Blue Lodge is the general term for regular Masonic Lodges and are the entry point into Freemasonry. Before joining any Concordant bodies, or engaging in any Masonic activity, one must first pass through the three Degrees of a Blue Lodge.
The voting membership of a Blue Lodge is made up only 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, morals and intellectual lessons. The normal progression through the Degrees can take a few months or 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 Master Masons 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 is 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. After the First Degree, the Entered Apprentice is required to memorize their obligation, and depending on the Lodge, a “posting lecture,” which is a summary of the evening’s events and lessons, which is coded in a Cypher, which they are taught to read and understand.
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 the obligation, or the entire Posting Lecture. The strict adherence is determined by the individual Lodge’s traditions. The Degree itself follows a similar format to that of the First Degree, but there is greater depth with regard to the obligation needED to be taken, and the depth and content of the lecture. Also, like the First Degree, it’s required for the Brother to memorize their obligation and, if required by the tradition of the Lodge, the Posting Lecture as well.
Third Degree, Master Mason (MM)
Becoming a Master Mason essentially makes you an “adult” member of the Lodge, and is similar to “coming of age” in Freemasonry, allowing similar Masonic privileges to that of becoming a legal adult in the United States. Being a Master Mason allows a member to visit other Lodges unattended, run for office, and vote.
The majority of this Degree follows the format of the other two degrees, with a large exception for which it has earned its legendary reputation, infusing the phrase “The Third Degree” into our everyday dialect.
Once a member is raised to the Degree of a Master Mason, he is free to run for office or leadership of the Lodge. The officers of the Lodge are broken down into elected officers and appointed officers. Their jobs are as follows, and their stations in the Lodge itself are illustrated in the following map of the regular Lodge room. (Note: the map is oriented facing south, so every Lodge room has the Worshipful Master seated in the East, which is why it is also called the “Oriental chair”.)
Elected Lodge Officers:
It is expected that the Junior Warden succeeds the Senior Warden after his term is done, and the Senior Warden succeeds the Worshipful Master after his term is done. For this reason the election of the Senior Warden and Worshipful Master is often simply a formality, with non-contenders. There are often occasions where a contender can run against an incumbent and win, if the internal politics of the Lodge move in a controversial direction or there is a power vacuum. However, uncontested elections of the Senior Warden and Worshipful Master are typical in the election of officers.
Because of this, the most contested seat in Masonic Elections is for the position of Junior Warden. This is because it is expected that over the course of three years, the Junior Warden will become the Master of the Lodge, should things run their normal course. The positions open for election every year by the Master Masons of the Lodge are as follows:
- 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, runs the meetings, verifies the election of candidates, sets the agenda for his year “in the East,” and appoints the appointed officers. Essentially, he is the boss, 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 the fellowship of the Lodge, making sure that fun is had while also making sure that things don’t get out of hand.
- Secretary: This is an elected position because it 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 receives and counts the money before it is handed over to the Treasurer.
- Treasurer: The Treasurer controls the money. That’s pretty much it. It’s important, but straight forward.
Appointed Lodge Officers:
The appointed officers assist the elected officers, and with the ceremonies of the Lodge. While their roles are primarily ceremonial, it is also expected that they assist in the management, day-to-day operations of the Lodge, and perform roles outside of the Lodge meetings themselves.
- Senior Deacon: The Senior Deacon assists the Worshipful Master and sits on the ground floor of the Lodge room to the right of the Worshipful Master. He acts as the conductor in the Degrees, and guides Candidates and visitors in meetings to wherever the Worshipful Master requests. Outside of the Lodge the Senior Warden traditionally assists the Worshipful Master in Masonic duties and Lodge Management.
- Junior Deacon: The Junior Deacon assists the Senior Warden the same way the Senior Deacon assists the Worshipful Master. His duties are also to ensure that the Lodge is secure during ceremonies by the Tyler, and assists in ensuring that everyone present at each meeting is first a Mason, and if the Lodge is opened on a Degree higher than that of the First Degree, that everyone present is at least of that Degree the Lodge is open on, or greater.
- Marshal: The Marshal’s job is to conduct the Chaplain, present the flag of the country, and ceremonially lead certain ceremonial processions.
- Chaplain: The ceremonial duties of the Chaplain are to offer the prayers at the beginning and end of each meeting. Typically the Chaplain offers prayers at the meals as well. It’s traditionally recognized that the Chaplain should care for the spiritual needs of the Lodge members as well, facilitating the visitation of the sick, and providing emotional support for Brothers in times of need.
- Senior Steward: The Senior Steward is the assistant of the Junior Warden, who oversees fellowship, which includes meals or other activities the Lodge is involved in. Normally, he ensures that everything is in order for meals, and that cleanup is accomplished.
