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So you've decided that you might be interested in becoming a Mason. Now what? This is one of the most frequently-asked questions we get in our e-mail each day.
The process is really quite simple actually. If you have a friend or acquaintance who's a Mason, tell them of your interest. They'll provide you with the information necessary to proceed and will generally 'vouch' for you as one of good character and worthy of membership. They'll introduce you to the proper lodge officers, provide you with a petition form to complete, and explain what goes on at their lodge where you'll soon be welcomed as a member.
Many of those interested in becoming Masons, though, don't know who to ask. They simply don't know anyone who's a Mason. (Surprisingly, they'll likely find later that several people they know are Masons but they just didn't realize that fact.) Again, the process is not as complicated as it might seem.
In North America and the UK, the process is quite simple and we'll discuss that below. In other countries in the world, Freemasonry may not be as readily observable. This stems from a history of persecution in the past, the memory of which lingers today. (On other parts of our website you can read of the Nazi killings of Freemasons and the sacking of the Masonic properties in the small island country of Jersey, for example.) Thus, outside of North America, we would encourage you to contact the Grand Lodge for that country. You'll find a relatively complete listing of those who are on the web at this link (look under 'International'). If the country you're looking for is not on the web, drop me a note and I may be able to find further information for you.
In North America and the UK:
You can contact a local lodge there in your town by phone, letter, or personal visit. Lodges are generally readily locatable in the Yellow Pages section of the phone directory under 'Fraternities'.
Something to remember: not all lodge halls have someone there at all times. In fact, the smaller the lodge, the less likely it will be to find anyone available to answer the phone at all. Sometimes lodges have bought answering machines but others haven't. In fact, lodges in very small communities might not have a phone at all. With the heavy prevalence of cell phones now, some lodges are opting to discontinue the 'land line' phone they've had for years due to the (perceived) unwarranted expense of it.
This is not like calling a business. At Grand Lodges, you'll find paid employees on staff during regular business hours while at local lodges, it's 'catch as catch can' - and the person who answers the phone might just be the fellow who's volunteered to clean up after a meeting the night before and will toss the shirt he was wearing into the laundry before remembering to remove the note he's made about your call to pass along to someone else. It's a fraternity - and things like this do happen from time to time.
The most important thing I try to convey to those who ask is be persistent. Regrettably, I've known a case where a person had called his local lodge where, by chance, the Secretary had dropped by to pick up the mail. A lovely conversation ensued and the Secretary promised to phone back in a few days after setting up a date for this individual to meet with the Master and Wardens. The person inquiring never heard further and assumed that for some reason, he was found 'wanting' and was not welcome to join. Nearly six years later he relayed that story to a Mason. Inquiry revealed that the Lodge Secretary had actually died the following evening in his sleep. While he'd mentioned the call to the Master that very evening, he'd failed to provide the phone number and in the confusion following this beloved member's death, the matter was overlooked. It was unfortunate in more ways than one. The devoted Secretary would have NEVER allowed this man to be ignored nor would the Lodge. He, though, felt shunned and since he didn't follow up on a timely basis, never knew the true circumstances. The morale to the story is: don't make assumptions!
Once you've made contact, the process may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Each Grand Lodge is sovereign and thus they're each free to make their own rules regarding how old someone must be to join, how long they must have lived within the jurisdiction etc. These variations will all be explained to the inquirer as he's asked various questions.
Because Freemasonry is a 'brotherhood', all Masons have a duty to live a moral life that will not bring discredit on the rest. As a result, you'll need to be 'sponsored' by a member of the Lodge you wish to join. Some jurisdictions require that you know this person for a specified period of time. In other cases, a Mason may - after meeting with you a couple of times - come to the conclusion that you're the type of person we'd be happy to have amongst us and will offer to sponsor you. The process is a serious and solemn one. No Mason should sponsor anyone whom he cannot personally vouch for and if a person subsequently becomes unfit for membership, it is a great embarrassment to the original sponsor.
Some jurisdictions require that you meet with a 'pre-application committee' before you will even be offered a petition form. This is to ensure that any questions or concerns you have will be fully addressed. In other jurisdictions, however, no such requirement exists and you will receive a petition from your sponsor when he feels willing to proceed.
During this 'pre-application' period, you should feel comfortable to ask any questions that you have. How much does this cost per year, how many nights will I be out each month, what time does the meeting end, what do people wear to meetings, and any other question that may come to mind. Remember that just because a lodge in a nearby town has meetings which end at 10PM, it doesn't mean that yours will as well (and there are even a few 'daylight' lodges that meet at noon or in the early afternoon). Do feel free to ask and don't simply assume that you'll learn all of this at the appropriate time. Remember: there are no 'stupid questions' - ever!
Once you submit your application with the appropriate fee, your petition will be read at the next meeting of the Lodge. At that time, the Master will appoint an 'Investigating Committee' and you can read more about that here.
When they return their report to the Lodge, a ballot is taken. One of the key elements of Freemasonry is that we all agree on our new members. As a result, your ballot must be accepted unanimously. It should be of great pleasure to you that you have achieved this level of trust by those whom you will soon call "Brother".
Following the ballot, you'll be notified of when to appear for your first degree and things will proceed apace. (We'd encourage you to read our page on 'preparing for your first degree' here.) Following that degree, you will be required to memorize certain parts of the ritual in which you've just participated. This often comes as a surprise to those who join but it should NEVER be used as an excuse ("Oh, I'm no good at memorizing ...."). A coach will be assigned and through that tutelage, you'll learn about the rich history of Freemasonry and make a life-long friend!
It should be noted that the above is a general guide/description. Particularly in European Freemasonry, there may some substantial variations from the above (more numerous interviews, the presentation of a paper between degrees, etc.) We hope that this answers some of the more general questions about the process. If you have any other concerns, do let us know.
We look forward to welcoming you as a Brother - if that is your intent....
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