Once a member has obtained the third degree (the Degree of Truth) in a Lodge of Odd Fellows, the next step in his/her Odd Fellowship journey would be to join an Encampment and obtain three more degrees – the Patriarchal Degree, the Golden Rule Degree, and the Royal Purple Degree. Obtaining these degrees is a mark of distinction in our Order and shows a strong commitment to the principles and tenets of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. One would think that this movement into advanced degrees would be viewed as a goal of many, if not most, members of our Order.
And yet, there is relatively little movement into these advanced degrees. Today, we have some 4,200 Odd Fellows and 109 Odd Fellows Lodges in California. But there are only 259 Encampment members and 15 Encampments in California today. Why are only 6% of our Odd Fellows also members of an Encampment? This is an abysmally low number.
One reason, perhaps is that the pool of potential members for the Encampments does not come from the general public – the pool of potential Patriarchs and Matriarchs comes only from members of Odd Fellows Lodges. As the number of Odd Fellows Lodges shrink and the membership diminishes, so does the challenge to increase the number of Encampments and the membership in the Encampment unit.
I firmly believe that the future of the Encampment degrees will be dependent on individual Patriarchs and Matriarchs assigning themselves a mission, or if you will, a purpose. I am not speaking theoretically. In my own Encampment in Davis California, some 20% of the membership of my Davis Lodge also belongs to the Davis Encampment. I have served as Grand Patriarch of the Grand Encampment of California. I have visited many Encampments and have observed what they do. I have found that most of them are content to have their monthly Encampment meeting – formally opened and formally closed – and little else. In the abstract, it is a good thing to be able to properly run an Encampment meeting and to understand the degrees. But if that is essentially all the Encampment does, it will not attract new members and it will certainly not attract active and committed members. Who really wants to just sit in a room and read passages from a book, month after month? You can do that in your church or temple.
That said, there are a few (precious few) Encampments that do more. And these are the Encampments that are growing and retaining members. These Encampments have developed a “mission” and a “purpose” that goes beyond holding meetings, conferring degrees, and electing each other to office. So, what are some examples of a mission or purpose for Encampments?
- Mentoring. Encampment members have committed themselves to Odd Fellowship and have all obtained advanced degrees. These members can serve as important resources and mentors to the officers and the members of nearby Lodges.
- Degree Teams. Along these lines, Encampment members are perfect subjects to participate in degree teams, conferring the Degrees of Friendship, Love, and Truth in nearby Odd Fellows Lodges.
- Sending Youth to Camps. What better mission could the Encampment have than sending boys and girls to summer camp, or other summer activities. Working together, Encampments can develop projects to raise money to provide full or partial scholarships for children in their communities.
- Developing a Community Project. Some Encampments have developed a reputation in the community for a signature event that raises the visibility of the Encampment and the Lodge. For example, one Encampment has developed a reputation for cooking for the community with great barbecues. This has raised the visibility of the Encampment and the Lodge in that community.
Does your Encampment have a mission in life?
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
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