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 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

DMC – Read the Odd Fellows Code

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The Code of General Laws of the Sovereign Grand Lodge, I.O.O.F, contains the laws that govern every Odd Fellow and every Grand Lodge, Lodge and other subordinate units in our Order.    It is a massive volume that contains general principles, rules, regulations, and intricate details on all aspects of Odd Fellowship, drilling down even to the description of jewels, regalia and collars.  Change comes slowly to the Code of General Laws – as amendments go through a convoluted and lengthy process requiring super-majority votes by the Sovereign Grand Lodge.  Chairs of certain committees can also postpone and delay proposed changes, which may never see the light of day.

Yet, a reading of the Code of General Laws turns up three thought-provoking laws of which we should all be cognizant.

Odd Fellows Laws Are to be Liberally Construed

One of the most striking provisions of the Code can be found at Chapter II, Section 14, which reads in relevant part as follows:    “The rules and regulations set forth in the Constitution and Code of General Laws shall be liberally construed.  The chief concern shall be following the spirit of the law and the good of Odd Fellowship rather than harshly enforcing rules to the letter of the law.”

This is such an important provision of Odd Fellows law that it is worth it for you to read it again.   Keep it in mind when a member of your Lodge starts spouting “the Code” and telling the members attending a meeting, that something must be done in a certain way because “the Code” demands it.  Well, perhaps it does.   But, perhaps it does not.   The main thing is to follow the spirit of the law and the good of the Order, not necessarily a harsh enforcement of the rules and the so-called letter of the law.   We are, after all, a fraternal order – we are supposed to treat each other with friendship, love and truth.   We are supposed to enjoy each other’s company and enjoy the social interaction that Lodge life offers.

Odd Fellows Lodges Cannot Exclude Women

Another provision of the Code of General Laws is not widely known, but can be critically important to every Odd Fellow who believes in equality and fairness.   It can be found at Chapter III, Section 1, specifically defining who is eligible to be a member of an Odd Fellows Lodge, at Section 1, subsection A (4).   It reads as follows:   “Continued rejection of women may result in revocation of an Odd Fellows Lodge Charter after notice and hearing.”

Sadly, there are still Odd Fellows Lodges in 2019 that have no women as members, and have never had women members.   Women have been eligible to join Odd Fellows Lodges for almost twenty years now.   How can there be Lodges in the jurisdiction of the Sovereign Grand Lodge that still – after two decades – have no female members?     We have certainly all heard the all the so-called “reasons”:  “Women have never expressed an interest in joining the Lodge.”   “Women have never submitted applications to join the Lodge.”  “Women prefer to join the Rebekah Lodge or other such organizations.”    After two decades, these “reasons” are little more than “excuses”.   They don’t hold any water anymore.   And Lodges that have no women as members put their charters at risk.  To state it clearly:   Discrimination on the basis of gender is not allowed in Odd Fellowship.

Odd Fellows Lodges Must be Non-Sectarian

When we joined Odd Fellowship, we were told that it is a fraternal order that is non-sectarian.   Well, is it?   The question is legitimate because the ritual of the Order is replete with hymns and songs and Biblical quotations that are very much sectarian.   But the good news is that Code of General Laws addresses that very point in Chapter IV, pertaining to Grand Lodge Policy.  Section 3 C (2) states the following:  “Lodges may not exhibit in their halls or anteroom any symbols that pertain to any particular faith or creed, but may use music that is generally regarded as religious if it does not cause controversy.”

This is a remarkably important provision of our Code – but I am afraid that very few members are aware of it.   And it is significant for every member of our Order who feels uncomfortable when that member believes the sectarian line is crossed.   If there is such discomfort, it may be regarded in the Lodge as causing “controversy” and if that is the case, then no member should be subjected to it.  A Lodge meeting is meant to be a place of peace and comfort, where members can join together to escape the stress, turmoil and vicissitudes of the outside world.  If a member wants to enjoy a sectarian environment, that member should go to his or her church, synagogue, temple, mosque or meeting hall – not a Lodge of Odd Fellows.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – When was the last time you read your Lodge’s by-laws?

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

When was the last time you read your Lodge’s Bylaws?

Come on, you can be honest, because the only person who will “hear” your answer to the question is you.    And I don’t mean skim them.   I mean actually sat down and read them word for word, to understand what is contained in those Bylaws?

I suspect the answer to this question (if you are exercising the Third Degree of Truth) is very, very few of you have read your Lodge Bylaws.   And I further suspect that of those few, even fewer have read them in detail, word for word.

This truth is troubling, at many levels.   Other than the Ritual (contained in that “little red book) and the Codes (the SGL Code of General Laws and the Roberts Code of California Law or the Code of your Grand Lodge jurisdiction), your Lodge Bylaws are the most important document in the Lodge.   And in some respects, it can become the most important document because it governs the operation of your Lodge – it is specific to your Lodge.   Yet, in most Lodges, very few members have read their Bylaws, essentially leaving the Bylaws to the two or three members who serve on the Lodge Bylaws Committee.   Technically, every member of the Lodge should have been given a copy of the Bylaws at the time of initiation, and certainly every member of the Lodge is entitled to see the Bylaws and have his or her own copy.

