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My 2nd Degree Fellowcraft Ceremony

March 25, 2007

FellowcraftI am now officially a Fellowcraft Freemason!  I no longer wear the plain white lambskin apron, but now my apron has two sky-blue rosettes at the bottom.  I was just “passed” to the degree of a Fellowcraft in the Canadian Rite. 

There will be some differences from my degree compared to others around the world, but my experiences should be fairly similar.  No matter the which Ritual is followed, I’m sure that it will be a memorable experience for the Masons who go through it.  I’ll relate the basic things that I went through here, without revealing the spicy details that might take away from the enjoyment of any future Freemason going through their 2nd degree.

Before a Mason can begin the Fellowcraft degree ceremony, they have to prove their proficiency in the Entered Apprentice degree.   

I went through the degree with another Brother.  We started off by both approaching the altar and then answered a series of questions alternatively that we had memorized.  After we finished this, the Worshipful Master asked if there was anything else anyone wanted to hear.  The Senior Warden announced that he would like to hear our Entered Apprentice Obligation.  We were instructed to say the Obligation in unison, except for the final part that dealt with the penalties which we were to say separately. 

We managed to go through the entire obligation without any hesitations or lapses in synchronization.  Even in practice we had never done it this perfectly.  We were told by the Worshipful Master that it sounded like one voice with a slight echo and that he had never seen a group do it so well.  Our four months of memorization and practice payed off!

I will admit that by the end of the Obligation, my legs were shaking a bit.  We were standing in a position with out feet touching together and our legs straight for at least 10 minutes by this point.  The nervous energy and fatigue from standing still with straight legs were starting to take its toll.  Even my fingers on my hand that I was holding over my heart were starting to cramp up.

We were then asked to retire from the Lodge Room.  Once outside, we were told to change back into our “special garments” that we had worn for our first Initiation ceremony.  One of our questions that we had memorized was to describe the mode of our preparation for our Entered Apprentice initiation.  We were told to simply do everything opposite of what we did for the 1st degree.  We were pretty giddy from nailing our proficency test, so we did discuss wearing the tops of our garments as our pants etc…

After we had both changed and were waiting outside of the Lodge to begin our Fellowcraft ceremony, it occured to me how different this was from the initiation ceremony.  Our two “guides” for the ceremony and the Tyler were outside with us, and we joked and talked as we waited to be admitted back into the lodge. 

I wasn’t nervous like the first degree, because I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, and I now knew all of the Brothers who were inside.  It was actually our guides who were double checking with each other about their parts who appeared nervous.  I only had one fairly small part still to do which dealt with the signs, grips, tokens and passwords from the previous degree.  From this point on, I just had to enjoy the ride.

The ceremony was actually somewhat similar to the Initiation ceremony, but I wasn’t blindfolded.  I was led around by my guide, and prompted of what to say and do through-out.  I still managed to stumble on a few occasions when I was guided in a direction that I wasn’t expecting, but everything seemed to go smoothly.

I used an analogy when I wrote about my Initiation that said that the amount of information was like a tidal wave; most of it would go right by you, but in the end you would still be quite wet.  This degree was no different.  There were many strange names of people and places and stories that I really didn’t have time to absorb, much less process.  I even learned how to walk in a very peculiar fashion…

When we took the Obligation of a Fellowcraft, we were at the altar in a similar but opposite position from the first degree.  It soon became a very uncomfortable position and our guides stood behind us correction our position each time that we tried to rest or either slouch out of our “square” position.  Anyone who goes through this degree can probably attest to the soreness of your left arm by the time the Obligation is done.

The Obligation itself seemed a little bit shorter that the first one, and I was relieved to hear that several sentences and parts of sentences were the same from the first degree Obligation.  This will make it a lot easier to memorize.

There was more “secret work” as well.  Now there was also a passgrip and password along with the updated grip or token and signs.  I’m still a little bit confused about them, but I have a lot to learn about everything in this degree. 

There were similar lectures as in the first degree dealing with the working tools, the charge, and all of the symbols and history of the Fellowcraft degree.  This was also the first time that I had been exposed to a Tracing Board, which is basically a large picture that shows all of the symbols of the degree.  The symbols were explained as I followed along on the Tracing Board.

