DMC – How do the Odd Felllows overcome the barrier of Religion?

A visit to the website of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows at www.ioof.org is enlightening and inspiring. We see words such as “international”, “worldwide”, and “universal”. We read about our powerful fraternal purposes including: “To promote good will and harmony amongst peoples and nations through the principle of universal fraternity, holding the belief that all men and women regardless of race, nationality, religion, social status, rank and station are brothers and sisters.” We are told that within the Order’s “non-discrimination policy: “The I.O.O.F. will not exclude any individual based on disability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or other social identity . . . .”

These are principles around which every Odd Fellow can and should rally. They make us proud to be members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Yet, sad to say, the reality is not exactly synchronized to the ideal espoused on our sovereign website. The questions must be asked. Does this Order discriminate on the basis of religion? And has this Order systematically refused to become truly international?

Because Odd Fellows value truth as the cardinal principle, let’s drill down to that truth.

Members are required to believe in “a Supreme Being, the creator and preserver of the Universe”. Lodges are required to maintain a copy of the “Holy Bible” in the Lodge room during meetings. The ritual of the Order is replete with references and stories springing from the Jewish and Christian religions. For the vast majority of people who live in North America, this is perfectly comfortable and fine. But what about the rest of the people in North America who are not Jewish or Christian, and what about the rest of the people on our planet? There are over one billion people who ascribe to Hinduism. This is not a monotheistic faith. Another half billion practice Buddhism. Again, this is not a faith that has a Supreme Being. The same is true for those who practice Confucianism, Taoism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism.

How can a member of these faiths take the oath that they believe in “a Supreme Being”? How can they be comfortable when the Holy Bible is maintained in the Lodge room, and their books of faith are not? And beyond this, certainly those who believe in Islam or who are Jewish ascribe to a “Supreme Being”, but how comfortable is the Moslem or the Jew with the ritual of the Order which is heavily Christian-based?

How is this not discrimination based on religion?

These are uncomfortable questions, but they are vital to the future of our Order. If we truly ascribe to be a worldwide fraternal order fostering friendship, love, truth, faith, hope, charity and universal justice for all – then we must think through what we say and what we do. Have you ever wondered why Odd Fellowship only exists in 30 countries when there are almost 200 countries on this planet?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – A picture is worth a thousand words

Recently, we have published articles extolling the virtues of public relations and communications to the public.   It’s an important element to support growth of our membership.   If your Lodge operates in secret, closed from the public’s view, it’s unlikely your Lodge will grow and be robust.   Odd Fellowship at all levels now recognizes the importance of sharing our story of F-L-T with the public at large.

One of the best ways to share the story of our Lodges with the general public is to publish (in print media and social media) photos of our activities.   The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is as true today as ever.   However, the purpose of this article is raise a word of caution about the use of photographs.  A good photograph is powerful.   However, a bad photograph is counterproductive.   Better to have no photograph, than to publish a really bad one that might send the wrong message.

In this regard, I have conducted a little “experiment”.   Over the past month, I have randomly reviewed close to 100 photographs published by various Odd Fellows Lodges from throughout North America.   These are photos published almost exclusively by Lodge members, and virtually all were found on social media, although some were published in print media.   Let me start by commending the Lodges and Lodge members who reached out to tell the story of their Lodge to the public at large.  But, there is a big caveat.  Other than driving or walking past the Lodge Hall, or personally doing research on IOOF, or attending an Odd Fellows Lodge event, or having a rare conversation with a Lodge member, these photos are the window to the public about Odd Fellowship.   What does this window reveal?

I found that some 90% of the photos showed people.    The remaining 10% only showed buildings or objects.   The photos showing people, almost always included Lodge members.

Almost half of the photos showing Lodge members simply showed Lodge members standing or sitting in a group, smiling to the camera.    There were very few “action” photos – that is, members engaged in an activity like loading food on a truck, of providing meals to the public, or painting a building, or picking up trash from the side of a roadway.   But what struck me – again and again – was that over 75% of the photos showed members who were senior citizens.    There were no younger adults in the photo.  What message is conveyed to the public by a photograph of seven gray-haired people sitting around a table?

