Three-Year Plan To Transform Your Lodge

Three-Year Plan To Transform Your Lodge

By Dave Rosenberg, PG
Davis Odd Fellows Lodge #169
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

While a handful of Odd Fellows Lodges in California are growing, and another handful are maintaining a static membership, the vast majority of Lodges in this State are shrinking. The math is not complicated. Members move away, depart, stop coming to meetings, lose interest or pass away – and at the same time, the Lodge doesn’t add new members or, perhaps, adds one or two new members who might be close friends or relatives of existing members. And too, often, the new members added are of the same age as existing members. The result is inevitable: Lose three members and add one member and you have a Lodge in trouble. Clearly, we must do something to change this equation.

I am often asked: What can we do to grow our Lodge?

Well, talk is cheap. Action is required. So, here, for those who are truly interested, is a three-year plan to re-charge, re-invigorate, and re-new your Lodge. (For those members of the Order who are satisfied with the status quo of your Lodge, and who are happy to maintain your Lodge just the way it is for the balance of your life, you can stop reading here.) For those members who wish to build for the future of your Lodge, and guarantee that the tenets and ideals of this great fraternity live on and flourish, please read on. The secret of success is not just to meet in closed Lodge Halls and recite ancient rituals, but rather to open our Lodges up, to increase our internal good fellowship activities and to increase our involvement and exposure in the community.

Year One

  1. Open your Lodge to the public (and to potential members) by having open, social meetings – at least one such social meeting each month. Of course, no ritualistic work is conducted and no secrets are revealed at such meetings.
  2. Bring at least one major community leader into membership in your Lodge. This can be a local elected official, a recognized business leader, a leader in his or her profession (like a lawyer), a Judge, the County Sheriff, etc. These people will raise the community profile of your Lodge and can become “rainmakers” in bringing in new members.
  3. Plan and execute one major community event, to benefit a local charitable or community group, and make sure it is publicized.
  4. Plan for and put on one social event each month for the Lodge members and their guests. This can include themed potlucks (for example, Italian potluck), “Bunko” Night at the Lodge, Trivia Night, a talk and demonstration on beer brewing, etc.
  5. Target husbands and wives, both, to consider membership in your Lodge. Ignoring half the population of your community is illogical.

Year Two

  1. Hold a “retreat” of your active members and lay out five goals for the year. These five goals should always include a goal identifying the number of Lodge applicants you intend to bring in during the year. Resolve at this retreat NOT to be negative. Positively listen to all ideas that are proposed and put on the table, and then decide which you will implement.
  2. Continue each of the Year One activities into Year Two.
  3. Develop a “signature event” that your Lodge will organize and put on for the community – which will become an annual event. For example: An “OddtoberFest”, a wine tasting event at the Lodge, Pasta Feed, a music event, etc.
  4. Organize a committee structure for the Lodge. These committees can include: A Good Fellowship Committee, a Community Support Committee, a Music Committee, a Photography Committee, etc. Give each committee an assignment and let them do their work. The committees should reflect the interests of your members.
  5. Target young potential members for your Lodge – from 30 to 40 years of age.

Year Three

  1. Continue each of the Year One and Year Two activities into Year Three.
  2. Find out what member’s are interested in doing, and do it. If members wish to take a wine country trip, figure out a way to do it. If members want to put on a Bingo night for the community, find ways to do it. If members wish to go on a hike, let them organize to do it. Etc.
  3. Contact, personally, each of your “inactive” members and let them know about Lodge activities – see if you can bring them back into active membership in your Lodge.
  4. Connect with your members. Ideally, have all members connected through e-mail so that everyone can be kept posted and informed. For those who don’t have e-mail, set up a phone tree.
  5. Target even younger potential members for your Lodge – from 16- 29 years of age.

This Plan of Action can work for your Lodge! It does not diminish, in any way, the principles of our Order. It seeks only to increase your membership, and in this way will benefit your Lodge as well as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

No Lodge is an Island

No Lodge is an Island

Dear Dedicated Members for Change, Every Odd Fellows Lodge in every jurisdiction of our Order has the right to send representatives to Grand Lodge Sessions, which are typically held once each year. In point of fact, however, a majority of Odd Fellow Lodges don't send...

