We propose to be a different style of Lodge than most American Masons are used to.
One of our easiest to understand guidelines, and,m therefore, our most probably model (but not the ONLY model we will consider) is the Traditional Observance Lodge, within guidelines established by the Masonic Restoration Foundation.
Their guidelines may be found at the following link:http://masonicrestoration.com/tomasonry.html
Here's a short explanation, however:
The Traditional Observance Lodge of the Masonic Restoration Foundation (MRF) is a relatively new term in Freemasonry. It refers to lodges that are similar to European Concept lodges in that they also incorporate higher dues, festive boards, a strict dress code, and higher standards of ritual, but differ in that they choose to follow a close observance of the traditional initiatory elements of Continental European Freemasonry.
Higher dues: the post WWII influx of thousands of members allowed Lodges to set low dues structures. However, most of those dues stayed at the low level for some time, and did not keep up with inflation.
Some TO Lodges have dues that are over $200 per year. Some are higher. Lodge buildings cost money to operate. Lodges cost money to run. Some of these costs can be reduced by relying on electronic communications (where allowed by Grand Lodge law). But what else does that money cover? In many cases, those higher dues feed (pun intended) directly into the next point:Festive Boards
: Festive Boards are mostly unheard of in American Masonry, where our Lodge diners are usually sandwiches or fish fry.
A Festive Board is a formal dinner, usually after the Lodge meeting, with multiple course, and toasts. It is very similar to, but not identical to, a Table Lodge. In Scottish Constitution Lodges, these are usually referred to as Lodge Harmonies.
Strict Dress Code: In Massachusetts, officers are expected to wear tuxedos (known as dinner jackets in Europe). In many Prince Hall Lodges, tuxedos are the norm for ALL members. In other jurisdictions, members may show up in street clothes, and I have seen Masons show up in jeans. While, yes, i prefer men to show up in work clothes in stead of not at all, when we dress up, wear our semi-formals, we are showing that what we are doing is set apart from the mundane/profane world. In TO Lodges, the standard is usually that all masons wear tuxedos.
Higher standards of ritual: In England, some Lodges READ the ritual from the ritual books. This definitely ensures that the right words are spoken. In many US jurisdictions, there is NO cypher at all, and, when someone does memorize it, they DO know it. I work in a tradition that is predominately an oral tradition, though we do have some written item ... which are hand copied. Knowing the ritual by heart allows better transcription when it does need to be written down, or copied.
But it's not just about having the work perfectly memorized. It's about the whole slate of officers knowing their portion of the work, and understanding it. A smooth flowing presentation of the degree allows the candidate to focus on what is happening, not someone on the sideline muttering "oh god, I can't believe he said that wrong!"
It's about giving a man a truly initiatory experience that cut directly to the psyche, and give him, in his heart and mind, the working tools of masonry as tools for personal growth and improvement.
We do this not by rushing a man through the degrees, but by taking our time. In European Lodge, candidates often wait one year between degrees, and are required to present a paper before taking each degree, on some philosophical topic ... which, after the first, should have some relation to the degree just taken.