I have very recently been ‘approved’ to join the Masons. I am scheduled to take my first degree on Wednesday January 20. The lodge I am joining meets on the third Tuesday of each month, and I should receive my second and third degrees on the regularly scheduled meetings in February and March.
I was introduced to the guys at the lodge by a friend who is new in town and a member of another Masonic lodge in a different city. He brought me down during an open house a few months ago so that I could meet the Masons, learn a little about the lodge (and the organization in general) and he was seeking to ‘affiliate’ (join not the Masons, but the particular lodge). We were both invited back the following Tuesday evening for dinner. I attended that one (October) as well as the next month’s dinner (in November). I got to meet some of the guys and had a nice meal and sort of hung out for an hour then went home when they reconvened after dinner.
I wore jeans and a polo shirt the first time, and dockers and a corderoy sport coat the second time. The lodge officials wore Tuxedos, and the rest of the guys wore suits or slacks with sport coats and ties. Although I didn’t conform to the dress code, nobody said anything, nor did anybody seem to mind. I learned that a business suit, or dress slacks, shirt, tie and jacket are ‘always appropriate dress for official lodge functions’, and when I take my degrees I’ll dress appropriately.
The dinner is most likely simply an opportunity for you to meet the guys, learn about the organization and the lodge, and decide if it’s right for you. As you said, you will probably meet someone at the dinner who will sponser you. My friend was not able to sponser me, since he was seekigng affiliation, but the lodge historian quickly offered to sponser me.
While at the open house, I got an application, which included a brief job history, 9 (yes nine) references (in three categories - friends/school, neighbors and business associates). I returned the completed application along with a check for $25 and they began the investigation process, which consisted of first speakign to my references (I believe they spoke to every one of them), then I was invited to interview with a couple guys that made up the application committee. We met at one of the guys’ office (he is a lawyer in town) and we sat and chatted for an hour or so, and they asked me some questions which you can find in a 30 second Google search - “Are you joining of your own free will”, “Are you joining for fraternity, and not because you expect some monetary gain as a result of joining” and stuff like that. It was all fairly informal and the guys were really laid back and friendly. I didn’t feel like I was being cross-examined at all. They explained the questions had got to be asked so that candidates didn’t join for the wrong reasons, or with expectations that would not be met or were not compatible with the mission of the Masons organization. I was also asked if I was joining to try to gain allies with which to overthrow the government (obviously the answer was no, as that’s not the sort of thing they do). Lastly, I suppose, I was asked if I believe in a higher power and they explained my religious leanings weren’t really relevent, only that I believed in some higher power. There were other questions, but that’s sort of the gist of it and the main ones I can think of off the top of my head.
Based on the application, the references, and the interview I was invited to receive my degrees. It took a couple months, and it will take a couple more to complete the initiation process, but that’s how they do it.