My overall impression of the degree was quite positive.  With the Initiation ceremony, it was very surreal to me because everything was so new and unfamiliar.  This degree was much more relaxed because I was now comfortable in the Lodge itself and was eager to hear and learn new material.  Every Brother who presented a portion of the degree was a friend and mentor.

It was explained to me that this degree represents the adulthood of a man’s life.  At this point a Mason is encouraged to learn about the liberal arts and sciences and improve his character and society.  It appears that there is quite a bit to learn in this degree and I look forward to getting into the new material.

This is my 18th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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The Final Days of an Entered Apprentice

March 22, 2007

Final DaysIn a few more days, I will be be a Fellow Craft Freemason.  The notice from my Lodge says that I will be passed to the degree of Fellow Craft, if found proficient in the work of the former degree.

There are two of us that will be going through the degree together.  We have been preparing for this Degree now for 4 months.  For the first two months we studied the catechisms by ourselves, and the last two months we have been meeting at the Lodge with our mentor and practicing everything that we will need to prove up on.

For the question and answer section, we will be alternating answers.  For our recital of our Entered Apprentice Obligation, we will be saying it in unison up until the point of the penalties.  Then we will each recite the penalty section by ourselves.  The final part that deals with the “secret work” will also be done in unison.  The “secret work” is basically the signs, grips, tokens and passwords.  There is a series of questions and answers that goes along with this section as well that we have memorized.

The last practice that we had at the Lodge took less than 15 minutes to get through all of our proficiency requirements.  An earlier post here gives more details of the requirements.  I do realize that many Lodges have slightly different requirements, but in reality they are all working towards the same outcomes.

We are both 100% ready with our memorization and 99% ready with our synchronization.  Hopefully we don’t get too nervous and forget things.

I have been looking forward to this for quite some time now and have been “chomping at the bit” to start learning some new material.  I’ll post my account of my Fellow Craft Degree Ceremony soon!

This is my 17th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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The Expulsion of a Freemason

March 12, 2007

Expulsion At my last Lodge meeting, an informational letter was read from our Grand Lodge that dealt with the expulsion of a Brother.  He had been convicted of a crime and had admitted his guilt and as such, all rights and privilages he had enjoyed in his Lodge or in the fraternity in general were now revoked.

Our Secretary commented after reading the letter that this decision was appropriate in order to uphold the strict moral standards of the fraternity and to keep “characters” like him from embarrassing Freemasonry.

I looked up expulsion at www.masonicdictionary.com and here is part of the definition:

He can no longer demand the aid of his Brethren nor require from them the performance of any of the duties to which he was formerly entitled, nor visit any Lodge, nor unite in any of the public or private ceremonies of the Order. He is considered as being without the pale, and it would be criminal in any Brother, aware of his expulsion, to hold communication with him on Masonic subjects.”

Part of the qualifications that I had to satisfy to become a Freemason were that I was a “just and upright man, had sound judgement and strict morals.”  I didn’t have to prove that I was completely free of sin, but there were basic things like not having a criminal record and honoring any debts or financial obligations that I might have.

In my “real life”, I have several co-workers and acquaintances who I know would not be dependable or trustworthy in many situations.  Many of them are very self-centered, lack any concern for others or even have the capability to experience empathy.  Several of them work in the corporate environment and have no problem over-billing and under-performing.

It is comforting to know that my Brethren can be relied upon to be true and reliable friends if needed.  I am proud to be in an organization that screens people to make sure that they are “good” men and insistis upon it’s members maintaining those standards. 

I’ll admit that when I heard about this man being expelled from Freemasonry, it sent a little shiver down my spine because I realized how serious Masonry was about being an honorable and decent man. 

During the discussion during our Festive Board, one Brother stated that Freemasonry makes a good man a better man, it doesn’t try to turn bad men into good men.

