You must have long-range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short-range failures.
It’s a new year. Our lodges are adjusting to their new officers. Some officers have been there before. Others are newcomers.
Hopefully, you are thinking about what your lodge will do this year. What are they going to do this year that they haven’t done before? Some lodges have certain events that they repeat every year. They are fun. They are successful. They uplift their members. Or they uplift their community too.
I have visited a lot of lodges over the past few years. It is interesting to see how the lodges are similar and how they are unique. I wondered about how many lodges have a mission. How many lodges have a mission that identifies their lodge? A mission that make them unique? A mission that draws people to accomplish its goals? What is the mission of your lodge?
We all remember that the historic mission of the Odd Fellows is to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.” The Sovereign Grand Lodge website describes our mission. It says we are “dedicated to the following purposes:
- To improve and elevate the character of mankind by promoting the principles of friendship, love, truth, faith, hope, charity and universal justice.
- To help make the world a better place to live by aiding each other, the community, the less fortunate, the youth, the elderly, the environment and the community in every way possible.
- 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, gender, rank and station are brothers and sisters.”
That’s a pretty good set of goals. But how does that translate into my lodge and your lodge today? How do our lodges measure up in pursuing those ideals? Some do pretty well. Others, not so well. Lodges do a pretty good job of social, fraternal activities. These types of events are good. They are even better if they are events that will interest newcomers. Events that will make newcomers want to be part of your lodge and its activities.
Some lodges have missions to raise funds for a particular charity or local event. They may have more than one event to promote the target. Their fundraisers are designed to raise money for that beneficiary.
One lodge is dedicated to music. Many members are musicians. They play together. They have house bands. Music events are held for both members and the public. The music is for both the members and the community.
One lodge helps foster children and foster families. They have a dinner party. They participate in a shopping spree with foster children. They send foster kids to summer camp. They help foster kids transition from foster care to adulthood. They fundraise to do these things.
You can see that all of these things would appeal to some people. Every lodge should find their own mission. They should choose a mission that interests their members. It can be unlike any other lodge or it can be very similar to another lodge’s mission, or somewhere in between.
A mission does not have to last forever. It can change as the interest and energy of the lodge shifts. A lodge can have more than one mission. The important part is having a long term direction. Then, find ways to fulfill that mission. Find ways that will interest your brothers and sisters. Find ways that will interest a newcomer.
What is the mission of your lodge? If you don’t have an answer, what does that tell you? It’s time to start the conversation in your lodge. It’s time to do something. Can you find a way to help make the world a better place to live? Can you find a way to promote good will and harmony in your lodge and in your community? If you do, you will have improved and elevated the character of mankind.
Every lodge can do it! It’s possible. Mission: Possible!
In Friendship, Love and Truth,
The Unwritten Work, a Memento of a Distant Past
“Don’t you get tired of it all?” a member asked me. “What?” I responded. “People who chant things no longer relevant just because in the distant past it still had meaning” he said. I laughed a little. “Some people find comfort in the past”. I said. “Not me,” he replied, “I only find that it’s in the past.”
That’s how I, and the member I was speaking to, feel about the unwritten work. I know to some this may seem integral to the Odd Fellows, but to me it has faded to a tradition only now practiced by a very few of us. To those who don’t know, which is probably many of our new members, the unwritten work is a lengthy document that all members at one time were tasked to memorize and recite at our annual sessions. Members were given degrees of proficiency for their ability to recite this. I have a real problem in grasping the significance of anything wherein we are forced to recite anything by memory. In fact, if anything, this is indicative of the symbolism people see when they think of any group as being cult-like. If we are forced to recite something, and rewarded for our ability to recite in loud and clear voices passages and texts written far before our births, there is not much disparity between our order and a cult. This begs the question how do we progress, or, are we really interested in progress? Some feel that our history is not only sacrosanct but also inviolate; in other words, impossible to change or adapt. If this is truly the case, then we as an order are dead already, since failure repeated will not suddenly turn around and build into success. The deeper question is how do we advance our order – could it be that committing lengthy passages to memory may somehow by themselves rejuvenate an antiquated order? I personally don’t believe so, since if this were the case, the unwritten work would have done so by now, and the other indicator would be where else in life are you tasked in today’s world to reel off passages from memory without truly understanding the words’ relevance? The simple response is nowhere else. Only in fading fraternities, religions, or cults do you still find members chanting words without meaning. If we prefer ourselves to be a cult, let’s regress totally and at least do it perfectly, and if we are not a cult, let’s change enough to be the first generation of our group to do something new and different.
