A Masonic Lodge is led by Officers. This term is sometimes surprising because it is not used much in everyday language and seems to be reserved for the army and the forces of law and order. Some people think it comes from military Lodges from the 18th and 19th centuries. The term "officer" does not refer to a specific field of activity. Who are the officers of a Masonic Lodge and what are their functions ? How many Officers does each Masonic Lodge have ? The number and roles of Lodge Officers can vary from country to country, from one rite to another and from one juridiction to another.

The origin of Lodge Officers

As is commonly understood, the forms of modern Freemasonry were derived from the practices of the ancient builders. As constituted groups, the brotherhoods of operative masons needed the presence of officers. The person presiding over the brotherhood did not initially hold the title of Worshipful Master. In Scotland, at the turn of the seventeenth century, the role was known as Warden and was assisted by one or more Deacons. Later, the oldest known Scottish Masonic ritual mentions a Master Master, a Warden and a Setter Craft (Edinburgh Register House MS, 1698).

The composition of the College of Officers of the ancient operative Masons is not well documented, although it is evident that there were at least three main areas of responsibility : the presidency, management and supervisory roles, and more social and charitable tasks. The administrative and financial tasks were obviously carried out by clerics attached to the brotherhood, as many Masons could neither read nor write at the time.

As the ancient reception ceremonies are not well documented, it is not possible to determine the exact number of Officers required on these occasions. However, this became clearer with the advent of speculative Freemasonry and then modern Freemasonry in the eighteenth century.

The Offices of Modern Freemasonry

Modern Freemasonry will establish a number of Offices, the main ones of which will be intangible. Others may evolve according to time and place. The intangible offices include :

A Worshipful Master, who presides over the Lodge.

Two Wardens (Senior and Junior Warden) who assist the Worshipful Master.

A Secretary is responsible for maintaining the registers and taking minutes.

A Treasurer is responsible for managing the finances.

An Almoner or Hospitaller is responsible for the charitable and social aspects of the organisation.

One or two guards, who may be designated as Roofer, Tyler, Inner Guardian, Outer Guardian, Sentinel, Terrible Brother, etc. In continental Europe, the typical arrangement is for there to be only one guard, who is stationed inside the Lodge.

With the exception of the guards, whose function is primarily ritual, all these offices form a kind of governing body which is necessary for a human society to function.

The other offices that were to develop had a ritual function and were made necessary by the transition from a professional structure to an initiatory society. These offices differed from country to country and from period to period, and two trends developed in parallel : the English model, and more generally the Anglo-Saxon model, and the continental model, particularly the French model.

Masonic Lodge Officers in Anglo-Saxon countries 

In the Jurisdictions of the Anglo-Saxon countries, a certain number of Officers are required, whose functions do not necessarily cover the Offices of French and Continental Freemasonry. These Offices are :

The Immediate Past Master, i.e. the outgoing Worshipful Master. He is highly honoured in Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry and, in some Lodges, replaces the Worshipful Master in the event of his absence.

The Chaplain, whose role is to offer prayers during ceremonies and to say grace at banquets. The Chaplain is often a minister of his religion, but this is not compulsory. In some Lodges, this role is given to the Immediate Past Master.

The Deacons, two in number : the Senior and the Junior Deacon. The Senior Deacon delivers the Worshipful Master's orders to the Senior Warden, and the Junior Deacon delivers the Worshipful Master's orders to the Senior Warden. Their main task, however, is to accompany the candidates during the reception ceremonies.

The Stewards, usually two in number : the Senior and the Junior Steward. Their duties are varied. They assist the Deacons when they accompany the candidates and may replace them in their absence. In particular, they are responsible for serving the wine at the banquets and for organising them in general.

The Director of Ceremonies (Ritualist, Lecturer) is responsible for the smooth running of the ritual and can, if necessary, prompt the other Officers with a text they may have forgotten (as the rituals are practised by heart). He is also responsible for introducing visitors to the lodge.

The Marshal exists only in the United States and Scotland. His duties are quite similar to those of the English Director of Ceremonies, and he is particularly responsible for protocol and the introduction of visitors. In the United States, he performs the flag ceremony and leads the Pledge of Allegiance during ceremonies.

Jewellery Lodge in Scotland

The Superintendent of the Works or Architect is responsible for the Lodge's ritual materials and ensures that nothing is missing before each ceremony.

The Organist, Director of Music or Master of Harmony is responsible for the music during the ceremonies.

The Orator is not always one of the Officers. His function is to be the guarantor of Masonic Laws and to make speeches, especially after the reception of new Brethren. This function is often assigned to the Immediate Past Master, making this office superfluous.

In addition to these main offices, there are many other functions that are sometimes used in a single jurisdiction. Scotland has the most. Here are some examples :

The Mentor in England is responsible for ensuring the smooth progress of the Brothers and is available for questions and advice. He encourages each Brother to find a personal mentor within the Lodge and co-ordinates all coaching and training efforts.

The Archivist, Librarian or Historian, who keeps the Lodge archives and sometimes manages a small library open to the Brethren.

The Charity Steward, who motivates the Brethren to make donations and presents the charities that should be supported.

The Standard Bearer.

