14th WORSHIPFUL MASTER’S INCOMING ADDRESS
Internet Lodge No 9659
W.Bro Chris Malpus P.Pr.J.G.D. (Gloucestershire).
19th March 2011
Distinguished Brethren, Brother Wardens and Brethren All
When a newly-installed Master addresses his Lodge for the first time, several often-used phrases, bordering on cliche, are frequently employed. However, when I start by thanking the brethren for entrusting me with the Mastership of this Lodge, it has far more than its usual meaning. In this Lodge more than any other, the Master has truly been chosen by the brethren, since every member of the Lodge has the opportunity to consider rival manifestos and cast a vote. The successful applicant then proceeds by custom, practice and formal election to the Chair of King Solomon.
It is often said by brethren who have served as Master more than once that "the first installation is the best and most memorable". I stand here to tell you that today's Installation, delivered as only the Internet Lodge can do it, will live equally long my memory, having, as it did, the participation of brethren from different Provinces and - today - different Grand Lodges.
Two especial items have made today particularly memorable for me. To install me, our Immediate Past Master has learned a ceremony which is different from that of his home Grand Lodge in Canada, and I thank him very much for that. I also wish to express my gratitude to the brother who proposed me into Masonry, delivered the Address to the Master to me in my mother Lodge, has been my mentor in many different ways, and today presented me for installation and again delivered the address to the Master - Worshipful Brother Alex Mennie.
One disappointment of today is that our Past Master M.W. Bro. Charles Lewis has been unable to attend for health reasons. A presentation to mark his 50 years of service to Freemasonry might well have upstaged me, and I would not have cared. Charles was one of the first Lodge members who I got to know personally, through our visits to Portugal and Atlanta, and I very much hope that he can recover in time to come to Lodge during this year and receive his well-merited reward.
Like, I suspect, many of my brethren, I get all sorts of questions and jokey remarks when I "bring greetings" from our Lodge. Some are futile attempts to be funny - "do you have virtual meetings?" - "How do you do the knocks?" - "Are you being installed in a swivel desk chair?" Some computer-literate people think we open the Lodge in some sort of chat room. Others evidently don't believe we are a "real" lodge but some mysterious Facebook page or something. So I'm frequently called upon to explain how we work and what we are about. In preparing to take this office, I've thought about it in more depth. In fact, I've tried to identify why I joined and why I remain an enthusiastic member.
I suspect that, in common with most members, the Lodge I thought I was joining is nothing like the Lodge of which I am a very proud member. I thought I was joining a Lodge whose unique proposition would be to advance the use of technology in Masonry, and it indeed has several achievements in this area. But the Lodge of which I am a member is much more than this. The Masonic experience of this Lodge, unlike virtually all others, does not depend on regular personal contact and the performance of ritual. For most of our members, especially those overseas, it has neither contact nor ritual.
In this Lodge, and for most members, the attraction is the contact by electronic means with like-minded men around the world, and the constant discoveries which come from these contacts. Any member of this Lodge who follows the email discussion threads, let alone joins in, cannot fail to "make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge". Our email messages can be requests for help, understanding or guidance, and to him who asks, help is generously and freely offered. Comments are often meant to be thought-provoking, and they frequently succeed. Through our electronic contacts, we get to know brethren who we could otherwise never encounter, and to understand the masonic traditions of their country or locality. I often feel that I "know" some of our far-flung members, who I will never meet in person, better than I know some members of my mother Lodge - and I'm the Secretary, who is supposed to know everybody.
As is customary in this Lodge, this address will be available to all our brethren around the world, not just to those here present, and I wonder whether it should also be visible to non-members visiting our public pages. I encourage all our brethren when they read this, wherever they may be, scattered over the face of earth and water, to rejoice in the diversity of opinions and traditions expressed in our discussions. One thing is for certain - whatever our differences, we are united in our masonic "peculiar objectives" - brotherly love, relief and truth.
I now turn to the forthcoming year.
