This article was first published in the Newsletter of the London Grand Rank Association in November 2001.
INTERNET LODGE -WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT?
DOES IT MEET IN CYBERSPACE?
These are questions that members of Internet Lodge No. 9659 in the Province of East Lancashire are asked all the time. Many of us are proud to wear the distinctive lapel pin, which, in itself, invites the questions, and we are delighted to answer them.
The Lodge was Consecrated on 29th January 1998 at Freemasons' Hall, Bridge Street, Manchester after a small group of brethren who subscribe to the UK Mason List on the Internet felt that the time was right for a truly universal Masonic Lodge. Whilst all the day-to-day business is carried out either by e-mail or in the "members only" section of its web site, the Lodge holds regular meetings three times a year.
The Installation is, of course, always in Manchester. The other two meetings are held throughout the country, the venues being decided by the Master for the year. So far, meetings have been held in Sheffield, York, Oxford, Syon Park, Bromsgrove, Oldham, Great Queen Street, and Nottingham. Every meeting is distinctly different with a variety of speakers, including Bro John Hamill and Bro Neville Barker-Cryer. As one brother said recently: "Life in Internet Lodge is certainly not boring".
Another unique feature of the Lodge is a team of "meeters and greeters" set up by the current Master. Their job is to ensure that members and visitors are made to feel at home immediately the first time that they come to a meeting. Remember that whilst they probably know more about the members of Internet Lodge than they do about their other Lodges, they will, in all probability, never have met any face to face.
Membership currently stands in excess of 165 and is spread throughout the world with around a hundred more waiting to join. Their nationalities read like the alphabetical list in the back of a world atlas. Obviously, prospective members are strictly vetted before being accepted to ensure that they are genuine Freemasons from a recognised constitution. We have members from across the United States and Canada, including Past District Deputy Grand Masters (roughly equivalent to Provincial Grand Master), one Provincial Grand Master, one Deputy Grand Master, and one Past Deputy Grand Master. Our current Master is an American Freemason who has flown in from Florida for every meeting since the Lodge was formed. We have members in Australia, South Africa and throughout Europe, including the old Eastern Bloc. We have a Past Assistant Grand Master for Turkey who attends meetings regularly. Our Senior Warden is from the Netherlands. This is truly "Masonry Universal".
Through the medium of electronic communication, we are able to react instantly to the needs of brethren, wherever they may be. We get up to the minute information on tragedies such as the Turkish earthquake and the recent atrocities in the USA. We are able to make immediate decisions on what, if any, action we should take to help a brother or brethren in time of need.
It is one such brother who has touched the hearts of many members of Internet Lodge. We have a member living in the mid-west USA who, following a fall, is quadriplegic. This man 's life is filled with the kind of tragedy that most of us could not cope with. A year ago, his beloved wife passed away in the night. It was several days before anyone came to find him lying next to her. However, out of tragedy, comes brotherly love. He decided to sponsor a banner for Internet Lodge -a lodge he has been unable to visit -in memory of his wife. The banner travels proudly with us wherever the Lodge meets and reminds us of our unseen brother so far away and, in his name, the Lodge made a significant donation to his local Shrine.
Further problems were in store. Following a period of neglect by his carer, our brother found himself in a Veterans Administration Hospital hundreds of miles from home. This initially brought joy as he found a granddaughter that he dido 't even know he had. However, he was cut off from the outside world. He did not have his beloved computer. He was not allowed to make telephone calls outside of the city. He was unable to keep in touch with his friends and brethren.
After many months, he was finally allowed home and our Charity Steward found his number and called him. This was duly posted to the list and, since then, many of us have been in touch with this remarkable Freemason. He now has devoted carers and is much improved. He is determined that, when many of the members get together in Florida in November for a visit to an American Lodge, he will get there, although how he can endure a three day drive is beyond most of us. His plans received a further setback when, on being admitted to hospital for a scan, he became caught in the machine, which broke his leg.
This brother's bravery has touched all our hearts. As a result, we decided to make a video of those attending the meeting in Nottingham in August. Permission was received from the Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire to film in the Temple after the Lodge was closed. The organist provided suitable background music. Brethren and their ladies were filmed during a buffet lunch following the meeting and, again, during a concert by the Nottingham Police Choir in the Temple. Much of the Ladies' Festival that evening was also committed to tape.
Our Founding Master is working on editing the tape on his computer and, shortly, the finished product will be despatched to our unsuspecting brother in the USA on CD. (Whilst CD quality is not as good as tape, it solves the problem of transcoding our PAL system to the American NTSC.) The CD will, in due course, be made available to all members of the Lodge and is expected to raise a considerable sum for charity.
This, then, is just one example of our unique Lodge. One of the friendliest and most open Lodges that any of us have ever had the privilege of belonging to. Others are set to follow us. Lodge Ireland 2000 is already up and running in a similar vein and plans are being drawn up elsewhere. Do take a look at our web site at http://internet.lodge.org.uk. Much of it is open to the public and other brethren, including a growing "virtual library" of interesting documents. Obviously, there is a "members only" section which you will not be able to access unless you decide join us in this giant leap for Freemasonry. Details of how to join, together with an application form, are available on the site.
W.Bro Vic Dorman (and others)
W.Bro Bob Waugh was later made an honorary member of the Lodge
He died on 21st December 2005
W.Bro John Dutchman-Smith