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When "Dedicated Members for Change" first formed in 2010, we were criticized, mocked, ridiculed, and sidelined. Early on in our existence, we asked to use a meeting room during Grand Lodge sessions. The Grand Master at the time denied us even the use of a room. We had...

Invest in your Odd Fellows Lodge Hall

Invest in your Odd Fellows Lodge Hall

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

When I talk to members and officers of Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Lodges around the jurisdiction about membership development, the most prevalent question I hear is the following: “Why can’t we get younger members to join our Lodge?”

It is an absolutely legitimate question, and it is an absolutely significant concern. We have many Lodges in California where we find the vast majority of members to be in their 70″s, 80’s and even 90’s. Often, the youngest member in some Lodges is in his/her 60’s. Attracting younger members in their 50’s, 40’s and 30’s is challenging because we tend to invite and sponsor potential new members in our own peer groups and among our own friends. So a member in his/her 70’s probably knows a lot of people who are also in their 70’s – and relatively few people in their 40’s. In other words, a Lodge of septuagenarians tends to stay that way – unless someone breaks the mold.

The irony is that 100 years ago, our membership was much younger. If you don’t believe me, just check the register of members of your Lodge. You will find a membership composed primarily of folks in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Noble Grands were often in their 30’s. Today, the bulk of our Noble Grands are in their 60’s and 70’s.

So, how does a Lodge composed of senior citizens attract the next generation of members?

It’s not going to be easy, but here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Membership Development Plan. The Lodge should meet and discuss the issue, and devise a Membership Development Plan which emphasizes and encourages younger members to sponsor members from their own peer groups and friends. And older members of the Lodge should be encouraged to bring in “the next generation”. If one considers a generation to be 20 years, then a sponsoring member should be encouraged to bring in applicants who are 20 years younger than the sponsor.
  2. Activities for a Younger Generation. A moribund and boring Lodge will not attract new members. Alternatively, an active and dynamic Odd Fellows Lodge will encourage potential sponsors to bring in new members, and will encourage potential new members to apply. It must be recognized, however, that younger applicants will not be interested in the same things that the older members find enticing. Pot lucks, wine tasting trips, and bingo may satisfy the Boomers in your Lodge. But Millennials or Gen X’ers would rather go hiking, or biking, or spend time cleaning up the roadways.
  3. Recognition of Sponsors. Bringing in new members is vitally important to the sustainability of a Lodge. New members, ultimately, are brought in by existing members who act as sponsors. Lodges should make an effort to recognize sponsors in meaningful ways. A very simple way to recognize the important contribution of sponsors is to host a Lodge breakfast or dinner (perhaps once a year) honoring sponsors. In addition, it is perfectly appropriate for a Lodge to recognize sponsors in other ways, such as presenting them small plaques, small mementos, or even small stipends.
  4. Brighten up that Lodge Hall. A Lodge Hall that has peeling paint in front, damaged signage, is unkempt and dirty, and smells of cleaning fluids – ultimately will be a turn-off for potential younger members. Cleaning, painting, and brightening up the Lodge will do wonders for your image. If the Lodge looks like a retirement community, you can bet that potential members in their 20’s and 30’s will not be interested. If the first view of the Lodge is of a shabby lobby and a stairway with a chairlift – what image does that convey. A clean lobby and an elevator displays quite a different image. An investment in the future means investing money in the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall.
Independent Order of Odd Fellows - Davis Lodge #169

The home of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Davis Ca. This building was built in the 1950’s with the support of a generous benefactor. The interior of the IOOF building has been fully remodeled and modernized which enables our organization to attract new members.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows

No Lodge is an Island

No Lodge is an Island

Dear Dedicated Members for Change, Every Odd Fellows Lodge in every jurisdiction of our Order has the right to send representatives to Grand Lodge Sessions, which are typically held once each year. In point of fact, however, a majority of Odd Fellow Lodges don't send...

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When "Dedicated Members for Change" first formed in 2010, we were criticized, mocked, ridiculed, and sidelined. Early on in our existence, we asked to use a meeting room during Grand Lodge sessions. The Grand Master at the time denied us even the use of a room. We had...

The Responsibilities of Being an Odd Fellow

The Responsibilities of Being an Odd Fellow

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Does your Odd Fellows Lodge have a membership problem?

Does Odd Fellowship, in general, have a declining membership?

These issues would dissipate, if each of us, as Odd Fellows, just followed three simple precepts.

