The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was designed many years ago with the premise that everyone likes a title. Look around the Odd Fellows and you will see that there are very few members who do not have a title of some kind. However, having a title is no guarantee of ability nor is it a license to pass judgment. Our Grand Masters in every state, along with the Sovereign Grand Master, are compelled to make fraternal decisions, but even our highest-ranking officers are fallible. Our order was also thoughtfully designed with an ending date to each position. These positions are basically positions of honor and reward, thus each person who attains these positions should feel compelled to accept these honors and then cheerfully relinquish them when their time has passed. This is one of the wonders of our order, just as in our great country, a peaceful exchange of leaders, no matter how divergent their ideas, no matter how different their backgrounds, acceptance of responsibility and acknowledgement of a peaceful change.
The Odd Fellows must do its best to eliminate the tendency to dictate to one another. No matter what one’s expertise may be, this is not a license to bully, but it happens far too often – in lodges, in Grand Lodge events, and even at the Sovereign Grand Lodge level. No one has the right to dictate to another his or her views at the expense of anyone else. There are many code passages that bear this out both in the California Roberts Code, and the Code of General Laws. However, it is one of the foibles of the human species that each of us tends to think we know the better way more than anyone else. We only know the way for ourselves. Recently, there have been repeated instances where someone made a wide-reaching decision that harmed someone else’s right to exist on the same level. In Odd Fellow parlance, this is conduct unbecoming of an Odd Fellow. The only reason we as a group allow this to continue to occur is because it happens all too often. We must discontinue hatred. We must discontinue prejudice. We must discontinue sexism. There is no time to waste. We either do it now or risk losing our order altogether This is not the avenue for bullies, and one person’s perception of the order is that person’s perception solely.
There have been various complaints about many things that affect our order, but no one in the Odd Fellows is infallible. Mistakes happen. Members may sometimes get offended. But we need to realize that even within our own family’s accidents and hurt feelings occur My own lodge may seem eccentric while your lodge may seem to run like a well-oiled machine but both exist, and we as an order must be most concerned in ensuring that they continue to exist. To be perfectly frank, other states have been almost completely decimated by turmoil. Let us rise above that. Let’s show Sovereign Grand Lodge that our state can behave in a congenial manner and perhaps we will end up having fun doing it.
In closing, remember that all of us are brothers and sisters, and try and show the same respect to each other that you would to your own families. We should try to not publicly deride anyone because it demeans our order in general. My worst memories of the order are where I heard one member demean another publicly. This should not be tolerated from anyone. We are all Odd Fellows, and joined with the premise that friendship, love and truth are our call signs. We need to act like we feel love and admiration for each other, and realize that the old are not like the young nor vice versa. All souls are welcome within our order, all are loved if you reciprocate love, and lastly, the most difficult and challenging fact, that all of us are human and fallible.
In Friendship, Love and Truth, Rick Boyles
One of the “Links” of our Three Link Plan is to embrace our rich history and heritage that guide our purpose.
In order to reach back to our roots, our history, and heritage, we examined an original blankmembership certificate that we have that was attached to our 1844 charter. If one examines IOOF documents from the Victorian period, you will see that they were very busy, ornate, and gaudy by today’s standards.
In today’s world, certificates are simple, not elegant, and really have no personalty. But, in the 1700’s and 1800’s they were very ornate and elegant. This was actually done, not only to impress the viewer, but to showcase the engraver’s talent. Remember, no Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator in those
days! Engravings were done meticulously by hand on a lead lithograph plate, or other media to be printed. Much like an ornate tattoo today, it not only captures meaning, it display’s the artist’s talent. If one examines our original membership certificate, you can see the symbols of the order, elaborate and varied fonts, and elements. The new member is also “caused” to sign the certificate in the margin…which was also common for Victorian times.
Now, transport yourself back to those days. Ceremonies were very formal, gentlemen and ladies attended in their finest attire. It was an “event”, something to look forward to, something to be reveled, something to be an honor to be a part of. Something that was meticulously planned and executed. Something mysterious and exciting. It captured the excitement and the honor of being an Odd Fellow. It was an event.
With all that said, our Lodge has decided, as part of our Three-Link Plan, to return to our roots, to make our initiations an event. How are we going to do that? It’s easy! But first, we must consider the new member who is being initiated. We are making a first impression on them. We only get ONE chance to do that. But, more important, we are creating a memory for them. Yes, a memory. Something that will be with them for life, and that’s what it’s all about. A memory.
