On Sunday, November 11, Odd Fellows’ Second Sunday Bingo will benefit Unleashing the Possibilities, Inc. UTP is a private, non-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation committed to building a new animal shelter in Yolo County.
The Odd Fellows Lodge is located at 415 2nd Street in Downtown Davis. Parking is free and plentiful on Sunday. Doors open at 12 noon and Bingo begins at 1 p.m. There are 15 games played, each with cash prizes for the winners, up to $250 for the final blackout bingo game. The cost to play is $20 for a packet which covers all games. There is also an economy packet for only $12. This is read Bingo authorized under State law and approved by the Davis City Council. Because Bingo is gambling, only adults may play. The Odd Fellows provide complimentary coffee and there is a snack bar with food, wine and beer.
“Come by on November 11 for some Bingo fun, and know you are providing support to UTP which will directly help the dogs and cats and little critters that find themselves in the animal shelter,” said UTP President Beth Dovi. UTP has been working with the County of Yolo and the cities of Yolo County to develop plans for a new, modern animal shelter to replace the old, outmoded shelter that has been in operation for over 50 years. UTP has committed to raising private funds through donations to help Yolo County governments pay for the new shelter.
Twins Kati (on the left) and Kelli O’Day, both members of the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge, get ready for the 3rd Annual Davis Chocolate Festival under the watchful eye of “Zoltar”. The Fest is open to the public and takes place on Sunday, November 4, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall, 415 2nd Street. Tickets are $7 per person and may be purchased in advance at Avid Reader Active or Common Grounds, or online at https://OddFellowsChocolateFest.Eventbrite.com. Remaining tickets will also be sold at the door until they run out.
There are some Odd Fellows Lodges out there in Odd Fellows Land that I call “Zombie Lodges”. These Lodges go through the motions of being a real live Odd Fellows Lodge, but they have essentially died years earlier. Eventually, these Zombie Lodges will no longer be able to continue the facade of life, and they will give up their charters, or the Grand Master will pull their charters, or they will consolidate with a nearby Lodge. It’s really sad, because many of these Zombie Lodges have been around for over a Century – there was a time that the original members spent blood, sweat and tears to build a Lodge Hall; and other predecessor members expended considerable energy to furnish the Lodge, obtain regalia and books, bring in new members and develop the protocols and traditions of a real Lodge.
And then complacency hit. At some point in time, the remaining members got comfortable with the status quo and didn’t really care about the future of the Odd Fellows Lodge. As long as things remained the same, they were content. New members meant expending effort, and (gasp) new members might bring change.
So, how do we define a Zombie Lodge? Here are the 10 characteristics of such a Lodge, and I hope you don’t see any of these characteristics in your own Lodge.
1. Membership of the Lodge has fallen to less than 15 on the books.
2. Of the membership on the books, less than half attend meetings of the Lodge. More than half the members just pay their dues and are never seen.
3. Members, for years, simply rotate through the chairs so that virtually everyone has served in elected office, often two or three times.
4. Other that the mandatory committees (e.g. Visiting, Bylaws and Finance), the Lodge has no committees.
5. The Lodge has no Membership Committee, focused on bringing in new members.
6. The Lodge would not have quorums at some meetings except for associate members.
7. The Lodge has not brought in a new member for over 3 years.
8. The average age of the Lodge membership is over 65.
9. The Lodge has no functions involving the surrounding community, and other than potlucks before meetings, has no social functions.
10. The Lodge building is in serious need of maintenance and repair, and has not been seriously attended to in over a decade.
If you see one or two of these characteristics in your own Lodge, please view it as a yellow warning flag of caution. If you see five or more of these characteristics, take it as a red flag of danger.
If you recognize these characteristics in your Odd Fellows Lodge, can you do something about it? Yes, you can. It won’t be easy, and it will require some work. Ask to convene a meeting of the Lodge to discuss this article. Have a full and frank conversation about it. Resolve to re-energize your Lodge. This means that you must discuss, in detail, how your Lodge can develop one or two community projects and one or two social activities that the members can enjoy. (You can’t bring in new members if the Lodge does nothing but have meetings.) And then develop a plan to bring in at least two new members each year for the next five years. Don’t allow the demise of Odd Fellowship to happen on your watch.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Membership and Why We Avoid the Topic…
A close friend of mine died earlier this year. He was a long time Odd Fellow – popular in our district, always fun, spoke his mind, but also was friends with everyone. You can blame him for bringing me into the order. Anyway, I used to say to him that our order was failing and what we should do about it in the coming years, and he always said “Who cares? I’ll be gone”.
