Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Attached is a document you may not have seen before. It is the 5-year Plan adopted by the Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL). If you have never seen this 5-year Plan, you might rightfully and righteously wonder: Why haven’t I seen this plan before? But putting that rather basic question aside, let’s explore what this Plan says, and what it doesn’t say.
By way of preface, let me say that it is perfectly appropriate that a Plan was developed. An organization as large and sprawling as SGL should have a plan. And I commend SGL for the foresight to have one.
But, I must also say that I am immediately struck by the vagueness and generalizations contained in the plan. Take a look at the plan yourself, and see if you agree. In most respects it is as plain as vanilla and as nourishing to the Order as tapioca. A plan that says “Improve Communications” doesn’t tell us much. And very little is added by saying we must improve communications both “within the order” and “outside the order”. Well, yes. That’s a good thing. But saying we must improve communications gives us little insight into how. And the only suggestion ventured by SGL is to “foster public awareness of the order.” OK. And again, how?
“Apply positive action to contribute to the quality of the order.” What does that really mean? How does that translate into action? It’s almost as if SGL hired a facilitator who sat with some SGL leaders in a room and asked folks to throw out some good words that the facilitator could put on a sheets of butcher paper stuck to the wall with blue tape. How about “action”? No, let’s make it “positive action.” Well what about positive action? Someone else suggested we should “apply” it. To what, someone else asked? Let’s apply it so that it can “contribute” to something, someone else suggested. How about “the order”. Gee, guys, I like quality. Good, good. Let’s apply it to the quality of the order. No, not quite. Let’s apply it to contribute to the quality of the order. Hey, that’s great. Let’s go with that. And we should encourage the member of the order to “active participation.” Yes, agreed. We don’t want inactive participation. Members should participate, but it should be active.
Ultimately, in the 21st Century, no 5-year Plan can avoid technology, and the SGL 5-year Plan does make the obligatory reference to it. The plan encourages the use of social networking. Good plan. But how? Again, the Plan offers little in the way of clues. To be fair, the Plan does says we should employ the latest technology in communications. But this Plan was in effect in 2011-16 and here we are three years later in 2019 with any number of Lodges that have no technology, no presence on social media, and minimal use of email. And why do most Lodges still use minutes that are handwritten in a book, and then read verbatim at meetings? That’s the way it was done in the 19th and 20th Centuries. How have we not progressed in our 200th year?
Toward the end of the SGL 5-year Plan, I read a line that stumped me. I actually read this line several times: “Involve all ages and life issues.” Why does the Plan speak in tongues? I certainly can understand the desire to “involve all ages”. (Although the plan leaves us guessing as to “how” we accomplish this all-age involvement.) But what is meant by “life issues”? Does this mean the SGL urges the Lodges to include members who are gay or transgender, or members who are not Christian or Jewish, or members who are poor or homeless? Does this mean that SGL wants us to reach out to those who are mentally ill, developmentally disabled, poor and homeless? Does this mean that SGL will finally raise the red flag on Odd Fellows Lodges that have not yet admitted even one woman some two decades after Odd Fellows Lodges opened membership to women? A little explanation would go a long way.
Finally, the 5-year Plan seeks to “Promote positive attitudes.” Well, who can argue with that. Positive attitudes are better than negative attitudes. Good is better than evil. Happiness is better than sadness. And, apparently, pablum is better than a real plan that addresses real issues facing our Order (e.g. how about a real plan to reverse the decline in our membership).
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Five-Year Plan (2011)
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Please join me on a little trip in the Odd Fellows’ time machine.
Let’s visit America in 1919, 100 years ago. In 1919 you could get a dozen eggs for 34 cents, a quart of milk cost 9 cents, and a loaf of bread cost 6 cents. First class postage stamps cost 2 cents and a gallon of gas was only 12 cents. Typical yearly take-home pay was $687. Very few people had cars, but you could buy one for around $500. And an average house cost $3,500. On January 6, 1919, Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, died in his sleep at the age of 60. On January 16, the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, went into effect authorizing prohibition. In February, Oregon placed a 1 cent tax on gasoline, becoming the first state to do so. And Congress established the Grand Canyon as a national park. In May a race riot broke out in Charleston, South Carolina, and three black men died. UCLA was established in May, as well, becoming the southern branch of the University of California system. In June, the Congress approved the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing suffrage to women. In July, the US Army sent the first convoy of motor vehicles across the continental United States – the motorcade arrived in San Francisco in September
In 1919 social security didn’t exist and many elderly lived in poverty conditions. Americans in 1919 spent one-third of their income on food. And food wasn’t particularly good or healthy. The average American ate 11.5 pounds of lard and 14 pounds of chicken per year. (In 2019, Americans are expected to consume 57 pounds of chicken and 1.5 pounds of lard per year.) Half of all families lived in rural areas or in towns with populations less than 2,500. The average household was crowded, with more than four people (today it’s less than 2.5 people in a household). Owning homes was a rarity in 1919 – there were about four times as many renters as homeowners 100 years ago. (Today, more than 60% own their own home.) In 1919, only 100 million people lived in the USA and more than half were under 25. A century later, the population has more than tripled, and the share of people under 25 has fallen to one-third. Meanwhile, the share of people over 65 has tripled from 5% to 15%.
