DMC – Change in the Odd Fellows is inevitable

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

A week does not go by that I don’t get an email from a new member of a Odd Fellows Lodge, voicing a mighty level of frustration. These new Odd Fellows express a level of dismay that ranges from bafflement at one end to virtual defeat at the other extreme. As members of an Odd Fellows Lodge, they are not happy, and they feel thwarted and stymied by other members. The goals of friendship, love and truth are stretched thin in their particular situations.

The frustration almost always boils down to one root cause: The new member (along with other newer members) wants to try some new things, but there is another long-time member (along with other long-time members) who does not. This is the yin and yang in some Lodges. It’s the disconnect between generations. This conflict can take several forms.

One boiling point happens when the new member suggests a new concept. The new member might have an idea for a social function at the Lodge or a charitable project in the community. But no matter what is suggested, the new member is shut down and sometimes put down. The words might be, “We can’t do that,” or “We tried that before and it doesn’t work,” or “That’s not permitted by the Code”, or simply “That’s a dumb idea.” The members who so readily shut down or put down the new idea seem to forget that EVERYTHING we do as Odd Fellows was once a new idea suggested by a member.

Another flash point is sparked when long-time members hold onto certain Lodge positions as if their very lives depended on it, and never let go. No one should have life-time tenure in an office in the Lodge. No one is indispensable. We elect officers; we don’t crown royalty. It’s healthy to have many people serve over time. And it’s perfectly all right for the newer members to make mistakes – that’s how we grow and learn. Long-time members should – in the spirit of FLT – assume the role of mentors when newer members are ready to step up.

Some long-time, old-time members will stop at nothing to prevent change – to the point of changing the rules, even to the point of using those changed rules to keep new members out of the Lodge. I recently became aware of a Lodge which was ball balloting on new initiates. The long-time members argued strenuously that just black cubes cast against an initiate means that the applicant is rejected and could not be initiated. Trouble with that is that the three black cube rejection model was thrown out many years ago – that is no longer the rule in Odd Fellowship. A simple majority of white balls is all that is required to admit a new member. The old days – when three “no-change-on-my-watch” members could reject a new member – are long gone. But that didn’t stop them from trying.

It’s the immovable object meeting the irresistible force. But the immovable object ultimately cannot prevail because it is limited by the human lifespan. The irresistible force will eventually prevail because change is natural and inevitable. Even in Odd Fellowship.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Can the Odd Fellows Survive 200 More Years?

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The year 2019 is a momentous year in the history of Odd Fellowship. Our fraternal order celebrates its 200th anniversary in North America. Truly an incredible achievement. But, can the Odd Fellows sustain our Order for another 200 years?

Odd Fellowship once had a million members in the United States. Now, the membership numbers in the tens of thousands. Odd Fellowship once boosted tens of thousands of Lodges in every town and hamlet. Now, we see jurisdictions where the number of Lodges can be counted on the fingers of two hands.

I am a member of the largest North American jurisdiction in Odd Fellowship – California. I have had the rare honor and privilege to serve as both Grand Master and as Grand Patriarch in this jurisdiction. I have visited dozens of Lodges throughout the jurisdiction. I provide this in preface to support my comments in this article. We, in Odd Fellowship, are at a crossroads. One path – the road of status quo – will inevitably lead to the diminution and probable demise of our Order in one, or at most, two generations. The other path – the road of evolution and change – can lead to the resurgence of our Order and cement our future for another 200 years.

I have come to the conclusion that we can embrace the path of evolution and change, vitality and growth if we, as an Order, do three things:

1. Active Lodges are Healthy Lodges. There is no sustained future for Lodges where members do little more than sit in the Lodge rooms at meetings, reading rote passages from little red books. While in a strange way this may be soothing and comfortable to long-time members, it simply does not resonate with the newer generations. No one really wants to join a Lodge where little more is accomplished than going to meetings once or twice a month, paying the utility bills, reporting on each other’s illnesses, electing each other to office, and awarding each other longevity jewels. Potential members in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s do not find that sort of “Lodge” attractive or interesting. To thrive and grow in the 21st Century, a Lodge must be active. Lodges that provide an active social life for members show vitality and will resonate with the new generations of members we must attract. Lodges that reach out into the community, to do good charitable and community works, will also become beacons for new members. A lodge, in this Century, that has no purpose or mission, cannot long survive.

