Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
The drive for the next generation of new members in Odd Fellowship is necessary for the continued viability of our Order. Does this mean that there is no place in Odd Fellowship for older members? Of course not! Odd Fellowship, in my opinion, can be and should be a big tent – there should be a place in our fraternity for people of good character representing all generations, all ethnicities, all nationalities, all races, and abilities. After all, when Odd Fellowship was started in England a couple of centuries ago, they were called “odd” for a reason – they would meet in pubs, and they opened the pub doors to a wide variety of people and professions.
Our Encampments show us the value of experience. As Patriarchs and Matriarchs, we are generally older than the average Odd Fellow, and we have advanced in Odd Fellowship to obtain all degrees in the Lodge and all the degrees in the Encampment – thus we should be generally wiser than the average Odd Fellow in the ways of our fraternal order. Can we utilize this age, experience and knowledge for the benefit of Odd Fellows? Most assuredly, we should do so. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is worthy, but how much more worthy when shared with others. This sharing can take three forms:
1. Helping Lodge members understand the symbols of Odd Fellowship and the ritual. Odd Fellowship is immersed in symbols. The skull, the three pillars, the heart in the hand, the dove, the bundle of sticks, the lily, the hourglass, and on and on and on. Passwords, signs, and symbols are all important signposts in the journey of Odd Fellowship. A new Odd Fellow is, frankly, overwhelmed by all of this content. It is the rare member who recognizes all the symbols; it is rarer still to understand the significance of each one.
Typically, it takes years to absorb them all. And even the most senior of us need to be reminded of the meanings from time to time. As experienced members of the Order – as shepherds if you will – we Patriarchs and Matriarchs can certainly fulfill important roles as mentors of younger members. But this mentoring cannot be imposed on anyone. It has to be requested, either explicitly or implicitly. Knowledge should be freely shared with all who want it, but it should never be force-fed to anyone.
And there is a right way, and a wrong way to share knowledge. The wrong way is to do it loudly and publicly. The right way is to do it quietly and privately. I’m sure many of us have cringed when, during a meeting, we have heard older members publicly castigate younger or newer members with words such as, “that’s not where you stand,” or “that’s not how you say that.” How embarrassing! The better way is to let it go, and then after the meeting to have a private conversation with the young member – give them some guidance, not criticism.
2. Assisting Lodge officers in maintaining civility in the Lodge. And Lodge officers don’t suddenly drop into office, fully formed, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Many of them have had only a relatively brief experience in office. Perhaps they served as Vice Grand for a year, or as an appointed officer. Perhaps they have had the chance to attend a seminar. But in general, the level of experience and the level of knowledge is modest. Every elected officer in a Lodge needs a good mentor.
To mentor an incoming elected officer of the Lodge is a valued role for an Encampment shepherd. And this is particularly true if the shepherd has filled that role earlier in his/her fraternal career. What better source of guidance could there be for a Lodge Secretary or a Lodge Treasurer or even a Lodge Noble Grand than a person who has previously served in those positions. Once again, advice should be freely given, but only if requested. Certainly, feel free to let the new officer know you are available to provide help and assistance, and then stand back and be ready to provide it, if asked.
And during the course of a Lodge meeting, the shepherd can perform a valuable role in supporting the Lodge officers if things get a bit unruly, or if a member becomes obnoxious or demanding. A respected elder in a Lodge can bring peace to a tense situation, and can help re-focus a discussion gone awry. In these subtle ways, a shepherd can ensure that the flock is well tended and not in danger.
3. Reminding Brothers and Sisters of F-L-T.
And as shepherds, we can remind our brothers and sisters that this fraternal order is all about FRIENDSHIP, LOVE AND TRUTH. A shepherd should be aware of the flock. Have any members of the flock grown so detached and so focused on their own selves and their own agendas that they forgot to speak openly person-to-person to their brothers and sisters? Have any members decided that they had to pass along a “rumor” about a brother or sister, rather than candidly and directly speaking to the affected brother and sister? Have any members displayed a quest for “power” in the Lodge or in the Order so great that they could criticize or diminish or hurt a Lodge brother or sister?