Now, I have absolutely nothing against gray-haired people.   I am one of those, myself.   But for a fraternal order that wishes to attract the next generations into its membership, a photo of seven sedentary septuagenarians may not accomplish that mission.   We must be mindful of the photos we post.   These photographs are the window through which the world views Odd Fellowship and your Lodge.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Start a Museum

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

If it weren’t for DMC, I may have left Odd Fellows already. My frustration with how our lodge functioned after I joined was shocking and sad. After I discovered the DMC, I found there are others who see a bright future for Odd Fellows and a need to shed the behaviors that have shrunk the Order.

I could attribute my fondness for the DMC to a sort of commiseration about how things should be, but instead, I believe it’s because I can see a time when the thoughts and ideas about growing Odd Fellowship within the DMC start to take hold and these small lodges, like my own, grow beyond expectations.

With this possibility in my mind about our lodge growing, I have looked very hard for ways to grow Odd Fellowship in general because my formal training and job experience is in public relations. I was a public affairs representative for the largest military air show in the United States and my pictures ended up on the cover and middle of our local newspaper. You would be amazed at what goes on behind putting on such a huge event and all the details that are focused upon to make it great.

We tend to see things through our experience and training and I constantly see the things we could be doing that could make Odd Fellows great. But when I realized that my own lodge is going to resist every attempt I make to bring my experience and training to the task of bringing in new members, I realized that I need to turn to my outside-the-box thinking and come up with a solution.

One thing that occurred to me was to start doing the kinds of things I want to do for my lodge but without their permission; so how could I do that? The answer came to me in a flash. If I formed my own Odd Fellows non-profit organization museum, with the help of a couple Past Grand Masters as mentors and guides, then perhaps I could start organizing events in my town using the non-profit, then my lodge would benefit and it would all be legal (plus operating as a 501c3 would mean I could accept donations).

Initially, I was focused on the museum aspect and I had this idea to create a pop-up museum at a coffee shop with beautiful pictures of regalia and jewels in a very artful and reverential way. I have had several exhibitions of my photography already, so why not combine the beauty I see in these old works of art into a photographic exhibit that’s educational and functions as a museum display…in maybe a coffee shop? I secured a location for the exhibition and began to acquire pieces and take pictures. I was so excited with the idea of our town folk rediscovering how the Odd Fellows played such a central role in the establishment of our town and doing it through a photographic exhibition; true public relations!

Once I started moving forward on doing this, word got out quickly and I was not able to do the exhibition before it was discovered. Fortunately, the lodge member who got word about what I was doing made a motion for our lodge to support my efforts and the motion was passed. This was a pretty big surprise and a blessing. Maybe the way forward wasn’t without my lodge? Would I continue without the non-profit?

Although I wasn’t able to get an event organized fast enough while flying under the radar, I was able to accomplish quite a few things anyway. One of the first things I was able to do was to set up a website (https://oddfellows.net) offering a free lesson plan for teachers who want an “off-the-shelf” program that teaches 11th graders about Odd Fellows in the context of the “social safety net” and it’s compliant with Common Core standards. The idea is that any lodge can share this lesson plan with the appropriate teacher and entice them to use it…perhaps they could offer to sponsor their classroom supplies for a year? This lesson plan is being vetted by an educator so it’s not ready yet but as soon as it’s available, I’ll be posting it on our website.

Another major victory was the establishment of a free online Public Relations Training for Odd Fellows in 50 lessons that are 5-minutes each. So far I’ve published four lessons and my plan is to continue at the rate of one per week. Since I make e-learning programs, this is something that I’m quite good at and also allows me to educate our members on how to understand PR as it relates to their efforts to grow membership. One of the most important lessons I’ve come to realize is something we already know: events are the one key to growing membership and we can’t rely on “brand awareness” to do the job for us. You can view these 5-minute lessons and read all 50 topics that are planned at https://oddfellows.net/public-relations-training-for-odd-fellows/.

