THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
At this moment in time, there are 115 Odd Fellows Lodges in California (and 1 jurisdictional Lodge). How are those 115 Lodges doing in terms of membership development? I don’t have final figures yet for membership development in 2017 because (believe it or not) some Lodges have STILL not turned in their 2017 per capita reports. But from what I have gleaned, in summary, the news is generally good, sometimes bad, and occasionally ugly.
First, the good news.
We see Lodges adding new members. Better yet, we see Lodges adding more new members than they are losing members – that results in a “net gain” of members, and net gains are our goal. Net gains abound – and that is truly good news. Overall, we see (if confirmed) a small net gain in membership state wide, a trend that began toward the end of my year as Grand Master and (thankfully) continues till today. Halting the yearly decline of membership numbers, and starting a yearly ascent in membership is the direct result of the work of DMC and our renewed focus on the need to bring in new members. We see the net gains across the board – in large Lodges, in mid-size Lodges, and in very small Lodges. For example, Odin #393 in San Francisco increased its small membership by 30%, from 10 to 13. That’s a huge shot of adrenalin to a small Lodge.
Now, the bad news.
We have 18 Lodges in California that have 10 or fewer dues-paying members. There is no way that this statistic can be viewed as a positive. The barest quorum for a Lodge is 5 members. We all know that, typically, only about 50% of the members of a Lodge are truly active members, so when a Lodge has 10 or fewer members, it will barely be able to muster a quorum. Oh sure, many of these Lodges continue to exist and function because they have associate members. Associate membership is not necessarily a healthy thing. I’ve seen associate members travel around to various Lodges in their region to fill offices and make a quorum. A Lodge which is propped up by associate members coming over to meetings from other Lodges creates the facade of normalcy – the illusion that all is OK. But associate members only buy the Lodge some time. And during that time, the few regular members of the Lodge are aging. When a Lodge fails to bring in new members (or only brings in members of the same age as existing members) that Lodge is walking a tightrope. The Lodge with fewer than 10 members necessarily can do no more than have a bare-bones meeting or an occasional potluck. It offers very little to potential new members. And so, it’s just a matter of time until that Lodge must surrender its charter or consolidate. (Consolidation, in most cases, is just a genteel and face-saving way for a Lodge to surrender its charter.)
And, the ugly news.
What could be worse than a Lodge having 10 or fewer dues-paying members? How about a Lodge with 6 or fewer dues-paying members. Yes, there are 7 Lodges that fall into that category. If ever there were a red flag raised about Lodge survival, it is certainly raised when a Lodge has only 5 or 6 dues-paying members. That Lodge may have a few more members who are so old that they are exempt from dues, or it may be a Lodge carried by associate members. But any way you slice it or dice it, that is almost certainly a Lodge that has not added new members in years. And the failure to add new members will certainly, inevitably, and inexorably lead to that Lodge’s demise.
What does the future hold?
We like the trend. Up until 3 years ago, our Order in California had been on a steady, 60-plus year, downward slope in terms of membership. Now, we have stopped the slide, and are showing small gains. The good news must be tempered with reality, however. Of the 115 Lodges in California, about 35 are showing net gains while 80 are either standing par or are showing net losses. So, the overall net gain is being driven by just 30 per cent of our Lodges. Further, of the 115 Lodges in California , the membership of the 7 largest Lodges comprise fully one-third of the total membership in the state. And there are 49 Lodges – over 40% of our Lodges – which have less than 20 dues-paying members on their books. So, in terms of membership, we seem to be a mile wide and an inch deep. This is a precarious place to be.
With renewed focus and energy, most of our Lodges can show a net gain in 2018. Even a net gain of 1 or 2 members in a small or mid-sized Lodge can make all the difference in the world for that Lodge, and for our Order in California.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
There are four degrees in an Odd Fellows Lodge: The Initiatory Degree, the First Degree (the Degree of Friendship), the Second Degree (the Degree of Love), and the Third Degree (the Degree of Truth).
Almost everyone in our Davis Lodge has all four degrees of Odd Fellowship. There are a few of you who don’t – particularly the newer initiates – and we are pleased to offer the degrees (free of charge) to those who wish to obtain them. Also, there are members who already have all the degrees, but would like a simple “refresher” on the degrees and the secrets and unwritten work pertaining to the degrees – all are welcome to come for that refresher.
We have set up a special “Three Degree Night” at the Lodge where you can obtain the advanced three degrees available in an Odd Fellows Lodge: The First Degree, the Second Degree and the Third Degree. This will all be done in one fun-filled and interesting evening! You will be given all three degrees (by video) and all the secrets and unwritten work relating to the degrees by Past Grand Jean-Paul Montreuil.
The date for the Odd Fellows Three Degree Night is Monday, April 16, at 7:00 p.m. sharp (please be on time) in the Lower Hall, at the Lodge.
The three degrees can be conferred in about 90 minutes, so we should be done around 8:40 p.m. (counting breaks). Please feel free to bring soft drinks, beer or wine and snacks or dinner if you wish.