Almost everything in Odd Fellowship comes in threes.  Like the three links that stand for Friendship, Love, Truth.  So here’s another “three” for you to contemplate.   If you are a true Odd Fellow, you are responsible for three things.   First, you are responsible to yourself.   Second, you are responsible to your brothers and sisters.  Third, you are responsible to your Lodge.  Let me explain.

Being responsible for yourself.  Have you exercised the admonitions of “friendship” and “love” in your Odd Fellows Lodge?   Do you treat all members of your Lodge with the same level of friendship or do you hang with just a few, or a clique?  Do you have a pleasant demeanor in the Lodge, or are your edges sharp toward others?   Do you say “how are you doing” to other members when you see them, and do you really mean it?   When members are ill, or bothered by life’s challenges and vicissitudes, do you lend a friendly ear or a loving hand to help?

Being responsible for your Lodge mates.   When you joined Odd Fellowship, you didn’t join a club – you joined a fraternal Lodge.   A true Odd Fellow takes an active role in the activities and governance of the Lodge.   Do you attend meetings and events, or do you just pay your dues once a year?   Do you volunteer to help the Lodge in hosting events, or working in the kitchen, or setting up and cleaning up at events?   Do you rely on other members to get things done, or do you step in to assist or to lead.   Have you served in a Lodge office, whether elected or appointed?

Being responsible to your Lodge.   Members come and go.   Some drop out.   Some move away or pass away.   The individual human lifetime is finite.   Lodges, however, can continue for generations.   Fraternal orders can live on for centuries.   For a Lodge to sustain itself and to continue year after year and decade after decade, it is required that the next generation of members be brought into the fold.   And that, my friend, is your responsibility.   Bringing in new members is the job of each and every one of us.   As an Odd Fellow, you can’t just sit back and rely on the Noble Grand, or the Membership Chair, or someone else in the Lodge.   Simply put, if each of us brought in just one new member every two years, this Order would have no membership problem.   When was the last time you sponsored a new Odd Fellow?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

No Lodge is an Island

No Lodge is an Island

Dear Dedicated Members for Change, Every Odd Fellows Lodge in every jurisdiction of our Order has the right to send representatives to Grand Lodge Sessions, which are typically held once each year. In point of fact, however, a majority of Odd Fellow Lodges don't send...

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The Quiet Successes in a Declining Organization

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When "Dedicated Members for Change" first formed in 2010, we were criticized, mocked, ridiculed, and sidelined. Early on in our existence, we asked to use a meeting room during Grand Lodge sessions. The Grand Master at the time denied us even the use of a room. We had...

10 Helpful Hints To Bring New Members Into The Order

10 Helpful Hints To Bring New Members Into The Order

By Dave Rosenberg, Past Grand of Davis Lodge #169, Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Most of you who read this article will have been Odd Fellows longer (perhaps far longer) than I have been. I’m a relatively new member of the Order, having been initiated in March of 2004. So, as I write this article, I’ve been an Odd Fellow for about seven years. And yet, I am asked, again and again, for advice on how to bring new members into the Order. In response to these many requests, I’ve been urged to write this article. And, ladies and gentlemen, we absolutely have to recruit new members – Odd Fellowship in California has now dropped 90% in membership since WW II, and we have less than 5,000 dues-paying members. This situation is unsustainable, and – as Lodges diminish in membership – is causing innumerable problems throughout the state.

I suppose that I’m asked for advice because I have, personally, brought so many new members into Odd Fellowship. Specifically, I’ve sponsored about 100 new members. In 2009, the Sovereign Grand Lodge recognized me as #2 in the SGL jurisdiction in bringing in new members; and in 2010, SGL recognized me as #1 in the jurisdiction. I am a member of the Grand Lodge’s Membership Committee, and I’ve developed a “Membership Development Workshop” which, by the way, Grand Lodge has available to anyone who wants it, on a DVD. I serve as the Chair of my own Lodge’s Membership and Initiation Committee.

