Internet Lodge No 9659
Worshipful Master’s Incoming Address
W.Bro John S. Dutchman-Smith Pr.S.G.D.
20th March 2004
Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master and brethren all.
“Some day, when the cloud of prejudice has been dispelled by the searchlight of truth, the world will honour Masonry for its service to freedom of thought and the liberty of faith. No part of its history has been more noble, no principle of its teaching has been more precious than its age-long demand for the right and duty of every soul to seek that light by which no man was ever injured, and that truth which makes man free.”
These are not my words, not new words, not even modern words. They are the words of my favourite Masonic author, an American freemason of great foresight, Joseph Fort Newton who died as long ago as 1950. Yet are not his words equally true today, for despite the efforts and progress which Freemasonry has undoubtedly made, we cannot say that the searchlight of truth has dispelled entirely the clouds of prejudice that sometimes surround us.
Members of the Lodge will know, but visitors may not, that the path to the Master’s chair in Internet Lodge starts with an election to the position of Junior Warden, and that for the purpose of that election a manifesto has to be submitted. When I wrote my manifesto some three years ago I chose as a theme the need for openness. I wrote:
“I am a strong supporter of openness and am never afraid to declare my membership and passion for freemasonry at any time. I am of course aware that there are others in different circumstances who cannot afford that privilege because of the prejudice that surrounds them – often in the workplace. It is only by a determined continuation of the policy of openness that Freemasonry can overcome its detractors and be revealed and acknowledged as the force for good that we know it is.”
“We have, certainly in the U.K., a press, which is uninterested in the good of our Craft and seems willing only to publish bad news, scandal, and man bites dog stories. Freemasonry does not stand alone in that regard but it does in my view have some tremendous good news stories to tell. The Craft must persevere. We must not hide our light under a bushel, and we must make every effort to make the public aware of the enormous support provided annually to non Masonic charities”.
In the United Kingdom that support is second only to that of the National Lottery.
During the past three years Freemasonry has indeed become more open and, more importantly, the need for openness has gained a very wide acceptance within the Craft, always acknowledging that there are occasions when it would not be prudent and always preserving the core of our Masonic confidences.
Benjamin Franklin who died in 1790 said:
Freemasonry, I admit, has its secrets. It has secrets peculiar to itself, but of what do these principally consist? They consist of signs and tokens which serve as testimonials of character and qualifications, which are conferred after due instruction and examination. These are of no small value. They speak a universal language and are a passport to the support and attention of the world. They cannot be lost so long as memory retains its power.
The good effects which they have produced are established by the most incontestable facts of history. They have stayed the uplifted hand of the destroyer; they have softened the asperities of the tyrant; they have mitigated the horrors of captivity; they have subdued the rancour of malevolence and broken down the barriers of political animosity and sectarian alienation.
On the field of battle, in the solitudes of the uncultivated forest or in the busy haunts of the crowded city, they have made men, of the most hostile feelings and the most diversified conditions, rush to the aid of each other and feel a social joy and satisfaction that they have been able to afford relief to a Brother Mason.
These words have stood the test of time in the period of over two hundred years since they were written and they have remained a worthy testament to our Fraternity.
In my manifesto I also wrote:
“We live in changing times. Freemasonry must react to that change and our Lodge is well placed to be at the forefront of embracing new technologies for the good of the Craft. I would like to see the continuing development of our web-based activities building on the progress made in the past years. We must preserve the unique nature of Internet Lodge by harnessing the Internet to encourage the discussion of Freemasonry as it reacts to the changes brought about by the move to openness and the adoption where relevant of technology.”
Again this is still very apposite, but how quickly changes have come in the past three years. The expansion of electronic communication means that it is now increasingly common for lodges and provinces to have their own website. Herein lies the requirement for the correct balance to be struck between the right of each private lodge to its own individuality and the need of the Craft to present itself in a responsible informative and attractive way.
As members know, the design and content of our own lodge website has been widely praised since the lodge first established it. Now, recognising the need for change and improvement after a period of several years, the Lodge website has been the subject of considerable thought and effort by a group of our members over the past twelve months. The result of these efforts will be a wonderful new website with a much cleaner interface and a vast potential of new functionality. This new Internet Lodge website is now available for Brethren of the Lodge to view, and I am confident that not only will it receive your acclamation, but it will indeed be recognized as a great advance and most worthy of the first Internet Masonic lodge in the world. It is my hope that, technology permitting, there will be an opportunity to view the new website here today. This new site will for the moment have a new URL so that the List we all enjoy can continue as before. While the two sites are operating in parallel, some of the other services will be moved across to the new site and I am sure that with the patience and goodwill that are hallmarks of our Craft, we will soon be able to move forward and implement more and more of our new functionality. An announcement about the new URL, login and password will be sent out on the mailing list shortly.
