What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is a fraternity of brothers who share one common goal: to help each other become better men. We strengthen and improve our character by learning and practicing basic virtues of fraternal love, charity, and truth. Our principles extend far beyond our interactions with each other, and we strive to apply them to our daily lives. (—bapamason.com)
What are the membership requirements?
In order to join Greater Johnstown or any Masonic Lodge, you must be male, at least 18 years old, of good moral character, and believe in a Supreme Being. You must be recommended by two Master Masons from Pennsylvania lodges; at least one of them must be a member of Greater Johnstown Lodge (or whichever lodge you are petitioning). You don't have to live in the City of Johnstown or even Cambria County (some men, for example, choose a Lodge nearer where they work or where their family are members), but you must have lived in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for at least the past year.
Is Freemasonry a religion?
Freemasonry is not a religion or religious denomination, nor do we require members to belong to any specific faith. We are built on monotheistic principles and require members to profess a belief in a Supreme Being, but how he chooses to worship that Supreme Being is a matter we leave to his own conscience. In fact, religion is one of two topics (the other being politics) which are forbidden from being discussed in Masonic lodges in order to preserve the peace and harmony found between brothers. You may hear Freemasons often refer to the Supreme Being as the "Great Architect of the Universe" (or abbreviated "GAOTU")—which is not the name of some secret Masonic god, but just a neutral title by which all brother Masons may speak of the Divine.
Do I have to be invited to join?
Absolutely not! In fact, Masons have traditionally been prohibited from soliciting new members, requiring all candidates to proactively approach us of their own free will. While the rule against solicitation has been eased in recent times, and you may be approached by a friend who is a Mason, many still adhere to the "2B1ASK1" approach, and leave the responsibility to ask up to you. If you want to join, ask—you may wait a lifetime and a half to be asked!
What happens when I submit a petition?
Your petition will be presented at the lodge's next business meeting (held on the first Thursday of the month except during July and August in Greater Johnstown Lodge). A committee of a few lodge members will then contact you to set up a personal meeting to get to know you better and to answer any questions or concerns you or your family may have. When they return your petition to the lodge, you can then be balloted on at the next monthly meeting, after which you will be contacted with the outcome of the ballot and informed of when your first degree will be held (in Greater Johnstown Lodge, these are usually held on the Wednesday or Wednesdays immediately after our regular monthly business meeting).
In order to become a full member of the lodge, you will have to go through three ceremonies known as "degrees": the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason degrees. These are serious ceremonies where the principles and symbols of Freemasonry are explained to you; there is no hazing, ridicule, or spectacle involved. You will usually have to wait at least a month between each of these degrees, during which your recommenders and the lodge's education committee will work with you to reinforce your understanding of the previous degrees
Does it cost anything to be a Mason?
Like any voluntary organization, lodges are primarily supported by their members' dues. The precise amount varies from lodge to lodge; Greater Johnstown Lodge's dues are currently $85 per year. In addition to your first year's dues, there is also a (one-time) petition fee of $300 ($200 for Active Duty Servicemen and Veterans) which is due at the time of the petition.