Vol. XXXI No. 12 — December 1953


When a man is raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason and becomes a member of his lodge, he automatically acquires a number of rights — to hold office, to ballot, to work upon committees, to visit other lodges, are examples.

Many rights acquired with membership cannot be used without the consent of the brethren. No brother may demand office of his fellow lodge members; no Mason may insist upon appointment on a committee. Many of the rights of membership are potential only, and therefore can be — and usually are — regarded as privileges.

The right of paying dues can be enforced by the lodge. The right of balloting cannot be withheld by the lodge, and in general, a lodge cannot withhold a dimit from a brother who wishes to leave his lodge, if he is clear of the books and without charges against him made or pending; this however, is a matter of the law in his particular jurisdiction and is generally, not universally, so.

Other rights that the newly made member possesses, he must exercise through the suffrage of his brethren or the good will of the master; hence it is within the member’s own prerogative whether he will so act as to use these rights or not.

A member has the right of attending his own lodge. His lodge cannot deny him the right. But neither can his lodge enforce attendance except by the seldom used summons. A member comes to lodge and takes part in its activities according to his own wish; his right is thus an opportunity that he may grasp or avoid.

A member of a lodge has the right of visiting another lodge, providing (1) his dues are paid and he can prove it with a good standing card (2) he can be vouched for or pass an examination (3) nothing in the by-laws or customs of the lodge to be visited forbid it (some lodges, for instance, do not admit visitors on election nights) and (4) that no member of the to-be-visited lodge or the master of it, objects to the visit. Here is a right circumscribed by other rights and laws. Thus, the member who succeeds in visiting another lodge does so as grasping an opportunity to learn more of Masonry.

The member has the right to be appointed or elected to office in his lodge. If election is to the “foot of the line” and the line normally progresses from bottom to top, he has as much right as any brother to the favor of his fellow lodge members’ ballots and the hope of one day being master. If the “foot of the line” is an appointment by master or warden, he can obtain it only by the favor of the appointing officer. This does not suggest that appointments to office are governed by favoritism; “Favor of the appointing officer” means conviction that the appointee is the best brother for the place.

Obviously the constant attendant, the interested brother, the member willing to work on committees, the Mason who easily is seen by his brethren to have the good of his lodge at heart and to desire to serve her, will stand the best chance of having the opportunity to serve as an officer.

The "right to serve on committees” is a qualified one; no one serves on any committee in any lodge without the command of the master. The lodge may instruct the master to appoint a committee and may even name its number, as a committee of three, or a committee of five. But no lodge may name the members of the committee, and it is a moot question whether the lodge that instructed the master to appoint a committee of three and heard the master appoint a committee of five could or would do anything about it.

The majority of masters are glad to have requests from brethren to serve upon committees and to learn of any especial abilities that a member may possess that would qualify him for any particular committee. Thus, a member familiar with the entertainment field may be unusually qualified for the committee on entertainment; the member who has been an enthusiastic Masonic student may be highly qualified for the committee on Masonic information, etc.

Most masters appreciate being told, “I am an accountant — if you wish me to serve on the finance committee I shall be glad to” — “I live very close to the City Hospital — I shall be glad to serve on the committee on the sick if that nearness makes me more available.”

Most masters, however, are suspicious, and in many cases deservedly so, of the member who wishes to be put upon the committee on the application of John Doe. By all means signify willingness to act upon committees of petitioners, but do not specify which petitioner, both to save the master the embarrassment of refusing and personal embarrassment if such a petitioner is rejected.

Committees on applications are the most important appointed by the master. To their hands is entrusted the purity of the lodge. In their decisions may lay the difference between a good and worthy member or a man who will not prove amenable to lodge laws, one who will injure the peace and harmony of the lodge.

It is not only the most important committee work in any lodge, but it is often the most rewarding, and the new member who does not ask for this experience fails to take advantage of an opportunity that brings much in repayment for time spent, as well as the solid satisfaction of having given valuable service to the lodge.

Some members shy away from appointments to the Committee on the Sick — which is doubtless why it is too often truthfully, if improperly, called the sick committee! Yet no one who has called upon an ill fellow lodge member, whom he may know only slightly or not at all, but will agree that nothing he can do brings a greater feeling of satisfaction. The pleased surprise, the eager hospitality, the obvious joy of the lodge member thus remembered by his brethren is always interesting and occasionally pathetic — it is invariably rewarding. Service on this committee is very definitely an opportunity.

Not all members, especially new members, are qualified for a position on the Committee on Masonic Information. Obviously such committee members should be students of Masonry. They should know something of the history, the romance, the jurisprudence, the symbolism, the ethics and the philosophy of the Ancient Craft, which, by various methods, they bring before the lodge for its pleasure and edification.

Hence appointment to this committee should be, in the eyes of all, a distinct honor.

If membership on this committee is both an opportunity and an honor it is also a responsibility. It has been jestingly said that there are few subjects besides Freemasonry about which so many people know so much that is not so. Unfortunately for us all, a large quantity of myth and legend was mixed with Masonic information in a day before the birth of the critical Masonic scholarship of the last hundred years. Some of this misinformation is still too easily available. The member of the committee of Masonic information should be certain of his facts before attempting himself to make an address to his lodge and sure of the knowledge of the speakers he may invite, that the brethren may not leave with a tissue of untruths regarding the Fraternity in their minds.