We are in the process of partnering with a neighboring Lodge to perform initiations. This was not uncommon, back in the day. We have an advertisement from an Odd Fellows magazine in the early 1900’s where a local Lodge “specializes in the initiatory degree”. Our neighboring Lodge is beautiful, historic, and has the proper furnishings and regalia for the initiation. Additionally, this strengthens our alliance between Brothers and Sisters, and there will be more people at the initiation! Our members will attend the initiation in their suit jackets…not jeans. This adds formality and reverence to the occasion. We are returning to our roots.
We are also adding a very special and personal dramatic element to close the ceremony, and give the new member a token to cherish and display, and to remind them of that evening…a memory. Now, back to the discussion about our history and heritage…the Membership Certificate. Our original Certificate is simply too big for modern times, and would be too expensive to reproduce and frame, so, unfortunately, it is not practical for our purposes. We need to modify it. What our Lodge has done, is extract elements from the original 1844 Certificate, the wording, type fonts, symbols, actual elements, and made our own Membership Certificate. You will notice that, at the bottom of our Certificate, we used the actual two ladies from the original to surround our Lodge
seal. How cool is that? We are continuing our rich heritage!
At the end of the Initiatory Degree Ceremony, the Noble Grand and the Lodge Secretary will approach the new member, who is standing at a podium in the middle of the room. The Secretary will be carrying a platter. The Platter will contain: The Membership Certificate, a quill pen, and an inkwell.
The Noble Grand will read the certificate to the new member and will “cause” him to sign it in the margin. The Noble Grand and the Secretary will counter-sign with the quill pen and then retire to their stations where the Secretary will mount the Certificate in a frame and present to the new member.
Thus, we have added a very special and personal close to the Ceremony that carries forth our rich heritage and history, and we have given the new member a token of that evening that they can proudly display, just like in Victorian times. The return of investment is huge. But most important, we have given them a memory…every time they look at their Certificate, they will remember that evening and smile. That translates into excitement, and someone who will recruit new members.
For more information, please feel free to contact:
Lodge No. 96
Several times I have discussed ways in which to revitalize our order with different members who seem to hold totally divergent points of view. There have always been members who believe a traditional bent is the way forward, dressing in our traditional robes and regalia, holding lodge and official events pretty much identical to the way they were held 100 years ago, and upholding all customs. Others express the need to modernize, not only in dress but in our rituals and codes, a melding of today’s world with our order’s ideology. Still others see the way forward as a method to illustrate progression through evolving change. This may seem irrelevant to some but it is the purpose to many members’ disagreements with other members.
My own idea is a little more open than these debates which really don’t do much more than illustrate each person’s view. For example, there is nothing wrong in perpetuating old events and wearing older styles of clothing, if we acknowledge the world today within that event or piece of clothing. Of course, I’ve bored many with my views about formal dress, but formal dress in today’s fashion has changed, gotten less tired. My son, for example, in attending his prom, several years ago, wore a blue tuxedo, rented to him by the local clothier. We no longer sport top hats, but there are now fancy hats that are de rigueur. Times have changed, no matter how much we tend to want to avoid this fact. Some of our events may be enlivened in a similar fashion. Many lodges do dinners, pot lucks, or other social gatherings that they have done for many years, consider ways in which they may be made to appear new. The Davis Lodge, for example, might offer a contribution to a local charity or event for a modern cause. My own Fremont Lodge is planning a scenic train ride through the Mission Peak area, replete with touring antique stores, my own favorite book stores, and other local attractions. In other words, there is nothing wrong with longstanding members trying something new that may seem more attractive to a curious newcomer.
Our current Grand Master, Peter Sellars, wrote an excellent letter about the dress code for Grand Lodge sessions. In the letter, he pointed out that he does not care what the members wear, but only what he himself wears. An excellent point. To be frank, our order only seems tired if we continue to do things in the same tired manner. Peter has done many things to help invigorate our order. His popular event, A Day at the Races, now attracts 500 people annually, twice the number of members that attend Grand Lodge. Now, that is success. And yet, Peter works to improve this event yearly. So, in other words, while in a way, it is now a traditional event, he has done an excellent job making it seem fresh every time. So, traditionalism and modernism, may co-exist after all. Similarly, the San Francisco Lodges tend to participate in many social events, parades, and charitable gatherings. Perhaps not coincidentally, their group of lodges are the most populous in the state.