2. New Blood is Vital to Our Future. The lifespan of a human being, with good health and good genes, hovers around 100 years. A fraternal Lodge, however, has a lifespan that can last for centuries. Fraternities can “live” for remarkably long periods of time, but only if they bring in new members. And those new members must span the years and the generations. A Lodge composed only of septuagenarians and octogenarians will inevitably diminish and expire as the health of those elderly members fail and they pass away. A healthy Lodge has members representing every decade and every generation. It is, frankly, selfish for Lodge members to refuse to seek out new members and to maintain the status quo. It may be comfortable for those aged members, but it is deleterious to the Order.

3. Our Order Must Unify. The numbers show us that the branches of our Order are withering. The old separation of “men” and “women” simply does not apply in the 21st Century, and does not work. We can no longer maintain separate branches of Patriarchs Militant, Ladies Auxiliary Patriarchs Militant, Encampment, Ladies Encampment Auxiliary, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. The future of our Order must be in one strong, diverse Lodge, with many degrees – not six separate branches. We all know in our heart-of-hearts that the merger of our branches is inevitable. It is not aided by delay.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – The Odd Fellows Code

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

If you ever doubted that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows has evolved and changed over the years, you need only look on the back of the Encampment membership card (the dues card) and your doubt will be dissipated.

There, on the back of the card, in extremely tiny letters, you will find a throw-back to another age, another time, another generation.

What you find back there is the “Telegraphic Cipher and Key” used by Odd Fellows Lodges throughout North America in times past. Of course, no one uses a telegraph anymore in this age of email, text, face time, and fax. But back then, with the use of those ubiquitous telegraph lines that stretched across the continent, Lodges could communicate with one another about folks who showed up on their Lodge doorsteps claiming to be members and asking for assistance. Yes, in those days, people would travel from town to town knocking on Odd Fellow Lodge doors, looking for work, seeking financial help, showing up ill, or sometimes even passing away in the visited city. And, apparently, some folks would pass themselves off as members of the Order (when they really weren’t), or widows and orphans of members, to try to get a meal, medical assistance, a handout of money, or even help in finding a job in a new community.

So, Odd Fellows developed a code which could be used by telegraph wire to check on the veracity of the person at the door. The code was useful because it was comprised of one word “ciphers” – which was a cheaper way to communicate in that telegraph operators charged by the word – and it also allowed for secret communication of a question and an answer between lodges from different venues. There were 22 words (or ciphers) in this special code. Here they are for your reading pleasure:

Benefit – What sick and funeral benefits do you pay?
Black – He is a fraud, and if he has a card or other papers from this lodge, they are forgeries.
Boat – He is an expelled member, and has not been in good standing for _____.
Cash – Is in our city asking financial assistance, and claims membership in your lodge in good standing.
Caution – Look out for a fraud named _____.
Doubt – Identity in doubt. Wire description.
Final – A member of your lodge died here.
Funds – Shall we aid him and draw on you to the extent of $_____.
Green – Wire instructions to us at once as to the disposition of his remains.
Grip – Draw on us for the amount of expenses incurred.
Help – Will your lodge pay nurse hire, and how much per day?
House – Is in our city, holding a visiting card from your lodge and asking of us financial assistance.
Lodge – Forward remains to this place by _____.
Purple – We think best to bury him there.
Red – Holding a visiting card from your lodge died here.
Regalia – Assist him and we will honor draft to the extent of $_____.
River – Has your lodge a member in good standing by the name of _____.
Rock – A member of our lodge is in your city needing assistance. His name and address are _____.
Secretary – He has a fraudulent card.
White – We don’t know any such party, and he does not belong to our lodge.
Widow – Wife or child of a deceased member of your lodge is in our city asking assistance. Shall we draw on you to the extent of $_____.
Yellow – Is in our city and very sick. Claims membership in your lodge. Shall we give him attendance on your account?