My thanks go to those who have been working on this project they include Bruce Morton, Mark Griffin, Charles Arnold, Paulo Serra and Larry Porter. I must also here acknowledge the deep debt of gratitude that the Lodge owes to W. Bro Charles Arnold who has tirelessly and expertly managed the existing website for many years.
As the world's first Internet based Masonic Lodge I think that we can justifiably claim to possess very considerable expertise and experience in the creation and management of lodge websites. Both we and the Province recognise that the style and structure of lodge website design is one of importance to the Craft and to the Province. To reflect this importance the Province of East Lancashire has recently issued a circular for the guidance of lodges on this subject. Given the benefit of our experience we intend to work closely with the Communications Officer of the Province to develop these guidelines. This will, we believe, ensure that they are practical and realistic in their implementation whilst enabling lodges to retain their own freedom of expression and individuality.
The Province and the Lodge have common aims. We both wish to carefully preserve the dignity of the Craft, to carefully guard those Masonic secrets that we hold so dear, and to present the Lodge, and thereby the Craft – as I said in my opening remarks – in a responsible, informative, and attractive way.
I believe that together with the Province we can meet these aims.
When Internet Lodge was consecrated it was not envisaged that it would initiate candidates and that remains the case today. That has not however prevented the Lodge from being responsible for the initiation of a number of Freemasons. Two such Freemasons are here today, both young men under the age of thirty, and both Fellowcrafts in my mother lodge, Anderton Lodge 8470. Bro Andrew Ashton first approached Freemasonry via the Internet Lodge Website and after he and I were put in touch I was able, after a suitable introductory period, to propose him as an Initiate into Anderton Lodge and he has subsequently introduced his friend James Waring. They are both proving to be excellent candidates to Freemasonry and I am very pleased that this lodge has been able to direct two such suitable young men to the entrance to our Masonic pathways. Andrew is engaged to be married and I’m sure we all wish him well as he departs to Cuba tomorrow for his wedding. I recently took the opportunity to ask his fiancée Alison how she felt about Andrew’s involvement in Freemasonry now that he had been a member for two years. Whilst I knew that she was supportive, her answer still surprised me. It may surprise Andrew as well. She said that joining Freemasonry was the best thing that Andrew had ever done and that he had developed “as a man” immeasurably since his initiation. What a wonderful story to be able to tell.
In mentioning the new initiates introduced to Freemasonry by Internet Lodge I have made reference to our intricate and winding Masonic pathways. These are the wonderfully inspiring words that Joseph Fort Newton used to describe them a hundred or so years ago.
Nevertheless, if life on earth be worthless, so is immortality. The real question, after all, is not as to the quantity of life, but its quality, its depth, its purity, its fortitude, its fineness of spirit and gesture of soul. Hence the insistent emphasis of Masonry upon the building of character and the practice of righteousness; upon that moral culture without which man is rudimentary, and that spiritual vision without which intellect is the slave of greed or passion. What makes a man great and free of soul, here or anywhither, is loyalty to the laws of right, of truth, of purity, of love, and the lofty will of God.
How to live is the one matter; and the oldest man in his ripe age has yet to seek a wiser way than to build, year by year, upon a foundation of faith in God, using the Square of justice, the Plumb-line of rectitude, the Compass to restrain the passions, and the Rule by which to divide our time into labour, rest, and service to our fellows.
Let us begin now and seek wisdom in the beauty of virtue and live in the light of it, rejoicing; so in this world shall we have a foregleam of the world to come, bringing down to the Gate in the Mist something that ought not to die, assured that, though hearts are dust, as God lives what is excellent is enduring!
What a glorious description of our Masonic philosophy that is.
I want now to take just a short time to tell you of the programme that is arranged for the coming Masonic year.
We next meet in Worcester on Saturday 14th August. The Masonic hall at Rainbow Hill in Worcester has one of the finest Masonic museums in the country and we shall try to ensure that we have the opportunity to visit it properly.
The main business of the Lodge meeting will be a lecture by our own member W.Bro Alan Wyer P.A.G.D.C. who has entitled his work "The Female Influence in Craft Masonry." This is an intriguing title and one on which Alan will not elaborate prior to the meeting. The message therefore is “Be there !” The meeting will be followed by a Festive Board which will I hope follow the pattern and menu of a Lancashire Lodge Olde England Night – more intrigue for some perhaps.
In October we hold our Ladies’ Festival in the Lake District from the 7th to 11th October. The main business of the Lodge meeting on Saturday 9th October will be a demonstration of the building of King Solomon’s Temple by The Cleveleys Lodge of Mark Master Masons No 1176. For these arrangements I thank W.Bro Jimmy Rogers.
