I saw a wonderful discussion on this on Facebook and wanted to expound on this to the point it wouldn’t fit in a comment. So here we go.
To my Brothers, I explain the stations and places first because more then Masons read this. I want all to have a context on how a harmonious Lodge is run.
I am currently Master of my Lodge, so I am writing from that perspective. There are eleven officers that run a lodge. They are the Master, Senior/Junior Wardens, Treasurer, Secretary, Senior/Junior Deacons, Senior/Junior Stewards, Chaplain and Tyler.Only the Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary are elected by the Lodge. Deacons, Stewards, Chaplain and Tyler are appointed by the incoming Master. When I talk about “the line,” this is a progression from Junior to Senior for each of the Stewards, Deacons and Wardens before a man can become the Master of a Lodge. The Treasurer, Secretary, Chaplain and Tyler I will discuss after these places.
Each of these positions have different duties and responsibilities. Let me explain:
Starting from the bottom up, we have the Stewards. These Brothers work for the Junior Warden. For 1 to 2 years, their job is service. They assist the JW in the preparation, production, delivery and cleanup of meals in the Lodge. These places in the line teach humility, service and obedience. Because of the physical demands of these places, this is where 90% of those who drop “out of line” occur.
If a Brother makes it through his time in the kitchen, he is made a Deacon. The Deacons are responsible for the setup of the Lodge for meetings and making sure Brothers visiting from other Lodges are verified to be able to enter the Lodge. In my Lodge, we have a clear policy that a man may not progress past Senior Deacon if he has not obtained his proficiency card during his year as SD. The proficiency card testifies that a Brother can perform any part in the first section of the three degrees of the Blue Lodge.
If a man makes it to Junior Warden, he is elected by the members of the Lodge to a serious leadership position. This position teaches the man about being a leader of the Stewards and a good fiscal manager of the monies placed in his keeping. The JW is given a fund of money for him to purchase food for meals and the drinks available for consumption at the lodge. Brothers are expected to pay what they can for their meals. The JW must balance providing a menu of healthy and tasty meals without “breaking the budget.” It is made clear to the JW that if necessary he can ask the lodge for more money if the donations are down. If he runs a surplus at the end of his term, that is generally donated to the Lodge Charity fund.
The Senior Warden is kept very busy. He spends his year getting ready for his year as Master, interviewing petitioners who want to enter Masonry and assigns “the work,” or who performs what parts for the degrees held at the lodge. A good SW makes sure a Brother can perform the parts they are assigned proficiently. Some Lodges allow reading of the Work out of the ritual book, my lodge does not. Until you can perform it in school to the senior instructor, you don’t get to do it in an actual degree.
The Master is not in charge of anything, although he is responsible for everything in and about the Lodge. The SW is in charge of “the Craft” while they are at labor, the JW is in charge while the Craft is at refreshment. The Master’s job is to make sure everything is working as it should.
Once a Brother has served his time as Master, he then becomes a Past Master. Generally, the positions of Treasurer, Secretary, Chaplain and Tyler are Past Masters. Once into one of these positions, the Brother usually stays for several to many years. The Treasurer and Secretary especially are the foundation of the Lodge. They provide the stability and continuity necessary for the Lodge to run smoothly. All of the Past Masters in my lodge are more than willing to share their knowledge and experience with me to make sure I make the best decision.
Now the discussion which started this was about “election or progression?” Progression meaning once a Brother starts as Junior Steward, he advances every year and (hopefully) after advancing every year, in his 7th year he becomes Master. Granted, the Wardens and Master are elected and any Brother could be nominated for any elected office without serving a day in the line. the chances of being elected are usually pretty close to zero, but it could happen. Each Lodge is different and the politics of the Brethren have an effect on the outcome. For example, a Brother stepped out of line in my Lodge (I was ready to appoint him as my Junior Deacon) to be elected Junior Warden in another Lodge where he is a plural member. The other lodge needed someone who held a proficiency card (he does) in the JW position.
We also use the positions of Stewards and Deacons to “shake out” those who might not be suitable for the position of Master. A Brother might look good and have the enthusiasm to get put in line, however he doesn’t advance or drops out because he doesn’t have the right mindset or temperament to possibly lead the Lodge.
No Brother “deserves” the next higher place or station. He must earn it by superior performance, a willingness to serve and a true sense of humility. Through my progression of the line, all the way up until now, I have sought to nurture and inspire all of my Brothers.
In my lodge, we do not teach rote memorization of the words of the ritual. We teach these Brothers to understand what the words mean to them and to impart that knowledge by how they deliver it to the candidates of the degrees. I learned so much about Masonry just by learning the EA Screen and the FC Stair lectures.