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One of the questions which appears with some regularity both in our private email and on newsgroups is:
"I'm about to meet with the 'investigating committee'. What should I do? What should I wear? What should I say? What's going to happen?"
Let's define our terms first: in a few Grand Lodges (Massachusetts is a good example), before a petition can be accepted, there's a 'pre-application meeting'. This is normally done at the lodge but may also be at a local restaurant or some other convenient place. It's an opportunity to ask all the questions that come to mind. It's an informal opportunity to meet the presently serving leaders of the lodge and, perhaps, to look around the building a bit. However, only a small number of Grand Lodges have such a requirement. In most cases, you will have received a petition from a friend and have returned it to him. Now, you're informed, you need to meet with the ominously-sounding "Investigation Committee". Even more unfamiliar, they want to meet at your home - and ask that your spouse be there as well. What's this all about?
As you'll be assured throughout the process of becoming a member of the Masonic fraternity, 'everything has a purpose'. This one is not that of idle curiosity or stern judgment. Rather, it's another opportunity to learn more about the upcoming events and for the Brethren of the Lodge to decide whether or not they want to allow you into their 'sacred home'.
Rarely are people 'interviewed' in their home. Although it's commonplace for those wishing to adopt a child, far too few of us have done such a (wonderful and caring) thing so we're unfamiliar with this type of situation. What you need to remember is, simply, "be yourself".
Those who come to visit are not there to decide whether your furniture is new or old. They don't care if you have the largest house or the smallest apartment. They won't be bothered if the cat joins in by sitting next to them. (If I was at your house, my eyes might water and I might start sneezing but I still wouldn't mind!). The purpose of the 'investigation' meeting is an opportunity to simply get to know each other.
Now needless to say: if your personal habits allow garbage to accumulate on the floor or its apparent that your financial situation is such that even a minimal additional expense will be a substantial burden, you will be discouraged from proceeding further. It's extraordinarily rare, however, that such situations arise and what normally occurs is an enjoyable conversation amongst persons becoming friends.
Why do we ask that your spouse be there? We want to assure that she fully understands what you're about to join also. She should feel free to join in the discussions and if she does not, those present will provide encouragement for her to do so. In fact, its not uncommon for one of those visiting to find an opportunity ("Here, let me help you with that....") to spend just a few moments alone with her so if there are things she hasn't even confided to you, they can be addressed discretely and completely.
And what about the question of refreshments? Those coming to visit will neither expect nor suggest that you do anything special for them. Because you'll all be talking a lot, an offer of coffee or a soft drink will usually be welcomed. Rarely will a visitor accept liquor: this is a solemn and serious task assigned to them by the other members of their Lodge. On their recommendations, others will make decisions and it's inappropriate that their judgment be clouded by drink. Spouses often ask about finger sandwiches or snacks. While appreciated, they can also be an interruption and distraction in some cases. Many have found that simple snacks (chips, peanuts, hard candy, or whatever) are just as appropriate but nothing whatsoever is fine too. Remember, the purpose of this meeting is not to evaluate your special salsa!
What to wear is also a question that often occurs. The simplest answer is (again) 'be yourself'. Wear whatever you'd normally wear if you were having a couple of close friends drop by for a game of bridge or to make plans for some upcoming event. (And this is a good time to ask those present what you should be wearing on the night you take your degrees. Some lodges are much more formal than others. Clothes do not make the man but most folks don't want to be 'out of place' either so raising such questions can be helpful.)
To any such questions, concerns, and
anxieties, the simplest answer (and, from our perspective at least) is
"be yourself". When your visitors have departed, we hope that
you'll remember the time as being enjoyable for all concerned - and you'll have
taken yet another step towards becoming part of a three hundred year tradition
which we hope you'll truly enjoy for the rest of your life!
And don't forget to read some important information about preparing for your degrees right here. We hope you'll find it helpful.
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