Once you receive all these degrees you are eligible to hold elected or appointed office in the Davis Lodge, and to wear the red collar or red cord regalia. In addition, once you have all the degrees of the Odd Fellows Lodge, you are then eligible to join the Davis Encampment and receive three advanced degrees in the Encampment – the Patriarchal Degree (Degree of Faith), the Golden Rule Degree (Degree of Hope), and the Royal Purple Degree (Degree of Charity). As a member of the Davis Encampment, you can (if you wish) wear the coveted purple fez with the golden tassel. And you are also eligible to obtain the highest degree in Odd Fellowship – the Degree of Universal Justice – by joining Canton Davis. Those who are interested can also join the Rebekah Lodge and obtain the Rebekah Degree.
If you are interested in joining Davis Encampment #21 and/or Canton Davis #7 and/or Davis Rebekah Lodge #253, please let me know and we will discuss next steps. The Davis Encampment and Canton Davis are the largest Encampment and the largest Canton in California, and both are active! The Davis Rebekah Lodge is one of the two largest in California and is also very active.
Any questions? Please feel free to ask!
F – L – T
Chair, Membership & Initiation Committee
Davis Odd Fellows Lodge #169
What makes prejudice so infectious? Because those who have similar beliefs can bond together and share thoughts and hatreds normally left hidden. It’s a lonely world and all of us want to belong, so we tend to look to those who look like us, who think like us, who feel like us, to immerse ourselves beneath a blanket of what we think of as “belonging”. Sometimes we wear that blanket as a shield to block ourselves out from the world. We see anyone else as an invasion of our space, and really don’t know how to react to what we view as an intrusion. But prejudice has no place in our Order.
As most of us must know by now, Sovereign Grand Lodge has mandated that we adhere to a strict policy of non-discrimination. They have instructed us to insert a statement to this effect within each Lodge’s bylaws. Yet, to some, this is an affront to their ordinary mindset. One member, for example, has sent racist-tinged tests to a wide selection of acquaintances for years. I have saved some if you wish to view them. I asked him about it once and he said that he did not even read many of them, just passed them on. This is unacceptable. We see from actions such as these that it’s sometimes hard to recognize it on one’s self because it tends to act as a preventive mechanism meant to defy change or loss of status. Our Order has been literally decimated by bigotry of distinct types, whether knowing or unknowing. For example, texts in our rituals talk of all members as “he” (and Lodges still read from these verbatim), and in older texts, everyone other than white, are the “lower races”. Most of us are by now aware of the legal cases our Order has dealt with in defending ourselves against charges for cruelty against those with disabilities. Yet we have religious zealots, extreme fundamentalists, who are generally the most hateful among us, who see others as outsiders, yet are so confused in their own beliefs, they fail to even define what they themselves believe. Basically, then, bigotry is a blind hatred and cruelty towards anyone not in one’s own circle.
Of course, we must return to today’s main and indisputable fact: the fact that the issue of non-discrimination is currently number 1 in priority at Sovereign Grand Lodge. As your current Sovereign Grand Lodge Representative, I can tell you that SGL is extremely serious about non-discrimination, particularly in any interaction with the public. They had a two-hour seminar last year led by attorneys devoted to ensuring that all members practice (not just talk the talk, but walk the walk) genuine non-discriminatory behavior. Unfortunately, we have some members within our own state who have failed to get the message.
One example: The North-South Group. Many of you have probably never heard of the North-South Group. It is a group made up of about 30 individuals, purportedly influential members, some from Northern California and others from Southern California who meet once a year on the Tuesday evening prior to Grand Lodge Sessions. Originally, they met to discuss legislation, elections, and other issues that were to be brought up during sessions. I am a member of this group. Many of the members are fine, moral members. However, prospective new members of this group are nominated at the dinner and then may be objected to in secret messages to the Secretary. This, alone, should be a red flag to any onlooker, but of course there are none. Why is such a thing shrouded in secrecy? Three “no” votes will blackball a prospective member. The problem is that prominent women members of the Order have been nominated by myself and by others to join this group – some several times – and on every occasion these women have been blackballed. Thus, a minority of three – operating in secret – has made the North-South Group an icon of prejudice and discrimination. I am including this in my article because discrimination must end and hateful individuals must either change their ways or leave the order. It’s almost absurd to say this to Odd Fellows – people who profess to be all about Friendship, Love and Truth – but we still have members in our Order who do not interact with their brothers and sisters in the spirit of FLT. As a member of the North-South Group, I have asked the Secretary to tell me who has been barred from joining this year, and he has refused to respond to me other than saying that “some” have been excluded. No reason is given, and only casual winking by misogynistic and prejudiced types is allowed. This group has no right to exist if it thinks somehow it can lead by exclusion. If a group of friends want to have dinner, fine, but a group that gathers under the pretense of future planning for the Order that consistently and regularly allows a minority of three to bar women is unacceptable in this era of non-discrimination. It must stop now.