The Bible Bearer.

The Bagpiper.

The Bard.

As for the number of Officers, this depends on the Jurisdiction and the Lodges, but in any case they are more numerous than in continental and French Freemasonry. Including the Immediate Past Master and Assistant Officers, Scottish Lodges can have up to thirty Officers. In England there are about twenty, and in Ireland and the United States about fifteen.

Masonic Lodge Officers in France and on the continent 

Whether it is the French Rite, the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite or the Rectified Scottish Rite, all continental Masonic Rites have their own definition of the College of Officers. In practice, however, there has been a degree of standardisation around a standard ten-man College of Officers. But let's take a closer look at the different offices that exist or have existed in the past.

The Orator is responsible for ensuring that the rules of the Lodge and Obedience are observed and that order is maintained during the work. He is the only person who can correct the Worshipful Master. He is also responsible for making speeches at reception ceremonies, banquets and solstice celebrations. In some Lodges, he makes a speech at every meeting. His function is similar to that of the Anglo-Saxon Orator, but with greater institutional power.

The Keeper of the Seals used to be in charge of the Lodge's stamp and archives. In general, this office no longer exists and its functions have been transferred to the Secretary.

The Master of Ceremonies is the mobile officer par excellence. When the Lodge is opened, no one may move about the Lodge without being preceded by him. He introduces visitors to the Lodge and may pass documents between the different Officers. Often he is the one who lights the symbolic candles, unrolls the Lodge Tracing Board and opens the Volume of the Sacred Law. In ancient rituals, he sometimes accompanied the candidates during the reception ceremonies. His function is quite similar to that of the Anglo-Saxon Director of Ceremonies, but he has more prerogatives during the ceremonies and is not necessarily responsible for ensuring that the work is carried out perfectly, which is often the task of the Expert.

The Expert is the one who introduces candidates to the Lodge and accompanies them during the initiation ceremonies. Originally, in the French Rite, the Expert was not a permanent officer, but a Brother appointed at a ceremony. In the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, the term Expert translated the term Deacon and originally there were two. Today there is usually only one, whatever the rite. The Deacon is often seen as the specialist in the ritual, ensuring that it is performed correctly. In some Lodges of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, he presides over the Lodge in the absence of the Worshipful Master. He corresponds to certain functions of the Deacons and Marshals of the Anglo-Saxon tradition.

The Terrible Brother (Frère Terrible), specific to French Freemasonry, acted as the Roofer and Introducer of the candidates. He often made the candidate pass through the various ordeals. This office and title have fallen into disuse and its functions are shared between the Roofer and the Expert.

Officers working during an initiation

The "Architecte-Préparateur" (French Rite) or "Économe" (Rectified Scottish Rite) was responsible for the materials needed for the various ceremonies. His duties have often fallen into disuse and are now generally carried out by the Expert or Master of Ceremonies. This office corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon Superintendent of Works.

The Master of Banquets, responsible for organising banquets and the ritual agape, is not used by all Lodges. This position is similar in some respects to that of the Anglo-Saxon Steward, but does not carry the same honours.

The Master of Harmony is responsible for music, as in the Anglo-Saxon model.

The Standard Bearer and the Sword Bearer are generally no longer used in Lodges, but are still important at national level in some Grand Lodges.

Some Masonic Lodges or Obediences also have other offices, of which the following are two examples :

The Archivist, or Librarian, which corresponds to its Anglo-Saxon counterpart.

The Magister, particularly in Switzerland, in charge of the instruction of the Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts, in place of the Wardens. This function is quite similar to that of the English Mentor.

Each Masonic Rite originally defined the number of its Officers, but in Europe, and particularly in France, the twentieth century saw a sort of standardisation of the model. Several Masonic authors wanted to symbolically link the College of Officers to the Sephirotic Tree, and the result was a list of ten Officers, including the Worshipful Master. In addition to these ten Officers, which are considered essential, there are often two or three functions that are considered more minor : the Master of Banquets, the Master of Harmony and, in some Lodges, the Immediate Past Master.

How do you become an Officer in a Masonic Lodge ?

In England, access to the various offices has always been by election. But in France, under the Ancien Régime, Lodges were owned by their Woshipful Masters, who held office for life and chose their Officers as they saw fit. This system disappeared when the first Grand Lodge of France became the Grand Orient of France in 1773, giving way to a democratic model.

Although the elective principle is now the norm in all Masonic Obediences and Jurisdictions, progression within the College of Officers can vary greatly. Generally, the counters are reset to zero, and a new College is elected without taking into account the previous College. However, some Lodges (especially in the United States) have adopted a system of internal progression : you are elected to the "lowest" post and then, barring any accidents along the way, you move up a rank each year until you become Worshipful Master. The progression obviously varies according to the offices held by the Lodge, but in the United States it normally ends as follows : Junior Deacon, Senior Deacon, Junior  Warden, Senior  Warden, Woshipful Master. 

In Europe, and particularly in France, a more limited model is often applied, without it being the subject of a formal regulation : the progression concerns only the Junior Warden, the Senior Warden and the Worshipful Master ranks.

July 08, 2024 — Ion Rajalescu