Welcome to Internet Lodge No. 9659

Thoughts of the incoming Master

March 1999

As we pass into our second year of existence it is interesting to reflect upon the past year and to look forward to the next.The Consecration of the Lodge was obviously a highlight and following that we had a further three meetings. They were well attended (between 70 and 150) and the buzz in the air before, during and after each meetings says something about us as a Lodge. Behind that buzz of expectancy was a voyage of discovery; while we have been discovering that we do want to experiment with alternative ways of conducting our affairs and learning to get to grips with, and balance, the different attitudes and needs of the reformists and traditionalists among us. Because of the immediacy of electronic mail these issues quickly come to the fore and we can try to address them more actively than many a traditional Lodge.

One of the big issues for Freemasonry in the next millennium is how it can strike a balance between tradition and the rapidly changing face of society - and produce a style or styles that fits with today's society. I am pleased to say that not only are we doing this internally but the theme for the year is to address the issue of ‘Freemasonry’s Shrinking Membership’. This problem is faced by many groups and organizations within society and in general terms the issues are to do with the erosion of ‘Civic and Social Capital’. At my Installation I presented new data based on the analysis of membership records [The Missing Master Mason is on the website.]

In August Brother Michel Brodsky from Belgium will talk to us about the ‘Cultural and Intellectual approach of the Francophone countries to Freemasonry’. This should be interesting because the membership of all Obedience's is growing more rapidly than we are shrinking.

We plan to increase the size of our ‘Virtual Library’ and are talking with various Masonic organizations about co-operative initiatives. The rapid pace of developments in the online world makes it hard to predict exactly what progress the year will show.

As we all have e-mail we are able to work to a greater degree of ‘internal openness and inclusiveness’ but also the mere fact that we have a web site means that we are far more open to public view than masonry ever used to be. By tradition Freemasonry has always been centripetally focused (inward looking) and yet we are now looking to change that to a being more centrifugally focused (outward looking). At first sight this approach might almost seem self-contradictory and yet it must be possible both to retain our personal (organizational) privacy while offering a more open face to the world. For whatever we might think we are part of today's society and this Lodge, by its very existence, a very real part of the information revolution. Surely this must be one of the most exciting Lodges in the world to be involved with in these ‘interesting times’- but then you would expect me to say just that, wouldn't you?

John Belton
2nd Worshipful Master, 1999 to 2000
Internet Lodge 9659 UGLE