Ah, yes. Those were certainly different times.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

5th Davis Storytelling Extravaganza

5th DAVIS STORYTELLING EXTRAVAGANZA—-FEATURING THE AMAZING INTERNATIONAL STORYTELLING LEGEND, DIANE FERLATTE accompanied by ERIC PEARSON on GUITAR.

The Theatre Committee is presenting the 5th Davis Storytelling Extravaganza on Sunday, October 13 from 2:30-5:00 for a nominal fee of $25 with international actress and professional storyteller, Diane Ferlatte. She will be accompanied by Bay Area guitarist and banjo player, Eric Pearson. There will also be 4 local, well known storytellers. Diane is a Grammy nominated storyteller and a multi-award winning performer who has captivated audiences across 6 continents and throughout the United States with her 1 woman show and storytelling performances. She draws from a deep well of folktales, myths, legends, & fables to inform, entertain, & inspire. Diane loves to tell stories that hold truths touching upon our common humanity, including personal and historical stories.

For those interested in learning the craft of storytelling, Diane will present a “Workshop from 12:30-2:00 entitled, “BRINGING STORIES TO LIFE”, for $15 paid at the workshop.

Please RSVP to Ed Lewis at ed-lewis@sbcglobal.net if you are planning to attend so we can estimate how many chairs to set up.

12:30-2:00= WORKSHOP ($15): BRINGING STORIES TO LIFE: This workshop is for anyone interested in exploring ways to add life to your stories. Discover the power of a well-told story through small group exercises, presentations, and examples from my own stories. We will discuss storytelling techniques and guidelines. How do you effectively pass on your story? Getting in touch with the whole story, verbal and nonverbal, through our senses: movement, gestures, voice, facial expression, emotions, and characterization. You don’t have to be an actor to be a good storyteller. You only need an imagination.

STORYTELLER: Diane Ferlatte is a Grammy-nominated storyteller and a multi-award winning performer who has captivated audiences across 6 continents and throughout the U.S. Diane draws from a deep well of folktales, myths, legends, & fables to inform, entertain, & inspire. While emphasizing African American stories, she loves to tell stories that hold truths touching upon our common humanity, including personal and historical stories. Having a background in music as well as American Sign Language, Diane frequently incorporates both into her performances. Erik Pearson her musical sidekick, will accompany Diane on banjo & guitar. Diane has wowed audiences across the globe from Europe to Singapore & Malaysia, from Australia & New Zealand to Colombia, Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, Turkey, Jamaica, India and, of course all over the United States. She believes that telling and listening to each other’s stories not only enables us to learn about each other, but also to understand each other better.

DMC – How to tell if your Lodge is in decline

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

How can you tell if your Lodge is in decline?  Often it’s not easy to tell if you are right in the middle of it.   But there are warning signs.  In this regard, I have devised a list of 19 “warning signs” to assist you in determining if your Lodge is operating in the yellow “caution” zone, or the red zone of “danger.”   However, this will only work if you honestly assess your own Lodge.

Here are the 19 warning signs.   Ascribe one point for each of the following signs if they apply to your Lodge:

1.  The Lodge has 20 or fewer dues-paying members.

2.  The Lodge has 10 or fewer dues-paying members.

3.  The Lodge has had to cancel at least one meeting over the past 12 months due to lack of quorum.

4.  Without the attendance of associate members, the Lodge would not have a quorum at some meetings during the last 12 months.

