World wide friends
Proud to be a Lily, one of the Ladies of Internet Lodge, Jaqui Porter explains how a group of masonic partners and friends came together from across the world to build a website, organise events and forge lifelong relationships.
A unique lodge was consecrated in the Province of East Lancashire in 1998. Internet Lodge, No. 9659, was founded with the aim of using the internet to bring brethren together from all over the world. With fifty-two founding members, the lodge has evolved over the past fifteen years into a thriving, global community of Freemasons.
Meetings are not held in an internet chat room or on a Facebook page, but in person in the UK. However, not everyone in this international lodge can afford the time or money to travel halfway across the world to attend. A tradition has therefore developed whereby, if we have an overseas master, a fraternal visit is organised to his home country, the brethren being accompanied by their female partners and guests.
So far there have been nine foreign excursions. We have visited the US, Portugal, Slovenia, Canada, Holland, Romania and, last year, Malta, where I hosted eighty-six Freemasons and their partners for a week of historical exploration and masonry.
Most masonic meetings take place in an evening or afternoon, local to a brother’s home. However, the distances travelled for Internet Lodge meetings, even in the UK, make it more reasonable to overnight – which is where the Lilies come in.
The Lilies are the ‘Ladies of Internet Lodge’. From travelling around the UK and the world with our partners, we came to realise that we had an opportunity to explore the wonderful areas, both British and foreign, in which we found ourselves.
In the first few years we got together in groups and took part in a range of activities, coming together in the evening to discuss our experiences. Then, on our Canadian trip to Niagara, we decided that this would no longer suffice. Our group had grown, so we decided to get organised and created the Lilypond – our own website and internet mailing list. We research venues and activities, plan programmes and book guides, transport and restaurants. While the lodge members are participating in masonic meetings, we are off finding out about the local culture, customs and cuisine. The group has a membership symbol, a trillium lily pin, which was chosen in our founding year.
Every new Lily has to apply to us independently of her partner’s membership of the lodge, and our ladies include doctors, florists, magistrates, mums, artists, teachers, a carriage driver, voluntary workers, grandmothers, nursing officers… the list goes on. What we all share is a sense of belonging, which is founded in the commonality of the lodge. When I asked our members what they would like me to stress in this article, everyone I approached said the same thing: they wanted me to emphasise how glad they are to have met each other.
The group uses the mailing list as a source of social interaction, particularly for the organisation of future events, but in times of trouble, the comfort and sympathy afforded by our members to one in need is extraordinary. In the case of bereavements, the Lily who has lost her partner continues to belong to the group and will always be welcome at future lodge events, should she choose to go. She will know that she will be met by friends and perhaps take that first scary step out on her own in a safe environment. It’s different from being a lodge widow as she maintains her own role in our group, in her own right.
I have never belonged to an organisation where so many women with such strong personalities and diverse interests have become such firm friends in so short a time.
Application to become a member of Internet Lodge is open to master masons of UGLE and other recognised Grand Lodges. Applicants must provide the usual certificates and proof of good standing. The lodge boasts more than three hundred and thirty members, who come from thirty-five countries of residence and no fewer than seventy-two Grand Lodges, with every continent represented. The average age is fifty-seven, with the youngest member being twenty-nine and the oldest, eighty-seven. Only one hundred and forty-one are from the UK. The lodge is held in high esteem abroad and there is no shortage of masons wishing to join. As one member commented: ‘You get more Freemasonry here in a week than you get in a year anywhere else.’ To find out more, visit www.internet.lodge.org.uk