We asked you… The Visitor’s Response

One of the benefits of Freemasonry is that it teaches those of us who have never had to stand up in front of other people to speak in public.


Thousands of men, previously petrified of being the centre of attention have learned a valuable life skill, and sometimes even to love it.

Most Lodges now share out a little of the work in Temple – there’s every chance that your main introduction to the job will be a set of Working Tools or similar, two to four years into your Masonic career.

But there is one opportunity to jump that queue – and that is Toasting. In particular the privilege of visiting another Lodge may come with a Response to the Visitors’ Toast – which leaves the speaker performing to a crowd they won’t know as well as their Mother Lodge. Says W Bro Steve Arnold, “Being invited to give a toast to the visitors can go one of three ways. Some Lodges will invite you at the start of the meeting, providing you the option of reviewing the work and commending those involved. Some will let you know by asking for a reply at the Festive Board – a kind of unwritten rule in our Lodge, a practical joke if you will. Some will not invite at all! It remains however a privilege and honour to receive this invite. In some way an expression of mutual respect to be entrusted with such a responsibility. Why not sing for your supper! The key message is of thanks for the experiences and brotherly love.”

The problem is, there’s no perfect format for a Visitor’s Response. There are some specifics worth getting in. W Bro Martin Smith says: “I would thank the Lodge for a lovely meeting and Festive Board, thank your host for inviting you, mention that you have no doubt all the visitors feel the same, and ask to be invited again. Then sit down!”

W Bro Robin Misra adds, “Plus, congratulate the candidate if there was one. Always keep it simple and general.”

Indeed, in some quarters, the shorter the speech, the better! W Bro Barry Cooper writes, “In my Mark Lodge, the Toast is simply ‘The Visitors’, followed by a comment that any visitor may reply if he wishes, but if he does, he’ll never be invited again. Keep it very short and don’t try to tell any jokes. (I have been known to perform some magic in the past, but nowadays I’m usually too tired by the end of the Festive Board…)”

This seems rather sad – but it does also highlight the Jokes Problem. Unless you’re a master at judging the room or have visited a Lodge several times before, jokes really are tricky to pitch right. Too long and you’ll bore the Brethren. Too lewd and someone will be offended. Steer clear unless you’re on solid territory.

And so, alas, the Response from the Visitors is often best described by what not to do. W Bro Kieran Stewart adds another one: “If I had a pound for each time I have heard that ‘visiting is the lifeblood of Freemasonry’, I would be quids in!” It is indeed a bit hackneyed.

So above all, don’t worry. W Bro Steve Arnold sums it up: “What is said specifically is not so important. What is communicated is paramount. Heartfelt, genuine and inclusive. Communicating happiness and enjoyment for the time shared with all. It is an option for all ranks to be reflected as one, in a common interest of Freemasonry.”

“We asked you…” invites contributions from Brethren via social media, usually the London Masons Facebook Group.

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 54 April 2024 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 54 here.