A busy social calendar to build camaraderie

W Bro Ron Wainer SLGR reports

In this edition, Arena contacted the Polytechnic Lodge 2847 to share their experience of how an active social calendar can benefit a Lodge to build camaraderie, attract new members and provide a different social aspect to Freemasonry, enjoyed by members, partners and non-Freemasons alike. Here, W Bro Ron Wainer SLGR explains how Lodge social events has helped the Polytechnic Lodge go from strength to strength. 
A good few years ago, maybe like many Lodges today, The Polytechnic Lodge No 2847 had become a little humdrum with just four meetings a year and maybe the occasional ladies' night. Although the ritual was always good, that really was all the Lodge was about. Within the Lodge, little cliques grew, and the feeling of brotherly love was only apparent for a couple of hours four times a year at meetings. Something was missing. Membership started to decline, and the standard of work in the Temple was quickly following suit.
Over recent years, the make-up and demeanour of the Lodge have drastically changed. Maybe there are many reasons for this, but one thing is for sure, the Lodge is thriving, has enough work in the pipeline until October 2024, and there is always a happy buzz at our meetings. Since we changed our outlook and activities outside of our Lodge meetings, the number of members who resigned during their first few years in our Lodge has been reduced to zero, even after and during the pandemic.

An active social calendar and effectively publicising events
So, what was it that changed to reverse our decline? I would think that one of the key reasons is that, over the last few years, The Polytechnic Lodge has had a heavy social calendar. No longer is it a Lodge that just meets four times a year. Whilst informal drinks and meet-ups between members are now a common occurrence, outside of meetings and LOIs, pre-planned social events are now the norm for The Polytechnic Lodge. Maximum publicity to members of the Lodge is given to our events by the Lodge Website (www.polytechnic.freemasons.london), the Lodge Twitter account (https://twitter.com/Poly2847), the Lodge Facebook page and our internal WhatsApp group chat.  

UK trips and visiting Lodges 
Over the last few years, our Lodge members have toured the beautiful Granite City, Aberdeen, for five days and, whilst there, visited the Sons of the Soil Lodge No 1451 (SC). We were most welcomed by the Lodge and visited their marvellous museum. Their Festive Board, or 'Harmony' as it is called, was second to none. Liking life North of the border, we recently had a five-day jolly in Edinburgh, where we visited all the major tourist attractions and also visited The Grand Lodge of Scotland, Rosslyn Chapel and detoured to the East coast where we were guests of honour at Lodge Dramatic No 571(SC) in Glasgow. What a welcome we had by this Lodge. We were treated like royalty and even escorted into the Lodge by a piper.
On another occasion, just before the pandemic broke out, a number of us flew over to the Isle of Man to visit a sick member. Although the weather was most unkind to us, this didn't dampen our spirits, and we had a good few days away enjoying each other's company.

Trips abroad
Perhaps one of our most memorable Lodge events was attending the beautiful island of Corfu in Greece to be present at the wedding of our Brother George Bregasi. Whilst we were there, we were greatly entertained by the Lord Byron Lodge No 150. This visit was such a success that we now regularly have visitors from the Lord Byron Lodge, together with friends we met from the District Grand Lodge of Athens, District Grand Lodge of Cyprus and the Grand Lodge of Greece.

Social dinners 
One of the benefits of having two of our members from Greece is that Lodge members and our partners often meet up at an authentic Greek Restaurant in Farringdon, where our numbers are usually so great that we take over the whole restaurant. We also have a number of Persian members in our Lodge, and members with their partners have richly feasted on Persian delights in a well-known Persian Restaurant in Ealing, West London. On one of the hottest days this year, several members and their partners met up for a summer garden BBQ party, Persian style, where we ate some great Persian food for almost ten hours from 1.00 pm to 10.00 pm.

Social events
Twice this year, we have visited the Coral Greyhound Dog Racing Stadium with our partners to cheer on our losing dogs. On both occasions, we enjoyed a splendid meal together in the stadium's carvery restaurant. Although we left no richer in a financial sense, we certainly were richer for spending more time with each other and our partners.
Just recently, members of the Lodge gathered together at the Fullers Griffin Brewery in Chiswick on a Saturday afternoon for a two-hour tour and a free sampling session in their bar afterwards. This certainly got us in good spirits, and from the Brewery, we moved on and visited all the pubs along the River Thames from the Chiswick Brewery to Hammersmith Bridge. 

Regular Annual Events and Ladies Festivals
As a Lodge, we have now returned to having annual events. Our last Polytechnic Lodge Ladies Festival, with 97 guests, was a complete success, raising over £6,000 for the Lodge's supported charity. We also have a very relaxed annual Christmas Luncheon in the Carvery Restaurant at Mark Masons' Hall, which is usually over-subscribed, with just under 40 of us being seated. 

The Future
The list of activities above is just a few of the events that our Lodge has held recently. Looking to the future, we have another trip to Scotland, the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London and a Ghost Hunting Event on the cards. 

The Benefits of Social Events
So, what are the benefits to the Lodge and to Masonry of having such a busy social calendar?

Getting to know each other
We have found that social events break down any cliques within the Lodge as members become far more familiar with each other and cement the relationship with people they already know. Partners of our members now feel 'involved', included and part of our Lodge family. At our social gatherings, members are usually far more relaxed without worrying about rituals to recite. This naturally makes the event quality fun time spent with members and their partners. The extra exposure to each other in our social events builds confidence, especially with new members. It allows those in difficult circumstances to discuss their issues more easily with our almoner or mentor and promotes an irreversible sense of belonging, safety and security.

Introducing others to Freemasonry and attracting new members
The Polytechnic Lodge has found that attending social events is an excellent way to introduce potential new candidates to the Lodge, making them feel at ease from day one and getting support from their partners at the same time. 

Reducing loneliness 
Equally, we have found that attending our social events gives our more lonely single elderly members something to look forward to.

"The companionship I experience at additional events arranged by our lodge is uplifting and something I always look forward to."
W Bro Jim Fleming, recently widowed

"Over the last thirty years, London has seen a steady decrease in the number of units that have been holding Ladies' Festivals and Social Events. These events traditionally were where new candidates were introduced to Freemasonry and Lodge Members. It is no surprise that the decrease in these events has paralleled the decrease in new Initiates.  Those Lodges that have found social events to replace traditional Ladies' Festivals and engage with Brethren beyond Lodge meetings seem to be those that are thriving.
Hats off again to Polytechnic Lodge, who not only hold a Ladies Festival but have found numerous other trips, excursions and occasions to engage the Brethren and their families. These occasions also create a strong sense of community within the Lodge and the extended family. It is, therefore, no surprise that Polytechnic Lodge is a strong Lodge with many new Initiates and happy and engaged Members."

W Bro Michael Todd Metropolitan Grand Inspector

The payoff in arranging these additional social events is having a close-knit, happy and thriving Lodge, and it is well worth the effort. For sure, The Polytechnic Lodge is far more than a Lodge that just holds four meetings a year!

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 50 December 2022 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 50 here.