Have you ever asked yourself: “Why should we examine a visitor?” This is very easily answered. We do not want those who are not qualified, or who are not members in good standing entering our Lodges. Primary responsibility rests on the Worshipful Master, who was charged at the installation ceremony to “agree that no visitor shall be received into your Lodge without due examination, and producing proper vouchers of his having been initiated into a regular Lodge.” However, it is also the responsibility of each member of a Lodge to insure the security and integrity of his Lodge. Each of us, therefore, should be aware that we can be called upon to serve as a member of the committee to examine a visiting Brother, and it is our responsibility to be prepared to serve on the committee. When do we need to examine a visiting Brother?
Generally, it is when no one present that evening has sat in Lodge with the visitor and no one can, therefore, vouch for the visitor. In such a circumstance, the Worshipful Master would choose three members of the Lodge to form a committee to examine the visitor. The Master would be well advised to select Brethren who are well versed in Freemasonry, and well informed of the ritual and Lodge procedures. The examiners should probably start by using the Tiler’s Oath. This is a solemn oath that you have been initiated, passed, and raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason and that you are not suspended or expelled. We can ask the visitor to recite the Tiler’s Oath, but remember that not many of our Brethren have committed the Tiler’s Oath to memory. Thus, the better practice is to have the visitor place his hand on the Bible and read the Tiler’s Oath. You will then ask to see the visitor’s current dues card, and check the status of the Lodge in which he holds membership. For this purpose, a member of the committee should bring with him, in addition to a small Bible, and a copy of the Tiler’s Oath, the Lodge copy of the current “List of Lodges-Masonic.” This publication, from the Pantagraph Printing and Stationery Company, lists all recognized Masonic Lodges around the world and should be used to check the legitimacy of the Lodge in which the visitor is a member. You will then want to ask the visitor a few questions, but first try to make the Brother feel that he is welcome and that you are glad he chose to attend your Lodge. Explain that, as he knows, only members in good standing are entitled to enter our Lodges, and part of how we assure ourselves of the bona fides of a visitor is by asking a few questions that any Brother would know if he attends Lodge and is aware of the ritual for opening and closing a Lodge at either a called or stated communication. The members of the committee, for their part, need to be careful and thoughtful in selecting these questions.
Obviously, we should not ask any question where we are not sure of the answer. But as suggested above, these questions should be ones to which any Brother who regularly attends Lodge should know the answer. We have many Brethren who attend stated but not called communications when the degrees are conferred, so don’t ask questions that would only be known by a member who is well versed in the ritual. We don’t want to ask difficult questions that serve only to embarrass a Brother or make him feel unwelcome. We also don’t want to ask trick questions, compound questions, or questions with more than one correct answer. Remember these questions are not asked for the purpose of impressing the visitor with how knowledgeable the committee members are about Freemasonry. They are to enable the committee to determine if the visitor is a member of the Craft. Please do not forget that our objective is not to find a reason to exclude the visitor, but simply to ensure that he is a Brother. We want Brethren to visit our Lodge, and we should feel proud of the fact he has taken his time to visit our Lodge when he could have been attending other activities or just staying home. After the committee is satisfied that the visitor is a Brother in good standing, and from a Lodge recognized by our Grand Lodge, we should
inform him of the degree or degrees we will be working that evening, and, particularly if he is from a different jurisdiction, rehearse him on what he will need to know, although it is entirely acceptable for the visitor to give the signs appropriate to the jurisdiction under which his Lodge is holden. The brief time together with the visitor should not only satisfy the committee that the visitor is entitled to be admitted into the Lodge, but also should be used to build rapport with the visiting Brother.
Moreover, if a favorable report is given, and the Worshipful Master invites the visitor into the Lodge, the members of the committee should make a special effort to assure the visitor that they are glad to have him attend their Lodge. It is good practice for the members of the committee to sit next to the visitor or visitors in the Lodge room, so the visiting Brother does, in fact, feel comfortable and is not sitting alone. At the end of the meeting, assure the visitor that he will always be welcome in your Lodge, and that you hope the length of his Cable Tow is such that he will return often. You also might want, if the visiting Brother’s Lodge is not too far away, to return the visit and have an enjoyable experience seeing him again in his Lodge. Of course, if there is a problem which precludes a favorable report, explain what the issue is and explain why he cannot be admitted at this time. It may be, for example, that the Lodge he is a member of is not recognized by the Grand Lodge of Virginia, or that the dues card he had with him that evening was not his current dues card. But, here too, even when delivering bad news, we want to demonstrate the kind of Masonic courtesy for which we are so well known.
Brethren, I hope this in some small way makes you feel more comfortable about serving on a committee to examine a visitor, and hope
also that you will find it a rewarding experience.
THE EXAMINATION OF A VISITOR
Right Worshipful Joe W. Murphy
Committee on Masonic Education
PDDGM, Masonic District 19
The Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and
Accepted Masons of Virginia
DEO Presentation Program Paper
Picture credit to Living Stone Magazine
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