The senior officer of a Masonic Lodge is the Master, normally addressed and referred to as the “Worshipful Master”. The Worshipful Master sits in the East of the lodge room, chairs 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 annually by election, often by secret ballot. The requirements as to who is eligible for election as Master vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the majority of jurisdictions specify that a brother must have served as an installed Warden to qualify. In practice, most lodges will nominate and elect the previous year’s Senior Warden in an uncontested election.
The honorific “Worshipful” does not suggest that the Master is worshiped, but is used in its original meaning, “worthy of respect”. (Mayors and magistrates in parts of England and the Commonwealth are also traditionally called “Worshipful” or “Your Worship”, as are certain bodies such as livery companies).
At the conclusion of his limited term of office, a Worshipful Master is termed 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 become life members of the Grand Lodge, while in others they are not. In most jurisdictions, a Past Master retains the honorific “Worshipful”, however there are a few 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, and also has certain powers and rights in every lodge under his jurisdiction. Grand Masters are usually addressed as “Most Worshipful”, or “Right 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, 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. In some jurisdictions, the position is an elected office, while in others it is appointed by the 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 “at refreshment” (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. In some jurisdictions, the position is an elected office, while in others it is appointed by the Master.
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. In some jurisdictions, the position is an elected office, while in others it is appointed by the Master.
It is common for the Treasurer to be an experienced Past Master, but this is not required.
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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. It is not unusual for the office of Secretary to be held by the same member for long periods of time, even decades. In some jurisdictions, the position is an elected office, while in others it is appointed by the Master.
Some jurisdictions allow lodges to combine the duties of the Secretary and Treasurer into a single office the ‘Secretary/Treasurer’. Allowing the lodge to continue to operate with a smaller number of officers. The Secretary/Treasurer must perform the duties listed above for both offices. The Secretary/Treasurer typically wears the jewel for the Secretary.
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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 attend the Worshipful Master as needed and to carry his orders to the Senior Warden.
The office and duties of Junior Deacon are similar in many respects to that of Senior Deacon, to attend the Senior Warden, and carry messages to the Junior Warden. 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).