Two great opportunities that come to all lodge members are wide acquaintance and personal friendships.

Wide acquaintance comes with constant lodge attendance and with visiting other lodges. It is something any member may have by the investment of time and a reasonably likeable personality and a smile.

Friendships are another matter, yet few are the gardens where the friendship plant is more easily cultivated than in the Masonic lodge. Within the confines of a lodge all meet upon the level. Here is neither the wealthy man or the poor man, the workman or the idler, the learned man or the ignorant. With all artificial barriers broken down by the very fact of lodge membership, friendships may blossom most unexpectedly and delightfully and with far less effort than when barriers so often found in the profane world have to be crossed.

In these pages are no instructions on the art of making friends. Everyone knows that to have friends one must be friendly. Friendship is not a one way street. It is mutual or it is — not.

Friendships come often from service given. Service may be given in lodge without offense to him who is served. Almost all lodges have occasionally some cases of real distress to help and it is here that service given often does result in real friendships.

In a certain lodge a member’s house burned. There was no other house to be had. If there had been, the brother was too poor to buy it. This was a good sized lodge; the master made personal calls on builders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters. Every man said he would do his share of the work at cost of materials. The master threw a lodge party and had a hundred men on hand for the wall raising. In less than a month the new house was ready for occupancy — and the banker had loaned most of the money necessary to buy the materials.

It is hardly necessary to chronicle the friendships formed between those who gave of themselves and denied their profits, and the man whose necessities appealed not in vain to the Craft that promises help, aid and assistance to those in need.

Another lodge had two orphans left in its care; father and mother both died in an accident and there were no relatives to take over the responsibility. The lodge placed these two children in the Masonic home, but appointed twelve brothers to act as “Uncles.” One “Uncle” visits the children every month to see how they are growing up, consult with the Matron and the Superintendent of the Home about the boy and girl and generally act in loco parentis.

If you really wish to be unpopular in that group, try to get one Uncle’s job away from him! They have an “Uncles’ Association” in which firm friendships have resulted from sharing a common responsibility.

These brethren regard their tasks as opportunities far too precious to give up.

Lodges react in many ways to attempts to “make them nearer to the hearts desire.” Some lodges are so proud of doing now as they have always done that the innovator is frowned up and no change is possible. Other lodges welcome new ideas and try many of them, often to great increase in attendance.

New ideas come from visiting other lodges. The lodge visited may give a trowel, or a Masonic book, or a Bible to a newly raised brother. Another lodge visited may form its choir behind the chaplain at the altar and chant the Lord’s Prayer at opening. A third lodge visited may receive the master of the lodge that sponsored them, always with the lodge standing.

The visitor can bring such ideas to his own lodge in a small speech, telling what he has seen and where he has seen it. If he has previously talked such ideas over with the master the master may announce the appointment of a committee to consider such a plan for the lodge and report at a certain communication.

Such visits and reporting of ideas are the result of opportunities grasped.

In few particulars are most committees on entertainment more at one than upon the idea that a card game after lodge, a dance once a year, a “prominent brother as a speaker” are the Alpha and Omega of lodge entertainment. Doubtless such committees, usually hard working if with few ideas, wonder why these well-meant efforts do not produce a greater attendance and enthusiasm.

Here the new member who wishes to do something for his lodge may indeed come into the spotlight. If his master is eager for greater attendance he may listen with a willing ear to plans for Masonic entertainment such as the lodge has not previously had. There are several Masonic games that make a happy evening. There are half-a-dozen Masonic prize contests that can be staged with little expense and much fun as well as instruction. Masonic plays can be obtained and any brother with any knowledge of amateur theatricals who will get together a cast and produce a Masonic drama in his lodge will be certain of having grasped a real opportunity and of having focused every eye upon him with approval. The brother who knows something of public give-and-take can arrange a Masonic debate that is almost guaranteed to produce a riotous evening. A Masonic spelling match is productive of much “innocent mirth” as the Od Charges name it, and “What’s Wrong With This Lodge?” in which the lodge is disarranged in a minute of darkness and prizes given to him who discovers most of the mistakes in a certain small period of time, is always productive of interest.

The new brother who wants a job on the committee on entertainment does not himself have to be an entertainer — he should, however, have something new to bring his lodge. And if in addition to the above sketchy mention of only a few, he knows where to get canned music for the degrees (supposing the lodge has no music) he can provide a simple but effective ceremony for the reception and retiring of the flag, he will both serve his lodge and its master and have, at the end, the feeling that the opportunity he grasped was one well worth taking.

In general, the rights of Freemasonry are privileges. The privileges that come through the good offices of brethren are given willingly to the brother who has demonstrated that he deserves them. Other privileges are opportunities to be grasped.

Not to take them when they are available is to deny both lodge and self a real happiness.

Try — and see!

The Masonic Service Association of North America