Yet, I do not profess to say how YOU or YOUR Lodge should recruit new members. Frankly, that’s up to YOU to determine. What I can do is give you some helpful hints that have worked for me. If those hints happen to make sense to you, or fit your style, or you wish to try them out, then please do! So, without further ado, here’s Dave Rosenberg’s 10 Helpful Hints to Recruiting New Members into the Order:

Recruitment on the Brain

The single most effective tool in recruiting new members is to have “recruitment on the brain” at all times. Talking to potential new members is not an occasional thing – it has to be a constant thing. When I meet new folks, I size them up, assess them, get to know them, and often ask them to consider applying for membership to the Lodge. For example, we recently hired a contractor to do some work at our Lodge Hall. After getting to know him, I talked to him about Odd Fellowship, and invited him to apply. He did. And I never give up. I talked to one woman for over five years about joining the Lodge. Recently, she did. I constantly carry application forms in my pocket. You never know when you may need one.

Functions at the Lodge

One of the absolute best tools for recruitment is to have an active Lodge. Most of the new members I have recruited have first come into contact with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows through Lodge functions. They come to the function, have fun, meet members and are curious about Odd Fellowship. I have recruited dozens of new members who first came in contact with the Lodge through our community events such as “Breakfast with Santa” or who came to the Lodge as a guest of a member during our annual “OddtoberFest” or when we rented a bus to visit wineries in Amador County. Active Lodges create opportunities to recruit.

Husbands and Wives

I have found that one of the best draws for new members is to make it user-friendly for husbands and wives (or significant others), and also for young parents with children. Very few organizations offer couples the ability to work and play together. Odd Fellowship does. Those Odd Fellows Lodges that restrict membership, or discourage membership of women, have cut off 50% of the population. Those Lodges that fail to recruit young parents have cut themselves off from a large segment of the community.

Community Support

The regalia, ritual, grips, passwords, and symbols of Odd Fellowship make us unique and distinguish us as a fraternal order. They should and will always be with us. However, virtually no one joins because of that. A full appreciation of the ritual will develop over time. But, frankly, most folks are drawn to IOOF when the Lodge engages in local community support. New members want to be part of good works in the community – whether it’s feeding hungry people, or working with people with developmental disabilities, or planting trees. When a Lodge engages in active community support activities, that Lodge opens a gateway to recruitment.

Good Fellowship

The other draw for potential new members is good fellowship activities within the Lodge. People today seek a social network and a fun place to enjoy activities with others. When Lodges have a full slate of social activities, recruitment of new members is dramatically enhanced. My Lodge, for example, hosts music events, good fellowship “Lodge Nights”, an “OddtoberFest”, a Halloween Party, and numerous other social events for members and potential new members. Let’s not forget that Odd Fellowship was started in Old England in pubs.

Social Meetings

Social meetings are not prohibited by the Code of Odd Fellowship, and in fact, are encouraged by Grand Lodge. What’s a social meeting? It is simply a meeting of the Lodge where no regalia are worn, no ritual is employed, and no secret signs, grips or passwords are used. Lodges that engage in social meetings have another huge technique available to them for recruitment. Potential new members can attend, can see what the Lodge is up to, and can meet members.

Don’t Make it Easy

There are Lodges that are so desperate for new members that when they get one, they immediately rush into an initiation. And then, once initiated, that new member is plunged into a formal, ritual meeting, and often the Lodge never sees him/her again. In my Lodge, the process of joining (we call it the “pledge period”) takes at least 5-6 months, the applicants (we call them “pledges”) have a number of requirements to accomplish before the interviewing committee and membership even vote on them. This makes the goal of membership a valuable goal for them – plus it gives them a chance to meet the members and for the members to meet them – to determine if Odd Fellowship is the right fit.

Diversity

The strength of America is its diversity. That should be the strength of Odd Fellowship, as well. When I recruit new members, I am looking for diversity in age, ethnicity, employment and gender. I want the Lodge to look like my community. It’s particularly important to bring in new members in their 20’s and 30’s. They are the next generation of Odd Fellowship. When a Lodge’s members are all in their 60’s and 70’s and older, it’s virtually impossible to attract the younger generation we need to grow.

Leadership

A critical factor to growth of a Lodge is the ability to attract community leaders. A century ago, everybody who was anybody in town was an Odd Fellow. We lost that edge over time. But, if you can attract one or two community leaders, those leaders will attract others. Members who are recognized leaders in the community will elevate the status of the Lodge and open the Lodge up to new memberships. In my Lodge, for example, we have elected city and county officials, school board members, the police chief, several judges, the district attorney and public defender, and so on. What a great recruitment tool you have when you can tell prospective members that your Lodge is the Who’s Who of the community.