A little self-reflection is always in order. We are here to “elevate the character of man”. Let’s make sure that everyone reflects on their own character.
Lodges should be welcoming and comfortable refuges for our members. Lodges should be places where we support one another.
Let’s all resolve that:
a. No idea proposed by a member is “stupid” or “silly” or “unworkable”. Every idea is worthy of consideration and discussion. Ultimately, the idea may be accepted, modified or rejected. But let’s give our proposing brother or sister the courtesy of fair consideration.
b. No brother or sister should be talked about behind their back. Let’s give our brothers and sisters the courtesy of direct face-to-face conversation. If they have done something really good, take the time to tell them so. If they have done something that bothers you, take the time to talk to them about it in a friendly, open and non-threatening way.
c. No one in the Lodge should start a rumor about another member. And if you hear a rumor, it should stop with you.
d. No meeting should be boring or unproductive. Why have a meeting if nothing gets accomplished? Every meeting should have a focus and should move toward a goal – whether it is planning a Lodge dinner, or organizing an event to support a local charity, or planning an installation of officers, etc.
e. In everything we do in our Lodges, we should always ask the question: “Am I doing this for the good of the Order?”
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Believe it or not, the California Grand Lodge Sessions and Rebekah Assembly will begin in just three months in Modesto, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.
And DMC will continue its annual tradition of hosting an enjoyable evening at the DoubleTree on Thursday, May 21, after the first day’s session. We invite Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, and their guests, to attend this fun event, and we recommend comfy and casual attire – Hawaiian shirts are appropriate. The doors will open at 5 p.m. with a no-host bar and social time with your Brothers and Sisters, at 6 p.m a Polynesian-style buffet dinner will be available, at 7 p.m. we have musicians who will entertain you with Hawaiian music, and at 8 p.m. get ready for the Polynesian dancers!
The dinner will take you back to the islands and will include: Tropical Fruit, Hawaiian Cole Slaw, Build-your-own Pulled Pork Sliders, Grilled Chicken Teriyaki with Pineapple, Sticky Rice, Hawaiian Style Vegetables, Fresh Baked Rolls & Butter, Assorted Cookies, Coffee and Tea.
The cost to attend this event, including the show and dinner, is a mere $20. The reason we can keep the cost of the event so low is because of the generosity of a number of Lodges which have subsidized the cost of the dinner and the show on behalf of their Brothers and Sisters. We will be publishing the names of these generous Lodges in subsequent DMC Newsletters. So far, we have received checks or commitments from the following Lodges helping to subsidize the costs of this event:
Diamond Level Sponsors:
Davis Lodge #169
Ocean View Lodge #143
Platinum Level Sponsors:
Franco-American Lodge #207
Mountain View Lodge #244
Gold Level Sponsors:
Cupertino Lodge #70
Xanadu Sanctorum #321, AMOS
Please see the attached flier. If you wish to attend the DMC Dinner and Show on May 21, please follow the directions on the flier. Aloha!
Continuing a community service begun over seven years ago, Davis Encampment #21 announced that 2020 scholarships are now available for local families who apply. These scholarships enable children to register for classes provided by the City of Davis Parks and Recreation staff. Available programs include:
* Week long day camps including Summer Quest, Rainbow Summer or Voyagers
* Youth Swimming Classes or Youth or Family recreation swim passes
* Sports clinics in flag football, soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball, and golf
* Specialty camps such as engineering, robotics, animation or comic book creation, arts and crafts, film-making, skate camp, and more
* Music camp – rock band camp
To apply for the scholarship, parents/guardians need only to go to www.davislodge.org, click on “Lodge Programs” and then “Summer Camp Scholarships”. A full explanation of the program is provided, as is access to the simple application form.
The Davis Encampment has adopted as one of its missions to facilitate and fund summer programs and summer camp experiences for children.
“We are so pleased to be able to give these families and children the opportunity to enjoy a summer experience,” said Sharla Cheney, a member of the Davis Encampment and coordinator of the scholarship program.
