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
Specialist lodges: masonry on the web
Internet Lodge is about to have a Past Grand Master in its chair, as Mark Griffin explains
Few lodges can boast as diverse a range of members as Internet Lodge No. 9659, which has nearly 200 members drawn from 56 Grand Lodge jurisdictions all around the world – truly ‘Masonry Universal’.
The members represent many cultures, religions and Masonic ranks, ranging from plain Master Masons to the very highest levels. Indeed, the next Master of Internet Lodge will be MW Bro. Charles Lewis, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina.
This may be the first time a Past Grand Master of any overseas Grand Lodge has occupied the Chair of King Solomon in an ordinary Lodge of the United Grand Lodge of England. His remarkable Installation will take place at the Masonic Hall, Bridge Street, Manchester, on 17 March 2007. Visitors will be most welcome.
The Lodge is not quite ten years old, but is going from strength to strength. Bro Lewis will have his work cut out for him during his year as there are two Initiates waiting to be balloted for, something Internet Lodge has not done before.
The main business of the Lodge is delivering lectures on topics of Masonic interest and these are available on the site. They range from ritual, to the need for openness and many other topics, including charity. Charity is very important to Internet Lodge, which made a substantial donation to the East Lancashire Provincial Festival and has a custom of supporting a designated non-Masonic charity for three years to maximise the benefit.
Internet Lodge is also a very social Lodge. While the Installation meeting is always in their ‘home’ temple in Manchester, the other two meetings take place in Masonic centres across England and Wales. For 2007 that will be Rugby in August and a Ladies Festival weekend in Cardiff in October.
In fact, each meeting is like a mini-ladies festival. Since most brethren have to travel and stay at least one night to attend the regular Saturday meetings, it has become the custom for them to bring their wives and girlfriends.
The Friday night, therefore, is usually an enjoyable group dinner with friendships being renewed and news being exchanged. The next day, while the brethren attend Lodge, the ‘WAGs’ go sightseeing or shopping and, on occasion, join their men for the meal following the meeting.
Brethren who have heard of Internet Lodge are often surprised to learn there are real meetings, and assume everything takes place on the Internet. For the majority of Lodge members that is indeed the case, since the brethren are scattered all around the globe and travel is not practical or affordable for all.
To compensate, Internet Lodge makes full use of everything the World Wide Web has to offer. There is a large and growing web site continually under development, an active mailing list, and a community area with forums and personal blogs for every brother.
Topics that come up for discussion are very wide-ranging and benefit from the perspectives of brethren from so many different countries and constitutions. You can learn as much about Masonry in a week at Internet Lodge as it would take in a year in a traditional Lodge.
That expertise is being fully exploited by launching a Short Papers Competition under the patronage of Lord Northampton, the Pro Grand Master. Winning entries will be made available on the Lodge web site for downloading and delivering as short lectures in any Lodge in order to advance Masonic knowledge. This competition will be widely advertised in Masonic circles. The Lodge web site also serves Masonry in the wider sense. There is a steady stream of enquiries from non-Masons worldwide asking for help in becoming Freemasons. With their extensive network of contacts within the Lodge, they are always able to put them in touch with someone who can help.
A recent case is that of a candidate being proposed into a Russian-speaking Lodge in Tel Aviv, but it might just as easily be a father and son being initiated into a Geordie-speaking Lodge on Tyneside, both of which have happened.
The private side of the web site enables brethren to book into meetings or log their apologies, select options for the menu for the Festive Board, and even make a contribution to the charity box for that meeting. Members can download copies of summonses and the minutes, there is a long list of Skype names so members can talk to each other for free over the Internet, and there is a photo gallery so they all know what each other looks like.
On the public side, there is an ‘Internet Help Centre’ with information about viruses, email scams and all the other perils of surfing the Net, together with advice on how to protect yourself with links to appropriate resources. There is also some general Masonic information, a library of interesting articles and essays to download, and information and forms for anyone wishing to join the Lodge.
Joining members must be Master Masons, and if they are from overseas, they must belong to a Grand Lodge that is in amity with the United Grand Lodge of England.
They must also have an email address as all Lodge communications, including the sending of summonses, is via email. Full details can be found on the Lodge web site, www.internet.lodge.org.uk
MW Bro Charles Lewis
MW Bro Lewis, 69, was initiated into Port Washington Lodge No. 1010 in the Grand Lodge of New York in 1961. He joined Homer Lodge No. 352 in the Grand Lodge of New York in 1974 and became its Master in 1979. During a long and distinguished Masonic career, MW Bro Lewis has become a member of many other bodies including the York Rite, the Ancient and Accepted Rite, and numerous other Masonic organisations. In many of these his diligence and commitment has been rewarded with very high office, and the ultimate recognition of his Masonic endeavour was his installation as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina in December 2003. He is currently on a number of Masonic Boards in the USA concerned with the needs of the young, the elderly and the disadvantaged.
He said “I am honoured and delighted to be the first Past Grand Master of an overseas Constitution to be invited to serve Internet Lodge as their Master.
“In the nine years since it was founded, Internet Lodge has strengthened Freemasonry across the world. With members in 19 countries around the globe, Internet Lodge can truly be said to be practising Masonry universal.
‘I am also honoured to follow other distinguished Masters of Internet Lodge from England, the USA and the Netherlands. I look forward to following Internet Lodge custom and presenting my Address to the Lodge at my Installation meeting, which will then be available on the Lodge web site.
“Modern technology strongly influenced the founding of Internet Lodge and, using modern technology, I will guide the Lodge in extending the principles of Masonry to its membership throughout the world, whilst also seeking to increase that membership even further”.