This begs the question, what is the “unwritten work”? 150 years ago, many of our members were illiterate, working people. Committing passages to memory was the way to conduct oneself in lodge without appearing illiterate. Rote memory was impressive to fellow members, who also would memorize their parts in our ritual to prove themselves efficient in their positions. So, if memorizing passages was common, the clarity with which one could recite them was to be admired. The substance of the unwritten work was admirable but why keep anything admirable hidden? Because they felt part of a secret fraternity, somewhat more inviolate because of shared secrecy.
Of course, this is not a statement deriding history. History is important, integral to any group, institution, company, or religion. Yet, we know from sheer reality that history can’t repeat itself. Ford Motor Company came out with the Model T car, but if they never progressed from there, they would have died an early death. Gold mining, prevalent in 1849, would be close to useless today. Even religious doctrine has adapted to merge with today. History must assume a place in our world but can’t become our entire world. Those of us who try to repeat history are only trying to sanitize history, for those times were much harder than today, rampant with sexism, racism, hatred of wide variety. Chanting an old axiom may seem soothing, such as a Gregorian chant, but it surely can come as close to mindless as we can get. If we want to attract the young, we can show them history, but let’s show how we can improve upon history.
I, for one, would rather the unwritten work evolve to be known as “the historic classic work”, a passage we can all enjoy and share and no longer sequester in cryptic notes and phrases.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles
Did you know there is a new Library on the Grand Lodge website? It is called the Odd Event Library. You can find it on the Grand Lodge home page under the “Odd Fellow Resources” drop-down button (at the top of the home page).
Make a Deposit. The Odd Event Library has two purposes. First, you can share your successes. You can post information about events your lodge has held that were successful or had potential. You will be asked to provide contact information and some details about what you did and how you did it. Your submission will share your experiences with other Odd Fellows who are looking for ideas for their lodge. It will only take a couple of minutes to submit an event.
I have seen and heard of many events by lodges that would be useful to other lodges to consider. We need you to share your experiences.
There are postings in the Odd Event Library for events for the community, fund-raising events, and social events for your lodge. I have yet to find a lodge that cannot try a new event to engage their members and connect with their community.
Check Out an Idea. The second purpose of the Odd Event Library is to provide ideas for us to try in our own lodge. Some ideas will be doable by any lodge. Others may not be easily copied but the event may inspire us to try something similar.
Look at the events in the Odd Event Library. Talk about them in your Lodge. Talk about trying just one new idea. Doing things are what we are about. Doing things will motivate our members. Doing things will help our communities and how our communities perceive us. Doing things will give others a reason to join the Odd Fellows.
We are what we do! Help build the Odd Event Library and use it!
In Friendship, Love and Truth
We have 115 Odd Fellows Lodges in California (not counting the jurisdictional Gene J. Bianchi Lodge). Of those 115 Lodges, there are 17 Lodges that have a unique distinction. These 17 Lodges are:
Diamond Springs #9 15 members
Suisun #78 32 members
Mountain Brow #82 95 members
Vacaville #83 85 members
Santa Crux #96 30 members
Scio #102 21 members
Coulterville #104 18 members
Evergreen #161 42 members
Saint Helena #167 59 members
Montezuma #172 55 members
Ventura #201 62 members
Santa Barbara #232 17 members
Lodi #259 124 members
Little Lake #277 14 members
Grafton #293 19 members
Spring Valley #316 46 members
San Fernando #365 22 members
These 17 Lodges have a combined membership, as of January 1, 2017, of 756. The unique feature about these 17 Lodges is that of their 756 members, 756 are men and 0 are women.
In the “old days” of Odd Fellowship, men joined the Odd Fellows Lodges and women joined the Rebekah Lodges. That changed at the turn of this Century. At that time, by a vote of the membership at Grand Lodge sessions, Odd Fellows Lodges in California were opened to female applicants. And the first women joined Odd Fellows Lodges in the years 2000 and 2001. So, it’s been about 18 years since membership in Odd Fellows Lodges opened to female applicants – that’s almost a full “generation” in sociological calculation. Yet, after all that time, why do 17 of our Lodges have not even one woman as a member?
