Affinity Lodge ideas:
I'm going to list some of the ideas that Masons can incorporate when forming or reforming their lodge around a specific area of interest. I will edit this list as more ideas come forward, and I encourage you to reply with your own ideas. I'm convinced a lodge theme can jump start even a dormant lodge program.
Occupation - More developed than a simple club or guild lodge, some jurisdictions can point to Lawyers' lodges, or lodges for policemen or firemen. 100 years ago it was common to find a specific lodge that met downtown which had business and government leaders as a strong component. As a more modern idea, a lodge could form consisting of IT Professionals, who are often younger, and who will skew demographically higher education, and candidates who have intrinsic appreciation of our "timeless mystery."
Historians and Special Locations - Civil War, or WWII buffs, or Revolutionary War. These could be re-enactors, writers, or students and teachers of history. Each of these sub-concepts may be mutually exclusive of the other, but that is for the lodge to decide. Some lodges may choose to support a love of history by meeting in a historical mansion, or a museum, given certain approvals by the facility. Masons historically met in low dales or on high hills, and such special locations may increase the allure of a group. We have had lodges meet in Minnesota in a deep iron mine, in the belly of a Lake Superior freighter, outside on countless farms and in wooded groves, and even in a large urban cemetery - not for any dark or frightening reason, but because of the beautiful grounds and a promise of a pilgrimage to the revered Masonic burial area on one part of the park.
Clubs and interest areas - Model train aficionados, gardeners, men who like to cook, astronomy buffs, or lodges that grow from an established club, these can take on a successful life of their own, and continue to draw members.
Time and Date Lodges - How about a lodge for third shift workers, which meets in the morning? Or for older men who have trouble driving at night? Daylight lodges serve these men well.
Icon lodges - Some lodges are named in celebration of a key personality in our nation's or the world's history. The Churchill Lodge and the Douglas MacArthur Lodges in Minnesota, and Ben Franklin in Wisconsin are just three examples. Interestingly, the work done by these pioneer lodges may be a helpful boost for those contemplating a similar lodge in another state. There is no reason why every state cannot support a Ben Franklin lodge, or Churchill for that matter.
Language - Arizona commissioned a version of their standard Preston-Webb American ritual rendered into Spanish, with the help of the York Grand Lodge of Mexico. This would be useful for many states. Other Spanish-speaking grand lodges use Emulation Work, rendered into Spanish, or some alternative ritual. French rituals are available in Emulation working (Quebec) or Preston-Webb or Scottish Modern (Louisiana). The GL of DC has a Persian (Farsi) speaking lodge, there is a German lodge in Wisconsin, lodges have opened in Finnish in Minnesota at least until recently, and other language variants are more common than one would think, even in the US. The Grand Lodge of Manitoba has a Filipino lodge, working in their native language.
Ritual Variations - There are over 70 rituals used in Britain alone. Most common among these is the Emulation Work, which, like many of the popular rituals, has its own schools of instruction. Other popular rituals in Britain include Logic, Scottish Modern, Taylor's, Oxford Working, Sussex Working, West End, Stability, Universal and Bristol. Some of these are attached to certain provinces, whilst others are rare enough to be even lodge-specific. In the US, each state has one or more allowed rituals, and most of these stem from a common ancestor, Preston-Webb, which was communicated "mouth to ear." Hence, subtle variations crept in between the states. In some cases, multiple rituals are allowed, or there are more extensive variations. Pennsylvania's ritual is strongly influenced by the Moderns, and some lodge in Louisiana use the first three degrees of the Scottish Rite as their blue lodge ritual. Several US states allow Emulation lodges or some other variant. Emulation is standard in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other parts of the Commonwealth.
Era - Wisconsin has a "Trappers and Voyageurs" lodge, where members wear handmade costumes in the style of French Voyageurs. Oklahoma has a lodge of Native Americans, who perform an Indian-themed Third Degree ceremony as an exhibit around the US. DC has several lodges designed to celebrate specific historical eras, whether in costume or not, including the Revolutionary War period.
International Focus - Cincinnatus Lodge in DC has a strong international focus. They promote intervisitation and citizen democracy-building by direct contribution and travel. Churchill Lodge in Minnesota has begun to emulate a similar international focus, the extent of which will be determined by the members.
Collegiate - many jurisdictions can point to lodges that maintain a connection to a specific college or university. These may become a booster club, a group for professors, or collegiate sports enthusiasts.
Quality or Aesthetic Lodges - Most states have a lodge that is known for the outward trappings of quality: the members all wear tuxedos, they dine well, their fees are higher than most. This may be in combination with other focus areas, or may be an end all to itself. From my experience, simply forming a posh dining club is not enough of a reason to form a lodge, and I would suggest that some other focus may be necessary for long-term survival.
European Concept - Also known as Traditional Observance (TO), there are over a dozen of these working in the US. I'll call them simply another affinity model, as they seem to have a niche, but are not driving a broad resurgence of the Craft in US society. The model varies from state to state.This website may offer some clues to what has developed as their best practices.
Philosophical or educational - different from a "mere" research lodge, these lodges actively pursue scholarly content at each meeting, but they also have a full program of raising candidates and other such functions of a traditional lodge. The reading of a paper and a defense of it by the author may be a feature of each meeting. Or, this idea may simply pop up in many traditional lodges by the use of a short educational program at each meeting. In Minnesota we have found that by ensuring there is "meat on the bone" we increase attendance - a meeting consists of more than just opening, paying the bills, reading the deceased, and closing.
Any other ideas?