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In my lodge, we have a tradition: after the Entered Apprentice degree is conferred, after the lectures and the charge, a brother in the lodge will approach the newly made brother and speak to him about basic Masonic Etiquette. The lecture is informal, and usually given with just an outline of what needs to be covered. It has proven useful to both our newly made EAs, and to help remind our current brothers about the basics as well. Below, I’ve included the version that I present; feel free to adapt it to your lodge’s use. A few tips on preparation: it is helpful to sit in the South, across from the candidate, so that you have to walk West of the altar to approach him. Warn your Worshipful Master and Senior Deacon in advance when it comes to the raps of the gavel, as it makes a much better impression (and is respectful to the WM to not surprise him). Finally, I’ve made notes in parenthesis that will help improve your performance, or clarify some points that are jurisdictional-specific.
My brother, while most of the degree work you have seen has been repeated verbatim from memory, this is the one portion of the degree where we can relax and speak freely. At the request of the Worshipful Master, I would like to spend just a few minutes explaining to you some of the basics of etiquette within the lodge.
Masonry is an ancient science, and has evolved over the centuries to its current state of existence. As such, much of what you have heard in our ritual work may have sounded very strange and archaic, and many of the words you’ll hear us use are currently unfamiliar to you. I promise you that, in time, you will come to be as familiar with our work as we are ourselves, and it will all feel very comfortable.
When you go home today, your wife (NOTE: only if applicable. Ascertain in advance if the candidate is married), family, and friends are probably going to have a lot of questions about what happened here. They will want to know all about our ritual and ceremonies, and will hopefully be taking an active interest in your involvement in Masonry. Tell them! You are welcome and encouraged to tell them, in your own words, what you experienced, how it felt, and what you learned from it. We ask that you don’t share the specific details with a man who is interested in joining us, so that he can enjoy the ceremonies the same way you did. The only “secrets” of Masonry that we ask you to protect are the specific modes of recognition, which are the grip and word that we taught you earlier. (NOTE: in Nebraska, my home jurisdiction, the modes of recognition are the only protected secrets, per our Grand Lodge. Verify with your jurisdiction if this differs)
Because we always hold a meal before our meetings, you generally will not need to enter or leave the lodge once we have opened. (NOTE: in my lodge, we always have a meal. If your lodge is different, adapt this as necessary) If you do arrive late, however, there is a specific sequence you need to follow to gain admittance. First, knock on the door of the lodge three times. (POINT to the door) This alerts the Junior Deacon (POINT to the J.D.) that there is a brother outside of the lodge seeking admittance. He will respond by knocking either once, or three times. If he knocks only once, it means that we are at a portion of the ceremony that cannot be interrupted, and that you will need to wait a few minutes until we’re ready. When he knocks three times, he will open the door and let you in, and also indicate the proper place to salute; either the Senior Warden in the West (POINT to the SW), or the Worshipful Master at the altar (POINT to the altar), and also indicate which degree we are open in. You need to approach that officer, and give the appropriate salute, then take a seat in the lodge.
You’ll have noticed that when I came over, I took a bit of a circuitous route to get here. That is because there is an area of the lodge, between the Worshipful Master and the altar, that we do not cross through, unless specifically granted permission from the Worshipful Master. This is a sign of respect to the Worshipful Master, and to the Grand Architect from whom he draws inspiration.
Although Masonry is not a religious organization, we do require a faith in a higher being, whom we, at all times, reverence and serve. One of the ways we do this is by praying before we eat, in our ceremonies, and before we close our lodge. (NOTE: if you aren’t in Nebraska, you may leave out the explanation of the Cross of the Good Shepherd) Nebraska Masons pray in a very unique way, which is called the Cross of the Good Shepherd. This is made by crossing the right arm across the chest, onto the left shoulder, and then the left arm across the chest onto the right shoulder, and bowing your head. At the end of the prayer, we conclude the prayer with the words “So Mote It Be”. This is an old English term that means “So may it be” or “So let it be”, and is best described as an amen with emphasis.
As an Entered Apprentice Mason, you’re limited in which meetings you may attend. You are, of course always welcome at our dinners, and you may, if you choose, attend any EA degree being performed at this lodge. We encourage you to observe another EA degree as soon as you can, because this will help you learn what happened within your own degree more, and will show you many things you may have missed the first time.
If you have something specific which you wish to address in lodge, please stand, and wait to be addressed by the Worshipful Master. Generally, there is time to do this toward the end of our monthly business meeting, and the Worshipful Master will open to floor to any brother who wishes to contribute.
At various times during our rituals and meetings, you’ll notice that the Worshipful Master will wish to speak to a specific brother in the lodge. Worshipful Master, if you would be so kind as to call up the Senior Deacon. (NOTE: Wait for this to be done). Now, if the Worshipful Master desired to call up all of the elected officers in the lodge, he would do this with two raps. Worshipful Master? (NOTE: Wait for this to be done). These are the elected officers of the lodge: The Treasurer, Secretary, Senior and Junior Wardens, and of course the Worshipful Master himself, who does not rise for anyone save the Grand Architect himself.
Now, what would happen if the Worshipful Master were to rap three times? Worshipful Master, if you would be so kind? (NOTE: Wait for this to be done. Tell the SD in advance NOT to prompt the candidate, as this is a great way for him to learn by observing). As you see, three raps of the gavel raises the whole lodge. (NOTE: If the candidate hasn’t risen, say “My brother, as you are now a part of this lodge, you should rise as well!”) Remember: one rap for a specific brother, two for the officers, and three for the whole lodge. Now, if the Worshipful Master will rap one last time? (NOTE: Wait for this to be done), you can see that this is the signal for all standing to be seated.
We understand that Masonry is a very complicated subject for a new brother to learn, and many men have spent a lifetime studying it, and still have yet to learn all it has to teach. You won’t have to take this journey alone, as the Worshipful Master has assigned Brother XXXXX to be your mentor. (POINT to this brother, so the candidate knows who it is). Any questions you have, he will help you to answer, and he will also help you through your proficiency guide and memory work. Of course, every brother here wishes to see you succeed, and will be happy to help you in any way we can.
(NOTE: If your lodge doesn’t have a Facebook page… get one) Finally, our lodge has a Facebook page that lists upcoming events, practices, and other Masonic information. Your mentor will help you to join it, so that you can always stay informed of what’s happening to the lodge.
On behalf of the officers and brothers of Lancaster Lodge Number 54, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, (NOTE: Obviously, use the name of your lodge here, and substitute F&AM if appropriate) I most heartily congratulate you, and welcome you into our lodge, Brother XXXX.
WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!