Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
In the cloud of mystery and history that surrounds the origins of Odd Fellowship, the Initiatory Degree once had a name. Just like the First Degree was known as the Degree of Friendship, the Second Degree was known as the Degree of Love, and the Third Degree was known as the Degree of Truth – the Initiatory Degree was known as the Degree of Trust. This was the degree where knowledge of Odd Fellowship was to be first imparted on the novice. And there is much to learn and much to know about our Order. I’ve been a member for over 15 years and I am still learning about Odd Fellowship history, rules, laws, and ritual.
No one emerges into the Initiatory Degree as a fully-knowledgeable and fully-formed Odd Fellow. Becoming an Odd Fellow is, indeed, a process. And there is no reason that the process must begin with initiation. In fact, there is good reason that the process should begin even before initiation. The article, today, is focused on that pre-initiation process. In most Lodges, the typical process for bringing in new members into an Odd Fellows Lodge involves sponsorship, interview, balloting and initiation. The process invariably moves quickly – sometimes as quickly as a matter of weeks between sponsorship and initiation. I suggest that such haste in initiating new members might be counter-productive. So, let’s talk about a different process.
I wanted to make you aware of the process utilized for the past decade by the Davis Lodge in Davis, California, and now used in some form by a few other Lodges. It is a process that takes about four to six months to complete, and in my opinion, makes for a more enabled, informed and enthusiastic member after initiation. This process may not be for everyone’s liking, but it is something to consider, and it might work well for your Lodge in some form. Here’s how it works:
1. First, it all starts with a commitment by the entire Lodge to seek out and sponsor new members. The Lodge members need to discuss this, and come to an agreement that bringing in new members is not a job for just one or two Odd Fellows. It is the responsibility of all members of the Lodge to seek and recommend men and women of good character who can add to the quality and vitality of the Lodge.
2. Second, the Lodge must have a Membership Committee, chaired by a strong and respected member of that Lodge. Although bringing in new members should be the focus of all Lodge members, it is important to have the coordination of the membership effort in one committee.
3. Third, in the Davis Lodge, we give a name to the process of advancing applicants to initiation. We call it the “Pledge Process”. Applicants who submit applications are called “Pledges” and are placed into a “Pledge Class” – a group of applicants targeting a certain date for their initiation. We have so many applicants to the Davis Lodge, that we have three Pledge Classes every year, each of which is focused on a date for their possible initiation. The normal Pledge Period runs at least four months, but can last as long as six months.
4. Fourth, we have developed a Pledge Book. This Pledge Book is available on our Lodge website at www.davislodge.org. We expect all Pledges to download the Pledge Book and carry it with them whenever they come to the Lodge. The Pledge Book is full of information about Odd Fellowship in general and the Davis Lodge in particular. We expect the Pledges to read it. The Pledge Book also contains requirements which we expect the Pledges to fulfill during their Pledge Period. For example, we expect the Pledges to interview a minimum of 13 members of the Lodge (the Pledge Book contains simple one-page interview sheets with 5 or 6 questions). We also expect the Pledges to attend a minimum of 8 meetings or events at the Lodge, and they can also join our Lodge committees. All meetings and events at the Lodge are open to Pledges, except for the formal (not social).
5. Fifth, we provide many opportunities for the Pledges to meet members, and find out about the Lodge. For example, every month on the 2nd Saturday, we have a complementary breakfast meeting, open to Odd Fellows, Pledges and their guests (guests are often potential applicants). These social meetings typically focus on reports by our many committees, recognitions of birthdays and anniversaries, general announcements, and good of the order. We also have a weekly social gathering on Thursday evenings called “Club Night at the Lodge” – a strictly social gathering where dinner is provided, the no-host bar is open, there is live piano music and we play trivia (by table) with prizes. Numerous other events and activities during the month provide great opportunities for Pledges to get to know members and get to know the charitable, community, and social things that we do.
6. Sixth, at the end of the Pledge Period, the Membership Committee sits down with the Pledges and we review their Pledge Books, engage in some Q&A about the Lodge, and determine if the Membership Committee will recommend each applicant for membership in the Lodge. And ultimately, the Lodge members ball ballot on the Pledges. leading to initiation of knowledgeable and committed new Odd Fellows.
The Pledge Process has worked well for our Lodge. Since we have utilized this process, my Lodge has shown a net gain of members every year for the past 12 years, and we have an enthusiastic and active membership which spans all ages and generations from 19 to 90.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California