Lecture 2: Masonic Organization

Masons are men who have joined together in order to improve themselves through the principles and ceremonies of the fraternity. They endeavor to extend Masonic lessons into their daily lives in order to become positive influences in their homes, communities, our nation and throughout the world. They base their efforts on morality, justice, charity, truth and the laws of God. There are over 30,000 Masons in the State of Wisconsin. Worldwide, membership encompasses millions of men who believe and support the same fundamental tenets.

What is a Masonic Lodge building?

A lodge is a meeting place for Masons. This place may be used by Masons for regular business meetings, degree lessons, social activities or used by other Masonic groups or even for community activities. Lodge buildings are prominently marked, and are often recognized as special landmarks in the cities and towns of our state.

What are degrees?

Lessons in Masonry are taught in three separate stages by our symbolic lodges. The degrees, in order, are Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason. Each blends Masonic moral philosophy in a unique lesson, which is intended to have s serious impact and influence on the man who receives it.

What are Blue Lodges?

According to the writings of Masonic authorities, blue has from ancient times been associated with truth, Deity, wisdom and hope. This association is symbolic. Local lodges are often called "Blue Lodges. "

The lodge at the local level is that group of Masons granted a charter by the Grand Lodge of that state. There are specific guidelines set by the Grand Lodge as to how this local lodge may function and what it can and cannot do. These guidelines are set forth with a book of code and rituals. Each elected and appointed officer is installed at a ceremony of installation and must promise, upon his honor as a Mason, that he will, to the best of his ability, conform to and abide by the ancient landmarks, regulations and usages of Masonry, the constitution and edicts of the Grand Lodge and the by-laws of his lodge, and to faithfully perform the duties of the office to which he has been elected or appointed.

I will now endeavor to go through the line of officers and give a brief description of each of the offices.

The Worshipful Master is the embodiment of the lodge. In the local lodge his word is final, so his duty is one of awesome responsibility. He must be a good man and true. He must obey the moral law, cheerfully conform to the laws of the nation, submit to the constituted authorities, promote the general good of society and help our craft in knowledge and growth. He must be a man who will be courteous to his brethren and faithful to his lodge. He respects genuine brethren and discounts impostors. He must be watchful that no person can be regularly made a Freemason or admitted a member of his lodge without previous notice of due inquiry into his character. He must protect his lodge by not receiving anyone into it without first having them produce proper credentials satisfying him as to their privilege to do so. The Master must promise regular attendance on the committees and communications of the Grand Lodge, and that no new lodge can be formed without the permission of the Grand Lodge and further, that no recognition ought to be given to an irregular lodge or Mason.

Being Master of a lodge requires keeping the comfort of the Craft as a high priority. The Master has, at his disposal to help him, an entire corps of officers. It is the Master's responsibility to see to it that the officers conduct themselves in a manner set forth by the code and by-laws. He also is in charge of all new candidates entering into the lodge, making certain their degrees are conducted in the proper manner. It is also the Worshipful Master's duty, at the time his assumes his office, to have an outline and, hopefully, an entire agenda, or in our own Masonic language, a trestle board of his year of activities.

There are awards given at our annual communication of the Grand Lodge to encourage successful lodge years. The highest of these awards is the Grand Master's Achievement Award (G.M.A A.). The requirements for achieving this award are set forth by the Grand Lodge and must be followed by the Master and his lodge in order to earn this honor.

Much thought and work has gone into the G.M.A.A. and it is not meant to be a deterrent to the Master, but to the contrary - by fulfilling the G.M.A.A. requirements the Master is all but guaranteed that his year will be one of success and a source of pride to him in the years to come. It is the hope of the Grand Lodge that all Masters will achieve the G.M.A.A., a fete that has yet to be accomplished.

There are other awards given to lodges such as the Spruce-Up Award. This award is given to lodges who keep their buildings in good repair. It is the Master's duty to know what should be done to keep all of the properties of the lodge in good repair.

When a Master comes to the lodge for its stated or special communications, he always should be prepared for the events of that meeting. He should prepare an agenda by checking with his corps of officers. Items may range from the sickness or distress of a brother Master Mason to the replacement of the lodge building's roof. Most business is brought to the membership for discussion and a vote, when required.