Why are the Bylaws important?

The following is a non-exclusive list of issues that are typically dealt with in Lodge Bylaws;

*  The dates and times, and locations of your Lodge meetings.
*   Who may call a special meeting, and how is it noticed.
*  The special functions and duties of your Lodge officers, over and above the duties spelled out in Code.
*  How often and when officers are elected (most Lodges elect annually, but a few elect semi-annually).
*  Compensation or reimbursement for officers.
*  Quorum requirements.
*  Membership attendance requirements.
*  How abstentions are handled.
*  Rules of decorum at Lodge meetings.
*  Rules that apply to deaths of members and members sick or in distress.
*  Fee structure for various cards.
*  Duties of Lodge Trustees.
*  How are employees hired and fired, and who supervises them.
*  Who has authority to sign contracts and purchase items for the Lodge.
*  Proper handling of funds and signing of checks.
*  Management of Lodge property.
*  Election of representatives to Grand Lodge, and reimbursement for attendance at Grand Lodge.
*  Lodge Committees and responsibilities of Committees.
*  How committee members are appointed, and by whom.
*  Associate Member requirements and dues.
*  Alcohol use in the Lodge Hall.
*  How to amend the Bylaws.

Does your Lodge’s Bylaws contain these items?   Bylaws should be reviewed, updated, and modernized at least once every three years.   Is that being done in your Lodge?

In the meantime, I recommend, as a first step, that you obtain a copy of your Lodge Bylaws.   Hopefully, they are readily available to you on your Lodge’s website.  Read them over.   What you read will inform you, and it may even surprise you.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Negativity Will Destroy Your Odd Fellows Lodge

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

For over 10 years I have been writing about our existential need to add more members to our Lodges. Without question, a lodge in a fraternal order must add new members year after year or the lodge will surely diminish and, inevitably, die. But there is one other major lodge killer out there, and I have written about it from time to time. It is just as insidious, and it is just as detrimental to the continued good health and, ultimately, viability of a lodge.

This other lodge killer can be summed up in one word, but it can manifest itself in many different ways. What is that one word? It is “negativity”. And it is toxic to a lodge. If you see it in your own Lodge, it must be halted and the source must be marginalized, and if necessary, invited to change his/her ways or depart the Lodge. Because if the source continues the negativity, the Lodge will surely suffer and the friendship, love and truth to which we aspire will be but an illusion.

How does negativity present itself? Let me count the ways:

Bullying at Meetings. We are all equal. No one should dominate the Lodge, nor should anyone dominate the meetings. Do you have a member who talks on virtually every subject that is raised at meetings? Does that member constantly offer his/her opinion on all subjects and insist that it must be the member’s way or the highway?

Behind-the-back Talk. We are brothers and sisters who are obligated to display friendship, love and truth to each other. If a member has something to say to another member, it must be done kindly, quietly, confidentially and face-to-face. Talking about a member behind that member’s back is unfriendly, and it can be hurtful.

Shooting Down All Ideas. Have you attended a meeting where one or two members essentially say “no” to every new idea, suggestion, or program? Well, they are not the font of all good ideas. Other members are entitled to present their ideas and have them considered openly without Mr. No or Ms. No heading them off at the pass.

Spreading Rumors. Rumors are almost always negative. Spreading those rumors can serve no good purpose, and may be painful to members who are the subject of rumors. The rumors certainly do not foster a feeling of friendship. Lodges are meant to be peaceful places where members can escape the turmoil of everyday life. Continuing to spread a rumor is poisonous to the camaraderie we seek in Lodge life.

Never Letting Go. No one is indispensable. Yet, a few members think that they are. Do you have members who have served as Secretary of the Lodge, or Noble Grand, or Treasurer who simply won’t relinquish that office to anyone else? Holding on too long creates a choke point for the future of the Lodge. Other members – particularly newer members – need to have their opportunity to serve and to lead.

Failing to Practice FLT. And we all know the member who is just not a nice person. He or she may always be looking for ways to critique or to criticize. He or she may never have a friendly smile or a pleasant greeting to another member. One has to wonder why they became an Odd Fellow in the first place. Or what caused them to change over time to become the curmudgeon they are today?

What can be done if some or all of these negative traits are displayed by a member (or members) in your Lodge? The situation may be uncomfortable and even dire, but it is not unsolvable. Step One is for you to directly talk to the person who is showing this negativity. The conversation should not be itself negative or confrontational. And it should be done in private, in the spirit of FLT. Sometimes, this direct and friendly communication works. If it does not, however, then Step Two if for you to take the matter up with the Noble Grand or another trusted and respected elder of the Lodge. And ask that NG or elder to have the conversation with the negative person. Step Three, if none of the other steps achieve results, is to th raise the issue to the level of the District Deputy to provide some intervention, or mediation.

Let’s face it: Our numbers are too few to waste our time and energy on negativity.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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