by Christopher Hodapp
On Saturday, July 9th, the United Grand Lodge of England announced the official consecration of their newest Masonic lodge: Science Fiction and Fantasy Lodge No. 10016. The lodge meets in the Rugley Masonic Centre on Pottal Pool Road in Peckridge.
(If you squint carefully at the photo, you'll see a pair of lightsabers, and a Klingon bat'leth held by their Tyler, as you would expect, forming a square and quadrant and resembling a Past Master's jewel.)
Many of our grand lodge jurisdictions have hundreds of lodges, and there's a strong argument to be made against identical, cookie-cutter lodges. Twenty years ago, my friend WB Jeffrey Naylor (founding Master of Indiana's Lodge Vitruvian 767 and fellow Knight of the North) was strongly advocating unique Masonic lodges, based on outside interests of groups of Masons.
"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."
It's been twenty years now since Jeff wrote that, and our English brethren have been doing this sort of thing for quite some time.
The UGLE has not been squeamish about the establishment of all sorts of affinity lodges, made of members who enjoy certain hobbies or who share the same occupations. There are lodges for fishermen, gamers, F1 auto racing fans, actors and musicians, various sports like rugby, and many more. That's in addition to their ongoing Universities Scheme, which encourages the establishment of lodges near colleges and universities, designed to attract administrators, faculty and staff, as well as students.
While some purists may argue that a science fiction and fantasy-themed lodge is somehow degrading, embarrassing, or in some way makes Masonry seem like a frivolous pursuit, quite the contrary. It can be argued that it helps tap into a portion of men who might otherwise have never even given a moment of thought to the notion of petitioning a lodge. And it helps to fight against the perception that Masonry is nothing but a haven for cranky old men with squealing hearing aids, and lonely, basement-dwelling incels.
Here's the way one member of the new lodge put it on Reddit this weekend:
"There are many special interests lodges in the UK, an F1 Lodge, a rugby lodge, etc. For the members it is a way to marry two of their greatest passions which can only serve to strengthen the Lodge and the fraternity in general. We had over 130 in attendance at our consecration, with a growing list of joining members as well as eager visitors. With the exception of a few specific implements in the Lodge, as seen in the photos, the ritual and the Lodges meeting will be conducted the same as any other. Where we hope to truly set ourselves apart will be at the festive boards as well as our social events."
Sadly, the affinity lodge concept never really became a big hit in the United States. That's a shame, because with scores or hundreds of lodges in a jurisdiction, that means there are myriad laboratories in which to experiment, as long as the landmarks are followed. There is much to be said for thinking outside the box when it comes to exploring the notion of chartering a new lodge (or in trying to rejuvenate an existing one).
While not exactly affinity lodges, in my own jurisdiction of Indiana we have had a number of unique, special purpose lodges:
- Bartimaeus Lodge U.D. ("under dispensation") was organized in the 1960s specifically to help lodges in the state to confer the degrees of Masonry on handicapped and disabled candidates.
- Transylvania Lodge U.D. was formed to meet once a year (on or around Halloween) in order to operate a blood drive. Its Master, Bob Hilgediek, was an extraordinarily tall man with a gaunt face and was affectionately as 'Drac' – he presided over their annual meetings dressed in an appropriate long black cloak. A blood donation truck was parked in the lot outside and remained open throughout the day. Sadly, the lodge died when Bob passed away in 2001.
- Schofield Lodge 1818 U.D. was created specifically to support the ongoing restoration and operation of the historic Schofield House in Madison, Indiana – the site of the first official meeting of the Grand Lodge of Indiana.
- St. Luke Lodge 761 in Franklin, Indiana (location of our Masonic retirement home, known today as Compass Park) originally started as an occupational affinity lodge for doctors and others in the medical professions.
Throughout our history, we have also had a handful of lodges that did their Masonic work in German. An enormous number of Indiana's early settlers emigrated from the German states in Europe, and these German lodges were quite popular in their day. New York had several lodges in New York City that performed their meetings and ceremonies in Italian. I'm sure other states had their own foreign language lodges that were established during the various regional periods of mass immigration. I understand there are several lodges in and around Washington DC that still do their work in French.
(Honestly, with the huge influx of Hispanic immigrants to the U.S. over the last 40+ years, I'm astonished that almost no one has attempted to organize Spanish language lodges across the country. That seems like a terrible oversight and a foolish one, to ignore this rapidly growing demographic – especially since Masonry currently thrives in Mexico, Cuba, and Central and South America these days.)
But in addition to hobbies, pastimes and professions, there has been a slow growth of a different type of affinity lodge in the U.S. I'm speaking of the rise in lodges made up of Masons who are looking for a more contemplative, philosophical, esoteric-minded lodge experience.
That's for another post. More along this line of thinking in an upcoming post later on this week.
Meanwhile, congratulations to the founding members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Lodge No. 10016. May you truly live long and prosper.