Internet Lodge No.9659
W Bro Ben Allen
21st March 2015
Distinguished Brethren, Brother Wardens, Brethren all,
As I stand here before you today as the eighteenth Master of Internet Lodge, I cannot begin to describe the impact the honour that you, the brethren, have bestowed upon me. To walk in the footsteps of the seventeen great men that have stood in the East is a privilege that I can hardly fathom; and to be welcomed to stand here as Master of my Mother Lodge makes it all the more special. It is something of a shock to the system to realise that I have been in the craft not even eight years. However I hope that those who have witnessed my work, especially in London, recognise my commitment and enthusiasm for the craft.
I must ask for your indulgence for a moment as I would like to address my proposer into Freemasonry. Worshipful Brother Rob, Dad, I remember the time when you sat my brother and I down in your living room to describe our family’s association with Freemasonry, which prompted us to enquire what might be involved in taking part. Having almost dragged such an enquiry from us you said that you knew of a lodge that might prove particularly interesting. We looked at each other then back to you, and said “Yeeeeees” in the most non-committal way possible.
Had I known then what I know now I might have asked a few more questions; and I am sorry to say on this most auspicious of occasions but I wonder if my being initiated into this lodge was a calculated risk on your part. Why do I say that? This Lodge is so completely different to every other one that I have become a member of, or have visited. It is rather like being put in a Formula One car without ever having had your first driving lesson. The amount of work, level of philosophical debate and general knowledge of Freemasonry could be for the newer mason potentially overwhelming. I, however, am made of sterner stuff.
It is because in the last few years, as I have worked hard under the tutelage of yourself and Right Worshipful Brother Sir Ron that I have come to appreciate what a wonderful lodge this is, with the wealth of information that it provides, exceptional membership that are within the touch of a button to answer any questions you might have, and the magical experience that it provides.
Brethren, when I joined Freemasonry I was penurious on every personal and emotional level. I feel I cannot put it in any other way, than to say that the truth for me, is Freemasonry saved me! It gave me the framework to stop me wasting my talents in dead end jobs, and to go on to strive to be the esteemed professional man you see before you today. It gave me the moral compass, or should that be compasses, that I so badly needed in my life. Learning the ritual, has on many occasions lead me to ponder long into the night the meanings behind what is written, and indeed compare the different ritual books I have at home and wonder at why each is so subtly different. What made the committees who made these slight alterations choose these particular phrases?
I find all of this a fascinating topic of discussion, but I do fear at times in other lodges I am unusual in this regard; not in this lodge mind you, which is again why it is so wonderful.
We often fail to remember why lodges last. Having a lodge that has great ritual is essentially meaningless if you forget to put into practise what the ritual actually tells you and, perhaps more importantly, remember what each lodge is supposed to be: a band of brothers who are just as likely to meet up on a social occasions as at a lodge meeting. We should focus on togetherness, interaction, and actual human contact!
This is one of the great things about the Connaught Club, and the various other “clubs” that have been created outside of lodges. The Connaught Club especially allows those younger members, who may have otherwise been sat in the corner for years to feel welcomed and not to be just the only person with some hair colour left in a room full of old men; and, as important, a support network for those who might have been thrust into office before they were really ready for it. I remember visiting Unity Lodge, to assist with the passing of one of our members of Aldwych Club Lodge. The Senior Deacon told me that, after eighteen years of being a mason this was his first run through the offices and the first time that Freemasonry had begun to make sense to him. Not everyone is like me, years of stage experience meant I was prepared for what is required of an officer. One day I hope to be as good as a Brother Stuart-Paul, Brother White or even a Brother Porter.
I mentioned actual human contact, but this is the Internet Lodge I hear you cry. Allow me to explain.
You may have noticed a significant increase in the number of Regional Stewards. Those brothers whom I have asked to fulfil that particular role for the lodge, as it is detailed in the website, have a vital role to play in the well-running of the lodge; especially after certain unsavoury incidents that have in the past caused officers and senior members strife. I do hope, however, that they will in time be able to grow their roles into more than just the procedural and administrative functions that they fulfil today. I would very much like to see them as a nexus in each of their respective regions, for social interaction, much in the same way as the Connaught Club has in London for younger masons. For them to be the focal point around which a community grows, within and without of this lodge. To form social groups, that might visit each other’s lodges and become closer socially, whilst staying within the due bounds directed by our respective Grand Lodges. I hope that by placing these solid foundations we can build that edifice that this lodge was designed to achieve.
That is what the internet was created for! It was never designed as a replacement for human interaction, but to be an additional method for communication, to assist mankind in its development as a society, to facilitate better and more common human interactions. To remove the boundaries that had so often tied us down and prevented us from interacting with people from all over the world.
When my great, great grandfather was a freemason, the phone was a new-fangled thing and the motor car something that would never catch on, he would never have even dreamed of visiting a lodge as far abroad as London, let alone crossing the channel! We have come so far as a civilisation in such a short space of time, and it does appear that the rate of change is not slowing down. So I applaud the Founders, each and every one of you, on your vision in the creation of this lodge. It provides us with a wonderful opportunity to break down the barriers and share the joys of masonry with brothers from all over the world. The Internet is the medium through which we all connect and can become closer.
So I realise that a significant number of you have been sat down for a considerable amount of time. So I would like for everyone, who is able, to stand please. So the way this will work, if you can answer yes to a question, you can sit down.
1. Do you know what the contents of the first email were?
a. Trick question: The first email was sent by Ray Tomlinson to himself in 1971. "The test messages were entirely forgettable. Most likely the first message was QWERTYIOP or something similar," he said.
