The 49 American Grand Lodges are sovereign and supreme in all respects in governing Symbolic Freemasonry within their jurisdiction. Their Constitution and Laws are binding on all members and all, so called affiliated organizations, must comply with them. In practice, the rights, previledges, and limitations of organizations requiring their members to be Master Masons were established many years ago.
The laws, customs, practices, and rituals vary to a great extent from state to state. However, a regularly made Master Mason feels at home while visiting in all jurisdictions.
While pursuing the same general theme, the ritualistic work in various Grand Lodges may be found to be of “Ancient” or “Modern” derivation, depending upon the knowledge and past experience of the founders. A number of Grand Lodges were originally founded on Ancient York Masonry and so stated in their titles.
Whether stated in their titles, or not, all American bodies consider themselves to be Most Worshipful Grand Lodges, except Pennsylvania. In all of their practices Pennsylvania endeavors to adhere to the ancient traditions, and titles themselves as a “Right Worshipful” Grand Lodge. The honorary title of Grand Master of Pennsylvania is Right Worshipful, whereas in all other states the designation is Most Worshipful.
There are many variations in the titles of officers between Grand Lodges, however, in the higher offices the designation are fairly standard. These are:
Most Worshipful Grand Master
Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master
Right Worshipful Senior Grand Warden
Right Worshipful Junior Grand Warden
Right Worshipful Grand Treasurer
Right Worshipful Grand Secretary
The foregoing are normally elected in Annual Communications. In several states the officers serve two or three years. The following officers are elected or appointed depending upon the Constitution of the Grand Lodge:
Worshipful Senior Grand Deacon
Worshipful Junior Grand Deacon
Worshipful Grand Marshall
Worshipful Grand Stewards (2)
Worshipful Grand Tyler
Worshipful Grand Chaplain
Worshipful Grand Historian
Worshipful Grand Lecturer
Worshipful Grand Orator
Additional officers occur in a few Grand Lodges, such as, Grand Sword Bearer and Grand Pursuivant.
Most jurisdictions are divided into Districts and a District Deputy Grand Master is appointed to oversee lodge activities within his area.
In recent years a number of Grand Lodges have added the office of Education Chairman on the State, District, and/or Lodge level and utilize the Lamp of Knowledge as the insignia for that office.
A national conference of Grand Masters meets annually to coordinate matters of mutual interest throughout the craft. This confederation of Grand Lodges supervises and supports several and important national programs. Among these are, The George Washington Masonic national Memorial building in Alexandria, Virginia, and The Masonic Services Association with headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial is an inspiring edifice, dedicated to the principles of Freemasonry. Many affililated Masonic Orders have furnished, and beautifully decorated, memorial rooms in the building. Visitors are welcome. This organization maintains a permanent endowment fund which is planned to eventually provide for perpetual support for the building and contributions are solicited.
The Masonic Services Association prepares monthly “Short Talk” bulletins for the use of the craft, and other informative pamphlets and literature. They also maintain a hospital visitation program for Freemasons who are patients in V.A. hospitals. This program is well established and manned by dedicated Masons throughout the United States.
Excerpted from: A History and Handbook, The York Rite of Freemasonry, by Frederic G. Speidel