Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Without question, Odd Fellows Lodges need to change their culture, or they simply will not attract the lifeblood of a fraternity: new members. Men and women of the new generation (those born after 1980) will not join our Order simply to attend boring, do-nothing meetings.
This is not to disparage the basic tenets of this Order: Friendship, Love and Truth. Those tenets are timeless and have as great a meaning in the 21st Century as they did in the 19th Century. However, we continue to tout historical relics from our distant fraternal past that have little or no significance to potential new members today. For example, how does the ancient “command” to “bury the dead” or “educate the orphan” resonate with a 30-year-old potential applicant? It doesn’t. If anything, it is off-putting.
Here is an email from a member of a Odd Fellows Lodge that touches on issues relating to the culture of the Lodge. For the sake of privacy and peace, I will neither reveal the Lodge name nor the name of the writer of the email. Ponder it well . . . .
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
It is funny that you and Rick are touching on the very topic that I have been thinking about. It strikes me that too many lodge meetings have become “organ recitals.”
The meeting is proceeding just fine, taking care of business and then they get to the “sick or in distress” items and then we have to listen to dreary accounts of everybody’s ills and which members and members’ relatives are dead or dying. I know we are supposed to help “bury the dead”, whatever than means nowadays, but can’t there be some sense of proportion in a meeting?
I AM an old person and I get depressed hearing this stuff, over and over. Imagine you are a member in your 30’s or 40’s (those few we have) and you have to sit through this stuff, month after month! Why would you want to attend a meeting, merely to get bummed out?
At one lodge of my acquaintance, if you mentioned in a meeting that you had been suffering from a common cold, or a bum knee it would end up in the newsletter!
Why can’t we change the “sick or in distress” portion of a meeting to a portion that encourages reporting on both positive and negative things?
I would rather hear about somebody’s grandkid getting their degree, or a good job rather than that “Brother Fred is having knee surgery.”
Why not have a member outreach committee than not only checks up on people when they are ill but also that checks up on members who have not been attending to see if there is something the lodge can do to bring them back?
We need to change the Independent Order of Odd Fellows culture and encourage living while we are still alive!
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
The article, below, was written by a relatively new member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows from a small Lodge in Southern California, and I commend it to you. The article highlights one of the great impediment to growth that I have personally seen in many, many Lodges. This impediment – unless corrected – will ultimately destroy the Lodge.
The problem? Long-time members of the Odd Fellows Lodge who just won’t let go of the control they exercise in the Lodge. Sometimes that “control” is abundantly clear and dominant, and sometimes it is subtle. Look, no one lives forever. Eventually, new members must assume all functions and responsibilities in the Lodge. It is critical that long-time members mentor the new members, and then allow the new members to assume responsibility in the Lodge. The long-time members are a great resource and should continue to be as active as is appropriate – but they cannot continue to dominate and control. To do so will stifle the new generation and will lead to a diminution of the Lodge. The long-time members may think that only they know the right answers and that only they can properly control the Lodge. But in reality, they are slowly strangling the life out of the Lodge, and they are ultimately destroying the Lodge.
The solution? The long-time members must simply mentor the new members, and then – with grace and dignity and the appreciation of their Odd Fellows Lodge – they must eventually release the reins of control. At the same time, the new members must show respect for the long-time members, exercise patience, and then slowly assume responsibility within the Lodge – they are, after all, the future of Odd Fellowship.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
From a New Member of a Small Lodge (by Veronica Dowdy)
I am a member of a small Odd Fellows Lodge. We have only maybe a handful of active members and many who are not active. I have been a member of the small community that we live in since 2009 and had been looking for a place/organization to be part of where I could feel more part of the community while contributing and being a valuable member of my town.
My husband and I joined the Odd Fellows because we saw the potential that the organization has and we have been inspired by who they are. Having lived in a large city prior to us moving to this town, it had me miss how much more we were involved in great activities geared to making a difference.
I have had over 20 years of experience planning events for large corporations. I have successfully raised funds for non-profit organizations. One such event included the Avon Breast Cancer 5K race in Los Angeles, where I was able to get the whole company I worked at to participate 17 years ago; and they still participate to this day after I moved on. I also raised funds for the AIDS Foundation through a San Francisco Marathon in which we gave away tickets to incredibly fun events such as Cirque Du Soleil, a Harbor Dinner Cruise and a piece of artwork valued at $10,000 all donated to us by different organizations and artists. I am very creative when it comes to ways to get the community and people in general involved in activities that benefit all of us.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were discussing ways to raise funds and awareness about the Odd Fellows. It has come to our attention that hardly anyone in our community is aware of who the Odd Fellows are or what we are about. So I figured it would be a great idea to organize special events such as whale watching, short trips to fun places for the community to be able to raise awareness of what we do and raise funds for different organizations as well as for our Lodge. There has been concern from a few members of our Lodge that I have been “holding back” in my participation and I figured that this would be a great way for me to step up and do what I do best – what I have had experience with and make a difference. Unfortunately, when I brought my motion up, instead of waiting for the discussion part of the motion, my motion was nit-picked and I felt shut down completely.