Next we view the Senior Warden in the West, who also is elected by the members of the lodge to serve a one-year term. He is like the vice president of a company. He stays well versed regarding the lodge and its affairs. In the event of the absence of the Worshipful Master, the Senior Warden assumes the duties and responsibilities of that officer. The Senior Warden's regular duties, other than those already mentioned, are to carry out the wishes of the Worshipful Master and to assist him in a regular and well-governed lodge. At his installation, the Senior Warden is reminded that his station is one which functions on the level, which teaches that we all descend from the same stock, partake of the same nature and share the same hope and-- though distinctions among men are necessary--yet no eminence of station should cause us to forget that we are all brethren. Also, the Senior Warden's regular attendance at stated communications is essential.

We next come to the Junior Warden in the South is elected for a one-year term. His office is like that of a second vice president of a company. In the event of the Senior Warden's absence, the Junior Warden moves to that station. The tool of this office is the plumb, which admonishes us to walk uprightly in our several stations in life, to hold the scale of justice in equal poise, to observe the just medium between intemperance and pleasure and to make our passions and prejudices coincide with the line of our duty. The Junior Warden is committed to the superintendence of the Craft during the hours of refreshment. He acts as the liaison between his lodge and any related youth groups, and shall make periodic reports to the Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge and to the Worshipful Master. He also is committed to regular and punctual attendance at all meetings.

The Treasurer also is elected by the membership for a term of one-year. It is his duty to receive money paid to the lodge from the hands of the secretary, keep a just and true account thereof, and pay funds out by order of the Worshipful Master and consent of the lodge.

The Secretary also is elected for one year. It is his duty to observe the will and pleasure of the Worshipful Master in recording the proceedings of the lodge, transmit a copy of the proceedings to the Grand Lodge when requested, to receive all monies paid into the lodge and transfer them to the Treasurer. His good inclination to Masonry and his lodge will induce him to engage in the duties of his office with fidelity.

We come now to the appointed officers. These brothers are appointed by the Worshipful Master to serve with him during his one-year term as Master. We first are introduced to the Chaplain, who's duty it is to perform the solemn services which remind us of our creator, whose spirit is refining our souls, strengthening our virtues and purifying our minds, that we might fulfill our lives in service to him as we serve others in Masonry and all people throughout the world.

Next are the Senior and Junior Wardens. It is the duty of the Deacons to attend the Master and Wardens and to act as their proxies in the active duties of the lodge, such as in the reception of candidates into the degrees of Masonry, the introduction and accommodation of visitors and in the immediate practice of our rites.

We come now to the Senior and Junior Stewards. Their duties are to see that the tables are properly furnished at refreshment and that every brother is suitably provided for. The Stew- ards also assist the Deacons and other officers in performing their duties. The Stewards are at the beginning of the line of officers and, to them, it probably seems as if they take their orders from everyone. But they are brothers who have displayed signs of leadership and genuine interest in the Craft. These are very important times for them, for they are now being evaluated by those in higher office, who will be in search of their own corps of officers.

We also have a Tiler in who's hands we place a sword to enable him to effectively guard against the approach of Cowan and eavesdroppers. He allows none to pass or repass except those that are duly qualified.

There is a Lodge Counselor, who's duty is to help each new candidate through the degrees. He does this in whatever capacity is necessary.

Some lodges also have appointed organists or musicians. It is their duty to perform for the entertainment of the lodge as well as during degree work. Like all other appointed offers, they serve for a one-year term.

There you have them, the entire corps of officers with the exception of the trustees, who I will discuss in a moment. But first, I would like to say it is the brothers I have just described who put on all of the degree work in the lodge. Each take parts in all three degrees, indicating the amount of time and hard work that goes into the operation of a well governed lodge. From the Junior Steward's station to the Worshipful Master's place in the east there is seven years of time and work, but each Past Master looks back on his years with a sense of joy and satisfaction.

Each year the lodge elects trustees. The number of trustees will vary from lodge to lodge as will the term of office. The duty of the trustees is to oversee the properties of the lodge, including the financial aspects, such as the sale of properties, insurance policies and so forth. They report their findings to the Worshipful Master and brethren unless an emergency arises requiring them to act as they deem necessary.

(The following details actlvihes at Shawano Lodge 170. This is presented as a guide for you to use in developing a similar section regarding your lodge.)