While there are many other things in the works for the benefit of Odd Fellows through this non-profit, I invite you to stay tuned on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/oddfellowshistory/ and also join a group set up specifically to discuss the content of the Public Relations Training for Odd Fellows and to also discuss, from general to specific topics/polls/questions, about “Odd Fellows Public Relations” at https://www.facebook.com/groups/oddfellowspublicrelations/.

Thank You Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph Dowdy, Vice Grand
Lompoc Odd Fellows Lodge #248

DMC – Recruiting members for your Lodge

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

I have been an Odd Fellow for 15 years – a relatively short time compared to many (perhaps most) of you. In that time I have sponsored well over 100 new members to join our Order. As surprising as that may sound, there is one statistic that I have found even more surprising: Most Odd Fellows that I know have not brought in even 1 new member into our Order.

Let’s explore this. How is it that one person is able to bring in over 100 new members, but others haven’t brought in even 1 new member? It’s an important an intriguing question. Think about it. If every member of our Order brought in just one new person each year, we would not be discussing a “membership problem.” Our Order and our Lodges would be be healthy and burgeoning.

So, let’s break this into two questions: (1) Why don’t (can’t) some members bring in even 1 new member into their Lodge? (2) How does one member bring in over 100 new members into his/her Lodge?

I can think of many possible reasons why members don’t sponsor new members. It could be that they are members in name only – paying dues, attending an occasional meeting, and little else. It could be just laziness or inertia. It could be that they have other membership priorities – belonging to other clubs and lodges – and bring new members into those organizations but not the Odd Fellows. Perhaps they don’t really care about or even enjoy being an Odd Fellow. And unless they are hermits or live in caves, surely they must have some relatives or know a few people who they could ask. And, conceivably that is the problem: they know people but they are afraid to ask, or don’t know how to ask them to consider joining the IOOF. I suspect that in some cases, their Lodge is so small and so inactive, and the Lodge Hall is so run down, that there is really nothing for them to offer the potential new member. No one wants to join a group that just reads by rote passages from a little red book in a shabby room that smells vaguely of disinfectant. And perhaps they like the Lodge just the way it is – they are comfortable with their small circle of Lodge members and leery of any new member that could alter that comfort zone.

So, how did I find over 100 new members to sponsor for my Lodge? It’s not a secret. I’m happy to share the methods, and I can summarize it in four words: AWARE, PREPARE, REPAIR, and WELFARE. Let’s review each.

First, as a member of the Order you must be AWARE at all times of prospective applicants you can ask about joining the Order. This is not just an occasional exercise. A good membership “rainmaker” is constantly alert to men and women who might be interested in the benefits of fraternal life. It could be a son or daughter, nephew or niece, brother or sister, uncle or aunt, cousin – and don’t forget your spouse or significant other. It could be a colleague at work, or your lawyer, dentist, gardener, plumber, or clerk at the grocery store you’ve been chatting with over the past five years. Open your eyes, and ears and heart. If Odd Fellowship has been an enjoyable experience for you, and made a difference in your life, then it might do the same for others.

Second, you have to PREPARE for the moment. Do you have a brochure about your Lodge handy? Do you have an application form in the glove compartment of your car? Do you have something concrete to talk about besides the philosophical concepts of friendship, love and truth? How has Odd Fellowship proven rewarding for you? Why will membership in the Lodge prove rewarding to the new member? Does your Lodge have an important community project? Do members of your Lodge organize fun social events for members and family? If your Lodge has community projects and fun social events, it makes recruitment of applicants infinitely easier.

Third, are you proud of your Lodge Hall? if not, its time to work with your brothers and sisters to bring it into REPAIR. A dirty Lodge is a turn-off to potential members. A Lodge Hall in disrepair shows a certain lack of care. That’s not the message you want to send.

