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The Leader
September 2019: How Unique Culture Defines a Lodge

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Sea Shanties and Rum Punch: How Unique Culture Defines a Lodge

Step into the festive board dinner following a stated meeting at Anchor Bell Masonic Lodge No. 868 in Santa Monica, and you’re likely to see something new: Members bellowing out maritime sea shanties, offering toasts with hot-rum punch, and wearing tuxedoes. It’s certainly not your average Masonic lodge—but then again, none of them really are.

Perhaps no one knows that better than Bryan Godwin, master of Anchor Bell. For Godwin and the members of the one-year-old group, defining their unique culture was of the utmost importance in founding the upstart lodge. “The culture of a lodge manifests itself in the actions of its members,” Godwin says. That goes for lodges of any size, whether brand new or 150 years old. So how can lodges tap into the unique culture that makes them special? It doesn’t take much, Godwin says—and you don’t even need to learn a sea shanty. Although it can’t hurt.

Curating Experiences

“From the very beginning, when we were first talking about creating this lodge, we discussed what we wanted the culture of the lodge to be like,” Godwin explains. Some would call Anchor Bell a traditional observance lodge. They are indeed very formal—tuxedos required—and a festive board follows each stated meeting. “But we’re more than that,” Godwin says. “We use the idea that Freemasonry stands on two legs—philosophy and fellowship—and create experiences and traditions that fulfill both purposes.”

For Anchor Bell, the rollicking revelry of the festive board is only part of the culture—in fact it follows a carefully curated stated meeting experience, and one that’s intentionally reverential. “We put great emphasis on mindfulness and creating a sense of solemnity in the lodge room,” Godwin says. Everything is thought out in advance, from the incense and lighting to the music and overall tone of the meeting. Such planning comes at a cost—it can take an entire day of preparation to create the sort of experience they hope to achieve.

But for Godwin and members of Anchor Bell, the return is worth the time investment, and makes the absolute most of the once a month that members are together. How a lodge chooses to spend that time defines its culture and, ultimately, determines the kind of experience your membership walks away with.

Tips for Crafting Your Lodge Culture

Defining the culture of your lodge may seem like a monumental task—after all, even the word “culture” is sometimes hard to define. But by focusing on what your membership wants to get out of lodge meetings and your shared priorities, you can start to home in on what makes your group unique. Everyone Has a Say
  • Establish a committee to brainstorm the question of lodge culture in more detail and ensure that the lodge is proceeding intentionally and consciously along those lines. During the planning phase, it’s important to get as much buy-in from members as possible, so approach members throughout the lodge to solicit feedback—not just officers. Sometimes new members can bring fresh insight.
  • Look at what your lodge does well. That’s likely at the heart of where your lodge culture lies. Ask questions like,
    • What sets our lodge apart from others?
    • What about our lodge history most inspires you?
    • What about our lodge today makes you most proud?
    • What activities and/or events best represent our lodge?
    • What words describe our lodge’s personality?
Creating a Brand In the business world, culture is often referred to as a company’s brand. A brand is the expression of your lodge’s unique qualities, and helps create a coherent message to not only members but prospective members as well. When creating a brand, think about a few key points:
  1. Come up with a lodge slogan inspired by the answers to the questions above.
  2. Design a lodge emblem (consider incorporating your slogan).
  3. Include your emblem and slogan on:
    • Lodge website
    • Social media profile
    • Letterhead
    • Memorabilia
    • Signage for your building
    • Trestleboard
Thinking critically about what sets your lodge apart from others—whether it’s sea shanties or game nights or excellence in ritual—helps members reconnect with what appealed to them in the first place, and ensures that the lodge is adapting and serving its members.

Your September Checklist

Stay on track of lodge business and prepare for important deadlines. Here’s your September checklist.

Executive Committee

  • Make plans for your lodge master, wardens, or other representatives to attend the Annual Communication this October.

Senior Warden, along with Executive Committee

  • Identify and approach members for 2020 open elected and appointed officer positions.
  • Urge presumptive master, wardens, and senior deacon to perform their Master Mason’s proficiency soon, if not already completed.
  • Urge respective officers to answer the master, senior warden, and junior warden questions early.
  • Identify and approach members for the 2020 Audit, Membership Retention, and any other committees.
  • Set calendar for 2020 and identify event leaders.
  • Continue preparing 2020 budget.
  • Set installation date and approach installing officer, master of ceremonies, and chaplain.
  • Review all candidates’ progress toward advancement.

Junior Warden

  • Continue tracking 100% officer giving to the Annual Fund, with officers setting an example through gifts that represent their capability as well as their commitment to our charitable programs.


  • If lodge per capita has not yet been paid, submit payment ASAP.
  • Prepare to send out dues notices and begin collecting member dues, starting Oct. 31.


  • If lodge per capita has not yet been paid, submit payment ASAP.

Questions? Contact Member Services at or (415) 776-7000.

For Your Trestleboard

Spread the word about programs and services from the Masonic Homes of California, California Masonic Foundation, and Grand Lodge.

This month:
Coming Soon: Annual Communication
Stretch Drive: Masons4Mitts
Lodge Open House Month

Find it on

A lodge’s history is an important part of its identity. Vital to telling the history of your lodge are the artifacts many lodges have lying around in closets and basements. To learn more about how to preserve and take care of these important relics, take a look at this article from California Freemason magazine by Joe Evans, collections manager for the Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry. Also take some time to explore the great collection at the Coil Library.

Question of the Month

Last month we asked how well you thought you understood the leadership selection and progression of Grand Lodge offices. Of those that responded:

  • 42% - I’m more informed than most Masons
  • 42% - I think I understand it. At least a little bit
  • 17% - It’s as clear as mud to me
  • 4% - I could write a book on the subject