My motion was simply to head a “fun-raising” committee which was initially met with smiles and cheer.
My motion was never recorded because it was nit-picked by the secretary recording the motions until I could say nothing and so I sat silent. My husband stood in my defense to argue for allowing the motion to be made first and then discussion after. No one said a word and my husband and I were given the universal “shhh” symbol. The person who gave the “shhh” to us picked up the motion and it passed but garnered one “no” vote.
I voted for my own motion only because it had to come from someone else who had “been around” longer than I have. This really left a bad taste in my mouth and completely took away any desire for future participation in my lodge. My husband experienced the same thing when he brought up an idea that would make a difference for our lodge as well. Someone else who had “been around” made the motion after watching his contribution get picked apart before the motion was made because the discussion to shoot it down preceded the motion.
I have read that some of our lodges are dying. This is one of the reasons why. New members who can be a great contribution to our communities join and bring with them ideas and experience needed for growth. Unfortunately, if they encounter the SAME opposition that we have, there is no room for leadership or contribution or growth. Like another odd fellow member stated: stores and restaurants that have survived have found a way to diversify what they offer and bring new items and products into their establishments; how can our lodges expect to survive when any new ideas are nit-picked and shut down by senior members before there is even a record of the motion? And whose motion does it become if a member who has “been around” makes it instead; isn’t that belittling? And how can anyone question why new members are holding back instead of realizing that the only reason we hold back is because we feel that any contributions that we bring will face nit-picking opposition rather than procedural debate which is fair and just and both sides can be heard in an orderly fashion?
I will continue to participate in my lodge for now, because I know that this is important for my husband and I want to support him in his commitment to our community. But if I see no change in how things are being done, I may withdraw my participation from the lodge. It saddens me to think that we have such a great resource in our community and that it’s not being utilized the way it was meant to be. I am hoping that in writing this, other members can see how things need to improve. It should be up to the older members to shepherd and support new members instead of what I have experienced. This comes from the perspective of a newbie and is meant to bring awareness to something that needs to change in order to transform our lodges from something that is dying to something that is thriving.
This is not meant to be harsh criticism, but instead, constructive criticism on what needs to change in our lodges as we can’t be the only lodge where this happens. What I proposed was not something new, but has been asked of us as members from our grand lodge in several letters to members. We have been asked to do more than meet in session. It is one thing that older members do not do what is asked of members by our grand lodge, but it is a great hypocrisy to stymie the efforts of new people to do what is asked of us by our Grand Lodge. Such hypocrisy destroys whatever vitality that new members bring.
By Peter V. Sellars, PGM
One of the most important factors of making people aware of an organization, is publicity. The Odd Fellows need publicity. Every lodge needs publicity. How does an Odd Fellows Lodge gain publicity?
There are many promotional ideas to gain publicity. Some take very little money. Other ideas require more money. Some ideas only take action, as simple as writing an article and sending it to a local newspaper or the posting of an article or idea on social media. It comes down to simply sharing what the Order has to offer.
This article could take off in so many directions, as I think of all the ways Odd Fellows Lodges have sought publicity and the numerous promotions lodges have done, and there have been many ideas tried.
Does promoting an Odd Fellows Lodge work? Yes! Will many ideas work for one lodge? Sometimes, it takes many different ways to promote a lodge. Sometimes, it may take only one great idea. Sometimes, ideas must be repeated. Some become regular occurrences. Ideas that promote the lodge should become publicity for the lodge.
So far, you should know promotion of a lodge is important and that publicity may be gained through the fruits of that promotional event or idea. Now, let’s look at some examples of ideas:
1. Submit an article (or multiple articles) detailing the success of a recent event to a local publication.
2. Placing an advertisement in the newspaper or on social media of an upcoming event – or that membership is open to all those interested (included benefits and activities of the lodge)
3. Have patches, hats, t-shirts, polo shirts, made for members and non-members to wear (either give away as a promotional or sell for a fundraiser; newer members appreciate and like our symbols of the skull & cross bones, hourglass, all-seeing eye, etc.
