Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
The Biblical “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” represent conquest, war, famine, and death. Together, they present a frightening image. The biblical message, in modern terms, is: “Get your act together, humans, or the end to humanity is coming.”
Odd Fellowship, on a much, much smaller scale, also has what I call it’s own “Four Horsemen of the Collapse”. They represent isolation, incompetence, inertia, and illusion. Let’s explore how each of these “horsemen” work to slowly bring Odd Fellowship down.
Isolation. There are a significant number of Odd Fellows Lodges that do not attend Grand Lodge Sessions – and many of these Lodges have not attended for years. They have disconnected themselves from their Grand Lodge, and the Sovereign Grand Lodge. In the recent Grand Lodge Session in California, for example, 111 Lodges could have sent representatives, but 47 of those Lodges did not and were not represented at sessions. These 47 Lodges have isolated themselves from IOOF leadership and from their sister Lodges. Many of these Lodges do not even read communications coming from that leadership or from other Lodges. The members of these isolated Lodges have, essentially, withdrawn from IOOF and have hunkered down within the four walls of their Lodge Halls.
Incompetence. There was a time when your typical Odd Fellows Lodge had membership in the hundreds, and many Lodges had membership in the thousands. Now, the typical membership numbers run in the 20’s and 30’s. There is yet another, perhaps more insidious, component of shrinking membership numbers that should concern all of us. Once upon a time, Odd Fellows Lodges contained lawyers, doctors, bankers, ranch and retail managers, CPA’s, mayors, even governors. Those days are long gone. Now, Lodges often have no members with substantial business acumen, or legal abilities, or even the ability to manage property or prepare financial spread sheets. Because of this brain drain, Lodges make bad choices. I am aware of one Lodge that literally lost their Lodge Hall because of a right to purchase the building (at a very low price tag) given to a tenant. I am aware of another that gave an easement against part of its property in perpetuity for a one-time payment of a few thousand dollars. I recently saw a posting on Facebook from a Lodge that needs to fix its roof, and has no funds (or available resources) to do so – they were making a general Facebook solicitation, hoping other Lodges might send them some money. Every year these brain-drained Lodges struggle even to file their annual reports, and when one key member is ill, there is no one to take that member’s place.
Inertia. This may be better described as complacency. And complacency is toxic to our Order. For years, often decades, Lodges have ignored their infrastructure needs. Repairs and maintenance were deferred. Reserves were not set up to deal with the inevitable need to replace the roof, or furnace, or to paint the building, or replace the plumbing. Eventually, this inertia will catch up with a future generation of members. And what a rude shock to the generation to suddenly find that they must pay for repairs and maintenance without the funds to do so. Complacency has also affected our membership. Past generations of Odd Fellows were complacent (e.g. lazy) and generally ignored the first rule of fraternal existence: You must bring in younger members on a constant and consistent basis. Failure to do so will result, inevitably, in a Lodge of senior citizens.
Illusion. I have visited Lodges where the members live in a kind of fantasy land. They gather for meetings once a month, and recite the ritual. And the members fervently believe that if they just hold those meetings and recite the ritual with even more vigor, they are true Odd Fellows. But these Lodges are typically composed of members who are all over 65 years of age, and they haven’t brought in new members in years. Somehow, they believe that if they simply say “friendship, love and truth” often enough, that all will be well. But the reality is that young men and women (in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s) will have little desire to join a Lodge of septuagenarians. The coming generation has little desire to join a Lodge that does nothing in the community, and has no activities other than a monthly formal meeting.
“Get your act together, Odd Fellows, or the end of Odd Fellowship is coming.”
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California