And finally, is the concept of WELFARE. By this, I’m talking about the very essence of Odd Fellowship. What makes us unique is that we care about one another. We are not only a social organization – we are a fellowship. It today’s divided and disaffected society – that means a great deal. Brothers and sisters who truly enjoy each other’s company and care about each other is a cardinal benefit of membership.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Think before you speak

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Words matter.   Words can lift up.   Words can put down.   The words we use can convey empathy, kindness, support, comfort, praise.   The words we use can also criticize, bully, ostracize, marginalize, demean.   Following is an article written by a young Odd Fellow, Jessica Dickinson Goodman, the Noble Grand of Mountain View Lodge #244.   She reminds us of the old Odd Fellows’ adage:  Think.   Before you speak.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California


When I got married in 2011 at 22, I carried a bundle of wheat mixed into my bouquet, bound tightly and as large as my torso. I did this because the fasces is my favorite symbol of what we can achieve with collective action and what is marriage if not the basic unit of many of the world’s best collective actions?

The Latin term for this symbol is “fasces” (pron. fah-ches). That is the word I have always used for this symbol. That is the word that the labor movement uses for it. That is the term the US government uses for it when they describe that symbol as it appears on the dime. It is a metaphor which is central to many western political traditions from the Roman Senate to the United States. In the Odd Fellows, all of us should be familiar with it, but as a reminder, the fasces represents that a single stick alone can be snapped, but many sticks bound together cannot be broken.

We are all used to using Latin in a variety of places in our everyday lives, from habeas corpus petitions to the US Supreme Court to using “e.g.” in an email. So, when as Noble Grand of Mountain View Odd Fellows Lodge #244 I describe the symbols used in the embroideries and posters around our lodge to our new members, I use that Latin word, “fasces.” I show new members a dime and a photo of the Lincoln Memorial in our nation’s capital, explain the metaphor, and help them connect it to their own experience.

My experience as a queer woman is that when the archaic English translation of the word fasces — “faggot” — is used in my presence, nine times out of ten it is a preamble to either attempted or referenced violence. Before I was captain of the wrestling team in high school, boys would call each other “fag” before knocking each other to the ground. After I became Captain, I used my authority to ban that word from the room. That word — for me and for millions of other queer people, our families and allies, including queer and ally Odd Fellows — is intrinsically associated with gay bashing, with “smear the queer,” with “tag the fag”; forms of violence we either experienced, feared, or watched people we love die from. I have friends who carry scars on their faces from attacks that began with the word “faggot.”

“Faggot” is not a casual word to me or my family. It is a word that implies violence, much as any other sexist, racist, anti-Semitic or Islamophobic epithet does.

That is why I was shocked and concerned to hear the word “faggot” used casually during the 2019 Cave Degree. The 2019 Cave Degree was my second year performing as part of the cast and my third attending; it is a beautiful event, one which I drove for five hours alone to, from midnight to 5am, to ensure I could attend the entire day. But during the event, dozens of members of a dozen lodges from across California, plus their initiates, were forced to listen to this word used not once, but twice. It chilled and stole joy from the experience for me and for other queer allies attending.

I know I am new to the Odd Fellows, having joined in early 2017. But I have seen and participated in each of the degrees to reach the role of Noble Grand. I have helped run both the Initiatory and the First Degree for my own members. I know our stories and our words. I have asked members with decades of experience conducting these degrees in California and elsewhere. I have consulted with the Grand Master of California. None of our degrees require the word “faggot.”

Regarding our lodge members as our family, everyone who is my family knows the word “faggot” is intended to imply violence. We are all part of our own different kinds of families when we join our lodges. We all learn and grow with each other.

We can take the example given to us in the Second Degree of how we can bridge boundaries between us. It starts with listening. With understanding. With changing some of our comfortable behaviors. And with creating a space for people to grow and thrive in fellowship together.

