By W Bro Neil Marshall

Have you ever had what seemed like a good idea at the time, but with hindsight, turned out to be a really great idea?

A little over two years ago, W Bro Stuart Harker and W Bro Mark Schito LGR were discussing the numerous visitors to Bowes Park Lodge No 3119 from a collective who informally referred to themselves as ‘the Twitterati’. Bro Stuart, perhaps not realising what he was about to get himself in for, sent out a Tweet that maybe it was time they formed a Lodge to bring together the many Masons who only knew each other through social media. Bro Mark, maybe with a hint of prescience about how important social media would be to Freemasonry in the near future, threw himself – well, his thumbs – into action. Through Twitter and WhatsApp, he put out feelers to see if there was an appetite for such a Lodge – one based on a common interest in social media and getting to know Masons from outside their regular circles. Within a short space of time, he had gathered over a hundred expression of interest, and a plan was beginning to form.

Knowing that things were about to get to the point where ‘official’ involvement would be needed, Mark approached W Bro John Parry PSGD, and the Metropolitan Grand Inspector for Bowes Park Lodge. Together, they discussed how they could find a Lodge that might be open to being taken over and transformed into a social media Lodge. While Bro John went back to the official channels to find a suitable Lodge, Bro Mark turned to the keyboard in search of volunteers to form the proverbial cornerstones of the new Lodge.

A steering group was formed with Bro Mark, Stuart, W Bro Mark Burstow PProvSGD (Dorset), and W Bro Tony Harvey PJGD. The problem they faced was this: how do you translate the concept of something so inherently informal as social media into the somewhat more rigid structures of Freemasonry? It was clear that they would need to offer something a bit different from a traditional, progressive Lodge and that it would need to fit around the lives of the potential members. To this end, it was agreed that the new Lodge would meet on Saturdays, that a social event of some sort would accompany each meeting (the phrase ‘socially distant’ having, of course, not yet entered our collective vocabulary), and that every Installation would be held in the Province of the Master Elect. With a plan in hand, a meeting was arranged with the Metropolitan Grand Secretary, W Bro David Swain PJGD, to discuss what was a ground-breaking concept in the days before widespread special interest Lodges. Soon after, a suitable candidate of a Lodge was identified, and the next phase could begin.

Skip forward a few months (and many, many administrative meetings), and the wheels were well and truly turning. Faith and Friendship Lodge No 7326 would become the new home for the Masonic ‘Twitterati’ and other social media fans, with a hope to rename the Lodge ‘Sialia’, after the Latin name for the bluebird genus. In January 2020, the first wave of new members came together and began the process of transforming the Lodge! Suffice to say that the rest of 2020 did not go according to plan. That said, could there be a Lodge better placed to pivot from face-to-face meetings to virtual ones than one based on social media? With just the one (Covid-restricted) meeting under their belts so far, the future is bright!

If you’d like to know more, look them up on Twitter or Instagram (@SialiaLodge7326) or search them out on Facebook (Sialia Lodge 7326).

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 45 July 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 45.