of Music operates recorded or digital music systems, such as at the Grand Lodge of Austria in Vienna.
Superintendent of Works
The Superintendent of Works keeps the inventory, and is responsible for the material possessions of the lodge. It is his responsibility to see that the lodge is properly set out before the ceremony, and that everything is safely locked away at the end of the evening.
Additional (less common) Offices
There are certain offices which exist only in particular lodges, or only in the lodges of one particular jurisdiction. As far as possible, the following list seeks to record all such offices that are either reasonably widespread, or else have been made notable by some other means, such as being held by famous people.
In some jurisdictions there is a strong tradition of Masonic research and education, and the presentation of papers by members is as common as degree ceremonies or other business. In such cases the 'Orator' may present papers, or be responsible for their presentation by others. The Orator may also be called upon to present a paper to celebrate milestones in the life of the lodge.
The term Grand Orator refers to a similar office within Grand Lodges.
Most lodges have a senior member who holds a particular interest in the lodge's history. In some jurisdictions, this interest may lead to appointment to formal office as the lodge's 'Historian'. The office involves the archiving of documents and artifacts, and the publishing and updating of historical information.
All lodges are charged with maintaining an appropriate level of charitable giving to good causes. In some jurisdictions the office of 'Charity Steward' exists. He is responsible for encouraging the members to give generously, as well as leading discussions about the appropriate recipients of the lodge's charitable donations.
This particular office is believed to be unique to one Scottish lodge, the 'Lodge Canongate Kilwinning' No 2. In 1787 the lodge appointed Robert Burns as 'Poet Laureate', an investiture later immortalised in a painting by Stewart Watson, the original of which hangs in the Grand Lodge of Scotland building in Edinburgh. The painting incorporates a certain amount of artistic license, which may possibly extend to the presence of Burns himself, for although he was certainly a member of the Lodge, it is not clear that he was present at the meeting at which he was appointed Poet Laureate. Many years later (in 1905), the office of Poet Laureate in this lodge was awarded to Rudyard Kipling, who was made an honorary member for that purpose.
Offices generally found only at Grand Lodge level
The offices in a Grand Lodge are generally derived from the corresponding offices in its subordinate lodges. However, there are certain offices that must necessarily be filled in Grand Lodges, but have no private lodge equivalent. These are outlined below.
Deputy Grand Master
In some jurisdictions, a Deputy Grand Master serves as the Grand Master's assistant, and is given the authority to act in the Grand Master's name in his absence.
In England, under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England, should the Grand Master be a member of the Royal family, a Pro Grand Master is elected to officiate as Grand Master in his absence on Royal duties.
The Grand Chancellor is responsible for external relations and formal interaction with the Grand Lodges of other jurisdictions. The United Grand Lodge of England changed its constitution in 2007 to allow for the appointment of a Grand Chancellor for the first time. Only a few jurisdictions have Grand Chancellors. In most jurisdictions, the Grand Secretary fulfills these duties.
The Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No 4, in England, is a rare example of a lodge that appoints a Chancellor as one of its officers. It appears that when the office was created in the nineteenth century it was intended to be similar to the role of Chaplain. However when revived in the early twentieth century, the role was more directed towards external relations. By the late twentieth century it appears that it had become customary for the office to be awarded to the longest serving member of the Lodge.
In some jurisdictions a 'Grand Registrar' is appointed to be the principal legal officer of a Grand Lodge. The role is generally held by a qualified lawyer or judge. In other jurisdictions, there is no official title given to the holders of these duties.
Grand Superintendent of Works
When this office exists, the 'Grand Superintendent of Works' is a Grand Lodge officer responsible for the Grand Lodge building, and as such, the office is usually awarded to a qualified architect or builder. Responsibility for individual Lodge buildings usually falls to a committee.
Grand Sword Bearer
Many Grand Masters are preceded in formal processions by a ceremonial sword. In such cases a 'Grand Sword Bearer' is appointed to carry the sword.
Grand Standard Bearer or Grand Banner Bearer
Many Grand Masters or Grand Lodges have an official standard which is carried behind the Grand Master in formal processions. In such cases a 'Grand Standard Bearer' or 'Grand Banner Bearer' is appointed.
It is the Grand Pursuivant's duty to announce all applicants for admission into the Grand Lodge by their names and Masonic titles; to take charge of the jewels and regalia of the Grand Lodge; to attend all communications of the Grand Lodge, and to perform such other duties as may be required by the Grand Master or presiding officer.
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- www.youtube.com Video "The start of the Lodge Consecration Ceremony - Re-enactment of the Re-consecration of North Australia Lodge. 150 year Celebration. Excerpt from "In The Dark" (Working Title) documentary on modern freemasonry. The Grand Director Of Ceremonies prepares the table."
- ↑ Lodge Officer Duties
- ↑ Freemasonry for dummies
- ↑ Masonicdictionary.com
- ↑ Burns Masonic biographical site
- ↑ The National Burns Collection website with an image of the Watson painting may be found here.
- ↑ A W Oxford, 'An introduction to the history of the Royal Somerset House & Inverness Lodge', published by Bernard Quaritch Ltd, 1928, page 245.