In summation, it is not a political or historical point of view that will invigorate our order, but rather a melding of tradition with modernism that moves us into a future less unknown than we have previously seen it. We can do our best to honor tradition by emulating it and embellishing it. Ritual work itself may appear new if we not only read the passages, but understand them, and even live by their ideals. Modernizing the ritual is not necessary en masse if we sculpt it to our own messages within our hearts. So, we win if we not only revisit our past, but make it better and more alive.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles
Frequently, I read things and think about how it could apply to the Odd Fellows. The late John Wooden, great basketball coach at UCLA, wrote a couple of books with vignettes describing his observations and reflections on life and living. One of the vignettes was called “Make Friendship a Fine Art.” It goes like this:
“Don’t take friendship for granted. Friendship is giving and sharing of yourself. If just one side works at it, it isn’t friendship. You must work at friendship. Make if a fine art. Go more than halfway. It is two-sided, just like marriage.
Someone is not a good friend because he or she does good things for you all the time. It’s friendship when you do good things for each other. It’s showing concern and consideration. Friendship is so valuable and so powerful. We take it for granted, but we shouldn’t.
The first and most important step in friendship is being a friend.”
As Odd Fellows, Friendship is one of our core principles. Yet, some of us give this principle lip service only and behave differently. Brothers and sisters are treated with disrespect and even hostility. Don’t be afraid to take a step back and think about what we are doing to discourage Friendship. What can we do to promote and improve Friendship within our lodges and within our Order. This is a lifelong goal and commitment. We are never done striving for that ideal. We are never done seeking to do more and do better. As Coach Wooden wrote, don’t take friendship for granted.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master
THE CHOICES WE MAKE, FOR BETTER OR WORSE; STILL, IT IS OUR CHOICE
In May, our jurisdiction faces some very important decisions. In May, each year, we elect our next leaders. In May, we either support or defeat various legislation – bills and resolutions – which all of us are supposed to be studying in April. April, is the month for preparation. It is the reason our lodges receive the Advance Proceedings seven weeks before the session. These documents are to better prepare all of our lodges’ representatives. May, is the month every lodge has an opportunity to be heard. When roll call is taken, and all those in attendance know which lodges are still relevant or not, be sure the silence is not for your lodge.
This May, we decide if our dues shall increase another five dollars. This May, we decide to modernize the tasks of our line officers. This May, we decide if we are going to forgive loans to several lodges. This May, we decide if we should recognize certain members for their efforts in the Order. This May, we review the actions of our Grand Lodge Board, the Grand Master, the Camp Board, the Home Board, and others. This May, we decide whether or not we shall keep the Camp. This May, is when we decide many issues.
This leader wishes every member would attend our session. I wish members read the documents provided to the lodges and submit themselves to an educated and well-thought out vote. I wish for a peaceful and positive session, where all of our members realize there are bigger and more important things in this world, then the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, yet realize they are taking a moment out in their lives – spending moments of their life time – to improve our Order and make it a suitable organization for the future. I want all of you to put matters in perspective. I wish for peace and harmony amongst the membership of this Order. The session is where decisions are made. It is the place to ask questions without retribution. I ask all of those who are attending the session this May, to vote for what you know is right; and do not vote for what suits a selfish motivation.
In May, some of our members may feel intimidated and reluctant to stand up and be recognized; BUT, I TELL YOU NOW, DO NOT FEEL THIS WAY BECAUSE OF WHAT ANYONE SAYS OR THREATENS. This leader encourages members to stand up and speak. I want to hear your motion and your discussion put on the floor. I want to see your confidence grow as the session moves ahead. Brothers and sisters, this moment is yours. This is the time to speak up and voice your opinion, but in an orderly fashion. I ask that all of our “experienced members at sessions” to be respectful and even helpful and encouraging to these newer brothers and sisters. This is a fraternity after all.
In a month and half, I end on what has been a very busy year. There were a few lodges I wish I could have addressed personally, but, instead, I assigned special deputies; I could not be in so many places at the same time. I laugh to myself, as I write this, because my report was several pages longer than what was expected. I had a lot to say, but it was important to tell all of you what I could about the experiences and issues we face and must make decisions upon. Several of these decisions are contained within my resolutions. I carefully thought about each topic. I ONLY CHOSE WHAT WAS BEST FOR THE ORDER, and did not succumb to the selfishness of individuals who siphon from the precious assets used to keep our jurisdiction operating in the black. I hope you shall read the advance proceedings, which your lodge should now have, and the reports by myself, the boards, and other leaders, which you shall receive at session.
In repeating myself: In May, our jurisdiction faces some very important decisions.
In Friendship, Love, & Truth,
Peter V. Sellars
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
This article focuses on something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue*.
