The Junior Deacon’s Knocks



When and how often should the Junior Deacon knock on the outer door?

In the Grand Lodge of New York,

Contrary to popular belief, the Junior Deacon does not need to knock every time he opens and closes the outer door. Over-knocking is an extremely common error of Junior Deacons, to say the least, and it is not unusual for a poorly trained Junior Deacon to exchange knocks with the Tiler every single time he opens the outer door as well as every single time he closes it. This is not only improper and unnecessary, but an excess of loud knocking can be unpleasant for the Brethren on occasions when the Lodge receives delegations and Masonic dignitaries.

Fortunately, three simple rules govern when and how the Junior Deacon and Tiler are required to knock on the outer door. On all other occasions, the Junior Deacon can open and close the door with no knocking whatsoever. For example, if the Master orders the Junior Deacon to give a message to the Tiler or if a Brother needs to leave the room, he can simply open and close the door as needed without any knocking. Neither the Junior Deacon nor the Tiler ever gives just a single knock on the outer door. That protocol is reserved for knocks on the inner door during Degree conferrals. The Junior Deacon should always take a moment to pause and consider whether he should knock or not. Usually, the answer will be no.

Here are the three rules:

Rule no. 1: initiating an exchange of knocks. The Junior Deacon only knocks first as part of a Ritual dialogue with the Tiler. If it’s not in the Ritual Book, don’t knock. The Junior Deacon knocks first three specific times only: (1) when he informs the Tiler that the Lodge is about to open or about to close, which only happens at the beginning of the Rituals of Opening and Closing; (2) when he informs the Tiler that the Lodge is either open on a specific Degree or closed for the evening, which only happens at the end of the Rituals of Opening and Closing or when the working Degree is changed during a meeting; and (3) when he asks the Tiler if any Candidates are in waiting, which only happens at the beginning of the Degree Rituals. During the main body of a Communication, the Junior Deacon will never knock first unless he is informing the Tiler that the Lodge has changed to a different Degree. Thus, if the Junior Deacon has closed the outer door to inform the Master that a Brother seeks admittance, he does not knock before re-opening the door to admit him. Similarly, the Junior Deacon opens and closes the outer door without knocking if he has a non-Ritual message or question for the Tiler. Meanwhile, the Tiler only knocks first when he needs to alarm the Lodge, usually because a Brother seeks admittance.

Rule no. 2: Door management and timing of knocks. The Junior Deacon always and only knocks before opening the outer door and never after closing it. The only exception is when the outer door is already open, in which case the knocks must be given after closing as a matter of practicality because it’s impossible to knock before opening an open door. This only happens once, after the open outer door is closed at the beginning of the Ritual of Opening. It is never proper to knock before opening and again after closing the outer door.

Rule no. 3: Responding to alarms. When one officer knocks three times on the outer door, his counterpart on the other side must knock three times in reply before the door is opened. Thus, if the Tiler knocks three times to make an alarm, the Junior Deacon must knock three times before opening the door to ascertain the cause. Similarly, if the Junior Deacon knocks three times first (see rule 1 above) the Tiler must knock three times before the Junior Deacon opens the door.

The answers provided here reflect GLNY customs, rules, and ritual. We welcome discussion about how these may differ in your jurisdiction.

Response provided by RW Samuel Lloyd Kinsey
Chairman, Custodians of the Work, Grand Lodge of New York

Note: This site is an excellent source of information about Freemasonry. While every effort has been made to provide accurate and up-to-date information about Masonic Ritual, please remember that a website is not a substitute for your jurisdiction’s Standard Work or Approved Ritual.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey