The State of California, in case you haven’t already heard, is more than twice as large as the next largest jurisdiction. And, we are growing; therefore, it should come as no surprise to anyone that California is looking for more attention to be focused in its direction. The rest of the order in the United States is shrinking. This is borne out by an examination of the annual population lists printed by the Sovereign Grand Lodge. Let’s look at a few ways in which California feels it is under-represented:
- Sovereign Grand Representatives – all jurisdictions have 2 representatives to Sovereign Grand Lodge. In a smaller jurisdiction with, say, 200 members (there are quite a few this small) – there is a representative for every 100 members. In California, there is a representative for every 2200 members. Therefore, by this ratio, California members feel much less represented, in fact, they are as much as 22 times less represented.
- Political Candidates – Elections, as well as Sovereign Grand Lodge Sessions, are almost always held on the East Coast, therefore those running from the Western United States run at a distinct disadvantage, since transportation costs are substantially more.
- Politicking. Politicking, while specifically against the code, is recommended at Sovereign Grand Lodge Sessions. Of course, politicking even by its textbook definition costs more for West Coast members. While listed as being against both the Roberts Code of California and the Code of General Laws, it is permitted at Sovereign Grand Lodge perhaps because the general membership may feel that West Coast members are helped by this, but in fact, it works against them. One must examine the records of those running from the West Coast to see how poorly this works for Westerners. The Sovereign Grand Lodge Code of General Laws states that an offense of the order is “using political or electioneering methods for the selection of officers”. How does Sovereign Grand Lodge, you might ask, operate differently than the State of California? At Sovereign Grand Lodge, candidates may circulate, shake hands, pass out leaflets, pens, and their candidacy may be promoted by a nominating person who can make a speech extolling their virtues. A candidate may place into print a flyer more extensive than allowed in California, with a formatted or banner heading. Naturally, the more contact a candidate has with a voter, the more probable their vote. Conversely, in California, the candidate is only allowed to have their name placed into nomination (no further discussion is permitted), after a formal letter of qualifications is given. Again, the perception may be that all things are equal, but if on a regular basis a local member on the East Coast hob knobs with his local voters, how is this a level playing field? Answer it is not.
- Membership, or the lack of it, is seldom discussed at Sovereign Grand Lodge. Look at the first day proceedings at Sovereign Grand Lodge this year. Only Manchester Unity from England brought this topic up. Why is that? It is clearly apparent that most elderly members are not looking for new, generally younger, members.
- California, conversely, is growing steadily. We are increasing our statewide events. Of course, everyone knows of our Rose Bowl Float, but our Grand Master Mel Astrahan is also leading the way with IOOF TV, we have another brother who is championing an app for cell phones to locate local members, and other new developments. Yet there are those out there that profess their hatred for California. Why is this exactly?
- California demonstrates by its actions that it truly wants new members. California members started and run the Dedicated Members for Change, which now numbers in the thousands, and has singlehandedly added many members. Since you are reading this, you are reading it because it is endorsed by the DMC. Where exactly is the Sovereign Grand Lodge Membership Committee? The Sovereign Grand Lodge Membership Committee is comprised of mainly Past Sovereign Grand Master Jon Peterson, who wrote a scathing yet excellent report on the state of our order which has been totally ignored. No one else seems the least bit concerned.
- California, showing several consecutive growth years, is positioning itself to grow even faster in upcoming years. Why? Simple. New members tend to be younger than long time members. Simple longevity charts will prove this out. It’s time for elderly members to at least not serve as an impediment to the younger joining members.
Sovereign Grand Lodge can still grow by learning from the example of California. A) Establish an actual membership committee, with nationwide participation. B) Make representation equally fair to all members. Hold fair elections, without regional preference. C) Encourage growth and younger thinking. D) Accept that newer technologies are here to stay. And finally, make this an order of today, not yesterday. We can do it. Let’s start now.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles
On Sunday, November 11, Odd Fellows’ Second Sunday Bingo will benefit Unleashing the Possibilities, Inc. UTP is a private, non-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation committed to building a new animal shelter in Yolo County.
The Odd Fellows Lodge is located at 415 2nd Street in Downtown Davis. Parking is free and plentiful on Sunday. Doors open at 12 noon and Bingo begins at 1 p.m. There are 15 games played, each with cash prizes for the winners, up to $250 for the final blackout bingo game. The cost to play is $20 for a packet which covers all games. There is also an economy packet for only $12. This is read Bingo authorized under State law and approved by the Davis City Council. Because Bingo is gambling, only adults may play. The Odd Fellows provide complimentary coffee and there is a snack bar with food, wine and beer.
“Come by on November 11 for some Bingo fun, and know you are providing support to UTP which will directly help the dogs and cats and little critters that find themselves in the animal shelter,” said UTP President Beth Dovi. UTP has been working with the County of Yolo and the cities of Yolo County to develop plans for a new, modern animal shelter to replace the old, outmoded shelter that has been in operation for over 50 years. UTP has committed to raising private funds through donations to help Yolo County governments pay for the new shelter.
