For now, let's assume you've decided to join our Ancient Craft.
There are a number of elements that should be taken together when considering just what to do next.
First, what is the next step? Freemasonry has a rather long tradition of not asking people to join
- not even one's own siblings or children. There's a sound reason for this, and though not a secret, is incorporated into the rituals. Suffice it to say, becoming a Mason should be your own decision
- and not a decision influenced by the actual or the perceived desire of others. So
your first step is to find a Mason and ask! Some
Masons even wear a small pin, tie clip, or have a bumper sticker: "2 B 1 ASK 1". That's where you
would need to start.
Another very important - and oft-times neglected consideration is which lodge to petition.
You may have thought about joining the same lodge as your friend at work. Or perhaps, the
same lodge as your father or brother. These are certainly strong considerations, but
there's one that's even more important: basically, what good is it to join our
fraternity if you can not make it to most meetings? Should you live in an area with
convenient proximity to several lodges, then you should consider their meeting times. The one least
in conflict with the necessities of your life should get particular
consideration. Distance is also important - there are those who happily drive a hundred
miles or more for their lodge nights - but that kind of drive could develop into a
hardship rather easily. Finally, you may have the luxury of considering the lodge's
personality. Lodges are made of people and the individuals making up the lodge cannot
help but add a bit of themselves. Is your thing Charitable works? Parties? Community Service? One thing not to worry about: that you may not know
anyone in the lodge you hope to join - you'll feel at home immediately. We're not
kidding about the 'Brother' in Brotherhood.
Costs? There are two expenses to consider. The first is a one-time expense for initiation.
The second is your annual dues. In recent times, some Grand Lodges now
require a background check - basically, because times being what they
are, it has become necessary.
The initiation fee is used, among other things, to buy you a number of items that will be
presented to you - the cost being covered by the initiation fee. Your lodge
is a member of some "Grand Lodge", and they generally collect a fee for each
new member - which is paid by your lodge out of that initiation fee. It is also common
to include the first year's dues. The last scenario can play out very differently
in different lodges and Grand Jurisdiction.
The annual dues are, as it is said, the life-blood of the lodge. Lodges are self-supporting. They will need to pay for any number of expenses (rent, coffee, etc.)
on behalf of its
members. Furthermore, there is typically an annual per-capita 'head tax' on members by the Grand
Lodge to which it belongs. In New York State, the per-capita tax is only collected for Master Masons
(3rd Degree). In other states, it becomes due for all members. Generally,
being required to pay dues and having a vote in lodge matters, go hand-in-hand.
Both of these fees are determined by your lodge membership. This determination
is made by a vote of the
lodge's membership based upon their fixed costs and the personality of the lodge (as
I referred to earlier).
It is a feature of freemasonry not to judge a man by his wealth, but by his character.
Therefore, unless the members of a lodge have strayed from this outstanding Masonic
Principle, the fees for membership in a lodge be should not be exorbitant.
part, it would be a mistake to solicit membership in a lodge which you would
to maintain financially.
A Disclaimer of Sorts -
The forgoing should not be considered an all-encompassing scenario upon which you
may base your decision. It is, rather, a reminder of a few ideas that may not
have crossed your mind. Ultimately, the joining of craft and selection of the
most suitable lodge involve many personal factors which I will not pretend to address.