Mentors

It’s important not only to attract new applicants, but to keep them in the process and to actually initiate them. In this regard, it’s useful to appoint a Mentor for each new pledge. The Mentor may be an experienced member, but often it’s better to have a relatively new member Mentor the pledge. The Mentor acts as a big brother or big sister, a buddy, available to answer questions and to introduce the applicant to other members. An effective Mentor system can really help move the applicant into membership.

Recruitment of new members is a job for each of us in this great and ancient Order. We can’t just sit back and wait for the “other guy” to do it. YOU are the other guy.

No Lodge is an Island

No Lodge is an Island

Dear Dedicated Members for Change, Every Odd Fellows Lodge in every jurisdiction of our Order has the right to send representatives to Grand Lodge Sessions, which are typically held once each year. In point of fact, however, a majority of Odd Fellow Lodges don't send...

The Quiet Successes in a Declining Organization

The Quiet Successes in a Declining Organization

​Before our beloved members go blind with rage over reading the word “DECLINING” this is the reality that the DMC has been trying to wake them up to for over a decade. Unless the majority of the members step up and put forth a serious effort of valuing its fellow...

Change: Common Thread in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Change: Common Thread in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

When "Dedicated Members for Change" first formed in 2010, we were criticized, mocked, ridiculed, and sidelined. Early on in our existence, we asked to use a meeting room during Grand Lodge sessions. The Grand Master at the time denied us even the use of a room. We had...

New Beginning for the Odd Fellows

New Beginning for the Odd Fellows

For your reading pleasure, we are re-publishing a DMC article which first appeared on June 10, 2014, which included a DMC article from August 18, 2012 – almost 10 years ago.


Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

This little entity called “Dedicated Members for Change” (DMC) was started in 2010, but it’s not understood by everyone in the Odd Fellows. I recognize that fact. For example, some think we have “members”. We don’t. DMC is simply an e-mail matrix where we share ideas and discuss issues relating to membership – the decline of our membership, and ways we can increase our membership. We are kind of a “think tank” for our Order. Not everyone agrees with everything said by article writers in this e-mail dialogue. That’s perfectly fine. Our intent is simply to raise the issues and discuss them. Sometimes, the articles are provocative. Why not? Provocative articles stimulate our brain cells, and freedom of speech and expression are cherished American values. Article writers will even make suggestions on membership development that some members and Lodges may find useful. I know we are having an impact because the issue of “membership” has come front and center in our discussions at Odd Fellows’ Grand Lodge Sessions and in our Lodge Halls. And we are starting to see the beginnings of a new trend where Lodges are bringing in more new members than they are losing. We are seeing net gains, not net losses in many Lodges now.

Why is there angst about “Dedicated Members for Change”? It can’t be about the use of the word “Dedicated”, as I hope each and every one of us is dedicated to our Order. It can’t be about the use of the word “Members” because we are all Odd Fellows and/or Rebekahs – members of our Order. So, it must be all about our use of the word “Change”. And to me, that’s really ironic. Because when you look at the history of Odd Fellowship, it is all about change. This Order has a history of evolution and change. We are quite different today than we were 20 years ago, or 50 years ago, or 100 years ago. The most recent change is the emphasis on social meetings and community outreach. But it wasn’t very long ago when our Order saw other changes such the admission of women into Odd Fellows Lodges. And the list of changes is a lengthy one. The degrees we have today are different than the degrees of Odd Fellowship a couple of generations ago. The oaths and obligations have changed over time. The ritual we use has changed and been re-written over time. The names and responsibilities of officers have changed. The regalia has changed (once Odd Fellows wore aprons in addition to the collars). The Order once had a plethora of secret signs when communicating with Odd Fellows outside the Lodge Hall – that’s all changed. I could go on and on.

The simple truth is that “change” is a thread that has woven through Odd Fellowship for hundreds of years. Why should it be any different today?

No one is suggesting that we become Rotarians or Clampers. No one is suggesting that we turn our backs on the history, the ritual, the regalia that make us unique as Odd Fellows. But we do suggest change which will make us more visible and attractive to the men and women of the 21st Century – the new members we need to grow our Lodges. We do suggest opening our doors and windows and reaching out into our communities to do good works, and we do suggest more social activities within our Lodges to bring the “fun” back to Odd Fellowship. These sorts of “changes” will rejuvenate, refresh, reinvigorate our Lodges and will re-focus us on the key to our success as an Order: bringing in those new members which are the lifeblood of any fraternal order.

