Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
This is my last DMC Newsletter.
As “Grand Master.”
This Wednesday I will be on the road to Modesto to join many of you at our annual Grand Lodge Sessions. It will be my pleasure to preside at these sessions, and, on Saturday evening, to turn the gavel over to incoming Grand Master Peter Sellars. This will not, however, be my last DMC Newsletter. I will be signing future DMC Newsletters as “Past Grand Master”. We started DMC in 2010 and have come a long way since then. DMC and the DMC Newsletter will continue in full force, as part of a progressive movement in Odd Fellowship – with laser-like focus on the need to grow our membership.
My year as Grand Master is almost to an end. This coming Saturday evening, we will install the Grand Master for 2016-17 – Peter Sellars. Peter and I have seen eye-to-eye on virtually every subject over the years and I predict that he will be a great Grand Master. I wish him every success and I will do all I can to support him in what I know will be a productive year. I also congratulate soon-to-be Deputy Grand Master Dave Reed – a member of my own Davis Lodge – as he is about to enter his year. This is a good team for the future. As I wrap up my year at the helm I want to say just four things:
First, I wish to say “thank you” to the other elected officers of this Grand Body – Grand Secretary Ray Link, Grand Treasurer Jay Johnson, Deputy Grand Master Peter Sellars, Grand Warden Dave Reed, our two Grand Representatives, and the elected members of the Grand Lodge Board of Directors. They work hard and keep the Odd Fellows ship afloat and moving forward. “Thank you” also to my appointed Grand Lodge Officers: Grand Marshal Nancy Johnson – the best and hardest working Grand Marshal ever. I tasked Nancy with several assignments during the year – usually picking up the ball that others had dropped – and she came through every single time. Nancy is a treasure in this Order. She is one of the few people I know who always gets the job done. My deepest appreciation and thanks to my other Grand Lodge appointed officers: Grand Chaplain Rita Cooper, Grand Conductor David Fleck, Grand Color Bearer Stark Dagesse, Grand Guardian Lea Rosenberg, Grand Herald Anita Donnell, and Grand Instructor Neil Allen. We were a team, we worked hard, we traveled quite a bit, and we had a lot of fun. We broke new ground this year when I appointed 4 women among the 7 Grand Lodge officers. I did this in recognition of these strong 4 women, but also in recognition that women are an integral part of Odd Fellowship, and the fastest growing segment of our Order.
Second, I want to spend just a moment thanking YOU, the hard working men and women in Lodges all across this state who are keeping your Lodges and this Order moving forward. I personally visited over 30 Lodges in my year, and combined with the DGM and GW, we visited 45 Lodges during 2015-16. I am pleased to say that in many Lodges, the members are “getting it” – getting the message that we can no longer skip a generation of new members and hope to survive – we must bring in those new members to our Lodges AND it is the job of each of us to do so. Today, we have 117 Odd Fellows Lodges in California. I’m pleased to say that in 2015 fully 43 of those Lodges showed a net GAIN in membership (that is, these Lodges added more members than they deducted). And THAT is good news for the future. On the not-so-good side, however, I note that 24 Lodges were static (no net gain or net loss) and that 50 of our Lodges showed a net LOSS of members in the year (that is, these Lodges deducted more members than they added). It’s also noteworthy that fully half the Lodges in this State have 20 or fewer members on their books. Having so few members, to me, is a yellow flag of caution. There are some glimmerings of progress in our quests for new members. Statistically, we show a net loss of 125 members in the State of California amongst all Lodges in 2015. However, there is a caveat to that number. Four of our largest Lodges in San Francisco undertook a thorough survey of their memberships in 2015 and removed 232 members from their books. This cut was somewhat offset by some additions of new members, but overall, these 4 Lodges showed a net loss of 148 members – that loss would normally have been spread over several years, but it landed in one year alone. This one-time event skews the statistics for 2015. Except for this singular cut by these 4 Lodges, California would have shown a small net gain of 23 members for 2015. That is a potential bright note for the future, and something on which incoming Grand Master Peter Sellars can certainly build.
Third, it was a year of progress. We refocused ourselves on the need to bring in new members. We launched a new tradition with a member and officer seminar in Reno – well attended and very informative. We established a Building Grant Program so Lodges could improve their facilities. We started a Lodge Beautification Program. We balanced our Grand Lodge Budgets and we did not raise dues or fees. We assisted at least three Lodges overcome some internal turmoil this year. I published a book with suggestions on how Lodges can bring in more members in this new Century – and the book has been widely distributed. I issued dispensations which gave Lodges wide latitude to reach out into their communities and become more visible to the public. We started a complete review of our Roberts’ Code – a two year project that will be completed in Peter Sellar’s year. And DMC became a Committee of this Grand Lodge. All in all, a progressive year with a progressive agenda.
Finally, I want to remind you of the comments that I made at last year’s Grand Lodge Session when you elected me to be your Grand Master for 2015-16. I said at that time that I would focus on two things in my year. I said I would focus on our need to increase membership in our Lodges – and with 43 Lodges showing net gains in their memberships, we are beginning to do so. And I said that I would focus on our need to go back to the basics of friendship, love and truth. We need to always treat each other with respect. And I leave you with that very thought. Because if we don’t practice FLT in our daily lives and in our dealings with each other, we have failed to be true Odd Fellows and we have failed our Order.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you as Grand Master.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California