Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
We live in interesting times. COVID-19. Corona virus. Social distancing. Sheltering at home. These terms were not in our lexicon last December, but since last month they are terms that are imbedded in our brains and that have dramatically altered our lives. The terrible numbers change daily, but at the time I write this article, statistics show well over 1 million people on this planet have already contracted this virus, including more than 220,000 Americans. Worldwide over 54,000 people have died, including over 5,000 deaths in this country. In California, over 9,900 have the virus and the death toll is now over 200.
Yet we are not powerless. Those Governors and local leaders who have ordered or directed us – early in time – to shelter in place are to be commended. We all know the drill: stay home, keep at least 6-feet away from others not in your home, wash your hands with soap and warm water often, keep your hands away from your face. These are important rules to keep us safe and alive. These efforts will help flatten the curve of virus infections, will prevent the overwhelming of our health care systems, and will eventually get us through this scourge.
The COVID-19 crisis has not only affected us as individuals, but it has dramatically affected our fraternal order. Lodges have closed their doors, staff have been laid off, meetings have been canceled, events have been postponed. Yet, in the spirit of F-L-T, Lodge members can continue to stay engaged and connected. I wanted to use this DMC Newsletter to give you some ideas on what your Lodge members can do during this crisis to allow some semblance of connection and fraternity. Here are some things that my Lodge – Davis #169 in California – has implemented. (We have the advantage that all the members of our Lodge are connected, and use, email.) And I invite other Lodges and members to send along to me your ideas – which I will share in a future DMC Newsletter. Here is what we have done in the Davis Lodge:
* One of our members, Dave Reed, with the permission of our Noble Grand Diana Schmiegel, and in the best traditions of Odd Fellowship, formed a special “Covid Relief Committee” of members (with dozens of volunteers) who are available to help out older or disabled members who need groceries, medications, or supplies delivered. The volunteers will pick up and safely deliver the items to the member’s front doors.
* Another member, Stewart Savage, maintains and updates our Lodge website to keep members updated and informed. The Lodge has an excellent website with many pages of information online.
* Yet another member of the Lodge, Kevin Sitz, has instituted “virtual happy hours” every Monday and every Thursday at 6 p.m. Utilizing Zoom, members get together to see each other online, to chat, bring each other up-to-date, and make sure everyone is doing as well as can be expected. Last Zoom gathering had over 20 members participating.
* Three weeks ago, I started sending, via email, 10 trivia questions to all members (and applicants for membership). The next day, I sent another set plus answers to yesterday’s questions. And we continue it daily. It has proven to be a fun diversion, and helps to connect us.
* The Lodge has a full commercial kitchen on our first floor. We have rented it out to a local chef who is preparing very reasonably-priced meals that he and his wife deliver to your home. There is no delivery charge. This is a wonderful service not only to the public, but to Odd Fellows and Rebekahs.
* Two of our younger members maintain an online “Odd Bulletin Board” which connect members with items to buy, items to sell, and other products and services. This bulletin board is slowly morphing to identify online connections like our Zoom gatherings.
* One of our newer members – who is active with a local bike exchange – has offered free repairs of bikes every Saturday from 8:30 a.m. till noon for members who wish to go on bike rides while maintaining social distancing. Going on bike rides is good exercise and is still permitted notwithstanding sheltering at home.
* On April 11, 2020, our Lodge will celebrate the 150th anniversary of our chartering and institution. We have scheduled a special virtual anniversary party that afternoon, on Zoom, complete with a toast to our past, our present, and our future.
What is your Lodge doing in our current “reality”? Send me your thoughts and I will share them with the DMC list.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Most of us probably never connect the word “nobility” and Odd Fellows together, but sometimes I feel excited by seeing those among us who appear to derive great satisfaction in doing a lot for little or no pay.
Being a good Odd Fellow often calls for more than a handshake or smile. It often entails a difficult decision, an honest discussion, or efforts not delineated in any code book. Many lodges have at least one or two members who are constantly striving to make improvements, coordinate events, or manage communications between lodge members. Often, these are the very things we don’t see or simply take for granted. There are many members who have overseen certain events or other facets within the order for decades, and yet we only rarely even notice them. I’m sure each of us could think of dozens of members such as these.
The DMC has often talked about the diminishment of the order, and in many ways the order is diminishing, but some of this is inevitable, because the world itself is changing, evolving, becoming more urgent and yet also more private. How can any of us survive against this flow of the current of progress? One answer is to look at these heroic individuals who work tirelessly at their favorite events, who lead the charge to change, evolve, and yet retain the sanity of the order. It’s quite a dilemma, to stay true to the Odd Fellows tradition, and yet to attract new members. Some would call it impossible. But we can see from several examples that it is possible. If I were to name them individually, some would seem to be almost anti-change, or evolution, but by their struggles they make the case for an Odd Fellows future. Think of them yourself. We are all inspired by them, to both keep going, and to feel a bit more secure about our future.