Example two: A.M.O.S. “The Ancient Mystic Order of Samaritans” – another small group that is men only, and fading quickly, also explicitly bars women, although they have a tiny, almost non-existent “sister group”. The point is why even bother with this pretense? Although it is a congenial group of male members they look at prejudice through that congenial lens, as though continued prejudice is a lark to be coveted. If this group barred anyone in a wheelchair, or anyone who is Chinese-American, or anyone who is Latino, would that be acceptable to you? Barring women is no less unacceptable. We should not tolerate a group that blatantly discriminates against people based on their gender.
It’s really time to stop all the prejudice. If you, dear member, want to wear prejudice as an emblem, at least have the courage to declare it openly. If you think women are not equal to you, say it out loud. If you object to other religions, declare that as well. It’s time that those who bear prejudice are no longer borne by our Order.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles
Dear Odd Fellows and Pledges,
WHEN: Tomorrow evening, March 22, from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.
WHERE: Lower Hall, Davis Odd Fellows Lodge.
WHO: Members and Pledges, and their Guests, are cordially invited.
WHAT: Thursday evening’s “Club Night at the Lodge” features: (1) Dinner at the Lodge. It’s a crowd favorite, prepared by our Chefs Sarun and Michael – Lasagne (both Meat Lasagne and Vegetarian Lasagne), Greed Salad, House-Made Dressing, Garlic Bread. Delicioso! Dinner will be available soon after 6:05 p.m. (2) Our Full Bar will be open with a complete selection of mixed drinks, spirits, craft beers and wines. (3) Trivia Night. Trivia Master Raleigh Klein will return and will challenge you with three rounds of Trivia, including prizes for the winning tables.Trivia starts around 6:35 p.m. (4) Social Time. There will be plenty of time to chat and socialize with your Lodge mates. (5) Jigsaw Puzzles. Lea Rosenberg will supply the ever-popular jigsaw puzzles for the tables. (6) The Big-screen TV will be on with your favorite sporting event. (7) The Odd Fellows Store. Back by popular demand, Dave Rosenberg will have the coveted All-Seeing-Eye sweatshirts for sale, as well as the Little Red Books for sale, Odd Fellows pens for sale, magnetic bumper strips for sale, and Odd Fellows flashlights – all for sale.
WHY: Club Night at the Lodge is brought to you virtually every Thursday evening – just to kick back with your Lodge mates, relax, socialize and have some fun.
F – L – T
For the Club Night Committee
1870 was an interesting year.
In that year, construction of the Brooklyn Bridge was begun, the soda fountain was patented, the first motion picture was shown to a theater audience, the Cincinnati Red Stockings went on tour as the first professional baseball team, President Ulysses S. Grand met in Washington with Sioux Chief Red Cloud, the U.S. Department of Justice was created, the Franco-Prussian War began, the Transcontinental Railway was completed, and the Davis Odd fellows Lodge was chartered on April 12, 1870, in the little hamlet of Davisville.
In commemoration of the event, Davis Odd Fellows Lodge #169 invites the public to an Open House and 148th “Birthday Party” at the Lodge Hall on Thursday, April 12, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. The Lodge Hall is located at 415 Second Street in Downtown Davis. Odd Fellows will provide mini-tours of the historic Hall. There will be music, the Odd Fellows bar will be open for members of the public to purchase libations, and dinner will be available for purchase at $7 per plate.
Odd Fellows came to California in 1849 with the establishment of the first Lodge (California #1) in San Francisco. The Davis Lodge was the 169th Lodge instituted in California, on April 12, 1870 – a mere five years after the end of the Civil War and death of President Abraham Lincoln. “To put this in perspective,” said long-time member Dave Rosenberg, “the University Farm which later became UCD was founded in 1905, and the City of Davisville which later became Davis was established in 1917. Our Odd Fellows Lodge predated UCD by 35 years, and predated the City by 52 years. We’ve been around for a long time.”
The Davis Lodge (then known as “Yolo Lodge” because it predated the City of Davis) was instituted by Grand Master John Brown Harmon who traveled from Apollo Lodge #123 in San Francisco. He was accompanied by the Sovereign Grand Master Elias Driggs Farnsworth, who was visiting California at the time. A number of members from other California Lodges including Sacramento, Mokelumne Hill, Eureka and other locations also attended. The first Noble Grand of the Davis Lodge was Jacob Horning.
In 1876, the Odd Fellows dedicated their first Lodge Hall located on G Street. There was a downtown parade and the Odd Fellows wore their regalia during the parade and dedication ceremony. At the time, the Davis Odd Fellows numbered 53 members. The Odd Fellows remained at the G Street location until 1956 when they sold the building to the Masons, and moved into their current location on Second Street.
On April 12, the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge numbers over 293 men and women ranging in age from 19 to 91, have been in Davis for 148 years, and have been at their current Lodge Hall for over 60 years. The Davis Odd Fellows Lodge is one of the fastest growing Lodges in the United States, and is the largest Odd Fellows Lodge in California in terms of membership. Members of the Lodge are very active in the community, and engage in many charitable and community supportive events, including Second Sunday Bingo, Breakfast with the Bunny, Breakfast with Santa, A Taste of Davis, Thursday Night Live music at the Lodge, the Classic Film Festival, the Davis Chocolate Festival, and many more. The Lodge website is www.davislodge.org.