4. Take the Odd Fellow members on outings (at least once a month). Members enjoy activities. Go to local arcades, ballgames, museums, theatres, theme parks, boat/ferry trips, etc. The lodge can subsidize to reduce the costs for such outings; this would be considered a promotional to gain and retain members.
5. Adopt-A-Highway, Clean-up-a-Street, Clean-up-a-park, Clean-up-a-Creek, and other related great opportunities where the Odd Fellows Lodge name is posted for its good works.
6. Billboards work, if an Odd Fellows Lodge (or collective lodges) can afford. Simply place the Three-Links or another cool symbol to get the attention of the public.
7. Pay for uniforms of a little league baseball team, soccer team, basketball team, or any other type sports team where the participants wear clothing with the logo of “Odd Fellows” or the three-links, etc. This is advertisement. There are adult leagues as well. You may even pull in some new members as a result of support.
8. YOU FILL IN THE SPACE! ________________________________.
All of these ideas have been employed at one time or another by various Odd Fellow Lodges. All are very good promotional ideas. It is not a question of what is good or not; the main concern is getting every lodge participating in advertising and promoting the Order to the public.
There actually are lodges that do none of the above. There are lodges that only meet and go home and wait until the next meeting. They do not promote the Order. They do not share anything with the public. These are the lodges that won’t grow or attract new members or gain support or positive attention of the public.
Paying for the promotion of a lodge or organization is the same as promoting a business. The expense of advertising and promoting of such entities is allowable by the Internal Revenue Service, as long as your idea conforms to local law and our own Order’s code.
Every Odd Fellows lodge should join in on creating ideas to promote the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Let’s join this effort and continue being a presence in our communities.
The Davis Odd Fellows are pleased to announce our First Annual “Texas Hold ’em Poker Tournament” coming to the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall, 415 2nd Street, Davis, on Saturday, September 29. Doors open at 6:01 p.m. and the Texas Hold ’em tournament starts promptly at 6:35 p.m. This is real Texas Hold ’em Poker in a professionally run tournament, sanctioned by the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Gambling Control. The Texas Hold ’em Poker Tournament is open to the general public and you must be at least 21 years old to play.
Only 75 tickets will be sold for this event, costing $55 per person, with buy-ins costing just $20. The first-place winner of the Davis Odd Fellows Texas Hold ’em tournament will receive $500; the second-place winner will receive $250. And the third-place winner will get $125. Snacks and desserts will be available and are included in the ticket price. Players must be in their seats by 6:30 p.m. and the poker tournament starts promptly at 6:35 p.m.
Advance tickets are available online at oddfellowspoker.eventbrite.com. Hard-copy tickets for the Davis Odd Fellows Texas Hold ’em tournament may also be purchased at Avid Reader Active on Second Street in Downtown Davis. A no-host bar will be open starting at 6 p.m. and throughout the tournament, serving an assortment of beers, wines, and spirits.
F – L – T
The natural process of an Odd Fellows lodge includes many dynamics, from who we admit as a member to how we decide to interpret the rituals and our codes. The decisions of an Odd Fellow lodge could be perceived as controversial to members of other lodges.
In my years as a member of this Order and having served in numerous capacities, from a lodge officer in every seat, a district deputy, and trustee and director of two Grand Bodies, a grand instructor three times, a Grand Patriarch and Grand Master, to being a well-read historian of the Order and writer of numerous pieces of legislation, I have never seen a universal way a lodge conducts its affairs. As much as a parent Grand Lodge would like to see all lodges be the same, they are not, nor shall they ever be the same. I write this piece because members must have an understanding of the differences occurring in our Order.
There are many factors which effect the personality of an Odd Fellows lodge, including the geography, the demographics of a community, the beliefs by our members, the education levels, financial availability, and others. We are definitely a diverse group, which sets us apart from other organizations, which is a positive factor in today’s social climate.
For example, on the one hand we may have a lodge belonging to a more liberal city, where the members may be more inclusive of who they admit and how they interpret the rituals and codes. Larger cities, mostly, offer our lodges prospective applicants from all social and ethnic backgrounds, whereas, a small rural town may have only one demographic. Or we may see a lodge in the middle of an agricultural setting – literally – where the workers come straight from the fields to the lodge, which would be almost, if not all, men. This happens. The same goes for geographical regions, where many of the residents are poorer, and another region where residents may be wealthier. These are some of the factors, which give our lodges different make-ups of members. They are not necessarily blended, but still all Odd Fellows.