Our order is like a family business, passed on for generations. Sometimes bejeweled, sometimes bedraggled. It’s not easy, pushing for a continuum, but it is something that can be larger than any of us, and yet it contains a bit of each of our souls. How do we ensure that our order continues? By honoring those who keep mushing on, by seeing that the world is not so bad if we see ourselves within it, and by helping those with the big work ethics and pure hearts by not being a hindrance. Clearly, we have survived as an order for many years, and we can survive for many more if we honor those who carry the load, who lead by example, and light the way with the brilliance of their leadership.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
California is the most populace jurisdiction within the Sovereign Grand Lodge. Over the past five years, California has really ramped up its focus on membership development and the results are encouraging. Prior to 2015, our jurisdiction (like most every other jurisdiction) showed a decline in membership year after year and decade after decade. Starting in 2015, however, with our renewed emphasis on bringing in new members, California has either shown modest increases in membership or has shown a steady state. At a minimum, we have stopped the sharp declines in our membership statistics.
I have some very preliminary numbers for California, and I wish to share them with you at this time. The numbers shown are for “dues paying members”.
At the top of the membership food chain we have 4 Lodges showing 200 or more members. Following that peak, we have 3 Lodges with 100 or more members, and 3 Lodges which have memberships in the 75-99 range. These 10 Lodges comprise 40% of the membership of California.
Next, we have 12 Lodges in the 50-74 members range; another 31 Lodges in the 25-49 member range; 27 Lodges in the 15-24 member range; and finally, we have 32 Lodges with 14 or fewer members. (And, included within those 32 Lodges with 14 or fewer members are fully 12 Lodges that show 9 or fewer members on their books.)
Of all our Lodges, 38 showed a net gain of members (in other words, an increase in members in 2019 from the totals in 2018). On the flip side were 42 Lodges which showed a net loss of members (that is, the number of members decreased from 2018 to 2019). And then there were 32 Lodges that maintained a steady state – no increase or decrease in membership – a net zero change between 2018 and 2019.
What can we learn from these numbers?
1. Seven of our Lodges reflected significant net gains , showing membership number increases in the double digits. Recognizing these achievements, here is the honor roll showing net increases in membership from 2018 to 2019:
Morse Lodge #257: 50 to 75, a net increase of 25
Franco-American Lodge #207: 115 to 139, a net increase of 24
Oceanview Lodge #143: 69 to 93, a net increase of 24
Costa Mesa Lodge #29: 11 to 28, a net increase of 17
Davis Lodge #169: 283 to 296, a net increase of 13
Odin Lodge #393: 13 to 25, a net increase of 12
Saratoga Lodge #428: 40 to 51, a net increase of 11
At DMC we commend all 38 of the Lodges that showed increases in membership. These Lodges show what effective membership programs can accomplish, and maintain the future of the Order.
2. We hope the 32 Lodges that maintained a steady state (no increase and no decrease) will recognize that they are SO CLOSE to showing a net gain. A little extra effort will put these Lodges in the “net gain” category.
3. I am sure that the 42 Lodges that showed a net loss of members are well aware of their situations. And I am sure that there, perhaps, 42 reasons for the declines. In many cases, the declines were very small – perhaps a net loss of only 1 or 2 members. In some cases, the Lodges were clearing out their books – to accurately reflect true membership – and in the long run that is a very good thing. But in some cases, the losses were significant and this should be a yellow caution flag for the Lodges that experienced such significant losses.
4. Of great concern are the 12 Lodges that show 9 or fewer dues paying members on their books. In my opinion, any Lodge with 9 of fewer members is a potential red flag. Understanding that it is a rare event for all members to attend all meetings, such small-membership Lodges will inevitably have quorum issues. And in such very small Lodges, the loss of even one member can be devastating.
The statistic that continues to concern me is the aggregation of membership numbers in the largest of our Lodges, and the diminution of membership numbers in the very smallest of our Lodges. I have seen this trend unfolding for years. It shows me that our Order may be a mile wide and an inch deep.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
The Franco-Prussian War had just begun, the U.S. Congress authorized Virginia and Texas to rejoin the Union following the end of the Civil War, the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge had started, President Grant held a meeting with Sioux Chief Red Cloud, the first woman graduated from a law school in the United States, and the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge (then known as the Yolo Lodge) received its charter. The year was 1870.
Before UCD was formed, and even before Davis became a City, a group of local residents in the area of Yolo County known as “Davisville” (population 400) asked for and received a Charter to form a Lodge of Odd Fellows. The date of the official institution of the Lodge was April 12, 1870. In those days, it was called “Yolo Lodge” as there was no “Davis” yet. The Grand Master of California Odd Fellows John Brown Harmon traveled from San Francisco to Davisville to present the charter to the new Odd Fellows. He was accompanied by Elias Driggs Farnsworth, Most Worthy Grand Sire, who was visiting California at the time. This was the first time that a California Lodge had the distinction of having a Grand Sire (from the international association) in attendance, when instituted. There were 11 charter members of the new Lodge – all men at the time – including the first Noble Grand, Jacob Horning, a local railroad agent.
