An Overview of the Order
Operative or Guild Masons were organized in England with royal approval dating at least from as early as the Grand Assemblage of 926 in York, which is reputed to have been authorized and encouraged by King Athelstan. As a result of the general decline in Guild masonry, only a few operative lodges were still active in the early 1900s. Fearing that their teachings and ceremonials might eventually become lost, several operative lodges of the York Division decided that positive action should be taken to obviate this possibility. Under the authority of the York Division, the Channel Row Assemblage was reconstituted under the present title at Bedford House, in London, on 21st May 1913. The Worshipful Society of Freemasons is governed by a Grand Assemblage, which is based in London and presided over by three Grand Master Masons.
Qualifications For Membership And Degrees Worked
Membership is restricted to regular freemasons who are Master Masons, Mark Master Masons and Royal Arch Masons in good standing. For promotion beyond the Vº, a member must have been installed as a Master in a Craft Lodge and also in a Mark Lodge. There are seven degrees in all, as follows
Iº Indentured Apprentice
IIº Fellow of the Craft
IIIº Fitter and Marker
IVº Setter Erector
Vº Intendent, Overseer, Super Intendent and Warden
VIº Passed Master
VIIº Master Mason and Grand Master Honoris Causa
Assemblages And Lodges
Assemblage includes the Stone Yard and Lodge of each of the degrees from the First to the Third and also the Erection Site and Lodge of the Fourth degree. Each Assemblage is presided over by a Deputy Master Mason representing the three Grand Master Masons who ipso facto are the masters of every lodge. The Deputy Master Mason has two deputies and all three must be Passed Masters VIº. A Vº Lodge is presided over by a Deputy Master Mason and a VIº Lodge by a Senior Passed Master. Each of these presiding officers has two deputies. The VIIº Lodge is presided over by the three Grand Master Masons. The appointment of all Deputy Master Masons and Senior Passed Masters is the prerogative of the three Grand Master Masons and each continues in office until a successor is appointed. The Deputy Master Masons of Assemblages usually preside for one year, but the Deputy Master Masons Vº are usually appointed for three years and the Senior Passed Masters and Deputy Grand Master Masons for five years.
Procedures For Joining The Worshipful Society And Progress Within It
Freemasons having the required qualifications may enquire of any member of the Worshipful Society if interested in becoming a member. Many of those who join have been recommended to the Assemblage by members and have been invited to join after favourable consideration by the members of the Assemblage. All applications for membership are subject to a ballot of the members present in open Assemblage. Meetings of an Assemblage are held quarterly, but additional meetings may be convened in special circumstances.
Progress through the degrees and promotions to office are based on merit. In addition, certain minimum periods of service are prescribed for qualification for promotion in the progressive degrees, as follows:
Iº to IIº - The next following meeting of the Assemblage
IIº to IIIº - At least one intervening meeting of the Assemblage
IIIº to IVº - At least two intervening meetings of the Assemblage
IVº to Vº - At least three intervening meetings of the Assemblage
Vº to VIº - At least forty-eight weeks after promotion to Vº
VIº to VIIº - At the sole discretion of the three Grand Master Masons
Work Within The Assemblages
Although the work carried out within the Assemblages is similar in many respects to that carried out in the Masonic orders of which membership is a prerequisite to becoming a member of the Worshipful Society of Freemasons, nevertheless there are some significant differences. The origins of the various degrees of speculative freemasonry will become evident to candidates in the various operative degrees, although no attempt is made to correlate the several systems. The old charges and explanations are given in their original forms, but much of the work that has already been carried out in the speculative degrees is not repeated. The purpose of the Worshipful Society is to perpetuate the ancient operative workings to the extent that they can be established beyond doubt. In this respect, membership of the Worshipful Society can greatly enhance a speculative freemason’s understanding of the ceremonials in which he has participated and of the rituals that he has learnt. From the foregoing it will be evident that the work of the Worshipful Society provides an important, if not essential, conclusion to the work of the Craft, the Mark and the Royal Arch.
Moreover, it also relates directly to the work of the Cryptic Rite and some of the Allied Masonic Degrees.
Grand Rank and Past Rank
There is neither Grand Rank nor Past Rank in the Worshipful Society. A member’s rank is signified by the degree that he holds. In earlier times the three Grand Master Masons traditionally held office ad vitam, but nowadays they waive that right. The First Grand Master Mason shall retire after five years and the Second Grand Master Mason after three years, although each may be reappointed for a further period. The Third Grand Master Mason ceases to hold office when the Ancient Drama is reenacted at the annual General Assembly. All Deputy Master Masons, Senior Passed Masters, Deputy Grand Master Masons and Grand Master Masons use these titles only during the tenure of their offices – they are not subsequently accorded the title “Past”.
- Rt W. Bro. DON FALCONER, VII°