Thanks for your thoughtful questions.
As you know, this Site is designed to answer questions of non Masons wanting to become Masons. At the same time, your questions bring up an important point for anyone wanting to enter the Fraternity. This is a volunteer organization. As a new member, your only obligation is to act like a Mason. You don’t have to get in the officer’s line, you don’t have to join any of the appendant bodies. You don’t even have to show up for Lodge.
One thing you do have to do, however, is be prepared to keep commitments you DO make within the Fraternity. If you say you will be on an investigating committee, do the work required. If you tell a brother you will be at the blood drive, be there. That’s what the fraternity is all about – keeping the commitments you do make with your brothers. That’s what being a brother means.
And that’s why it’s good not to make too many commitments. Accepting the responsibility to be in the officer’s line is a big one and should not be taken lightly. Because your brothers are depending on you to be there.
I am a member of many appendant Lodges, including Scottish and York Rites and the Shrine. But I went in only when I had time. But most of my efforts have been in the Blue Lodge as a Master and a Past Master. I applaud your efforts to get in line and get as much as you can from your Blue Lodge – and to try to give your new candidates a great experience.
At the same time, we all have other commitments and real jobs and families. Trying to make it all work can sometimes be difficult. Just remember your brothers are there to help you. Past Masters can help – and most are willing if you ask them.
There’s not a good “book” on learning ritual that I know of. One thing I do know. Trying to wait until the last minute to learn ritual is virtually impossible. As a great philosopher once said: “Repetition is the mother of learning.” Take it slowly, but do it every day. A little at a time. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep repeating it until it becomes second nature. And it will.
But always remember: you want to do well, but if you don’t, no one will hold it against you. One of our most loved Masters stumbled his way through almost every lecture. But he tried, and that’s what counts. Relax. We’re all in it together.
And for those of you reading this who are not yet Masons, all of this is good to know.