Today, the Davis Lodge has 307 members – both men and women – and is the largest Lodge in California and the United States. We will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the institution and charter of the Lodge on Saturday, April 11, at the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall, 415 2nd Street, with ceremonies and events open to the general public. The doors will open at 8:30 a.m. with old-time piano music and mimosas, a complimentary old-fashioned (1870’s style) breakfast will be served from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. (flapjacks, onions and eggs, hash brown potatoes, sausage, fruit salad, coffee, de-caf, and tea),
From 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. a program will take place featuring historic Odd Fellows like Wyatt Earp, Charlie Chaplin, Jacob Horning, Leland Stanford, Thomas Wildey (the founder of Odd Fellowship in North America), and others, followed by local dignitaries who will present resolutions to Diana Schmiegel, the current Noble Grand of the Lodge. A celebratory chocolate cake – in the style of 1870 – will be served.
“The Davis Odd Fellows Lodge is the oldest continuously operating entity in the City of Davis,” said Diane and John Steele, co-chairs of the 150th Anniversary Committee. “We would like to invite the community to help us celebrate.”
According to long-time Odd Fellow and Chair of the Lodge’s Historical Committee Dave Rosenberg, Odd Fellowship began in 17th Century England and came to the United States in 1819 when Thomas Wildey – an Odd Fellow recently arrived from England – formed an Odd Fellows Lodge with four other recently-arrived Englishmen. “From that date, Odd Fellowship swept like wildfire across the continent. Hundreds of Lodges formed in every state on the United States and province of Canada, and membership exceeded one million,” said Rosenberg. Our fraternal order is distinguished by our three interlocking links representing friendship, love and truth. Those ideals resonated with people, and Odd Fellowship prospered.”
In Davis, the Odd Fellows Lodge is known for numerous charitable events, benefiting many community organizations. Among the events originated and hosted by the Lodge are: Breakfast with the Bunny, Odd Fellows Bingo, Thursday Live! music at the Lodge, Breakfast with Santa, A Taste of Davis, the Davis Classic Film Festival, the Natalie Corona Odd Fellows Scholarship, the Davis Chocolate Festival, the Picnic Day Pancake Breakfast, the Texas Hold ’em Tournament, the Halloween Party, the New Year’s Eve Party with Mumbo Gumbo, and the Zombie Bike Parade.
Mark your calendars for April 11.
The photograph above is of Jacob Horning, who served as the first Noble Grand of the Yolo Odd Fellows Lodge (now known as the Davis Lodge) in 1870. Mr. Horning served as a railroad agent in Davis. He was born in the State of New York in 1833 and died in Davis in 1877. He is buried in the Davis Cemetery, next to his wife Catherine Stradinger.
F – L – T
For the 150th Anniversary Committee
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Today – March 8 – is International Women’s Day, a day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, scientific, and political achievements of women. It seems like a poignantly appropriate day for this article.
Two decades ago, Odd Fellowship made a momentous (and long-overdue) decision to admit women as members of Odd Fellows Lodges. The fact that Odd Fellowship was the first fraternal order to admit women into a “separate but equal” entity called the Rebekahs was certainly ground-breaking, noteworthy and significant when it happened in the 19th Century – at the time, none of the hundreds of fraternal orders that existed admitted women.
But our fraternal order still needed to take another step – the step of opening Odd Fellows Lodge membership to women. And that penultimate event happened at the start of the 21st Century. The first women to become Odd Fellows joined Lodges in 2000 and 2001.
Odd Fellowship took yet another major and welcomed step toward true equality when, over the last two years, it adopted a non-discrimination statement, and required all Lodges to include that non-discrimination statement in the Lodge Bylaws. Odd Fellowship is committed to rejecting discrimination in its many forms – including discrimination based on gender.
Not only do these policies make sense for a country that believes all people are created equal, it makes practical sense for a fraternal order that has seen a significant membership decline over the past three generations. Why should membership be denied to 50% of our population?
So, now that we are in the Year 2020, the question must be asked: Why do we still have Odd Fellows Lodges that have no members, and have never had members, who are female?
It’s time. Frankly, it’s overdue. Odd Fellowship needs to take that final and ultimate step toward equality by ensuring that every Lodge of Odd Fellows admits women as members.
We have all heard the “reasons” and the “excuses” offered by the all-male Lodges. And these reasons and excuses might hold water for a year or two. But 20 years?
The most common reason or excuse that we hear is: “Women have not applied.” After 20 years, that “excuse” sounds shallow and contrived. There is little doubt that the members of that all-male Lodge could certainly have recruited and admitted women at some point over those two decades. The only conclusion that can be reached after 20 years is that the all male membership has made a conscious decision to keep women out, or has simply turned a collective blind eye to the problem. And that flies in the face of the express policies of our Order.
The all male Lodges should welcome women as members, not fear them. Lodges that have admitted women – and there are many of them – have not dried up and blown away. In fact, just the opposite. These are energetic and growing Lodges. My own Lodge – Davis #169 – has over 300 members and 43% of them are women. More importantly, women have held, and continue to hold, every position of significance in the Lodge, including Noble Grand, Vice Grand, Secretary, Financial Secretary, Treasurer, Trustee, Chaplain, Conductor and Warden. They have served with deliberation and distinction, and the Lodge is stronger for it.
On this International Women’s Day, Odd Fellowship should recommit itself to the goal of true equality.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California