Davis Encampment #21 is part of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The Davis Odd Fellows were chartered in 1870, and the Davis Encampment received its charter in 1955. The Davis Odd Fellows offer four degrees to its members – the Initiatory Degree, the Degree of Friendship, the Degree of Love, and the Degree of Truth. The Encampment provides three advanced degrees of Odd Fellowship for its members – the Degree of Faith, the Degree of Hope and the Degree of Charity. Members of the Encampment are permitted to wear the purple and gold fez. There are 110 Odd Fellows Lodges in California, but only 13 Encampments, including Davis Encampment #21. The Davis Odd Fellows Lodge has 308 members and is the largest Odd Fellows Lodge in California. The Davis Encampment has 66 members and is the largest Encampment in California.
Funds for the scholarships were raised through a combination of donations from members, the Odd Fellows Bingo Committee, the Odd Fellows Music Committee, the Odd Fellows Chocolate Festival, the Davis Odd Fellows Texas Hold ’em Poker Tournament, and community donations.
Typically, the Davis Encampment provides 75-85 such scholarships each year.
“Some of the children in our scholarship program come from families who might not be able to afford the summer experience,” said Doug Hatton, Chief Patriarch (President) of the Davis Encampment. “We would like to help as many children as we can to experience the joys of a summer program, including summer camps.”
Questions: Contact Sharla Cheney at email@example.com.
By Sally Calpo, Secretary, Mountain View Lodge #244
Until a year and a half ago, I had no idea who or what the Independent Order of Odd Fellows were. I would never have thought to ask an Odd Fellows lodge for aid when I needed an event venue for Oddizens, the Meetup group I organize for female, transgender, nonbinary and intersex geeks, gamers and crafters in the South Bay Area. That all changed when Jessica Dickinson Goodman contacted me as part of a concentrated effort to bring more community events to her home lodge, Mountain View #244. By some fortuitous circumstance—or perhaps because of the “Odd” in our name—she came across Oddizens Meetup while looking for organizations serving disadvantaged communities that lacked the resources to secure quality event space on their own.
I arranged to meet up with Jessica on a summer day in July 2018 so she could show me around the lodge. I was honestly stunned that such a prime location in downtown Mountain View was so underused. Though the lodge building obviously needed renovation, it had plenty of space for my purposes, and amenities I was used to paying hundreds of dollars to have access to for a few hours. It was truly a hidden gem, and I couldn’t help but feel both humbled and excited that Oddizens was one of the few groups extended the opportunity to make use of it. This was the first time I encountered an organization that not only considered Oddizens Meetup a valid and necessary cause to support, but also offered to support us without any prompting or expectations of payment.
Before I could start hosting events at the lodge, I needed to present my event proposal to the Mountain View Odd Fellows to vote on. Despite Jessica’s reassurance that I had allies on my side, years of experience advocating for a gender-inclusive demographic had me anxiously anticipating an unpleasant, uphill battle. Simply by daring to exist, Oddizens members defy gender norms that much of society considers sacrosanct. We insist on visibility and equity for ourselves and our peers instead of quietly conforming to maintain a status quo that excludes us. We steel ourselves to be ignored, rejected, ridiculed or endangered outside our close-knit community, not because we think badly of others by default, but because we are so accustomed to opposition that we expect it.
I was visibly nervous when I delivered my brief presentation on the evening of Thursday, September 6, 2018. My greatest concern was in relation to Oddizens’ core principle, which states that gender identity is self-determined, independent of sex characteristics, and needs not be static or binary. This is not a statement intended for debate, but an axiom that represents for us an undeniable truth. Inviting debate of this axiom meant considering the possibility that transgender people are impostors, nonbinary people are imaginary, and intersex people are abominations whose bodies conform to no real gender. I was keen to avoid entertaining such harmful assertions, even unintentionally, so I focused on describing the event I would be hosting at the lodge.
My plan was to run an Oddizens tabletop roleplaying game that, at the time, was hosted at a local game store a couple Sundays a month. I was paying $40 twice a month to use their private room, but I had to contend with other patrons who might beat me to the dates I wanted to request for the month, and the store was packed on the weekends with people who weren’t always respectful of our privacy. Furthermore, game stores are frequented by stereotypical masculine gamers whose ultra-competitiveness, condescension toward non-males, and disregard for personal boundaries breed an environment unwelcoming to newbies and unconducive to gender diversity. Moving our tabletop gaming to the lodge would put an end to those concerns, allowing us to play and socialize in a comfortable and accessible space free of judgment and uncertainty.
