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Internet Lodge meets in Minnesota

by Thomas Jackson, PGM

‘Little’ Sir Winston Churchill Lodge No. 351, Minneapolis, pulled off an event at the beginning of June much larger than their relatively small roster, finite resources and ‘adolescent’ age of charter would make one think possible.

To recap, Churchill Lodge played host to a group of travelers from the global Internet Lodge, No. 9659, chartered by the United Grand Lodge of England, men who hailed from places as diverse as London, Manchester, Birmingham and the Cotswolds in England; also Scotland, Wales, Canada and several American states including Florida, Ohio, Nebraska and Minnesota.

Internet Lodge travels annually to a new location each year, where those who are willing to travel may reconnect with others from their 300-man lodge, along with their wives. This lodge meets in person only three times per year, while much of their commu- nication and their work is done on a 24-hour basis within their secure Internet chat room and on the telephone. With Wor. Bro. Frank Harris of our own Cataract No. 2 and SWC No. 351 as an influential member of the Internet Lodge, he suggested the group would meet a warm welcome by

visiting Minneapolis in the springtime. And what a welcome we provided.

The group was kept quite busy with several luncheons and dinners, including a BBQ at PGM Rice’s home, a riverboat cruise on the St. Croix, and a packed Festive Board at the Minneapolis Club. But the highlight for many had to have been the exemplification of the Third Degree of the British Emulation Ritual work, as is practiced “back home.” Each of these events was a success, thanks to dili- gent planning and communication by the organizers. But to explain, I will refer to the words of several of those who commented:

nternet Lodge s Royston Morr ,John Dutchman- Smith and Chr s Ma pu , n the r finery.

PGM Neil Neddermeyer helped moderate the Q & A session after the degree. Like many of us, he was quite moved by the insightful questions asked, and equally meaningful answers provided by our guests. Some of our foreign guests held title as Past Provincial Director of Ceremonies, which make them expert at their ritual. Neil said, “What a wonderful way to learn more about the roots of our own ceremonies than to see how others perform the Work around the world.”

PGM Jack Benson echoed Neil’s thoughts, saying, “…I thoroughly enjoyed the entire event. The degree was very, very different from the Minnesota work, extremely interesting and very educational

  • I would assume just about everyone

witnessing it had the same feeling.” Jack went on further with some good advice to us all: “Every lodge should

have some claim to fame that brings out interest or is socially interesting—exam- ples might be the Lynnhurst Turkey Dinner or an outdoor degree. Sir Winston Churchill Lodge scored one here.”

These events certainly do allow us to question the conventional wisdom that it takes a big lodge to get things done, when 35 brothers without a bankroll or a build- ing, and with only two years of history, are able to coordinate this kind of project. PGM Tom Jackson reminded the audience at the festive board of Jack Benson’s Grand Master pin, a Square and Compass sur- mounting the word “Attitude.” “Attitude is everything,” he said. “There are brethren here from over 40 lodges. When one of the smallest lodges in the state, Churchill, can link arms, work hard and make this kind of a weekend happen, imagine what you and your home lodge can do.”

The audience for the degree exempli- fication and dinner was exuberant. Wor. Reed Endersbe, whose own lodge, Minneapolis No. 19, consistently exhibits high standards for whatever they do, whether ritual, meals or social events, said it was simply the finest table lodge he had been to in his Masonic career. Strong praise from a good leader, and words echoed by many present that day.

PGM Chuck Luman joined us for the entire day on Saturday, telling us afterwards, “It was an outstanding event. The degree exemplifications was one of those special few occasions when you are in a comfortable place, in an impressive lodge room with friends and brothers being treated to something most of us have never seen before... I came away with images of the English work as impressive; different, yet so familiar that I now know with certainty where my Minnesota ritual had its origin. I am so pleased to learn firsthand how we share this bond. Equally impressive, even more so, the Festive Board was again some- thing so very special and very impressive

  • from the historic setting of the

Minneapolis Club to the over 100 men and women seated there, enjoying a night that one could only hope might be repeat- ed at some future date. Minnesota Masonry simply doesn’t have enough of these truly outstanding events to swell our hearts and make us proud to be part of this great fraternity.”

Importantly, we heard from most of our guests upon their arrival back home, wherever that may have been. Many will remember the booming voice of Wor. Alan Wyer, who

SWC s Merle Cole led us in the solemn 9 o’clock toast, a tradition in English Constitution lodges to honor our deceased brethren.

Left to right: GM Hendrickson, Van Doren, Berg, and Wendt

sat in the West during the degree exemplifi- cation and answered many audience ques- tions. He wrote, “Having arrived safely in U.K. and recovered from jet-lag, this is a brief and, when reduced to words, a very inadequate expression of gratitude for your overwhelming kindness and your efforts to ensure our stay went smoothly. Our one-to- one conversations gave an extra dimension to what was an incredibly warm and friend- ly extended week-end.” Alan’s remarks are indicative of how the other guests felt.