Interestingly, a majority of these 17 Lodges stay very low-key, not even sending representatives to Grand Lodge Sessions. It’s almost as if they wish to be “out of sight, out of mind.” I have talked to members of some of these Lodges and have asked them the question as to why they have no female members. The answers have varied. In some cases, the members have been brutally frank: “If a woman joined this Lodge, I would leave.” Or, “It’s the one night of the month that I can get away from my wife.” Or, they have simply changed the subject and ignored the question. In one case, I am aware of members who tried to sponsor a well-respected woman as a member in the Lodge, and by a vote of the Lodge, a majority did not vote to admit her. In other cases, I have heard interesting “reasons” such as, “We don’t have any women in the Lodge because no woman has applied,” or “We have an active women’s club in this community and the women would rather join that.”
After 18 years, the “reasons” don’t wash. Frankly, it defies all reason to brlirbr that not one woman has applied in 18 years. But assuming for a moment that is true, then the men have turned the Lodge into a “Men’s Club” and de jure or de facto have hung out a virtual sign that says, “women are not welcomed.” That is not only a violation of the Odd Fellows Codes – which we have all taken an oath to follow – but it is just wrong at so many levels. At a purely pedestrian level, it is illogical to exclude half of our community’s population, particularly at a time when Lodge membership is shrinking. Look at it this way: Would we all not agree that it is intolerable and unacceptable to think that a Lodge would exclude a potential member because of the color of that person’s skin, or that person’s ethnic heritage, or that person’s religion? Is it not just as unacceptable for a Lodge to exclude a person because they don’t have a Y chromosome in their DNA?
A couple of generations ago, our society had policemen, and firemen, and mailmen. Today, we have police officers, and firefighters, and postal carriers. Odd Fellows had better catch up with the rest of modern American society or we may go down the “manhole” of history.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Let me start by stating the obvious: A person who is 22 years old has a different set of childhood memories, history, and interests than does a person who is 82 years old – or, for that matter, a person who is 42 or 62.
For an Odd Fellows Lodge to be truly viable, strong and active, it needs members who encompass ALL those generations. And you can’t be effective in attracting other generations to your Lodge unless you understand their language, interests, and priorities. A Lodge composed of members who are exclusively from one generation is like an orchestra composed entirely of tubas. A Lodge composed of members of many generations is like an orchestra of many instruments. The former is boring and does not attract new members. The latter is dynamic, and the symphonic sound will attract a wide variety of interest.
At the recent California Membership Educational Seminar held earlier this month, Michael Greenzeiger and Linnea Bredenberg, members of Mountain View Lodge #244, presented an informative and well-received lecture on the subject of “communication between generations.” The talk by Michael and Linnea highlighted the different perspectives of the generations, and gave us a great deal of insight. It is my pleasure to forward, as an attachment, their Power Point presentation entitled “Communication Between Generations.” I think you will find it fascinating! More importantly, it has direct application to your Lodge’s membership development activities.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Michale Greenzeiger Seminar Presentation
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
I wanted to highlight two matters in this Newsletter.
First, attached to this Newsletter is a letter from Grand Master Dave Reed, with an explanation of the concept of “restricted funds”. Lodge members often ask what “restricted funds” are about and GM Reed has provided a straight-forward and cogent explanation. I hope it is informative and useful for you.
Second, I wanted to mention the successful 2018 California Membership Educational Seminar we had last weekend in Reno on January 5-7. We had a remarkable 150 Odd Fellows and Rebekahs register for the seminar from 50 different Lodges! Over the Saturday and Sunday seminar, we covered a wide range of topics of value to current and incoming officers of the Lodge, as well as interested members of the Lodge. We also had breakout sessions to provide detailed explanations and answer questions for those members who will serve as Noble Grand, Vice Grand, Secretary, Financial Secretary and Treasurer. We focused a lot on the ways Lodges can increase membership. And we did not shy away from difficult and contentious issues. In the evaluation sheets, attendees particularly enjoyed the presentations entitled “Communication Between Generations in Your Lodge” presented by Michael Greenzeiger and Linea Bredenberg, “Difficult Issues” presented by GM Dave Reed and PGM Peter Sellers, “Running a Proper Lodge Meeting” and “Effective Membership Development”, presented by PGM Dave Rosenberg. Attendees also enjoyed connecting with old friends and new friends on Friday and Saturday evenings. All in all, I believe everyone who attended learned something which will help them make their Lodges stronger.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California