Some of the differences I have seen over the years: Some members believe this is a Christian organization and its members should be Christian, where others admit all faiths and beliefs. Some members believe a “Creator and Preserver of the Universe” is “God”, but others do not, primarily because of their own backgrounds and upbringing. We have atheist and non-believers and people of varied religious beliefs in this Order. Some members believe this is an Order of non-LBGT members, whereas in larger cities, lodges admit members of the LBGT community. We have lodges with homeless and poor members, and we see lodges with wealthy and well-to-do members. Often, other lodge members will step up and pay another member’s dues.
In older Odd Fellow lodges, there are many lodges that maintain the alter in the center of the floor, as a matter of tradition and to preserve the integrity of the sacred area between the center of the floor and the station of the Noble Grand. Most lodges do not; the meaning of the aforementioned is lost to these lodges, which is their right.
The code instructs Vice Grands and Noble Grands to be able to recite the unwritten work before being allowed to serve in those capacities. This is rarely done, so lodges forgo this requirement. As a past grand instructor on multiple occasions, I saw very few who could recite the unwritten work from memory. Some lodges use the digital video recordings for their degree work and others, if they have the desire and the adequate number of members, may confer the degrees live instead of using the “DVD.” Some members frown on the use of digital degrees, which others praise it as a faster means of bringing in members.
During the opening of a lodge meeting some members read their responsibilities and duties with enthusiasm, some by memory, some not at all; some lodges skip the reading of the duties. Some skip the prayer. Some have a moment of silence during the prayer, out of respect for members of other faiths, who shall not repeat the Lord’s Prayer, as it is viewed strictly as from the New Testament (Bible).
It is a fact, that in many cities, rather than small towns, we find lodges having more members, where they are diverse, where the code and rituals are more likely going to meet challenges and adjustments to be socially acceptable to all their members. In this regard, it becomes a difficult process for an unyielding leader from another lodge or locality to impose a different interpretation of the ritual or code, without the risk of alienation, fracturing, or eliminating an entire group of members.
There are so many different ways our lodges do their business and conduct their meetings, they cannot all be conveyed in this writing. The point of this is to educate those who can read, that our lodges are different whether we like it or not. To become overly concerned or indifferent or even enraged at a lodge where you are not a member, is probably not going to work in the interest of all parties. In fact, a lodge being taken to task because of its practices may ignore outside suggestions to the point of creating a challenge.
Brothers and sisters, we find our common bond in the obligation we all took upon joining this Order, and we all call ourselves “Odd Fellows.” And, we have a rich history.
In Friendship, Love, & Truth,
Peter V. Sellars
Have fun is one of my favorite expressions. I say it all the time. I believe it’s integral to our survival. So much of what we do appears painful or at the very least perfunctory. But the question of how our group attracts new members should be integral to all that we say or do. The simple answer is to make our order as attractive as possible to people looking in. Many of our members and Odd Fellow lodges fall into a comfortable rut. Reciting ritual work or chanting something else from memory. While it may seem impressive to have committed something to memory, it is not attractive to someone looking in – on the contrary, it may seem belittling to someone new.
Many of us who have been in the Odd Fellows for years have a lot of mileage and experience to contend with, perhaps not all of it positive, but of course, negativity does not attract anyone, as the rules of attraction are simple. Remember when you were young, the most popular kids were generally the kids who sent a message of happiness. In my youth, the popular kids had the biggest parties, and tended to be having an exciting time every opportunity I had to interact with them. Of course, therefore they were popular, because they were greatly admired, and in many cases, emulated.
It’s common sense, really. Negativity, prejudice, hatred, despair, all succeed only in driving people away. Happiness is an attraction without qualification. I’ve always been surprised by many who run for office in our order, because they often descend into name-calling, obsessive hatred, pettiness, and yet are shocked when they fail to get elected. People are generally smarter than we give them credit for. Most people want happiness, pleasant interactions, truth, and yes, love. After all, it is the implication our order sends. Those of us who want to lead by fear, or punitive behavior, are only kidding ourselves. Leadership means to lead by example, not by wielding a club, but extending an open hand and heart.
Of course, it’s a trend of those of us who have been in the order for a while to look at the newest among us with suspicion, but this distrust is generally borne out of ignorance. Most people, young or old, want mainly to be known as good human beings; it’s hard to imagine anyone wishing it any other way. The older members are used to tradition, while the younger members seek innovation, and neither direction is bad, so somehow both must be encouraged with the same level of energy.
Finally, my deeply wondrous theory of “have fun” has some basis in fact, since the Odd Fellow lodges that tend to grow are those with the most events and occasions. It’s hard to imagine a lodge with very few active members, no events, no refreshments, and punitive behavior growing. It will not happen. The straightest line is the most direct and easiest path. Both smiles and frowns are infectious, but smiles attract, while frowns repel. If we want growth, a smile is what will bring them in and keep them happy.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles