James W. Hogg, 32°

Fort Myers, Florida

In just five years, the world's premier Internet Lodge has grown into a prestigious and productive group of more than 200 members.

R.W. Bro. James W. Hogg, 32°

The Internet and Freemasonry, can there be any two more diverse and different concepts? Is it possible to reconcile and bring them together? For the most part, Freemasonry is an ultra-conservative institution rooted in long-standing traditions, many of which have remained unchanged for centuries. The Internet, on the other hand, is a fast-paced form with an ever-changing composition. We must remember that the main dynamic applicable here is that both share the same common denominator-people. Freemasons are connected to one another through the Mystic Tie of the Brotherhood of Freemasonry, and Internet participants are connected to one another by the technology of advanced communications that make up the Internet.

How then does one bring the two together in harmony? Enter the role of Internet Lodge No. 9659. Internet Lodge was first conceived by W. Bros. Gordon Charlton and John Belton in a conversation that occurred on November 13, 1996. The concept of an Internet-based Lodge came into focus after months of discussion regarding just how a Lodge of this nature could be created and how it could function. Brother Charlton had previously introduced the concept to the Internet-based UK Mason-list e-mail discussion group and gleaned information there on how such a Lodge would be viewed by the Craft. With a clear plan in hand, all that was needed was its implementation. Internet Lodge No. 9659 was to become the premier Internet-based Lodge ever to be chartered.

R.W. Bro. James Dunsford Hemsley, Provincial Grand Master, consecrated the Lodge at Freemason's Hall, Bridge Street, Manchester, United Kingdom, on Thursday, January 29, 1998. The sponsoring Lodge was Mellor Lodge No. 1774, originally consecrated on Thursday, September 26, 1878, at Ashton under Lyne, now meeting at the Masonic Hall, Bridge Street, Manchester. There were 53 founding members and 54 joining members, who were proposed to the Lodge on the date of consecration. The purposes for formation of the Lodge were set forth in the Souvenir Program (reprinted below).

Since the date of consecration, Internet Lodge has grown to a membership in excess of 200 members, which is large by English standards. The membership is composed of Masons located on all continents throughout the world. W. Bro. Peter Lanes, the Master of the Lodge in 2001, hailed from Indialantic, Florida; the Master in 2002, W. Bro. Ab Goedhals, was from Valkenburg aan de Geul, the Netherlands; and the present Master of the Lodge for 2003-2004 is W. Bro. Derek J. Oliver from South Benfleet, Essex County, east of London.

Internet Lodge maintains a presence on the worldwide web at http://www.internetlodge.org and offers access to both a public and a members-only section, which is password protected. The members-only section provides the members of the Lodge with access to Lodge summonses, committee reports, archives of past Lodge summonses, minutes of all past meetings of the Lodge, information on upcoming events, methods for booking attendance at upcoming Lodge events, a list of members of the Lodge and how to contact them, the Lodge By-Laws, and a Lodge family album. Other features are added as they become available.

One of the most valuable assets of the Lodge is the availability and access to the members-only Lodge e-mail list. Through this facility, every member has the ability to post an e-mail message to the special address, which causes his posting to be immediately delivered to every member of the Lodge worldwide within minutes of the initial posting. Through this communication vehicle, the members of the Lodge are able to carry out discussions on a wide range of topics, even though they are residing in far-flung locations throughout the world. In this manner, the Internet has brought Masonic Brothers together, even though they reside thousands of miles from one another.

Participating in a meeting of Internet Lodge is an event that can never be forgotten. The fraternalism and hospitality are unexcelled. One meets Brothers of all walks of life from many parts of the world. The events are well planned and well executed. Although the Lodge only meets three times a year, all business is dealt with quickly and efficiently.

I can state without hesitation that my involvement with Internet Lodge has been an educational and pleasurable experience. On my trips to England to visit the Lodge, I have met some of the most fantastic Brothers imaginable and have forged some magnificent fraternal ties. It is a privilege and an honor for me to serve as a Steward of Internet Lodge No. 9659.

James W. Hogg is an attorney at law, admitted to the Bar in Florida, Georgia, and the District of Columbia, and is a Perpetual Member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Tampa, Florida. He is a Past Master and Perpetual Member of Fort Myers Beach Lodge No 362, Fort Myers Beach, Florida, having also served the Grand Lodge of Florida as District Deputy Grand Master of the 29th District. In addition to being Steward of Internet Lodge No. 9659, he is also an Honorary Member of Pacific Rim Lodge No. 12 in Vladivostok, Russia, and a Founder Member (Honorary) of Amistad Lodge No. 81, Petach Tikva, Israel. The author acknowledges W. Bro. John Dutchman-Smith and W. Bro. Gordon Charlton for contributing Internet Lodge documents for this article.

The Internet Lodge

The Lodge, which is formed under the auspices of United Grand Lodge of England and within the Province of East Lancashire, will meet as a normal Masonic Lodge on the dates specified in its By-Laws.

By Dispensation the Lodge will meet at various venues.

All members of the Lodge will have an Email Address.

The Lodge aims to foster and encourage a wider and appropriate use of all means of electronic communications within Freemasonry in general.

The Lodge will meet three times a year to receive papers by keynote speakers. Two of these meetings will be held in differing locations to allow the members of the Lodge to meet to build a spirit of Fraternity. The Installation Meeting will be held within the Province of East Lancashire.

The Lodge, while having some aspects of a Research type of Lodge, will concern itself not only with historical research but also with matters of Masonic education and sociological trends in society as they affect Freemasonry both today and in the future. Relevant contributions will be sought not only from Masons within the United Grand Lodge but also from around the world.