That same night, I learned that the Mountain View lodge members approved my event proposal for the dates I requested. Relieved that my initial worries were unfounded, I eagerly conveyed my thanks and passed the good news onto my Meetup members. We’ve used the lodge space for our Sunday roleplaying games ever since, as well as our annual holiday parties and donation drives for local charities. Many Oddizens deal with chronic illness, gender discrimination, and lack of family support, all of which make transportation and job searching difficult, so it helps us immensely that the Mountain View lodge is both conveniently located and considerate of financial hardship. We are truly and deeply grateful for the generosity of the Odd Fellows in taking a chance with a little-known group like ours, which might otherwise have struggled to thrive alone.
Inspired to give back to the lodge that helped me and my members, I applied for Odd Fellows membership through Mountain View #244 and was initiated on Monday, April 29, 2019. Since then, I’ve steadily participated in meetings, fulfilled my degree requirements, and started helping with events hosted by other lodge members. As of this writing, I’m about to be initiated into the 3rd degree so I can be installed as Secretary of Mountain View lodge for the 2020 term. It’s been something of a whirlwind doing so much so quickly—but I am not one to leave kindness unrepaid, and I’m excited to discover what the future holds for me as an Oddizen and Odd Fellow!
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
A bill has been submitted to Sovereign Grand Lodge for consideration at their sessions this August, which if passed will create discord, disunity, and disharmony in our Lodges and in our Order. It will pit Brother and Sister against Brother and Sister. It will create Odd Fellowship’s own mini-version of an inquisition. It will lead to uncomfortable moments and awkward trials in Lodges, suspensions and expulsions of members of good character. It will, inevitably, lead to members leaving the Order in, unhappily, and will do nothing to stem and reverse our declining membership. It will cast us as a sectarian Order at the very time that most fraternal orders are moving toward secularism. This bill is toxic. And it is time for enlightened Brothers and Sisters to stand up and voice their opposition.
Odd Fellowship has important messages as we work toward the elevation of the character of all mankind. Our Order is meant to be a big tent, particularly as we seek to attract the new majority (the Millineal Generation) to our ranks. This proposed bill would relegate our Order to a side show. Discord will surely follow if a bill like this passes at Sovereign Grand Lodge sessions.
What does the proposed bill say?
The bill has been denominated as Bill No. 22 (2019). Sovereign Grand Lodge Representatives Hillberry and Adams of West Virginia and Minnesota presented the following Bill, which was referred to Legislation and State of the Order:
Title: A Bill to amend Chapter III, Sec. 1-B (page 111-1) of the Code of General Laws regarding adding of a second sub-section regarding the belief of a Supreme Being.
Be it enacted by the Sovereign Grand Lodge, I.O.O.F.
That Chapter III, Sec. 1-B of the Code of General Laws be amended as follows:
B. (2) Belief in the existence of a Supreme Being who is the Creator and Preserver of the Universe, is an integral requirement to hold membership in the Order. Atheism and Agnosticism, both of which are a denial, disbelief, or inability to believe with certainty in the existence of a Supreme Being as previously mentioned are both incompatible with membership in the Order.
(a) Loss of belief in the existence of a Supreme Being is sufficient cause for suspension or expulsion of a member who may be tried for such according to the Code of General Laws.
What is the problem presented by the proposed bill?
What does “inability to believe with certainty in the existence of a Supreme Being” really mean? This is a very subjective phrase. It’s not like asking, “Is the earth flat?” That question can be answered objectively with a certain “no”. (Although even this seemingly objective question has it’s detractors in the “Flat-Earthers” – whose adherents actually believe that the Earth is flat – in the face of all objective evidence to the contrary.) But, “believe with certainty” is pregnant with subjectivity and nuance. My “certainty” may be very different from your “certainty”. And who will judge this “certainty”? Other members of the Lodge will be placed in incredibly awkward positions. It is one thing to judge an accusation where a member has been charged with using profanity, yelling and being disruptive and disrespectful in the Lodge during a meeting; it is quite another thing to judge a member’s privately held conscience and belief system.