Twins Kati (on the left) and Kelli O’Day, both members of the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge, get ready for the 3rd Annual Davis Chocolate Festival under the watchful eye of “Zoltar”. The Fest is open to the public and takes place on Sunday, November 4, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall, 415 2nd Street. Tickets are $7 per person and may be purchased in advance at Avid Reader Active or Common Grounds, or online at https://OddFellowsChocolateFest.Eventbrite.com. Remaining tickets will also be sold at the door until they run out.
There are some Odd Fellows Lodges out there in Odd Fellows Land that I call “Zombie Lodges”. These Lodges go through the motions of being a real live Odd Fellows Lodge, but they have essentially died years earlier. Eventually, these Zombie Lodges will no longer be able to continue the facade of life, and they will give up their charters, or the Grand Master will pull their charters, or they will consolidate with a nearby Lodge. It’s really sad, because many of these Zombie Lodges have been around for over a Century – there was a time that the original members spent blood, sweat and tears to build a Lodge Hall; and other predecessor members expended considerable energy to furnish the Lodge, obtain regalia and books, bring in new members and develop the protocols and traditions of a real Lodge.
And then complacency hit. At some point in time, the remaining members got comfortable with the status quo and didn’t really care about the future of the Odd Fellows Lodge. As long as things remained the same, they were content. New members meant expending effort, and (gasp) new members might bring change.
So, how do we define a Zombie Lodge? Here are the 10 characteristics of such a Lodge, and I hope you don’t see any of these characteristics in your own Lodge.
1. Membership of the Lodge has fallen to less than 15 on the books.
2. Of the membership on the books, less than half attend meetings of the Lodge. More than half the members just pay their dues and are never seen.
3. Members, for years, simply rotate through the chairs so that virtually everyone has served in elected office, often two or three times.
4. Other that the mandatory committees (e.g. Visiting, Bylaws and Finance), the Lodge has no committees.
5. The Lodge has no Membership Committee, focused on bringing in new members.
6. The Lodge would not have quorums at some meetings except for associate members.
7. The Lodge has not brought in a new member for over 3 years.
8. The average age of the Lodge membership is over 65.
9. The Lodge has no functions involving the surrounding community, and other than potlucks before meetings, has no social functions.
10. The Lodge building is in serious need of maintenance and repair, and has not been seriously attended to in over a decade.
If you see one or two of these characteristics in your own Lodge, please view it as a yellow warning flag of caution. If you see five or more of these characteristics, take it as a red flag of danger.
If you recognize these characteristics in your Odd Fellows Lodge, can you do something about it? Yes, you can. It won’t be easy, and it will require some work. Ask to convene a meeting of the Lodge to discuss this article. Have a full and frank conversation about it. Resolve to re-energize your Lodge. This means that you must discuss, in detail, how your Lodge can develop one or two community projects and one or two social activities that the members can enjoy. (You can’t bring in new members if the Lodge does nothing but have meetings.) And then develop a plan to bring in at least two new members each year for the next five years. Don’t allow the demise of Odd Fellowship to happen on your watch.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Membership and Why We Avoid the Topic…
A close friend of mine died earlier this year. He was a long time Odd Fellow – popular in our district, always fun, spoke his mind, but also was friends with everyone. You can blame him for bringing me into the order. Anyway, I used to say to him that our order was failing and what we should do about it in the coming years, and he always said “Who cares? I’ll be gone”.
This is a common vantage point within our order. When we hear our order is short-lived, destined to die out in ten to twenty years, I believe we hear this and secretly breathe a sigh of relief, because, to put it plainly, so are we. As Brother Dave Rosenberg has often pointed out, we have skipped at least two generations in attracting members. There are few, if any, younger members, so when we hear our order will be finished in 20 years, many of us figure that’s about right.
But if we truly care about someone besides ourselves, we must change our view. If the order is to survive, it must attract young members, but obviously young members are not going to be the mirror image of us. Young members will not like what we do, will try and change things, and may not see normal behavior as our behavior.
The basic question we should ask ourselves is how do we make our order more amenable to young people? When you were young did you like to hang out with people 50 years older than yourself? Probably not. If we are to have a future, we must face the simple fact that any possibility of a future depends on our ability to attract the young.
Of course, this is distressing as our youth groups have sunk to a low level. But I have a simple suggestion that almost all youth I’m sure would agree with. Let’s stop trying to micromanage our youth. Many of us feel the need to script everything the young in our order do. This will not work. Young people like to be themselves. If we don’t want our young to be put in compromising situations, let’s not attempt it.
No one was born an Odd Fellow. They had to grow into it. Culture and technology is changing rapidly. We are failing because in many ways we ignore this fact. Yet, every event and lodge I attend has many members texting on their phones or doing other things electronically. Some lodges I have attended do all communications within their lodges via email. Many others now have facebook sites. Most lodges no longer even have landlines in their lodge. It’s a whole new world. If we want the young people to join we must grow and become as technologically advanced as they are.
Rather than privately thinking with relief that our order will die at just about the same time that we do, perhaps it might be preferable to remember why we joined the order and leave it in at least as nice a condition as how we found it.
In F., L., & T., Rick Boyles