The short take-away from this article is that if your lodge is in the habit of using the archaic English translation of the proper Latin to describe the bundle of sticks that is one of the central images of our Odd Fellowship, I encourage you to go back to tradition. Use the Latin and forgo a word which for many of your members, whether they have felt comfortable telling you or not, implies the kind of violence, ostracization, and humiliation which no Odd Fellow should feel within the safety of a lodge.

Thank you for your time and you can reach me with any questions, concerns, or commentary at jessica.dickinson.goodman@gmail.com or 650-804-9044. I also invite you to visit our lodge meetings if you are ever in Mountain View, at 8pm on first and third Thursdays at 823 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041.

DMC – Odd Fellows World-Wide

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

I am struck by the very first words of the Constitution of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.   That Constitution, in Article I, Section 1, reads as follows:

The purposes of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are to promote the principles of Odd Fellowship throughout the world and seek to improve and elevate the character of man.

These are noble words, and certainly express a sentiment that every Odd Fellows can and should support.

So, with that as the guiding principle of Odd Fellowship, why is Odd Fellows NOT yet truly a worldwide organization?    The Code of General Laws, the 1984 Albuquerque Compact, and the website of Sovereign Grand Lodge are replete with references to “international” and “worldwide”.    And yet, after centuries of existence, membership in Odd Fellowship is generally concentrated in and confined to England (where it originated), some parts of northern Europe, North America and Australia.   There is a relatively small presence in other parts of the world such as South America (there is a Lodge in Cuba, Chile and Mexico), Africa (there are three Lodges on the entire continent) and Asia (there is a strong presence in the Philippines – but nowhere else in all of Asia).   Odd Fellowship started in England, yet countries of the world that have been heavily influenced, for decades, by English culture (India, Pakistan, and Kenya for example) have no IOOF presence.    There are about 200 nations in the world, yet Odd Fellowship exists in less than 30 of them.

There is a disconnect here.   On the one hand, we have the principles and goals of Odd Fellowship to be international and worldwide seeking to improve and elevate the character of man.   Yet on the other hand, we have huge swaths of our planet where “Odd Fellowship” is non-existent.   Why are there no Lodges in France, Spain, or Italy?   Why are there no Lodges in Egypt, Jordan, or Lebanon?   Why are there no Lodges in India or Pakistan?  Why are there no Lodges in Greece, or Armenia or Turkey?   Why are there no Lodges in Japan, Korea or Taiwan?

I have given this issue a considerable amount of thought, and I am convinced that there is not just ONE reason for the dichotomy.   That said, I am also convinced that a major factor for the failure of Odd Fellowship to exist in most of the world boils down to our ritual.   Simply put:   We have failed to ensure that our ritual is non-sectarian.   Odd Fellowship, is after all, supposed to be non-sectarian.  We are not supposed to elevate or favor one faith over another.    Yet it is obvious that the ritual of our Order is heavily based in the Old Testament – which underlies the Christian and Jewish faiths.   If a person is of a different faith – say, a believer in Islam, or Hinduism, or Confucianism – the ritual of Odd Fellowship may be uncomfortable, at best.   Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the other person for a moment.   If you are a Christian, but the ritual of Odd Fellowship were grounded in, say the Quran or the Vedas, would you be comfortable?    The great truths expressed in our ritual are universal.    Accordingly, there is no valid reason that our ritual should be so sectarian, to the exclusion of other beliefs.   The downside for Odd Fellowship is that we have essentially turned our backs on the majority of the world’s population. That seems particularly short-sighted, and remarkably ironic for an Order that professes to be worldwide.   Nowhere in our laws does it state that we only seek to elevate the character of Christians and Jews.   On the contrary, the laws of our Order state that we seek to elevate the character of ALL mankind.

For Odd Fellowship to truly become an international organization with a worldwide reach, we must become truly non-sectarian.   And that begins with a serious reform of our ritual.  Odd Fellowship should be a place of peace and comfort for all good men and women, regardless of faith or belief.  Then, finally, can we elevate the character of all mankind in peace and justice.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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