5.  The Lodge has no members under the age of 50.

6.  The Lodge has no members under the age of 60.

7.  The Lodge has no members under the age of 70.

8.   The Lodge has no female members.

9.  The Lodge has not initiated a new member over the past 12 months.

10.  The Lodge has not initiated a new member over the past 24 months.

11.  The Lodge has not initiated a new member over the past 36 months.

12.  The Lodge has not sponsored a community project over the past 12 months.

13.   The Lodge has not sent a representative to the last Grand Lodge Session.

14.  The Lodge has not sent a representative to Grand Lodge Session over the past two years.

15.  Over the past 5 years, members of the Lodge get recycled into the office of Noble Grand because no one else is available who can or will serve.

16.  Over the past 12 months there has been bickering and raised voices at Lodge meetings.

17.  The Lodge has no tenants paying rent.

18.  The Lodge does not own its Lodge Hall.

19.  The Lodge typically submits a late annual per capita report to Grand Lodge.

If your Lodge has 9 or more points on this list of 19, the yellow caution light is blinking.   If your Lodge as 13 or more of these 19 items, be aware of the red danger signal.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Are we really making progress?

As is evident from below, SGL – at least the members of the State of the Order Committee – recognize the advancements and needs of the Odd Fellows. However, very little is presented to progressively change those issues that need to be addressed. Despite the establishment of the Non-Discrimination Policy, issues must be faced. Those did not come to the committee, but because of some last day legislation submitted, there very well could be a need for clarification dealing with “religious ideology” and how we define a “supreme being” and a requirement to believe in such. Shall this contrast to the beliefs of the past and conflict with today’s beliefs in the ranks of society and membership of the Order? What if a member becomes an atheist after once believing? One cannot be treated differently because of his or her “religious” beliefs or change in such beliefs as this has never been addressed in code or ritual. Some have proposed removing a member from the Order because that member has, over time, changed his/her religious beliefs. But to simply propose removing a member from the Order because of his or her “religious” beliefs could be legally challenged as a violation of the current Non-Discrimination Policy. I understand where some would want to passionately go with this, but it could have serious ramifications far beyond anything this Order has seen in recent years.

For this year, though, the Order has made some progress.

What was supposed to be the State of the Order report, but was not used because it lacked one signature, still can be shared here as it is relevant to all of us and our concerns.

One of the most impactful detriments this Order faces is angry contradiction between members; even worse is public demonstration of such disagreements on social media.

As society has modernized our means of communications, more frequent and rapid exchanges, whether conjecture, opinion, or fact, we must always keep in mind and practice those absolute principles of friendship, love, and truth. Those who are not members could view us a hypocritical, thus destroying our own legitimacy as a fraternal organization.

All members must seek peaceful outcomes. If discord has reached your hearts, seek amends. Work toward resolutions, rather than persistent aggravation.

The State of the Order committee also found there is a need for the creation of historical literature to be drafted and published in every jurisdiction, as this is one of the greatest mediums to reach a segment of curious people, and history enthusiasts who enjoy historical and interesting stories. No matter which town or city a lodge is located, there is related history, whether to a historic event, a prominent member, or in the structure itself. People enjoy reading history. Our lodges are full of stories and history. Some of our lodges have attics and basements full of historical and interesting artifacts. Clean those spaces out and write about those items. How were they used? How old are they? Are they valuable? Write about them and take pictures and share this information with local news outlets (social media, news articles, magazines, short documentary(ies), pamphlets, and books). This is the kind of program this Order must embrace if it wants to assure its place in history.

The State of the Order committee also encourages the modernization of communications between lodges, members, and jurisdictions, with regard to the latest in electronic technologies. We must utilize and embrace that segment of our membership who can point us in the right direction.

We can also touch upon subtle, but important inclusiveness-achievements witnessed at SGL in the last two years:

  1. Having a representative of the GUOOF speak to the Grand Body in 2018.
  2. Having a representative for Cuba at our Annual Communication in 2019.
  3. Having the first woman elected as the Warden of SGL (2019).

These represent not only progressive change but is evidence of an organization embracing it’s evolution.

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