Let me start with an indisputable truth: All fraternities requires a fairly constant influx of new members. The life of an active college fraternity member is about 4 or 5 years. So, a college fraternity needs a flow of new members every single year, because at the other end members tend to graduate or matriculate at the four-or-five-year mark. If that college fraternity skips a year or two, it’s in trouble and has a hole to fill down the road. Similarly, with adult fraternal orders like Masons, Moose, Eagles, Knights of Pythias, Elks and Odd Fellows, there is a perpetual need to fill the ranks with younger members because, inevitably, older members depart, move away or pass away. If a fraternal lodge doesn’t add a new member in five years, or ten years, or (gasp!) an entire generation, there is going to be distinct trouble brewing its future. Because there will come a point-of-no-return when that Lodge will find itself with a bunch of members in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s with little or no prospect of bringing in members in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. (Regrettably, we have many, many Lodges that have already reached that point.) How many young people want to join a lodge of grandfathers and grandmothers?
That said, my next statement may surprise you: It is my belief that Odd Fellowship is at the cusp of a revival and Renaissance. All we have to do is seize the moment.
I believe that Odd Fellowship has the potential to be attractive and relevant to a whole new generation of members. I have certainly seen this in my own Lodge as we attract members in their early 20’s who are interested and intrigued by the rich history of our Order, the mysteries of our symbols, and the community service engaged in by our Lodge. The caveat to all this, of course, is that the Lodge must be active and involved, both socially and in the community. No one wants to join a Lodge that does little more than hold formal meetings. That’s just boring and not sustainable.
Recently, I was directed to a blog which was started by two progressive Dedicated Members for Change: Scott Moye from Saline Lodge #174 in Arkansas and Ainslie Heilich from Tuscola Lodge #316 in Illinois. It’s called “Heart in Hand: The Modern Odd Fellows Guide”. I commend it to you. The blog can be found at https://oddfellowsguide.wordpress.com/. I found an article written by Ainslie, obviously a young and new member of the Order, which is quite insightful. Here’s, in part, what he said:
“My theory is that Gen X and Millennial generations are looking for something outside of formal religion that is fun, mysterious, and meaningful to help make sense of the chaotic world we live in today. People like me got intrigued by the history and the mystery of all the symbols and rituals and it drew me to the order. I needed to feel like I was a part of something larger than myself. Something that was serious but didn’t take itself too seriously. Something that helps the community. Something that gives me a purpose and reminds me to do the right thing. Odd Fellows is all of those things and more.”
Juxtaposed with this new article by a new member, I received an old missive from an old member. The old missive was went to me by another progressive Dedicated Member for Change: Scott Robinson from Lewisburg Lodge #96 in Pennsylvania. Scott forwarded a little poem that was written by an anonymous Odd Fellow in 1940, some 77 years ago. I think you will enjoy it.
When your lodge has failed to grow;
Attendance gettin’ mightly low;
Dues a’comin’ awful slow;
Don’t actlike you’re full of dope;
Don’t lose every bit of hope;
Don’t jest set aroun’ en mope’
Don’t jest open up and close;
There’s young members – think of those;
Things air slow enuff. God knows;
Find a subject for debate;
Don’t go home until it’s late;
Start a-visitin’ – fix a date;
Git your social committee workin’;
Take a hand an don’t be shirkin’;
When you’re loafin’ trouble’s lurkin’;
Start a sale, start a dance;
Have a picnic, take a chance;
Ask your brothers, friends or aunts;
Start sumthin’ that will take;
No matter if you lose or make;
But for thunderation sake
That little ditty was written three generations ago, but (remarkably) there are Lodges today that find themselves in the same pickle. Meetings where members do little more than open and close the meeting. Suggestions made to try new things falling on deaf ears. A new idea that is shot down because it might not work. Members who have grown complacent and won’t change the status quo even though the Lodge has ceased to grow. What’s the old saying? “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” It’s a cute turn of a phrase, but it often has some truth to it.
But the simple truth is inescapable: To survive and flourish in the 21st Century, Lodges must bring in the next generation of members. That’s, after all, what Odd Fellows Lodges did generation after generation. But today, there are Lodges where the members are all in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. These Lodges were complacent and skipped a generation, sometimes two generations. They will not survive unless and until they reach out to the current generations who are in their 20’s and 30’s and 40’s. And they will not attract those new generations until they open their doors and get involved with their communities. In other words: Start sumthin’.
*[So, I “borrowed” two quotes from other publications, one “old” and one “new”. And the fact that our membership is shrinking should make us all “blue” and call us all to action.]
F – L – T
Past Grand Master