I would now like to explain what we are or have been doing in our community as Masons. Probably the largest, at least in dollars, is the gift we, together with the Wisconsin Medical Foundation, gave to Shawano Community Hospital. The gift amounted to $20,000. This gift is being used by the hospital to start a heart rehabilitation center. This is something our community has not had, making it necessary for our residents to travel to other towns for help. The program, because of our gift, has grown by leaps and bounds and is very successful. It is rather ironic to say that one of our committee members at the time of the gift presentation said, while viewing the new equipment, he had never been in a hospital for any illness during his entire life. That individual, Brother Frank Smith, who is a very active member of this lodge, was one of the first--and the very first Mason--to use the new rehabilitation center as a result of a heart attack.

We have contributed money to the Jaws of Life program when they needed a new motor for their equipment. We have given scholarships to the Shawano High School as well as to Bonduel, Gresham, Menominee and Bowler High Schools. Each year a graduating senior from Shawano High School and one from the surrounding community receive a no-strings attached one-year scholarship. One's first thought may be that these scholarships only go to the sons and daughters of Masons. I assure you that these scholarships are for young people selected by the schools. The selections are based on academic achievement. Our lodge has absolutely no input in the selection process. A nice thing about this particular scholarship, as I mentioned before, is that the recipient may use the money as he or she sees fit. The only requirement made by the lodge is that the student receive one-half of the scholarship amount when the register at college and the other half when they are registered for the second semester. We are proud of this program and the many young people it has helped.

Each year we try to have an open house at our lodge, inviting the entire community to see our facility and engage us in discussion. We are proud of our lodge and do enjoy sharing it with others. Speaking of sharing, we also have friends' nights. At these events, members can invite non-Masonic friends to a program at the lodge. There is also what we call clergy nights, where we invite the local clergy association in to participate in a question and answer session. We try to remember the widows of Masons with our Sweethearts Night. We invite the widows to a dinner at a local restaurant, providing them with an evening of food and fun. We even provide transportation for those who need it.

Very often before our lodge meetings, we have family pot lucks and dinners. I have found Masons always manage to marry the best lookers and the best cookers. We do encourage family involvement--even in meetings that are opened and closed in the public form. This is a treat that each of you have as yet to witness, unless, of course, you have come to an installation, friends' night or one of the other occasions when it is used. There is a family picnic around the middle of June, where we have a cook-out, games and fun for all ages. There is a golf outing, usually in July, where the entire family is involved.

Each year the Worshipful Master usually plans a Table Lodge for the brothers. What is a Table Lodge? When I first heard it mentioned, I thought it was perhaps an evening of card playing because many Masons do play cards and, believe me, they are some of the best players. Without going into an entire presentation, I will try to briefly explain the Table Lodge.

Back in time when Masons came to the lodge meetings, they came from a great distance by foot or by horse. So, they were provided with food and refreshment before beginning the jour- ney back home. In keeping with this ancient custom, we have a table lodge. Although the use of alcoholic beverages is forbidden in the lodge, the Worshipful Master can apply for a special dispensation from the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Wisconsin to permit the service of beer and wine at the feast. Such a dispensation is usually granted once a year. Now this is not an invitation to a drunken brawl by any means. There is usually one Grand Lodge officer present, often serving as the keynote speaker. A meal is served, jokes are told and at least seven toasts are made. I strongly encourage each of you to attend table lodges when possible.

Many Masons ring bells for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season, and have helped raise thousands of dollars within our community through this activity. For two days each Christmas season we do this, turning over all of the proceeds to the Salvation Army. This cer- tainly makes for a wonderful start to the season for all of us, no matter the temperature. We also participate in some of the parades in our town, marching as a unit dressed in white aprons, white gloves and hats with dark trousers and white shirts.

When Shawano built its exercise trails a few years ago, we were there and put in one sta- tion. And I'm sure you have seen one of our Shrine clowns in town, or the motorized fez, or the three wheelers one unit of local Masons parade with.

So you see, these Masons, they'Rex quiet guys who don't do a lot of horn honking, but they are here and they are very much involved. We also go public at the time of the death of a brethren, when he is called to that house made not with hands, eternal in the heavens. Each Master Mason, when summoned by the Supreme Architect of the Universe, is entitled to a Masonic service put one in a public place as a last respect paid to him and his family. This is a very impressive service put on entirely by his brothers to pay homage and bring comfort and courage to those who have sustained the loss of a loved one. I say this is a right and sometimes widows do not know this and it is overlooked. It is not, however, required and is the choice of the family as to whether it will be held.