I have always been intrigued and fascinated by the rituals of masonry. Like many others, I didn't really start to understand Craft ritual until appointment to office required learning it, and I, for one, can't learn, and certainly can't deliver, a piece of text until I understand it, hence my interest in its roots, language and meaning. To me, it is a happy coincidence that my year of office will coincide with key anniversaries of two of the oldest and most influential books of ritual in the English Language - the King James Bible of 1611 and the Book of Common Prayer of 1662. Both were created for the express purpose of being read aloud for the information and education of the listeners - surely the true purpose of ritual texts.
The centre-piece of my year in terms of ritual will therefore be the October meeting. Our Lodge is very privileged to have been granted a demonstration of the Bristol Initiation Ceremony by the Provincial Grand Master of Bristol. By happy coincidence, he has selected Canynges Lodge No. 1388 to provide the demonstration team. I have visited that Lodge on a number of occasions, and they are one of the best deliverers of their ritual, cutlasses and all. Ironically, the Bristol ritual, which is founded on Irish masonic tradition, will be more familiar to our North American brethren than to those accustomed to Emulation ritual. The mariners and Merchant Venturers of Bristol took their masonic rituals around the world, and their influence can be identified up and down the east coast of the USA.
I am also looking forward to visiting the Grand Lodge of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis in early June, where a party of Internet Lodge brethren will demonstrate an Emulation Third Degree ceremony to the Sir Winston Churchill Lodge and other Minnesota brethren.
Our Festival weekend will this year be in my home Province of Gloucestershire. The town of Berkeley would be just another rural market town but for three major historical events. Its Castle, originally built to keep the Welsh out, has been a family home since 1117, and was the place where King Edward the Second was imprisoned and murdered. Dr. Edward Jenner, whose family were vicars and physicians in the town, discovered the principles of vaccination locally in the late 1700's, and set in motion the process which led to the eradication of the scourge of smallpox. At about the same time, the 5th Earl of Berkeley's many children, not all legitimate, were split apart by the antics of his eldest, illegitimate and philandering son. They scattered around the globe, explaining why there are so many places called Berkeley throughout Britain's empire, especially its American Colonies. Worshipful Brothers Dr Edward Jenner and William Fitzharding - the bastard son - were both founder members and Masters of my mother Lodge, the Royal Lodge of Faith and Friendship, who will be our hosts.
Masonically, the August meeting will an opportunity to see masonry in its original setting - not in a Masonic Hall but the public events room of an Inn. The Royal Lodge has there for almost 170 years, and much of the furniture is original. Socially, we are planning a full programme, to include a private viewing and reception at the Jenner Museum, a guided tour by boat of Bristol Harbour and the city, and, for the ladies, a visit and guided tour of the City of Bath, with time for shopping - sorry, brethren!
Going into my year the Lodge faces a number of challenges. Several of our Brothers who commit many hours of time and much energy to administer our Lodge and its website have been in office for a number of years, and must soon be replaced. My fellow rulers and the past Masters of the Lodge are anxious to involve as many members as possible in the running of the Lodge, and to ensure that there can be no accusation of offices being limited to a small self-selecting group. I urge any member willing to assist this Lodge to further progress to identify themselves to myself or to any officer so that succession planning can commence.
In particular, our Assistant Secretary and Membership Steward, John Dutchman Smith, has laboured at the coal face for long enough. His wish to retire at this Installation failed because no successor was forthcoming. He has volunteered to continue for another year, well beyond the proper call of duty, and must be allowed a rest in 2012. Under John's meticulous stewardship, a detailed process for admission of members has been agreed with Grand Lodge - something that the brethren don't all appreciate judging from some discussion threads on the email list. What we now need, and urgently, is for volunteers to administer that process and to ensure that Grand Lodge continues to allow us to recruit Master Masons from non-UK Grand Lodges.
Our Steward of member's photographs has also decided to retire, and we thank Brother Frank for his efforts over many years. This task can be performed by any Brother irrespective of physical location - Frank has done it from Minneapolis. Volunteers, please!
In concluding this address, I wish to give my personal thanks to all the brethren who have encouraged and helped me in reaching this chair, and in particular our recently-retired Secretary Alex Viner for his help and guidance in the organisation and planning of this installation meeting and the forthcoming year.
Brethren - onward to Minneapolis, Berkeley and Coventry!
Internet Lodge No. 9659