This is my 16th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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Freemason Blogs increase Masonic Membership

March 3, 2007

The majority of all new Freemasons today have done plenty of research on the Internet before ever stepping into a Lodge.  One thing that I was searching for before I became a Freemason were Blogs that related the personal experiences of new Masons.  I was not looking for promotional material for or against Freemasonry, I was just looking for accounts of what it was really all about.

The only Blog that sort-of fit the bill was this one at www.freemasonblog.com.  The Blog itself actually died out fairly quickly, and I think it is only still there because of the Google Ads on the page, but it later convinced me to start my own Blog to fill that need.

I don’t have the monopoly on the experiences of what a new Freemason might go through, and I encourage others to start their own Blogs.  Here is another one just like mine that I found the other day called “From Darkness to Light.”

Search Results Click on the image to the left to see an example of what people are searching for when they find my Blog.  This is all that I could show from a “screen capture” of my monitor, but some days there are well over 50 different search terms that are finding my Blog – and my Blog is barely 2 months old. 

There are plenty of Masonic Blogs out there now, but most are geared towards other existing Freemasons.  Here are just a few examples of other Masonic Blogs:

The Masonic Traveller, The Tao of Masonry, The Burning Taper, Freemasonry Resources, Freemasons for Dummies, On The Level, and one called Tim Goes On.

When you look way, way back on some of these Blogs, you can find posts about the Author’s Degree Ceremonies.  I would suggest that even when Bloggers have hundreds of posts about Freemasonry, they should still try to make these sorts of posts easy to find for potential new Initiates.  There is a definite demand for those posts.  Why just have a Masonic Blog that always “preaches to the choir”? 

One thing that I have done is create a “Masonic Table of Contents“, so that it will be easier for people to find specific things about Masonry.  Some Blogs already have a section entitled “The Best of” or something similar.

When I fist started my Blog, I thought that I would get a handful of visitors every week who might actaully be interested in what I was going through.  I have no intention of trying to actively recruit new members and that is not what I am advocating, I am just trying to relate one man’s journey into Freemasonry.  If my journey and experience inspire others to look further into the fraternity, so mote it be.

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The Entered Apprentice Blues

February 27, 2007

Frustration Two other Entered Apprentices just went through their Fellow Craft Degree the other night.  Myself and another Brother are going to go through our Fellow Craft Degree in a month on March 23.  Now that the date is finalized, it is going to be 4 months from my Initiation to Fellow Craft.

We were allowed to stay in Lodge to watch the testing of the memorized questions and answers.  They answered the questions alternatively and made it through word for word perfectly.

They then were required to recite their “Great and Solemn Obligation of an Entered Apprentice Mason” together.  The last section of the Obligation which dealt with the “penalties” were done separately however.

They had practiced this together for the first time a few days before, and I can vouch that the first couple of times were pretty rough.  The first problem was a difference in their respective accents which tended to throw each other off.  Then there was the problem of the “little words” in the Obligation.  A little mistake like switching “and” with “or” might not be noticed by itself, but when two people recite both at the same time is quite noticeable. 

The practice payed off though because they did a great job.  It was interesting to look around the room at the other Freemasons in attendance.  Almost everyone was looking down with their heads bobbing as they all quietly recited the obligation to themselves.  

I was hoping to see them go through more parts of “proving up” their Entered Apprentice Catechisms, but unfortunately the junior Entered Apprentices were forced to retire at this point.

We both sat outside the Lodge Room for the next hour and a half as the Fellow Craft Ceremony continued.  After the ceremony ended, we were allowed back in the Lodge for the closing.

I must admit that it is getting tough waiting for my Fellow Craft Degree.  I’ve had my memorization down for quite a while now, and I could have easily demonstrated all of my memorization that night. 

I realize that there is much, much more to learn and I continue to read about and research Masonry, but I guess I will get there soon enough!

This is my 15th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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The Commitments of a Freemason

February 17, 2007

Busy I recently found out that there are many Masons who participate in 20-30 Masonic events or activities every month!

As an Entered Apprentice, I have been attending the two official meetings per month in my Lodge, plus we have a members breakfast at a local restaurant once a month.