2. Can you name one or more of the HTTP verbs?
a. GET, POST, PUT, HEAD, DELETE, TRACE, OPTIONS, CONNECT, PATCH
b. You will find that every time you browse the web you will use at least one of these verbs, to make it do something, like GET this webpage. But remember the web is not the internet. The difference is like that between a road and a car. The road is the infrastructure upon which your car might drive. The car could represent you browsing the web, sending an email, or even messaging someone on Skype.
3. In the last year have you browsed pages on our web site other than to book yourself in for a meeting, OR in the last year, I have browsed the Internet Lodge public website to look at something other than the “Forthcoming Meetings” section.
Even if you have said no to all these questions, you can now resume your seats. Hopefully your blood circulation has improved!
To those members, and indeed to those visitors who have not done so, I would urge you to look at the addresses of our previous masters that are on our public web site and more especially the section of Masonry Universal. I have only recently discovered these and they are a fascinating read.
There is a wealth of information on the web, from sites like Project Guttenburg to OpenLibrary.org to Archive.org detailing all kinds of things. Even in my time the web has expanded to fill just about every corner of our lives. I remember pausing my VHS to see the credits to find out a film star’s name, now I just skip straight to imdb.com. But there is so much of it out there, literally billions of pages depending on your measurement (10 pages for every human being on this planet right now), none of you will be able to read all of that. Indeed research has shown that users on average only spend ten seconds on a webpage. What is out there changes faster than we can keep track.
A wise man once said in this very room:
“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.”
It is as pertinent today as it was ten years ago. I fear though, judging but what I read sometimes in my inbox, that it needs to be reiterated time and again, especially in the corridors of power. So whilst it is all well and good that we have a website, and a very good one at that, having a website does not necessarily generate interest. The men that we must attract must be drawn in due to their latent curiosity. And once they have become our brothers we should look each day to feed and encourage that curiosity.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have assisted both in the organisation of this meeting, the organisation of the lodge itself and in the wonderful way I have been installed, and for that I thank you Worshipful Brother Royston. I could not have asked to have been installed in a more heartfelt and touching manner. Worshipful Brothers Rob Allen, Charles Arnold and Steve Gregory for your excellent addresses, Chris Malpus, Chris White and Stephen Wall for the wonderful descriptions of the working tools, my visitors Right Worshipful Sir Ron Stuart-Paul and Worshipful brother Paul Ketteridge proving that there is no lodge that I am in where you won’t get work.
I would also like to thank each of my officers, each and every one of your responses to my request for your service to the lodge has been truly touching. If I was to take up all of your offers I would be going round the world in eighty days! I must, however, look to the north at those huddled round that table, as there is the beating heart of the lodge. All of those who have served round that table in this year and last, represent everything that is good in Freemasonry, your dedication to the craft must not go unrecognised. The sheer amount of effort and will to succeed that emanates from that table, leaves me in awe, and I salute you.
So, what will be happening in my year? There are days where I wonder that myself, if each time we had to revise our plans for this year’s meetings and we had assigned a new letter to the new plan, we would have run out of letters in the Latin alphabet and moved on to the Cyrillic!
In July we plan to visit the General John J. Pershing Lodge, No 307 in the Grand East of the Netherlands to witness the Installation of Internet Lodge Member Brother Hugo Rietveld. The Lodge works Nova Scotia Ritual. We plan to spend the weekend in Maastricht – a town whose name is now part of the English Language – and the climax of the weekend will be an Andre Rieu concert. This weekend trip is open to all members and friends of Internet Lodge and partners. Unfortunately owing to the small size of the temple in Maastricht we are limited to only 20 Internet Lodge members attending the meeting. We will email you as soon as the booking site is ready and we do request that you book as soon as you can, as the cliché goes-to avoid disappointment.
In August we plan to revisit Freemason’s Hall at Great Queen Street, whilst I don’t think perhaps we will be able to meet in the Grand Temple, we will arrange a tour so we can take a look at the organ, of which Worshipful Brother Naunton is something of an expert and I see that there is an article on the Organ in the latest edition of Freemasonry Today. At the meeting we will be joined by members of the Connaught club who will I hope be able to give us a short talk, based on their experiences in Freemasonry. After the meeting we will be heading out for a cruise on the River Thames for a supper dance as well as seeing London from its most attractive side.
In October we will be heading a little farther north, to Newcastle, where we will see a demonstration of a Third Degree Ceremony based on 19th Century Northumberland Workings. Later we shall enjoy our Ladies night. My lady has been sorely put upon this past year, not least by the severe illness of her father, so I hope to make this an excellent event to cheer her after all the hardship and heartache she has gone through.
Throughout my year I shall be encouraging younger masons to participate in our activities. As an example of this I’m currently looking for a volunteer to recruit and captain the Internet Lodge rugby team. We have been challenged by the Province of Northumberland XV to a match on October 11. There will be plenty of rugby fans in town that day so we are assured of a great attendance if we can raise a team.
I would like to reiterate, that I am deeply humbled to have been elected as Master of this lodge. I know I stand on the shoulders of giants and that I am by far the most inexperienced person ever to occupy this chair, but with your patience and all of our endeavours, I am sure we will have a year to remember.
And finally, I would like to end by amalgamating quotes from our founding Worshipful Master and Dale Carnegie:
“Internet Lodge will continue to be of service to the Craft, because we have the will to achieve, and because we are having fun doing it.”
Internet Lodge No. 9659