And where does this lead us? It leads us to accusations, charges and trials. Brother X will accuse Sister Y of not believing in a Supreme Being with certainty. And this will lead us to a trial in the Lodge with all the ugly trappings of charges and trials spelled out in the Code of General Laws, including potential involvement of attorneys. The trials will inevitably test the conscience of the accused member. We will be delving into the deepest, most private thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of members. And what will be the result? Quite possibly the accused member will be acquitted and then can you imagine the bad feelings and bad blood between accuser and accused? Or, possibly the accused member may be convicted and actually expelled from the Order; or suspended until the member “converts” to a belief “with certainty” (as this “certainty” is interpreted by other members).
Yet another red flag in this proposed bill is the “loss of belief” provision. Let us assume that Brother Z joined the Order as a Catholic, and strong believer in a Supreme Being, but then, over time, converted to Buddhism (where there is no Supreme Being) or Hinduism (where there are many gods, but no single Supreme Being). Do we now bring this person up on charges and put them in the docket in a trial? Holy Toledo! (Sorry, about that – Toledo was the main site of the Inquisition. Didn’t mean to go there.) If we charge members who have converted to a different religion or set of beliefs, can you imagine the law suits and litigation waiting for that Lodge and this Order? And didn’t all Lodges adopt an anti-discrimination provision in their By-laws which prevents discrimination based on religion? And here’s yet another example of the imbroglios that will be presented by this bill if adopted. What about the situation where Sister W joined the Order as a strong believer in a Supreme Being, but after 20 years as a faithful, active, involved member, she has (due to life’s twists and turns) experienced a loss in faith and is not so sure anymore? Per this proposed bill, Sister W is subject to an accusation presented by one disaffected or angry member, trial and expulsion (or suspension till she renews “certainty” in her faith).
Will this proposed bill cause turmoil?
Yes, it already has. Even though members are only just now learning about the bill, I have already received several emails from Brothers and Sisters absolutely aghast at the prospect of passage of the bill. One writer called it “preposterous”. Another said it would be a “regressive change.” A writer said that this legislation “will further anachronise the Odd Fellows and continue the downward trend of the organization’s relevance and value in the modern world.” I have even received an email from a member who has decided to resign her membership in the face of this “insanity” – she cannot she says, in good conscience, continue to pay dues which will be sent to Sovereign Grand Lodge.
Make no mistake – this is not an progressive vs. conservative issue. It is, at bottom, an issue of FLT. How much value do we place on friendship and love in our Lodge? Our Ritual talks about the Lodge as a place where “the world is shut out – you are separated from its cares and sistinctions, its dissensions and its vices.” The peace and trust of many of our Lodges will be unbalanced if such a bill were to pass.
What can members do about this proposed bill?
Ultimately, this bill will be voted on by the Representatives elected by each jurisdiction to Sovereign Grand Lodge. Many of these representatives come from jurisdictions with rather small numbers of Odd Fellows. For example, one of the two representatives touting this bill comes from the State of Minnesota with a population of dues-paying Odd Fellows numbering just under 300. (To put this in perspective, one single Lodge – my own Lodge of Davis, California #169 – has 308 members compared to the entire membership of Minnesota which has about the same number.)
But we are not powerless, even though California (with 4,200 members) is inadquately represented at Sovereign Grand Lodge, receiving essentially the same number of votes at Sovereign as does Minnesota (with 300 members). What can you do? You can write two letters – one addressed to the Sovereign Grand Secretary and one addressed to the Sovereign Grand Master, letting them know what you think about this bill and its potential effect on the Order and your Lodge. If you agree with me that this bill will lead to discord, disunity and disharmony in Lodges, ask them to make an effort to pull the bill. They can be reached at the following addresses:
Sovereign Grand Secretary Terry L Barrett
Sovereign Grand Lodge – IOOF
422 Trade Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27101-2830
Sovereign Grand Master E. Wesley Nelson
55 Bedridge Way NE
Calgary AB T3K 1M2
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California