I realize that when I talk about Freemasonry, I often use officer titles with people who have no idea what the officers do. For most organizations, it would be easy to understand what a president, vice president, etc. do. But Masonry doesn’t have Presidents and Vice Presidents.
There are two classes of officers in a Blue Lodge (Blue Lodges are the basic unit of Freemasonry wherein the three Degrees are conferred). The first class are called Line Officers and they have rank and authority in their given duties. They form the command structure of the Lodge. The second are called Supplementary Officers. They have duties but do not fit into the chain of command. They sometimes have authority in their duties but when they do, it is by the order of the Grand Lodge.
Line Officers (bottom-up)
The normal course of progression is for a Brother to be appointed to Junior Steward and move up through the Line Officer chairs until he gets to Worshipful Master, which takes seven years. I didn’t have that luxury due to a shortage of personnel. I ended up in the East after having served only as Senior Steward, Junior Deacon, and Senior Warden.
Stewards (Junior and Senior)
The Stewards are exactly what their name implies: The flight attendants of the Lodge. They assist Brethren with mobility issues, fetch glasses of water for officers, etc. During times of Refreshment, they serve meals, clean tables, help in the kitchen, etc. Their ceremonial duties in the Lodge include assisting the Junior Deacon in preparing the candidate for degrees and in purging the Lodge.
The Junior Steward is seated on the left of the Junior Warden in the South. The Senior Steward, on the right of the Junior Warden in the South. They carry rods and their emblem is the cornucopia, symbolizing plenty for all. During hours of Refreshment, they report to the Junior Warden. During hours of Labor, they report to the Junior Deacon.
The Junior Deacon’s duties center around the Outer Door. He communicates the state of the Lodge to the Tiler when necessary, answers alarms at the Outer Door, and prepares candidates for degrees. He assists the Senior deacon when so ordered.
The Junior Deacon is seated at the right hand of the Senior Warden in the West. He carries a rod and his emblem is the Square and Compasses embordering a Crescent Moon, to symbolize the regularity with which he ought to attend his duties. He reports to the Senior Warden.
The Senior Deacon’s duties are threefold: To attend to business at the Inner Door, which includes receiving and conducting candidate during degrees, introduce and accommodate visiting brethren (to include Grand Lodge Officers), and assist the Master in communicating orders to the brethren (this includes balloting on new members).
The Senior Deacon is seated at the right hand of the Worshipful Master in the East. He carries a rod and his emblem is the Square and Compasses embordering a blazing star, to symbolize the zeal with which he ought to attend his duties. He reports to the Worshipful Master.
The Junior Warden is elected to serve the Craft during the Hours of Refreshment, serve as liaison between the Lodge and its respective youth groups, and to serve as a voting member of the Grand Lodge. He is a permanent member of the Finance and Charity committees by state statute.
His Station is in the South. His emblem is the Plumb, symbolizing rectitude of conduct. He reports to the Senior Warden and Junior Grand Warden.
The Senior Warden is elected to assist the Worshipful Master in running his Lodge, planning the Lodge activities, and to resolve disputes among brethren. He assumes the duties of the Master if the Master should become indisposed and is a voting member of the Grand Lodge. He is a permanent member of the Finance and Charity committees by state statute.
His Station is in the West. His emblem is the Level, symbolizing equality. He reports to the Worshipful Master, the Senior Grand Warden, the Deputy Grand Master, and the District Deputy.
The Worshipful Master is elected to run the Lodge for one year. He gives orders, appoints committees, hears motions, confers degrees, approves minutes, approves expenditures with the backing of the Brethren, and generally runs the Lodge. He is the chair of the Finance and Charity committees by state statute. He may sit in on any committee meeting he chooses for any reason. He may allow any other Master Mason to serve in his place during the course of a single meeting, provided the Master is actually present, but only the Senior or Junior Wardens may assume his duties in his absence. He is a voting member of the Grand Lodge.
His Station is in the East. His emblem is the Square, symbolizing the duty he owes to the Lodge over which he is elected to preside. He reports to the Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, and District Deputy.
The Secretary takes meeting minutes, reads them, handles all Lodge communication, and communicates with the Grand Lodge when ordered. Much of his duty is regulated by state law as Freemasonry is a registered nonprofit corporation. He may be compensated if the Lodge Bylaws allow it.
His place is on the left of the Worshipful Master in the East (usually at a Secretary’s Desk). His emblem is the Crossed Quills, symbolizing writing, his most frequently used skill. He reports to the Grand Secretary.
The Treasurer handles the Lodge finances and makes regular reports to the Finance Committee. He is the primary signatory of checks issued by the Lodge, though most Lodge bylaws also permit the Secretary or entire finance committee to sign checks for emergency purposes. He may be compensated if the Lodge Bylaws allow it.
His place is ceremonially on the right of the Worshipful Master in the East but in practice, he sits next to the Secretary at the desk. His emblem is the Crossed Keys symbolizing security. He reports to the Grand Treasurer, albeit rarely as all financial communication with the Grand Lodge is filtered through the Secretary.
The Counselor oversees the Lodge ritual and candidate progression through the Degrees. He is usually holder of a Proficiency card from the Grand Lodge and therefore has authority to correct errors in the Ritual and post candidates in their studies. He oversees execution of the Wisconsin Program for candidate learning.
His place is on the left of the Senior Warden in the West. He may carry a rod, especially during degree rehearsals. His emblem is a scroll, symbolizing the Ritual. He reports to the Grand Lecturer, District Lecturer, and District Chaplain.
The Chaplain is the spiritual advisor of the Lodge. He officiates memorial services, speaks to brethren who have questions of faith and spirituality, interfaces with local clergy members, offers prayers to begin and end meetings (and any other occasion where a prayer is called for), and advises the Lodge on spiritual matters.
His place is on the left of the Worshipful Master in the East. His emblem is the Holy Bible, symbolizing faith in God. He reports to the Grand Chaplain and District Chaplain.
The Organist plays the organ during meetings, degrees, dinners, and other Masonic events. He adds an important note to the atmosphere of Masonic activities. He may be compensated if the Lodge Bylaws allow it. The number of Lodge Organists is declining. All Lodges used to have them, now few do.
His place is at the organ, wherever that may be in the Lodge room. His emblem is the Lyre, symbolizing music. He reports to no one.
The Soloist performs vocal music to punctuate certain important events in Masonry. He may be compensated if the Lodge Bylaws allow it. Few Lodges have soloists.
He has no official place and so sits on the sidelines, usually near the organist. His emblem is also the Lyre, symbolizing music. He reports to no one.
The Tiler is the guardian of the Lodge. He stands outside the Lodge room during meetings and degrees to keep away curious passersby. He carries a sword in case things get rough. Okay, the Tiler is usually an old guy and the sword is usually flimsy aluminum and duller than a butter knife but it’s the principal of the thing. The roughest things might get is if he falls off his chair while he’s sleeping as it’s sort of traditional for the Tiler to nod off during long meetings. The job isn’t very exciting after all.
His place is at the Outer Door. His emblem is the Sword, symbolizing defense. He reports to no one. He may be compensated if the Lodge Bylaws allow it. The compensation is normally a token and not an actual paycheck – $10 a night is common, so is being allowed to take home leftover food, so is a yearly frozen turkey in lieu of cash. The Tiler is where old Past Masters get stuck when they can’t help out with the work anymore but the Lodge still feels endebted to them for their years of service.