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.
“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.