Sometimes, whenever I spoke with non-Masons about Masonry last year, my office in the Lodge would come up (which, at that time, was that of Senior Warden).
I remember that the first thoughts invoked in my mind by the titles Senior Warden and Junior Warden before joining Masonry were those of prison wardens from the movies and TV shows, particularly The Longest Yard and Prison Break.
So what are the roles of the Wardens in the Lodge?
It should be noted that the duties of the Wardens may vary from Grand Lodge jurisdiction to Grand Lodge jurisdiction; this article is written from the perspective of a Mason from the Grand Lodge F&AM of Utah and may therefore be completely different for any reader located within the geographical boundaries of a different Grand Lodge.
The Senior Warden is like the Senior Vice President; and the Junior Warden, the Junior Vice President.
They help the Worshipful Master with the administrative duties of the Lodge.
The Worshipful Master may also make the Wardens chairmen of various committees in the Lodge to ensure that the Lodge is being run efficiently.
When the Master is Absent
If for some reason the Worshipful Master cannot attend a meeting (due to sickness, injury, work, etc.), the Senior Warden is to step up to take the place of the Worshipful Master during that meeting.
If a meeting is to be had and the Worshipful Master cannot for some reason attend, it then falls on the Senior Warden to conduct the meeting. The Junior Warden then steps up to fill the place of the Senior Warden.
This all occurs pro-tempore, and each officer returns to his usual station or office when that absence is no longer a condition.
As the Senior Vice-President of the Lodge, the Senior Warden is the right-hand man of the Worshipful Master. The Senior Warden is also responsible for seeing that each Mason of the Lodge gets credit and recognition wherever it is due.
Depending on the Grand Lodge jurisdiction, the Senior Warden may also oversee (or at least be a member of) the Educational Committee, which is responsible for seeing that educational programs are put on for the members of the Lodge (whether such programs teach about Masonic history/principles, insights from a career/occupation, local issues, etc.).
The Senior Warden (instead of the Senior Deacon or Marshal) is also responsible for introducing visitors who are Grand Lodge officers to the Worshipful Master and the Lodge during the communication (meeting).
As the Junior Vice-President of the Lodge, the Junior Warden is the third-in-command in the Lodge.
The Junior Warden is in charge of the social activities of the Lodge as well as when the Lodge is at recess, it being his duty to take charge thereover during times of “refreshment” (as opposed to while the Lodge is “at labor,” or in session).
He may assist in doing luncheons or dinners for the Lodge, helping with the logistics of catering, delegating the preparation of food and cleaning of dishes to members of the Lodge, or he may just do it all himself; it is his duty, however, to see that it is all coordinated and executed.
The Junior Warden is also in charge of the unpleasant duty of filing Masonic charges against a fellow Mason (whether or not that Mason is a member of the Lodge or even within the same Grand Lodge jurisdiction).
Such may evolve into a Masonic trial against the Brother concerned. Fortunately, such occurrences are far and few in between.
Extensions of the Worshipful Master
Even if the Worshipful Master is not absent, the Senior and Junior Wardens are responsible for assisting him in his duties to the Lodge as well.
With the Worshipful Master, the Wardens should also be involved in reaching out to Masons who are not active in the Lodge.
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It should also be noted that most of the time, the Wardens have been elected by the Lodge.
That is a lot of trust that the Wardens have earned and that the Lodge has reposed in them; this should always be kept in mind.
The Wardens are essential to the Lodge being run.
The Worshipful Master relies on these two officers very often. In addition, these officers are being prepared (typically) to be successors as the next consecutive Worshipful Masters.