Firstly, my grateful thanks for allowing me this wonderful year as the 19th Worshipful Master of this unique Lodge, Internet Lodge 9659, born of a very different concept of Masonry, truly reflecting and engaging in the universality of our Craft. I will try to reflect on the many facets of our very busy year, the great joys it brought along and with all that was learnt. But first I must thank you all for your tremendous support and that of my wonderful team of officers who travelled this adventure with me.
An adventure it certainly was, as the object of my year was “The Future”, not only of Freemasonry in general, but also “This Lodge in Particular”. This was reflected in our meetings, the speakers and the piloting of a new administration support structure as well as our fraternal visits and wanderings. The administration structure had been worked on for 9 months leading up to my installation, by 13 Officers, Founders, Past Masters, Wardens and our then Master W.Bro. Ben Allen, styled the IL Future Group.
The energy of my installation meeting, which was supported by over 100 brethren, was tremendous and I, again, thank you all for your support in making this a most memorable occasion, both for me and especially our guests. W.Bro. Ben Allen did a wonderful job, and to have two young Brothers, who have grown up with my family, as our Installing Wardens made it all very special. My address spoke of what binds us together, feeling part of, being valued and taking part.
W.Bro. John Acaster and W.Bro. Padraig Belton were wonderful at our meetings in Grantham and Sheffield giving us two very contrasting styles, views and reflections on the future of Masonry and causing lively debate. Their papers are published on our web pages for us all to gain sustenance from in our daily advancement in Freemasonry. I would highly recommend a re-read of both their papers. The meetings were full of energy as were the rest of weekends and we had two lovely Sundays at Belton House and Hardwick Hall, in the sunshine, to mingle and reflect on our weekend together before parting. Our festival weekends and in particularly our Saturday nights could accommodate more of our Brethren travelling without partners. I thank all the Brethren who made the journey to support our meetings and particularly those who travelled long distances from abroad.
Our four new support teams hit the road running in March. We were hit with a new concept: “Governance”, which is not in the “Ritual Book” or the “Book of Constitutions”. Any of us who have served might interpret this as standing orders and operational procedures. Basically, the teams used a professional approach consisting of a system of sensible recording of what we were doing, why we were doing it and how it would be done, all ably overseen by our IT Team Leader W.Bro. Gerard Otten.
Along with his IT responsibilities, and a good team, IT carried us forward in the way we could abstract information from the private web site, created a structured approach to developing web applications, the capturing of user requirements, a sortable membership list by order of the header columns and improvements to the booking system, making booking and paying much simpler and easier to manage.
Our events Team were an ever-ready support and did a brilliant job in putting everything in place for our weekends to happen, from transport right down to the details of table plans. However, this still needs a Governance, procedure or check list so others can learn the job.
The Membership Team, which was brand new, ticked all the boxes, quickly assimilating the work, formalising procedures and properly vetting applicants in compliance with our Book of Constitutions, making much use of our regional representatives.
The Publishing Team, which was led by a professional publisher, was tasked with brightening up our archival and very static public web pages with news and interest both for us and our readers. The team still needs a web site they can publish on.
Our fraternal visit in May to Edinburgh and The Kingdom of Fife took us into the cradle of modern Freemasonry, celebrating 400 years of National Freemasonry in 1998, land marked by the Schaw statutes of 1598. We visited Schaw’s last resting place in the old capital of Dunfermline and saw a facsimile of the first Lodge minute of Lodge Edinburgh, Mary’s Chapel No. 1, which we also visited. The Chapel of St. John was specially opened and explained by Excellent Companion Maurice Wilson, a member of my Chapter: Journeymen Masons No. 417 and a wonderful time was had Touring Fife, hosted by W.Bro. James Swann of Lodge Hope of Kurrachee No 337, which is my Scots Lodge. In Edinburgh, we attended a special Lodge night hosted by Duniden Carritas 1316, which was arranged by our W.Bro. Gerard O’Donnel, where a wonderful evening was had by all. We also had a wonderful day at Abbotsford, the fantasy house of Walter Scott. Afterwards, W.Bro. Alan Rudland, of the University Lodge, treated us to a wonderful and insightful talk on Sir Walter Scott. The hospitality and warmth of the Scottish Brethren were second to none and we were all treated to a wonderful time.
A large deputation of us travelled on the 18th September to support Bro. Christian Mihutu at his Installation into the Chair of his Lodge Dedal in Bucharest. Our visit to Bucharest was wonderful and the lodge meeting extraordinary, being backed by a full sound system. I had the great privilege of giving greeting and heading a deputation of some 40 brothers, 1400 miles from home! Now that was special, as was the hospitality of the Romanian Brethren.
In October, by the kind arranging of W.Bro. Philip Harris and the kind invitation of W.Bro. Gerard Otten, we had a weekend visit to Rotterdam, visiting the town and port and attending a Dutch English ritual Lodge. The meeting was superb and their warmth and hospitality was second to none. On Sunday, we were treated to a visit to the Haigh, led by W.Bro. Werner Schwab. The smallest capital in Europe is filled with as much interest as any other capital city but is relaxing with none of the bustle.
In my term of office, we were blessed with 62 joining members and, if the statistics are up to date, we are now 438 members representing 90 Grand Lodges and resident in some 39 countries making this a very different Lodge.
Brethren; our Lodge continues to grow and, if we are to continue to properly support our membership with the services we supply and move those services on and into the future in an efficient way, I am convinced that we need a stable support structure which steadily evolves supporting the Lodge in its needs and supporting the annual programme brought in by each Worshipful Master and his officers. This is also needed if we are to encourage members from abroad to run for Master, thus maintaining our diversity, as for them to make arrangements in the UK can be very problematic without adequate support, which should and needs to be available to each and every Master.
In a normal Lodge, this support is usually provided by Past Masters and other skilled Brethren, not necessarily listed as officers of the Lodge under our constitutions, and ensures stability, continuity and functioning of the Lodge.
The 4-team support structure, piloted in my year, was initiated by an Internet Lodge group styled the IL Future Group consisting of our Master, Wardens, Founders and past Masters, which met from May to October 2015. It was agreed that we should go forward from October putting all in place, ready for implementation in March 2016. It was envisaged that this system should be a long-term project and be reviewed on a regular basis.
Two other areas of our administration are in need our urgent support. Firstly, our Treasurer in the previous year stepped in as an emergency when he was already heavily committed to IT and to whom we owe our grateful thanks, and our current Treasurer wishes to stand down at the end of this year. So, we need a Treasurer and possibly an assistant.. Also, our Secretary needs an assistant, as he has committed to two more years only. In both these areas we need continuity for the stability of our Lodge.
My last thought for your consideration is that domain names and accounts with internet service providers are very kindly held on our behalf in the names of individual members of the lodge, which is clearly a vulnerability. We need to consider ways of creating a legal entity that can own the domain names and buy the internet services, to protect the lodge and the individuals. One way that has been recommended to me is to form a (dormant) private limited company, that would be non-trading, with a few members of the lodge as directors. This would be very low cost and very little administration.
Brethren; I thank you all for your support throughout this very eventful and busy year in Internet Lodge and for sharing your thoughts throughout that year at our meetings and in your correspondence personally and on the mailing list. I would also like to thank again my officers for their stalwart support and to the valiant efforts of the Team Leaders and the team members in getting a new system to run. You can all be justly proud of the work you carried out on behalf of the Lodge and the new ground broken to achieve this. Lastly thank you to all the Brethren of other Lodges and friends who kindly hosted and supported us on our travels.
My warmest fraternal regards to all.
Alan B. Turton WM 2016-17
Internet Lodge 9659