Issues with Communication regarding our Petitions

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Jim Stapleton

When I submitted my petition to become a Freemason, I was filled with excitement. Personally, I didn’t know much about Freemasonry. Some Brothers are fortunate enough to have close friends or familial relationships that serve as their introduction to the Fraternity. Most of what I knew I had read online, and I wasn’t sure how much of it was even true. I was truly in the dark about the Fraternity, but I was eager to get started!

I went online and requested information through my Grand Lodge. I was referred to a local Lodge for further assistance. I promptly asked the Lodge Secretary what I needed to do to join. We arranged a time for me to pick up a petition. I enthusiastically completed the petition and proceeded to hand it in. I couldn’t wait for what would come next.

A week went by and I didn’t hear anything from the Lodge. Another week went by without any news. Weeks turned into months and still nothing. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with my application. Perhaps I gave an answer they didn’t like? Maybe one of my references said something bad about me? Did the Lodge just look at the petition and decide that I wasn’t worthy to join?

I finally received a call from the Lodge Secretary about two and a half months after I submitted my petition. He asked if I would be available to go through the Entered Apprentice Degree a couple of weeks later. I was thrilled that I heard back and that I was going to begin the journey. 

When I handed in my petition, I had no idea how long the process could take. Now, my time in Freemasonry has given me more insight. Petitions need to be read in Lodge, investigations need to happen, and ballots need to be held. The time of the year when a petition is received by a Lodge can certainly delay the process. For example, many Lodges do not hold business in July and August, and there are limits on what can be done to move a petition forward. Through the lens of an experienced Mason, I can understand why it took a while before I was able to be initiated. However, I have spoken with Brothers from other Lodges over the years and discovered that some of them waited far longer to hear back after submitting their petitions. This causes me to wonder if more could be done to develop relationships with potential members while they wait for initiation?

I believe that Lodges should make a concerted effort to engage with prospective members. Communication is vitally important. Checking in periodically with a petitioner can help to show that the Lodge is still interested, and provide an opportunity to answer any questions that arise. If your Lodge has dinner before meetings and Degrees, you can invite petitioners to dine with the Brethren. This is an excellent way to get acquainted with petitioners in a relaxed setting. If your Lodge has community service events, invite prospective members to attend. In addition to lending a hand, the opportunity will help them feel involved. We should be trying to strengthen connections between the petitioner and the Lodge to make them feel valued. Reaching out to a potential member does not take a lot of time or effort, but it could mean a world of difference to them.

(It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that our Lodge’s current Secretary is outstanding and I am not directing any negativity towards him.)

Jim Stapleton is the Senior Warden of USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62. He is also a member of the New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786. Jim received the Distinguished White Apron Award from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. He was awarded the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award. Jim is also a member of the Society of King Solomon.

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