This is a common vantage point within our order. When we hear our order is short-lived, destined to die out in ten to twenty years, I believe we hear this and secretly breathe a sigh of relief, because, to put it plainly, so are we. As Brother Dave Rosenberg has often pointed out, we have skipped at least two generations in attracting members. There are few, if any, younger members, so when we hear our order will be finished in 20 years, many of us figure that’s about right.
But if we truly care about someone besides ourselves, we must change our view. If the order is to survive, it must attract young members, but obviously young members are not going to be the mirror image of us. Young members will not like what we do, will try and change things, and may not see normal behavior as our behavior.
The basic question we should ask ourselves is how do we make our order more amenable to young people? When you were young did you like to hang out with people 50 years older than yourself? Probably not. If we are to have a future, we must face the simple fact that any possibility of a future depends on our ability to attract the young.
Of course, this is distressing as our youth groups have sunk to a low level. But I have a simple suggestion that almost all youth I’m sure would agree with. Let’s stop trying to micromanage our youth. Many of us feel the need to script everything the young in our order do. This will not work. Young people like to be themselves. If we don’t want our young to be put in compromising situations, let’s not attempt it.
No one was born an Odd Fellow. They had to grow into it. Culture and technology is changing rapidly. We are failing because in many ways we ignore this fact. Yet, every event and lodge I attend has many members texting on their phones or doing other things electronically. Some lodges I have attended do all communications within their lodges via email. Many others now have facebook sites. Most lodges no longer even have landlines in their lodge. It’s a whole new world. If we want the young people to join we must grow and become as technologically advanced as they are.
Rather than privately thinking with relief that our order will die at just about the same time that we do, perhaps it might be preferable to remember why we joined the order and leave it in at least as nice a condition as how we found it.
In F., L., & T., Rick Boyles
Recently, an Odd Fellow wrote to me and asked me what would happen if the Order continued to shrink in membership.
That’s not a very pleasant question or subject, and I don’t know that I am any more qualified than any other member of the Order to opine on that. It also flies contrary to all the work that we have been doing in DMC over the past 7-8 years. DMC’s purpose to is focus the Order on the dilemma of declining membership and to offer tried and tested methods by which Lodges can stop the decline and can actually grow membership. I am convinced that Odd Fellowship remains very relevant in the 21st Century and can draw members from the younger generations who were born after 1980. I have seen our DMC suggestions work in my own Lodge, and also in other Lodges that have utilized them. My jurisdiction in California has also begun to buck the downward slope, and is showing small but important gains in net membership.
Yet the question – while distasteful and unpleasant – is relevant and legitimate. Very recently, a Past Sovereign Grand Master who chaired the SGL Membership Committee, announced in an open letter that unless this Order dramatically changes its trajectory and the way it does business, we had best start planning for our orderly demise. I, for one, don’t quite share that extremely pessimistic outlook. The fact that there are Lodges that are bucking the trend of net losses gives me hope, and shows me that this Order is still relevant to people in the 21st Century. SGL has done little to help reverse the trend – for example, SGL recently raised dues (unquestionably, raising dues will depress membership, not increase it), and the five-year plan that SGL adopted years ago (you remember, that plan to start merging the branches), never was implemented. And it remains a mystery to me why the SGL Membership Committee has never taken the time to visit those those Lodges showing consistent growth to determine why they are robust in the face of general membership declines; find out why those Lodges are growing and spread the news to all Lodges.