In 1919, hardly anyone drove cars. People generally walked, rode horses, and occasionally took the trolley. There was very little commuting. People generally lived close to their work and typically walked to work. Men wore blue serge suits to work, and women wore long dresses or long skirts. Entertainment was the player piano or the photograph. Fraternal Orders, including Odd Fellows, were flourishing across the country.
Now, let’s come back to reality in 2019. In 2019 America is a completely different place than it was in 1919. America in 2019 is a place that folks in 1919 could not even imagine: a place of airplanes, fast cars, computers, laptops, cell phones, smart watches, equal rights for women, credit and debit cars, maternity leave, movies, television, refrigerators, washers-dryers, bikinis, etc. etc. And yet, there are Odd Fellows who believe that if the Order would only go back to the way we operated in 1919, all would be well and we would grow again. That bit of whimsy makes no sense. To flourish and grow, Odd Fellowship needs to evolve and change. Only then will the men and women of the 21st Century be attracted to Odd Fellowship. The landscape of America is littered with the corpses of fraternal orders that rigidly refused to change. Odd Fellowship must evolve with the times.
One cannot attract the electric car generation to a horse-and-buggy Lodge.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
California Grand Lodge Sessions and Rebekah Assembly in Visalia begin in two weeks.
Please mark your calendars for a fun event coming up during California Grand Lodge and Rebekah Assembly Sessions. It’s the annual “Tacos, Tunes & Tales” on Thursday, May 17, organized and hosted by
“Dedicated Members for Change”. As in past years, we expect 125-150 attendees. You won’t want to miss it. Please see the attached updated flier for all the details. “Tacos, Tunes & Tales” will be the place to be on Thursday evening. We will have a wonderful taco bar buffet, there will be live music, there will be plenty of time to socialize with your brothers and and sisters from around the state, and we will hear brief comments from leaders of our order.
The taco bar buffet alone costs us $32 per person, BUT we are able to keep the price tag for this event quite low (only $20 per person) because a number of generous Lodges contribute money as Sponsors of the event. Because of their sponsorship the expenses are subsidized and the cost to individual Odd Fellows, Rebekahs and their guests is substantially reduced. There are no advanced reservations or RSVP – we are keeping it simple – just pay at the door. If you plan to write checks, please make the checks payable to “Grand Lodge”.
I’m pleased to identify FIFTEEN generous Lodges that are subsidizing and sponsoring this event. Thank you! Here they are:
GOLD LEVEL SPONSORS
Odd Fellows District #47
SILVER LEVEL SPONSORS
America Lodge # 385
Berkeley Lodge # 270
Franco-American Lodge #207
Yerba Buena Lodge #15
BRONZE LEVEL SPONSORS
Garcia Lodge #240
Los Angeles – Golden Rule Lodge #35
Mountain View Lodge #244
Saratoga Lodge #428
Apollo Lodge #123
Bay City Lodge #71
See you in Visalia.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
THE NEED TO PROMOTE THE ODD FELLOWS & REBEKAHS
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, as an entire Order must start promoting itself if it intends on a continued existence. Promotional campaigns bring attention to groups and awareness to various causes. Promotional events can bring pride to a membership and gain support from a community. Promotional ideas must continually evolve and fit the interests of those who view the Odd Fellows from the outside – the non-members.
Today, we look back on promotional programs the Order has used over the past decade or more. There is no doubt these were good ideas at the time, but our Order has fallen short in evolving with new ideas and new promotional events. We have the Arthritis Foundation, SOS Village in Cambodia, Visual Research, and a couple of others. That is all we have to promote ourselves from the promotional programs of the Sovereign Grand Lodge. There has been no new ideas presented, or at least accepted. Although these are very worthy causes, do you see these are good promotional programs to attract attention to our Order?