Finally, our Area Deputy, Wor. James McNeely shook my hand on the way out the door of the festive board, exclaiming, “You fellows hit a grand slam.” Seeing the look of satisfaction on the faces of our English guests, the several hundred Americans, and even our reserved Wor. Frank Harris, I knew that, indeed, we had.

Virtual lodge — Castle Island Lodge U.D.

Nick Johnson, Past Maste , Corinthian Lodge No. 67

“So I visited a lodge in Manitoba.” “Wow, Manitoba, isn’t that eight hours from home? When did you find the time?” “Actually, I visited the lodge in the spare bedroom of my house.” “Wait, what?!”

I’ve had one of the most interesting Masonic experiences of my short time as a Freemason—I visited a virtual lodge. In fact, I believe I visited the virtual lodge, Castle Island Lodge U.D.—www.castleislandlodge.com. The reason I say “the” is because I don't think there is another virtual lodge in the world.

So what is a virtual lodge? I would describe it as the next logical step after an Internet Lodge. An Internet Lodge is a lodge that is open to brothers of many jurisdictions. It is oftentimes seeking only brothers to affili- ate or subscribe as degree work is not their focus. The lodge is instead a marketplace of ideas and a way for the fraternal spirit to spread across the world. An Internet lodge meets in the physical world but corresponds in a variety of Web-based ways, email, message boards, etc. on daily basis. Some examples of Internet lodges are Internet Lodge No. 9659 and Lodge Ireland 2000.

A virtual lodge meets online. Brothers

assemble online wherever they are. Meetings have a ritualistic opening and closing and the business of the lodge is dispensed in the same manner as a physical lodge. It is a lodge in most every sense of the word. This type of lodge begs the question: what is a lodge? Is a lodge the peo- ple or is the lodge the building? Or is it both?

Castle Island Lodge U.D.

Castle Island Lodge U.D. is under the Grand Lodge of Manitoba www.mbgrandlodge.com. The name Castle Island originates from their first meeting location which was in Second Life (http://secondlife.com). The lodge owned a virtual island that had a castle as its virtual meeting room and all of this existed within that virtual world.

I visited Castle Island Lodge during its June 29th stated communication. The manner in which Castle Island meets is through an online video conferencing service. I sent the lodge sec- retary a letter of introduction from my Grand Lodge and was invited to attend the web confer- ence. We ritually opened and began the business of the lodge in the same recognizable format that thousands of lodges do each and every month. After all business was dispensed with, the lodge was ritualistically closed. The brothers performed the duties of the lodge as a lodge. There was a

Worshipful Master, Wardens, Deacons, Inner Guard, and an Immediate Past Master. There was a VSL open with the square and compass. Every necessary component of a lodge was there.

This is an important first foray into combin- ing Freemasonry and the Web. The Web is redefining our sense of place and our sense of time. We listen to podcasts and use DVRs. We use telepresence devices to conduct meetings from any place with Internet access or Skype or FaceTime to chat with family and friends. I would describe a virtual lodge as being a place on the Web, each brother tyling his own sur- roundings and within himself, guarding against the vices and superfluities of his life. Castle Island Lodge is breaking down the conception of what makes us Masons. Can Speculative Masonry work without a physical meeting place? Can we experience Freemasonry wher- ever we are so dispersed? I think the answer to both these questions is a resounding yes.

I really enjoyed my time with the brothers— Grands, Past Grands, as well as officers of vari- ous lodges throughout Manitoba. I've met broth- ers dedicated to moving our Fraternity forward. I’ve seen a new route that Freemasonry is taking as she enters the burgeoning world of technology.

When we enter into the lodge door, we enter in the same or similar manner as every other broth- er of that lodge. Our personal impressions and per- ceptions belong only to us but the process is com- pletely set before we enter. I’m a man that sees Masonry as a process, not an outcome. Oftentimes, we are driven to outcome-only thinking: How many brothers were raised in a given year? How much to charity have the members donated? How many lectures have we memorized? But really that’s not the purpose of Freemasonry. We seek new places and new ways to further our light. It’s not the third degree as an end but as a beginning. We are a process-driven organization.

My opinion is that Grand Lodges need to encourage these types of experiments. Evolving doesn’t mean discarding or ignoring what once was, is, or will be; nor is Castle Island Lodge an innovation. I'm glad to see a Grand Lodge, like Manitoba, embracing something like this. I don’t think we need to dismantle the physical Masonic world and reassemble it online, because we need those places as well. I don’t see a virtual lodge as interfering with our practice or the only way that Masonry should be worked. What I do see it as is a new effort at making connections. That is what Masonry is all about.


The Minnesota MASON

July–August 2011

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