Later that day we shall hold our Ladies evening. W.Bro Bill Holden who is organising the Festival has brochures available today and there is a dedicated web site at www.ladiesfestival.org.uk. October is a wonderful time to visit the English Lake District, quite rightly described as the jewel in England’s crown. I do hope that as many of you as possible will support these two meetings.
I turn now to that virtue which may justly be denominated the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason’s heart, I mean Charity. Over 150 years ago a young Freemason called Winwood Reade who died aged only 37 wrote:
The doctrines of Masonry are the most beautiful that it is possible to imagine. They breathe the simplicity of the earliest ages animated by the love of a martyred God. That word which the Puritans translated CHARITY, but which is really LOVE, is the key-stone which supports the entire edifice of this mystic science. Love one another, teach one another, help one another. That is all our doctrine, all our science, all our law. It is impossible to be a good Mason without being a good man.
For the first three years after its consecration the Lodge supported as a non Masonic Charity The Aidis Trust. For the last three years we have supported Ability Net. Each Charity received £5,000 during the period of its support. It is now time to start another three-year period and I have discussed this with my wardens. Because we could find an excellent case for both, we have on this occasion decided to recommend that the giving be divided equally between two Charities, for we hope that our giving over the next three years will be enough to have some small impact on both of them.
I am delighted to inform you that the chosen Charities are “Aspire” and “Hope and Homes for Children”.
Aspire is a U.K. based charity which works with people with spinal cord injury to create opportunity, choice and independence for disabled people in society.
Hope and Homes is about giving hope to children worldwide who have nowhere to live due to war or disaster by providing them with loving family homes. It directs its funds mainly to Eastern Europe and Africa. We feel that this combination of a National and an International charity is well suited to our worldwide base. Further details of these charities will be distributed to you all at the festive board.
Now Brethren of Internet Lodge it is time for me to invite you to come with me as we embark down the pathway of our seventh year. We reflect briefly on the six years that have passed and the six Past Masters from three different countries and two continents all of whom have served the Craft in general and this Lodge in particular well. We continue to rejoice in our International fellowship devoted to promoting the Crafts main precepts, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth allied as our Immediate Past Master said last year to our special and deeply held belief in freedom, justice and equality; in the peace and harmony that must come from tolerance and understanding, from respect for the culture and beliefs of our fellow creatures.
An unknown poet wrote:
It matters not whate'er your lot
or what your task may be
One duty there remains for you,
One duty stands for me.
Be you a doctor skilled and wise,
Or do your work for wage,
A labourer upon the street,
An artist on the stage;
One glory still awaits for you.
One honour that is fair,
To have men say as you pass by:
"That fellow's on the square."
Ah, here's a phrase that stands for much,
Tis good old English, too;
It means that men have confidence
In everything you do.
It means that what you have you've earned,
And that you've done your best
And when you go to sleep at night
Untroubled you may rest.
It means that conscience is your guide,
And honour is your care;
There is no greater praise than this:
"That fellow's on the square."
And when I die I would not wish
A lengthy epitaph;
I do not want a headstone large,
Carved with fulsome chaff.
Pick out no single deed of mine,
If such a deed there be,
To 'grave upon my monument,
For those who come to see.
Just this one phrase of all I choose,
To show my life was fair:
"Here sleepeth now a fellow who
Was always on the square."
Brethren in installing me as Master of this superb Lodge you have done me a tremendous honour, an honour that I can repay only by effort. Like my predecessors I promise you that I will do everything that I can to repay that honour and to work diligently to make certain that the Lodge continues to build on the excellent foundations that it has laid. Together we will lay plans and draw schemes that will keep this Internet Lodge No 9659 at the forefront of electronic Freemasonry and ensure that it continues to hold the world wide respect that it has earned and well deserves as the world’s first truly International Internet Masonic Lodge. When we return to Manchester in March 2005 I assure you that I will pass on to my successor the reputation, honour and dignity of the Lodge, pure and unsullied, as I have today received it.
I began this address with some words from Joseph Fort Newton and I close with perhaps his best loved work, a great favourite of mine entitled “When is a man a Mason?”
When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope and courage--which is the root of every virtue.
When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love his fellowmen.
When he knows how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins, knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds.
When he has learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with himself.
When he loves flowers, can hunt the birds without a gun, and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child.
When he can be happy and high minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life.
When star-crowned trees, and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters, subdue him like the thought of one much loved and long dead.
When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response.
When he finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be.
When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin.
When he knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope, how to meet defeat and not be defeated.
When he has learned how to give himself, to forgive others, and to live with thanksgiving.
When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellowman, with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of song, glad to live, but not afraid to die!
Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give all the world.
Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master and brethren, thank you for your attention and thank you once again, the members of Internet Lodge No 9659, for the tremendous honour which you have bestowed upon me.
W.Bro John S Dutchman-Smith Pr.S.G.D. (West Lancashire)
20th March 2004