California's newest lodge, Anchor Bell Lodge U.D., will be receivings its dispensation this Sunday, January 7th, 2018, and Brother Bryan Godwin has been a part of the discussions leading to this foundation since the start. For a couple of years now, the Grand Lodge of California has been actively encouraging Masons in that state who are dissatisfied with the lodges in their areas to strike out and start whole new ones, instead of dejectedly just giving up on Freemasonry. They are quite deliberately fostering the formation of more, smaller, active lodges. As a result, brethren are beginning to think outside of the traditional box and to bring creative ideas to the table when it comes to lodges and programming.
Brother Godwin has just written an outstanding article about his experience with helping to get Anchor Bell Lodge off the ground over the last year and a half, and it is well worth a careful read. Starting a new lodge is not for the faint of heart, and no lodge anywhere has a lifetime guarantee of success. But it can be a mighty rewarding experience, and chances are pretty good that you'll get a damned fine lodge in the end, as long as you go in with the proper expectations and know the pitfalls.
From Microlodges And Chartering A New Lodge:
So, why a new lodge anyway? Why not infiltrate save a lodge that’s having problems and help the reinvigorate? Many of us have probably tried to “be the change they want to see” at an existing lodge, and have experienced why that can be an incredibly difficult endeavour. Most lodges, even ones that are experiencing a decline in active membership, have decades, if not a century of traditions, concepts, ideas, and ideals that are built into their foundation and subsequent superstructure. Trying to remove one of these bricks, or add something new to the foundation is akin to a Masonic game of Jenga. Those elements are solidly cemented into the lodge and likely have significant meaning to the stalwart superintendents that have seen the lodge through thick and thin, and kept the light alive over the years. Not only are these brothers less than interested in your brilliant new idea to have all the officers start the masonic year with a juice cleanse, or make the mandatory wardrobe for members and officers white neoplatonic robes, but they cherish the history that they have built, and the traditions they’ve worked so hard for. Most lodges experience an ebb and flow as the lodge, and the people surrounding it evolve over the years, and sometimes, they even close.
The chartering of new lodges, should be considered, in this author’s opinion, a completely separate idea from the improvement of existing lodges. There is little to show a connection between new lodges being chartered, and a decline of membership in existing lodges, and the opposite might actually have more credence. The theory behind starting new, small lodges or “micro-lodges” is that it is easier to create a lodge experience from scratch that appeals to a small group of members, than to take an existing lodge and uproot their history and bend it to what often amounts to a very vocal minority. New lodges can try new ideas and pivot quickly if those ideas fail without fear of a large, complicated and controversial vote. It is hard enough to do something well for twenty people with similar ideas, and it is far harder to manage an organization of hundreds that have a variety of interests. Ideally, new lodges, much like a start up corporation, can be incubators for new, and old ideas. They can test concepts, fail quickly, and find traditions that not only work for their membership, but inspire visiting brethren to borrow for their own lodges.
More lodges equal more Masonry. In business this is called clustering, or cluster economics. Have you ever wondered why fast food chains tend to be right on top of eachother? Or thought, wouldn’t a Burger King caddy corner to a McDonalds cut the other's margin in half? In fact these businesses tend to cluster to one another strategically, because it increases traffic and revenue. The term “Business Cluster” was coined by Michael Porter in The Competitive Advantage of Nations in 1990. Porter claims that clusters have the potential to affect competition in three ways: by increasing the productivity of the companies in the cluster, by driving innovation in the field, and by stimulating new businesses in the field. I believe this can be applied to lodges similarly, that a district full of small, active lodges that cater to specific interests successfully will drive more activity in a Masonic community...
My friend and brother Jeff Naylor, founding Master of Lodge Vitruvian 767 who was our man with a vision at the very start, once said this:
"If you can get enough Master Masons who like to dress up like train engineers and who want to start Lionel Lodge No. 769, or whatever the number is now, let the cheer go up and celebrate the chartering of a new lodge. These guys have something in common, they want to pull together and appeal to a particular group of men whose interests are not antithetical to the fraternity and who might just bring quality men into Freemasonry. Don't fight it, embrace it, promote it."Anchor Bell Lodge's dispensation ceremony will be Sunday at 6:30PM at the Sunset Masonic Center in Santa Monica. It is by invitation only, but their first Stated Meeting will be Friday, January 26th at 7:00PM.