Right now, we have been threatened with having our dues increased – yes, threatened, as this is what the language of the resolution translates into, with regard to the increase of dues. If we do not show growth as a whole in this Order, our dues increase by $5.00 next year and again the following year. Call it what you wish, but this is a threat of a dues increase. Again, ask yourselves, “Are these good promotional programs to attract attention to our Order?” The increase in dues is not a good promotional plan for the Order.
Brothers and Sisters, not only do we need Sovereign Grand Lodge to give us the tools to meet its demand of increasing the membership by improving upon the promotional programs, we need our own Grand Lodges and Lodges to establish promotional events!
As businesses, which we are defined as by the Internal Revenue Service, as well as being 501c(8)s, having exempt statuses, we are permitted to conduct promotional events and programs to attract potential members and create support for our organization. A business must promote itself if it is to survive. Too many members refuse to recognize their lodges as businesses or know they may set promotional goals.
What kinds of promotional events or ideas are available to our lodges? There are numerous ideas. Off the top of one’s head: Support a youth team, and provide shirts that read, “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs.” Purchase promotional items with the name “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs” on each items and give away at a local county fair, event, etc. Participate in a local county fair or march in a local town and city parade carrying a banner that reads, “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs;” these are promotional events.
Collaborate with other organizations, which are doing good works, such as Cancer Awareness, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and other charitable groups. Make the public aware that the “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs” strongly support these kinds of groups – and you have a wonderful promotional. There are many ideas for promotional events.
A warning, stay away from political support groups, supporting candidates, and aligning with any religious groups, such as raising money for these kinds of entities, as our tax-exempt classification does not allow for these kinds of promotions.
Perhaps one of the best opportunities for a promotional event presented itself in late September, 2017, when two members of the Odd Fellows (brother Bo Huang of Yerba Buena Lodge #15), one who works for Samsung Development in Silicon Valley, listened to a guest speaker talk about his own accomplishments and the cause he supports. The speaker was the world renowned Robert Swan, who was the first man to walk to the North and South Poles. He was planning another trip and promoting renewable energy in his presentation.
Sister Bonnie Sellars, who attended this event with brother Bo, met Robert Swan after the presentation came up with an idea for a promotional for the entire Order. They spoke about the Odd Fellows. She asked if he could take a patch to the South Pole on his next expedition and in exchange, we would ask for support for his 2041 Foundation, Inc. from the lodges and members. He was happy to do it for the Order and offered to take a picture of himself with the “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs” patch.
Subsequently, several articles shall be written of the event, postcards of the patch shall be printed, and sharing of the event with non-members are part of the promotional. Perhaps we have found a candidate for the SGL’s Honorary Member recognition, which it has not awarded for years.
We received limited support for the idea, but came up with an adequate amount of money to contribute to the 2041 Foundation, Inc. and its upcoming expedition to the South Pole. During this time, we discovered that far too many lodges do not have any promotional programs. Other lodges did not see the advantage of a promotional event or how it related to gaining the awareness of the public or creating potential members.
A special patch was embroidered adding the words, “South Pole” on the “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs” three-link patch, and then sent to Robert Swan, who shall carry this with him on the 600-mile trek across the Antarctica. Robert Swan has been received numerous awards and recognition, including being awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in 1995.
So, you see, ideas for promotional events may come from every place. The aforementioned idea is just one example of a promotional. We, as an Order, must embrace those promotional ideas that will shed a positive light upon our lodges. We need to make the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs more dynamic and appealing to our communities.
Peter V. Sellars
PGM / PGP
A master musician will be performing on Saturday, September 16 7:30pm at the Davis Odd Fellows Hall (415 Second St, Davis).
David Grier, who began playing guitar at age 6, is regarded as one of the premier acoustic guitarists in the world, along with his early influences, Doc Watson, Tony Rice, and family friend Clarence White. Recognized by Acoustic Guitar Magazine in 2000 as one of the Artists of the Decade, and named Guitar Player of the Year three times by the International Bluegrass Music Association. Grier has played on four Grammy Award-winning albums, and in 1998 launched his own label, Dreadnought Recordings, which includes some of his own albums Hootenanny (with Dirk Powell and Tim O’Brien) and Evocative (with a rich complement of collaborators e.g. Victor Wooten).
David was also a member of Psychograss, one of the most eclectic bands in the history of American string music whose members included Darol Anger (violin), Mike Marshall (mandolin), Todd Phillips (bass) and Tony Trischka (banjo). Local favorite Joe Craven has also provided percussion for the band.
