The story: The other night I came home from work at about 6:30 pm, had a quick dinner with my wife, then went to an installation of officers at a lodge, after which I spent some time in fellowship with the brothers. By 10:30 pm I was back in the family room.
Double take: The lodge was in Canada.
Plot twist: The lodge only meets on the Internet.
Castle Island Virtual Lodge No. 190 — CIVL — was started not in Silicon Valley, but in Manitoba, Canada in 2010, to help meet the needs of Masons who because of constraints on time and distance might not otherwise be able to regularly attend a lodge. After a few years of trying out several web-based formats, they now meet regularly on the fifth Wednesday of the month (obviously in those months that have 5 weeks).
I happened to visit on an evening that was not the regular meeting night; technical issues had prevented the lodge from having a proper meeting on April 30th, so the next meeting (and officer’s installation) was moved up to the following Wednesday. I can imagine some people rolling their eyes and saying something like “Ah ha, see? Can’t always trust technology!” While that’s a perfectly understandable sentiment, those guys might want to think about how many lodge events were cancelled or postponed this past winter by the snowstorms or cold weather.
My friend and brother Nick “Millenial Freemason” Johnson introduced me to CIVL, and wrote a nice article about it a few years ago. Since then, he’s been a frequent visitor. Nick is one of those Masons who gets sucked into every Masonic event for 50 miles around, and probably enjoys being able to get home from an event at a reasonable hour once in a while. A bonus for me, though, is that I got to sit with a fellow blogger for the first time in an actual lodge meeting, as Nick was able to join in for the events of the evening.
The lodge uses a form of Emulation ritual, so the opening would be a little unfamiliar to most US brethren, but the officers did a very nice job. They had a short, but moving memorial service for one of their brothers who had recently passed, and then moved on to the installation. CIVL normally has over a dozen attendees, but because it was not the typical meeting night, some of the officers were not able to make the installation, and will be properly installed in a few weeks.
WB Jake Mohn, the new Worshipful Master of CIVL, presented us with a 20 question quiz on Masonic symbolism, to which I’m almost embarrassed to say that I got 5 wrong. So much for the plan of always picking “C” on a multiple choice exam…
Are there issues with having a virtual lodge? Of course there are. The meeting quality varied over the course of the evening, with sound sometimes dropping out, feedback, video lags, and the other typical issues associated with any online meeting format. One or two brothers had some odd background noises, and we all know what staring into a webcam looks like on the other end. But virtual lodges are not necessarily a replacement for a live-action lodge. The idea is to have a connection for those Masons who might be otherwise separated because of work or military service, or who may be incapacitated by ill health, or who may find themselves — as do several CIVL members — literally several hundred miles from the nearest lodge.
I have to admit that I was a bit shy at first, not knowing anyone else there, but the officers were friendly, and I hung around after the meeting longer than I had expected, getting to know the other guys, and indulging in the Masonic pastime of comparing our idiosyncrasies and differences. I expect that I’ll be attending again, and I’m hoping to see the full lodge in action. I wish the officers and the rest of the members of Castle Island Virtual Lodge the very best of luck in the coming years.