So, here is the reality: There are Lodges that are losing members (and have been losing members steadily for years – decades actually) and there are jurisdictions that are shrinking throughout North America. We cannot put on blinders to this fact. We have Lodges with less than 10 members, and we have entire jurisdictions with less than 300 members, some with less than 200. And we must realize that those numbers reflect members “on the books” including members who may pay dues, but don’t really attend meetings and events. Yet we have Lodges going through the motions of life even though only five or six members show up for meetings, the Lodge is supported by associate members, and members simply rotate through the chairs. We have Lodges where the youngest member may be in the late 60’s and the Lodge has not added a new member for years. We have jurisdictions with less than 300 members (on the books), which contain only 2 or 3 Lodges, and where less than 50 attend the Grand Lodge Sessions. Yet the jurisdictions continue to go through the motions as if they were living in 1918, when the jurisdiction had thousands of members.
So, yes, the question is legitimate. What would happen if the Order continued to shrink in membership?
So here is my analysis and answer. The past is the best prelude to the future. If one looks at the past, one finds an analogy in the situation of the Knights of Pythias – which in many ways may presage the future of Odd Fellowship if we continue on the downward spiral of membership. Who are the Knights of Pythias? In fact, the Knights are a fraternal order much like the Odd Fellows. They have been around since 1864 when founded by Justus Rathbone who was inspired to form a fraternity after watching a play called “Damon and Pythias.” Much like Odd Fellows are grounded in FLT (“Friendship Love and Truth”) the KofP profess the watchwords of FCB (“Friendship Charity and Benevolence”). The Knights have subordinate Lodges (once called Castles), Grand Lodges and a Supreme Lodge. They have degrees and secrets.
There was a time when the Knights were the third largest fraternal organization in North America, right behind the Masons and the Odd Fellows. They had hundreds of Lodges everywhere. And then, the KofP experienced a steady decline of members, year after year after year. Today, the KofP have only 9 Lodges in the jurisdiction of California. So, that is the likely scenario – in my opinion – if the Odd Fellows continued to lose members. It is not likely that the Odd Fellows would disappear as a fraternal organization (like hundreds of other fraternal organizations actually did in North America). It is more likely that continued member losses will result in weak Lodges slowly losing their charters as membership shrinks below minimal levels; it is likely that we will see more and more consolidations. At the same time, there are strong Lodges that will continue to exist and grow. In California that may be as many as 30, but it could be as few as 15. In other jurisdictions, that could mean as few as 2 or 3 Lodges. Individual Lodges will become more and more autonomous as Grand Lodges and even Sovereign Grand Lodge become weaker. Obviously, the shrinkage is a process that would take many years – perhaps as much as two decades. But it is coming and it is inevitable, unless Odd Fellowship changes its path and modernizes.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Mendocino Quartet, featuring former member of Byrds, to play in Davis Oct. 13
The Mendocino Quartet, a multi-generational folk/Americana band whose musicians include a former member of the Byrds and the longtime bass player for Van Morrison, will perform in concert 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, in the Odd Fellows Hall, 415 2nd St. in downtown Davis.
Tickets cost $20 (plus any surcharges) and are available at Armadillo Music, 207 F St. in Davis, or online at mendocinoquartet.eventbrite.com. The doors will open at 7. Tickets will also be sold at the door unless they sell out in advance.
Featuring four-part harmonies, the quartet includes long-time collaborators Steven Bates, David Hayes, Gwyneth Moreland and Gene Parsons playing contemporary and traditional folk music.
Each writes songs, sings and plays guitar, among other instruments. Each has recorded and performed solo and with other musicians, ranging from Michael Jackson collaborator Bill Bottrell (Bates) to Foxglove (Moreland), Morrison and Jesse Colin Young (Hayes), and the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers (Parsons).
As a duo, Hayes & Parsons played a sold-out concert at the Odd Fellows in September 2016. Moreland has also performed in Davis several times. Last year the Mendocino Quartet, which takes their name from their home county on California’s North Coast, released their first CD, Way Out There.
The show is being produced by the Odd Fellows of Davis, local house concert host Bill Wagman, and Bill Buchanan of KDRT. Any profits will go to the Odd Fellows fund that pays for the free Thursday Live Night concert series during the year.
Read more about the Mendocino Quartet at http://www.musicofmendocino.com/styled/index.html
in photo, from left: David Hayes, Gwyneth Moreland, Steven Bates, and Gene Parsons