Grier’s music has been hailed for its “deep musical introspection” as well as his “unmatchable mastery of the guitar”. His appearance in Davis will give you a rare chance to see one of the greatest flatpicking guitarists who ever played the instrument.
Tickets are $20 at the door. There will be a no host bar. Doors open at 7pm. For information contact Juelie Roggli at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 756-3276.
In historical terms, a human “generation” is considered a period of time spanning some 20 to 25 years. Using that measure, it has been almost a full generation since the Sovereign Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of California, and Grand Lodges in other jurisdictions, opened membership in Odd Fellows Lodges to women. The Rebekah Degree and Rebekah Lodges were always open to women since their inception in 1851, and ironically, men could join Rebekah Lodges almost from their beginnings. Yet Odd Fellows Lodges were closed to women until the turn of this Century. In the 21st Century, all Odd Fellows Lodges are open to women to apply and to join and to advance to any and all degrees and offices. This is the Law of Odd Fellowship.
Yet, it is distressing to say that there are still Lodges in California and in other jurisdictions that have no female members. I can certainly understand that there may be a brief period of time (perhaps one or two years) when all-male Lodges would transition to admitting their first female members. But that time has long since passed. It’s been almost 20 years since the decision to open our Odd Fellows Lodges to women, and – sad to say – in 2017 there are still Lodges with no female members. This is unacceptable, and violates basic principles of our Order. The Odd Fellows Membership Application states, explicitly, the following as to who may become a member: “A man or woman over the age of 16 years, of good character, whose life and acts have been worthy and honorable, is eligible for membership.”
Significantly, nothing less than the Code of General Laws of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows makes crystal clear, in Chapter III, Section 1 that membership in an Odd Fellows Lodge is open to “a person”. It does not limit membership to “a man”. And to reinforce this egalitarian requirement of the Code, that same Section states the following warning to non-complying Lodges: “Continued rejection of women may result in revocation of an Odd Fellows Charter after notice and hearing.”
I have heard the excuses (and they are, truly, excuses) from members of Lodges that have no women on their membership rolls. And these are not just small Lodges of less than ten members. There are Lodges of 40, 50, even Lodges with over 100 members, that have not one female member.
Some members offer excuses that are brutally frank, and say things like: “I don’t want a woman member in my Lodge. If a woman joins, I would leave.” But let’s substitute another word for “woman” in this statement. What if the member had not used the word “woman” in his statement, but instead had used the word “African-American” or “Asian-American” or “Hispanic” or “Jew” or “Catholic” or “Hindu” or “Muslim” or “Buddhist”? Would that be acceptable? Of course not. It would display intolerance and prejudice and would be a show of blatant discrimination. How is it any less reprehensible or more acceptable because the member used the word “woman”? It is demonstrably unacceptable and should be so to every Odd Fellow who professes belief in Friendship, Love and Truth.
Some offer what they must consider to be reasonable or logical “excuses” and say, “No woman has ever applied” or “I don’t know any women who would want to join” or “the women I know have their own organizations.” These sorts of “reasons” are simply thinly veiled excuses for discrimination. Give me a break. Half the population of this country is female, as is the population of every state and province and every city and town. Are you really telling us that in a Lodge of 30 members, not one male member is able to find even one woman who would like to apply to join? Nonsense. Of course they can. But either through laziness, inertia, prejudice or just because they want the Lodge to remain an “old boy’s club” no women are sponsored for membership.
This sort of behavior should be anathema to good fellowship and should be rejected by every true Odd Fellow. Odd Fellowship professes, right on the website of the Sovereign Grand Lodge, “to elevate the character of men and women”. Relegating women to second-class citizenship is not acceptable. Creating structures for women which are “separate but equal” is no longer acceptable. Odd Fellows Law requires Lodges to accept men and women. For any Lodge to admit men, but reject women either de jure or de facto, is a violation of Odd Fellows Law and Odd Fellows principals. After a generation – almost 20 years – a Lodge today that has no women on its membership rolls must be viewed as a Lodge that rejects women. For all those men who routinely profess that we must all “follow the Code,” I remind them that not admitting women into their Lodge is a violation of the Code.
And even from the very narrow perspective of membership development, the exclusion of half the population makes no sense. Particularly Lodges that are struggling to survive as membership declines can ill afford to turn their collective backs on women.
The Lodges that have no women as members know who they are. I hope and trust that they will – after all these years – finally do the right thing. Follow the Code.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master