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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Worshipful, Worshipful, Everywhere a Worshipful

The landscape of honorifics used to address certain leaders and past leaders in lodges and Grand Lodges can be confusing to even experienced and informed Masons. The adjective “Worshipful” is applied in several variations to describe and honor current and past holders of such positions as a Master of a lodge, elected and appointed officers of a Grand Lodge, and Grand Masters. “Worshipful” can actually be disturbing to some of those outside of the Fraternity when they mistakenly apply a more modern religious connotation to the word. The use of the word in Freemasonry, however, stems from its older use as a term of respect.
Worshipful - British. a formal title of honor used in announcing or mentioning certain highly regarded or respected persons or groups.
Source: Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/worshipful (accessed: September 27, 2009).
Using the Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina as a starting point in this examination, there can be found three primary variations involving the word “Worshipful” – Worshipful Brother, Right Worshipful Brother, and Most Worshipful Brother.

Worshipful Brother (other variations: Worshipful Master, Worshipful Sir, and Worshipful). This honorific is used to address current or past Masters of a lodge of Freemasons. This title is also applied to the following appointed and past officers of the Grand Lodge: Senior Grand Deacon, Junior Grand Deacon, Grand Marshal, Grand Pursuivant, Grand Steward, and Grand Tiler – all of which have to be Past Masters before being appointed. Note: The position of Grand Chaplain, which will be mentioned in the next paragraph, is the only Grand Lodge office that does not require the holder to be a Past Master.

Right Worshipful Brother (other variations: Right Worshipful Sir and Right Worshipful). In South Carolina, this address is used for current or past Grand Lodge officers in the following positions: Deputy Grand Master, Senior Grand Warden, Junior Grand Warden, Grand Treasurer, Grand Secretary, Grand Chaplain, and District Deputy Grand Master.

Most Worshipful Brother (other variations: Most Worshipful Sir and Most Worshipful). This honorific is reserved for the current and past Grand Masters of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina.

Though this may seem straightforward thus far, the confusions will now be illustrated by way of a couple of specific, real-world, examples.

If the office of Grand Secretary, who would normally be addressed as Right Worshipful, is held by a Past Grand Master – he retains the title of Most Worshipful. If the office of Grand Marshal, who would normally be addressed as Worshipful, is held by a Past District Deputy Grand Master – he continues to be addressed as Right Worshipful. In other words, a Mason retains the honorific suitable for the highest position held – regardless of his current position.

To add to the confusion – current and past Senior Grand Deacons, Junior Grand Deacons, Grand Marshals, Grand Pursuivants, Grand Stewards, and Grand Tilers wear aprons that look exactly like those worn by current and past District Deputy Grand Masters. The absence of jewels – which only sitting Grand Lodge officers in these positions will have, name badges that clearly identify the Mason’s past status, or personal knowledge of the Mason’s Masonic resume can certainly lead to confusion when it comes to addressing these Masons as Worshipful or Right Worshipful.

Once one considers other Grand Jurisdictions, the confusion is amplified. In some Grand Jurisdictions, the Grand Master is addressed as Right Worshipful rather than Most Worshipful. Pennsylvania offers an example of this difference. In some other Grand Jurisdictions, such as Scotland, a lodge Master is addressed as Right Worshipful Master rather than Worshipful Master. One can also find such titles as Very Worshipful (Connecticut) and Right Honorable (Florida) in some Jurisdictions that have positions such as District Grand Lecturers and District Instructors.

Despite this confusion, there is one title that will always work and be appropriate – “Brother.”

Note to Tim: Thanks for the idea.


47th Problem of Euclid said...

The advice I was given upon being raised was to address anyone of whose status I was unsure as "sir" until circumstances clarified matters.

In Massachusetts, the Grand Organist is addressed as "Right Worshipful", even though the current Grand Organist never sat in the East, as far as I know. Our Grand Organist is the organist for his mother lodge and nine other lodges, including mine. A remarkable Mason.

tim shea said...

Thanks again for the education Right Worshipful!

EL CAMPO said...

Here in Texas Past Mtesseasters are addressed with the highest honors.
They are Brother.