An Observation Piece
Have you ever felt that there were aspects of the Order that you were missing? For the newer members, terms like “Grand Lodge” or “Sovereign Grand Lodge” or even titles or events, can be foreign.
Let’s put all of this to rest and ease your concerns. Of course, there are mysteries of the Order that reveal themselves over time, but these are really never hidden or that far away. Discovering the answers to your questions can come more quickly depending who you ask.
After years of prodding by my grandfather, I became a member of the Odd Fellows. It was not really a benefit for me, as the men in my lodge were all in their seventies and eighties. Within a few years, they were all dead and I found myself being the leader within the lodge. At least I didn’t see it as a benefit. Turned out, their passing was really a passing of the torch. Much of what I learned came from immersing myself in books.
I became, what they called the Degree Master within my lodge and led the degree work for several years, initiating the new members. I was in a situation where I was forced to learn as much as possible if I was going to be successful in the Order. I memorized the roles of the Past Noble Grand, Warden, Chaplain, and Conductor, that really enhanced the presentation of the degrees. Other lodges asked for my help, which I gladly accepted.
Of course, the experience of attending Grand Lodge and Sovereign Grand Lodge were part of the answers to my own questions of the Order. I had the benefit of attending district meetings, where all the lodges of one district gather and teach all that can be taught in a day. These were helpful. This is where we also learned roles of the degrees, procedures, unwritten work, and other information of the lodge and the Order. Unfortunately, these district meetings have all but disappeared. Our avenue – the newer member’s opportunity – to learn was reduced to almost nil.
As these district meetings fell out of favor with the membership, the Annual Educational Seminar in California became the focus for learning. What started as the Noble Grand Vice Grand Seminar, then the Noble Grand, Vice Grand and Officers Seminar, then the Educational Membership Seminar, to what it is today, the primary source of learning for the members in California. Are there secret groups of the Odd Fellows? Sure, but these have diminished or have been watered down over the years. With the attitudes of the members coming into the Order today, secrecy is not an ideal.
In recent years, interesting gatherings have been taking place across the country. There is the Middle Atlantic States Conclave (MASC), which is comprised of eight states, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, WV, and DC (these are held in alternate jurisdictions each year). There is the Mid South Conclave, which is held in July, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi. There is also a Great Lakes Conference that includes all of the jurisdictions in the Great Lakes area. The North East Conclave includes the New England states and Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces. Then, there is the North West, that has been coming together since 1945, held every six months, which includes Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and British Columbia. These gatherings of jurisdictions sound fraternal and educational. They solidify the memberships of those regions. It also explains a great deal when California attempts to present new ideas or propose change. Not being part of any of these conclaves or gatherings has left this jurisdiction swinging in the wind by itself. At the start of this piece I posed the question if there were aspects of this Order you were missing.
These gatherings or groupings could be viewed as divisions, which play out socially when the representatives gather at the session of the Sovereign Grand Lodge. This divisiveness may be in the subconscious of those members who participate in these bonding-conclaves and inter-jurisdictional meetings, as it is evident and as it plays out whenever California presents legislation or nominates a candidate at Sovereign Grand Lodge. California is isolated by its absence in any of these groupings of jurisdictions.
Until the invitation and welcoming hand of fraternalism is extended, the opportunity for establishing and understanding of social differences and other matters between the members of these jurisdictions and California is lost.
The education of our membership includes learning the about the social attitudes of a region as much as learning what is contained within our Rituals or codes. I look forward to continuing the socializing with other jurisdictions.
Peter V. Sellars