Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
The e-mail, below, was just received from a young member of our Order who resides in the Midwest. One of the important admonitions of our Order is “Truth” and if we believe in truth, we had better pay close attention to the words of our Midwestern brother. We cannot deceive or delude ourselves, or ignore the important truth spoken below. This member of the Order reflects the sad spectacle that we find in some of our Lodges – these are Lodges where the remaining members have rolled up the welcome mat, have turned their eyes inward, and have forgotten the other important admonitions of our Order: “Friendship” and “Love”.
The brother who wrote to me requested to remain anonymous, and I have respected his wishes – not identifying him or his Lodge. But the tale he tells is a powerful and important one.
Do you recognize your Lodge or a Lodge you know in his story?
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master
Dear DGM Dave Rosenberg,
I really enjoy receiving your DMC e-newsletter, and your embrace of both Tradition and Reform in the Order. I wish we had the “Davis Model” in the Midwest, but unfortunately the Lodges in my area are little more than a defunct senior center. Not that I do not value the presence of seniors in sustaining and committing to the Order, but we had an experience recently where four young men, under 30, all came to a meeting at the Lodge seeking to inquire about membership. A couple of the gentlemen drove over 30 miles to get there! Sadly the Lodge portion of the meeting was about ten minutes of pro forma business and that was it, and then at the dinner social afterwards all of our regular members (the seniors and long timers, about 8 in all) crowded around a table to eat by themselves while the newcomers were left at a table to eat by themselves. The entire affair, Lodge and dinner, lasted one hour. There was near zero inter-generational communication, and I was so upset by the situation that to be honest I have not returned since. Here you have a chance to grow Odd Fellowship with four young interested newcomers and you subject them to a quickie bureaucratic sounding Lodge meeting and then ostracize them at the dinner afterwards! Our Lodge has one meeting a month and then in November has a Turkey dinner, and that is it. The rest of the month the Hall sits dark. (In the name of self-disclosure I am 34).
When I read your newsletters I see hope in the Lodges that are implementing aspects of the “Davis Model”, but the Lodges in my area have no concern in self-preservation, or change, or outreach. Why should I devote my time to a Lodge that has no interest in surviving, let alone flourishing? These days I have somewhat become an “Odd Fellow without a Lodge”, much to my chagrin. I am not trying to be a naysayer but Odd Fellowship in my area of the Midwest is on the precipice of collapse based on our median age and activity at the state and local levels. It is very sad to see, because Odd Fellowship provides something special, even something unique which other fraternal organizations cannot provide. Watching this noble Order collapse, through in great part our own inaction, is a stain on each of us and an unfortunate loss to future generations.
Our Lodges need to stop using the excuse “folks don’t join things anymore”, or “there is no time anymore for Lodge activities”, or the “the Golden Age of Fraternalism is over”. Yes, times, culture, and social responsibilities have changed, however that is not an excuse for us to turn out the lights in the Lodge. I often look at the mega-churches in my area which have untold numbers of all ages, especially young folks, streaming in. Furthermore my area recently had a national Environmentalism convention and near everyone attending was under-40 and it was packed. Or even something as simple as our local bowling league, full of members young and old. Individuals do join things today (and I would especially argue that in our disparate and alienating society that young people are especially attracted to traditions of previous years) but it is our responsibility to let folks know we exist and are worth their time and effort. In our modern era “time” has become the most important commodity, so if a person is going to commit to a night a week, or a couple times a month to spend at his or her local Lodge then we must give them a reason to do so.
Anonymous in the Midwest