The Secretary of our Lodge is also the “District Deputy Grand Master” and is responsible for 10 other Lodges in our area.  Given his positions, I realize that he is busier than the average “Blue Lodge” Freemason.  I was chatting with him at breakfast the other day and I asked him how many Masonic commitments he had every week.  He replied that he attended something pretty much every day.  The only time that things slowed down for him were the months that had a fifth week, since Lodges don’t schedule regular meetings during that week.  He pulled out his calendar and it was filled up almost every single day.  In fact, after breakfast he was heading over to another Lodge for something else.

The average “Blue Lodge” Freemason can also be very busy.  I see that our Lodge Officers are scheduled to attend practices for upcoming degree work, there are several special committees to potentially join (my Lodge has 16), and there are always invitations from other Lodges for events and activities.  For example, several Lodges in my area just had “Robbie Burns Suppers” and several are celebrating their Centennials this year. 

I have also noticed that at our regular Lodge meetings we always have guests from other Lodges.  Many of them attend almost all of the time.  I wonder how many Brothers regularly attend more than one Lodge.

When the “Investigative Committee” came to my house a few months ago, I was specifically warned to not jump into extra things right away because it was very easy to instantly have my “dance card” completely filled.  There would always be potential charity work that would be available, but there would also be the other “appendant” or “concordant” Masonic bodies such as the Shriners, Scottish Rite, or Royal Arch Masonry (York Rite in the U.S.) which Brothers would be suggesting that I join once I become Master Mason. 

Since I am only an Entered Apprentice, I don’t have any responsibilities yet, but I think that I will definitely pick and choose carefully in the future.  Being away from home 4 or 5 nights a week wouldn’t sit well with my family right now…

This is my 14th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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The Life of an Entered Apprentice Mason

February 10, 2007

JourneyI was Initiated into Freemasonry about 2 and a half months ago.  If everything goes well, I am to go through my Fellow Craft Degree Ceremony in another 4 weeks.

Most of my preparation for my Fellow Craft Degree is pretty much done now.  I have almost everything memorized that I have been required to learn as an Entered Apprentice, and now I’m just “chomping at the bit” to move on.  I still learn quite a bit of information at every meeting that I attend, but I’m ready to get started on the Fellow Craft requirements.

One thing that I didn’t realize when I first became a Freemason, was the differences between the Three Degrees of Freemasonry.

The Lodge actually “works” in the different degree levels.  When the Lodge is opened in the “First Degree”, I am allowed to be in the Lodge and participate, but when it gets opened in the Second or Third Degree, I have to “retire” which means I have to leave the Lodge Room.  This makes sense because the secrets of those levels have not been revealed to me, so I can’t participate yet.

I realize that the rules of the Country and jurisdiction where you become a Freemason in, will determine just how much an Entered Apprentice can participate.  In the Canadian Rite for example, I can participate in the regular Business Meetings of my Lodge, but I know that in many places you must be a Master Mason to participate.

If an entire meeting in my lodge was held in the “Third Degree,” I would be allowed to attend the first few minutes at the start when the Lodge was opened in the “First Degree”.  Then I would be asked to retire and leave the Lodge Room.  A few minutes later, I would be joined by any Fellow Craft members as they would have to leave when the Lodge moved from the “Second Degree” to the “Third Degree”. 

After the Lodge closed the Third and Second Degrees at the end, I would be able to enter back into the Lodge Room to see the Lodge closed in the “First Degree”.

In reality, my Lodge has mostly operated at the “First Degree” level and the Entered Apprentices have only had to retire for brief periods.  Perhaps this is partially because my Lodge has 4 Entered Apprentices attending right now and they are trying to be as inclusive as they can be for us.

I must admit that not being able to participate when the Lodge is opened in the higher degrees, motivates me to want to move on!  Just sitting outside of the Lodge Room and wondering what is going on in there, makes me curious.  As much as it is frustrating to be excluded from parts, I know that I can look forward to having the mysteries revealed to me in time. 

Being told everything about Freemasonry on the first day would have spoiled my journey so far.  If you already knew the outcome of the Superbowl, you would never feel the excitement of seeing the game live.  How many people cheer on their sports teams with as much vigor during the replay as during the real event?

This is my 13th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.