March 2000

John Belton, WM, Internet Lodge 9659EC, 1999 - 2000

It really does seem much longer than two years since the Lodge held its first regular meeting but here I am writing the second annual report. My grateful thanks to each and every one of the members who made their contributions towards making the years activities happen. I will first look at the physical meetings of the Lodge and afterwards consider the online activities.

The year started in March at the Installation meeting which took place in the presence of the Provincial Grand Master and a good gathering of Brethren and visitors. I read my Inaugural Address 'The Missing Master Mason' which addressed the issue of falling numbers within freemasonry, the cause of which affects civic involvement by individuals in general. On a more mundane note while we were late in finishing the food afterwards, Lancashire Hot Pot followed by Bread and Butter Pudding represented the local traditional cuisine and did not suffer too badly!.

We slipped in a extra meeting in May to hear John Hamill talk on the subject of 'Communications in Freemasonry' at Great Queen Street in London, the home of the United Grand Lodge of England. As usual the Brother spoke without notes and delivered a fascinating talk - as the first Director of Communications of Grand Lodge. It was fascinating to see how we may expect communications to change and I am sure we all will follow the visible progress of these plans with interest.

The August meeting was at the Oxford Masonic Centre in the new Lodge room (with state of the art lighting). We were treated to an excellent talk by Bro Michel Brodsky, who had flown in from Belgium to deliver his talk, entitled 'A European View of Masonic Growth'. Thanks to Victor Sereno and his contacts we were able to turn this into an excellent weekend as he had been able to get accommodation in one of the Colleges at a very reasonable price.

The fourth meeting was planned to be in Scotland in October, but for a variety of reasons did not take place as a regular Lodge meeting. However a party of almost 30 did gather in Edinburgh and as well as enjoying each others company had the pleasure of a tour of Rosslyn Chapel under the guidance of Jim Munroe. Brother Jim has a wealth of knowledge that is probably not matched and I am sure his book will find many interested buyers when published. The following weekend the Lodge held its regular meeting at the Oldham Masonic Hall.

I was fortunate that I had long been interested in the matter of falling numbers within masonry and was able to bring this to fruition in a paper to be read to the Lodge. It was posted on our website and numerous copies have been downloaded from there; one of those was by the editor of 'Harashim' (the journal of the Australia and New Zealand Masonic Research Council) who asked permission to republish the paper - to my amazement I actually had hard copy sitting on my desk within a month! After that it was reprinted in the Southern California Lodge of Research and Illinois Lodge of Research and in abstract in many other publications. As the members will know I traveled, with George Berry, to the eastern USA in October and we delivered the paper in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC. While I am of course personally delighted by this it does also spread the message that there is an Internet Lodge and that it is interested in matters of current interest within freemasonry - this can do the Lodge no harm whatsoever. I look forward to the addresses of future Masters of the Lodge and am sure that they will reflect the broad and greatly varying insights into masonry as they appeal to each individual.

Membership of the Lodge grew greatly during the year and we ended with over 150 members. We did sadly also receive some resignations (around the ten mark) and the reasons for most of these are known. It has however prompted the start of a discussion about what the Internet Lodge is and what it is going to offer its members. We are of course a Lodge whose membership is far flung, with members on all continents and indeed in all corners of these Isles as well. Thus, by definition, means that getting to our meetings represents a substantial impediment for a substantial minority of members.

Thus we need to work out, develop, how best to use the means of communication that are available to us so as to offer all our members 'value for their time and money' thus ensuring that they do feel that they are participating members of the Lodge. There is nothing new to this as a quick search of the organizations promoting community values will show. Simple logic would incline us to think that silence is not a good way to promote such a sense of belonging, which leaves us with communication as the remaining option. Following this theme to its logical conclusion it becomes clear that the initiative for this communication lies with the Master of the Lodge, and to a lesser extent with the Wardens and other officers of the Lodge. It seems to me that that is a very real challenge for those who follow me and one that is likely to influence the direction the Lodge takes as time passes.

The last year has been an interesting one, plenty of challenges, plenty of rewards. I hand over to Chris White knowing that he, and one would anticipate in turn Peter Lanes and Ab Goedhals, will rise to the challenges that will present themselves. The journey looks certain to be an interesting one.

John L Belton
Immediate Past Master
March 2000