- Junior Steward: Keeping everyone in line for fellowship is a big job, and should not be left to just one person. The Junior Steward also assists in facilitating fellowship. Both positions also have ceremonial roles in helping prepare candidates for their Degrees.
- Tyler: The Tyler is the guard at the door, and ensures everyone checks in by filling in their name in the Tyler’s Book, which records who attended every meeting. He also collects visitors’ information for the Secretary.
Some Lodges also have an official position for a musician, which is also appointed. A little ambiance can liven up a meeting, and give a sense of refinement.
In the state of Washington, Lodge groupings are divided into Districts and although some Districts overlap geographically, they mostly follow geographical boundaries, and consist of a manageable group of Lodges that can be overseen by an officer appointed by the Grand Master called a Deputy of the Grand Master (or District Deputies).
Unlike Senators or Congressmen, the District Deputies are appointed by the Grand Master to represent themselves at individual Lodges, rather than the Lodges electing an officer to represent themselves to their governing body. The District Deputies are charged with helping the Lodge officers manage their Lodges well, carries messages from the Grand Master to the Lodges, and assists in the connection of the Lodges with each other.
The District Deputies carry with them an additional title of “Very Worshipful” in order to set them apart as being over the Worshipful Masters in their Districts.
It is common for Lodges within the same District to interact with each other socially and Masonically. They often visit their sister Lodges for Stated Meetings, assist in Degrees, and in general function as a family.
GRAND LODGE OFFICERS
Grand Lodge is the governing body over all the Districts. It consists of elected and appointed officers in much the same way that Lodge officers do, but they also have committees made up of Brothers, Master Masons, and mostly Past Masters who carry out various functions and business of Freemasonry as a whole. Grand Lodges also have an administrative staff that is not entirely made up of Masons, but employs general members of the public in order to administer governance and facilitate the institutional and financial business of the larger superstructure that is Freemasonry.
Elected Grand Lodge Officers
In Washington State the elected officers are as follows:
- Grand Master: The Grand Master is the man in charge. In Washington, his term is for one year; 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 District Deputies, committee members, and has the power to issue charges and edicts including the formation of new Lodges.
- Deputy Grand Master: Unlike the individual Lodges, the Deputy Grand Master serves as the Grand Master in training. Many of the duties of the Grand Master demand a lot of travel time, and the implementation of agendas often takes several years. The addition of this position allows for a smoother transition of power and a more cohesive succession, which in turn allows for effective administration.
- Senior Grand Warden: Just as the Senior Warden of the Lodge, the Senior Grand Warden sits in the west in Grand Lodge meetings, and is ultimately in charge of the ceremonial proficiency of Freemasonry as a whole within the Grand Jurisdiction.
- Junior Grand Warden: Just as in the Lodge, the office of the Junior Grand Warden is the one most sought after. It is generally accepted that whoever is elected as the Junior Grand Warden at the Annual Communication will become the Grand Master in four years time. Because of this, each Annual Communication often sees several rounds of balloting to select a winner. In voting for the Junior Grand Warden, only the Worshipful Master, Wardens and Past Masters of a Lodge may vote. While they often carry the opinions of their Lodge collected before the Annual Communication, each delegate has the right to vote however they wish in the election.
- Grand Secretary: The Grand Secretary does have ceremonial duties, but most importantly manages the administration of Grand Lodge itself. Often times, Grand Secretaries are reelected many times in order to preserve the continuity of the administration.
Appointed Grand Lodge Officers
The appointed officers of Grand Lodge are made up of Past Masters and Past District Deputies (with the exception of the Grand Chaplain, Grand Musician, and Grand Tyler) who are charged with both ceremonial and practical duties in the facilitation of Grand Lodge. They include the following offices:
- Grand Chaplain
- Grand Lecturer
- Grand Orator
- Grand Historian
- Grand Marshal
- Senior Grand Deacon
- Junior Grand Deacon
- Grand Standard Bearer
- Grand Sword Bearer
- Grand Bible Bearer
- Senior Grand Steward
- Junior Grand Steward
- Grand Musician
- Grand Tyler
- Asst. Grand Secretary
Foundations and Boards
- Washington Masonic Charities
- Bill P. Horn Memorial Masonic Medal Foundation
- Washington Masonic Grand Lodge Building Association
- Code Commission
- Fraternal Correspondent
- Grievances and Appeals
- Leadership Training
- Long Range Planning
- Membership Development
- Military Recognition
- Public Relations
- Research & Education
Washington Masonic Charities Committees
- Children’s Programs
- Library & Museum
- Planned Giving
- Public Schools Outreach
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, even within the same country, 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 “Blue Lodge membership card” and proper identification. However, if a Mason travels to a foreign country, he may also need to have a “Masonic Passport” or a letter of introduction from the Grand Secretary of his home Grand Lodge to the Grand Secretary of the Jurisdiction he is visiting.