I am, of course, referring to the redoubtable List of Lodges Masonic, published annually by Pantagraph Printing out of Bloomington, Illinois. It has never been perfect, and it always has relied upon the due diligence of every regular jurisdiction's Grand Secretary to send in updated data to the printer. But it is there, it gets printed every single year, it's pretty accurate, and most important of all, it can be relied on. The importance of that particular aspect cannot be discounted, and 90% of the key to any success comes from just showing up. A list like Pantagraph's is only as good as the data printed in it and on its dependable publication. And they've been at it a very long time.
Brethren WANT to travel, and they WANT to make sure they are visiting regular, recognized lodges. But few individual Masons bother to purchase these books for themselves. And for decades when brethren knew they were going to travel outside of their state or country, they would frequently call their Grand Secretary, who would consult this very book to either tell the brother his options over the phone, or just Xerox the pertinent pages and mail them out to the member to keep in his pocket and consult when he gets to his destination.
About eight years ago, a Maryland Brother, Eric Madison, developed a smartphone app called Masonic Traveler that was an attempt to list all of the lodges in the US and link their addresses to Google maps to make finding and visiting lodges easier. But that app seems to have vanished into obscurity since then. That was a shame, because there was a great idea in there and assembling it was a lot of work to accomplish. Since then, there hasn't been an attempt to resurrect it. Until last year.
Two weeks ago, Eric Diamond on the Xoriente podcast spoke with the guys developing the Amity smartphone app, and I took the opportunity to download it myself and speak with Jeremy Barnes, the main code developer behind it. If you haven't discovered it yet, Amity is slowly growing into a digital smartphone replacement for (or adjunct to) Pantagraph's List that helps brethren travel. And it is a lodge finder program that simply helps regular, recognized Freemasons connect with each other.
The short explanation is that Amity is a growing directory of regular, recognized lodges around the world on your phone that helps you travel as a Mason. It is secure, private, and requires registration, with you linking your name to a specific, regular, recognized lodge in a jurisdiction. Once you do, you are able to scroll through the database and search for other lodges to determine their regularity and recognition status with yours, just like Pantagraph's List.
Here is what Amity is NOT...
It is NOT related to Pantagraph as a business entity, and there is zero coordination between the two. Amity is being developed independently by Michael and Jeremy and their small team of brethren at Copiri software because there simply was nothing else like it available. It is NOT a lodge membership database management system, meaning that if your grand jurisdiction utilizes GrandView or MORI, or has its own custom database system, that's fine and dandy. It doesn't replace those, or even augment them. An actual grand lodge doesn't HAVE to do anything with Amity at all—although it would be far better for everyone if grand lodges everywhere around the world do cooperate in updating the lodge lists and recognition information, along with verifying members. Unfortunately, getting lodge information has been like pulling teeth, with some jurisdictions eagerly participating, and others not wanting to share their basic lodge information at all. Cooperating permits lodge lists to be updated instantly, instead of an annual publishing lag time.The more grand secretaries keep it updated, the more useful the app will be for everyone.
Anyone can download the fully functioning app for iPhone or Android for free. It doesn't dispense with the proper examination of visitors process in your lodge, but it does make looking up a lodge's status fast, simple, and instant. You don't need "permission" from your Grand Secretary to use it. It is free, and lodges and grand lodges are not charged anything for listings.
Privacy and verification is Copiri's primary consideration, and Amity is NOT taking your data and sharing it: nothing is shared "online." It is all encrypted, and I'm warning you right now, try not to lose your password, because recovering and resetting it is a huge pain to reestablish—very deliberately. The developers take it seriously, knowing full well that Masons in some jurisdictions risk their jobs and reputations by simply being publicly associated with Freemasonry. And the current verification system addresses the question of whether a user really is a Mason in the first place.
The team has bigger ideas for down the road, with more features coming. If it is fully utilized, lodge secretaries can use Amity as a digital sign-in book, as a global "Tyler's Book" system. Some grand lodges that use dues cards are placing barcodes on the back of them, and the system will ultimately permit such a card to be scanned for instant registration. Eventually, brethren sitting in lodge together will be able to query the system to find out how to contact brethren they met at a meeting during their visit, dispensing with those lost business cards we all somehow drop between our car seats. Also, lodge secretaries will be able to see—and read—the proper spelling and honorifics of a visitor. If you've seen my handwriting, you know what I'm talking about.
For more information and to read about its features and updates, visit the Amity website HERE. Then download the app and try it. And encourage your Grand Secretary to cooperate with the developers. It will only help all Freemasons the world over.