Below is an article I wrote on August 18, 2012 for the DMC Newsletter. I thought you might enjoy this trip down memory lane.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Deputy Grand Master


Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Since Odd Fellowship was founded in Merry Olde England in the 1700’s, it appears to me to have undergone at least nine dramatic changes in its history. We learn about our future by understanding our past, and so I think it would be useful to travel down the historical path of this great Order.

  1. Odd Fellows started when working men of different trades met in the pubs of England. The earliest printed record stems from 1748 where “Odd Fellows” met in the Globe Tavern in England. I’m reasonably confident that drinking ale was a major part of these social gatherings. There is also evidence that our fraternal Order was linked to the “Ancient Order of Bucks”, and its symbol of three bucks with antlers intertwined. These men were led by a “Most Noble Grand” and also met in taverns.
  2. Odd Fellows were not the only fraternal order in England – in fact, there were dozens of them. And most of them evolved into what was known as “friendly societies”. Before social security and unemployment insurance and health care subsidized by employers, folks in England were pretty much on their own. In stepped Odd Fellows (and other fraternal orders) to help members who were sick or in distress, to educate orphans of members who died, and to bury members in Odd Fellows cemeteries. Odd Fellows Lodges were the social fabric (in lieu of government) which helped members and their families. In large measure, this is why Odd Fellows developed secret grips, signs and passwords – only by such secrets could one Odd Fellows Lodge know that it was helping a true Odd Fellow, as opposed to someone who was passing himself off as an Odd Fellow simply to receive financial or other assistance.
  3. And then for a time, Odd Fellows and other friendly societies were suppressed by government in England.
  4. But eventually, these fraternal organization became prevalent, and the suppression ceased. Odd Fellowship was revived in 1803 by an organization called “London Union of Odd Fellows” which, in turn, morphed into “The Grand Lodge of England” which assumed control over all Odd Fellows Lodges in England.
  5. But not all Odd Fellows Lodges in England were happy with that. In 1809 Victory Lodge in Manchester declared itself independent of the Grand Lodge of England. And in 1814 the six Lodges in Manchester met and joined together as the “Manchester Unity of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows” and proceeded to elect officers and “standardize” the degree work.
  6. Odd Fellowship came to the United States in 1806, but it wasn’t until 1819 that Odd Fellowship in America took off like a rocket with the work of Thomas Wildey. He and a handful of others “self-instituted” an Odd Fellows Lodge called Washington Lodge #1 in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1820, they received a charter through an English Lodge, and then Odd Fellowship – through the work of Wildey – rapidly expanded across the country.
  7. In 1834, Odd Fellowship in America became independent of the Order in England.
  8. In the middle of the 1800’s, Odd Fellowship became the first fraternal order to open its doors to women with the formation of the Rebekah Lodge; and in the late 20th Century, membership in Odd Fellows Lodges were opened to women and in Rebekah Lodges were opened to men.
  9. And in 1869, a California Lodge (Templar Lodge #15 in San Francisco) helped to establish a Lodge in Germany (Wuertemberg Lodge #1 in Stuttgart), and from there Odd Fellowship traveled world-wide.

Frankly, the history of Odd Fellowship is a history of change. Why should it be any different today? In fact, I suggest that Odd Fellowship is in the midst of another historical change in its personality – the tenth change, if you will. Sometimes it is difficult to discern change when you are in the midst of it. And I assure you that change (evolution) is happening right now. Both Grand Lodge and Sovereign Grand Lodge recognize that Odd Fellowship – to survive in the 21st Century – must evolve. This evolution must open Lodges up to the public. We have simply got to be more visible in our communities. This means more community outreach, involvement and support. This means inviting the public into our Lodges in social meetings and social events. This does not mean revealing the secrets of the Lodge. But it does mean becoming an active part of the communities in which we live. If we do so, we will attract the young blood of new members which we need so that the Order can flourish.

If we fail to leave the four walls of our Lodges, those walls will become the coffins of our Order.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg

No Lodge is an Island

No Lodge is an Island

Dear Dedicated Members for Change, Every Odd Fellows Lodge in every jurisdiction of our Order has the right to send representatives to Grand Lodge Sessions, which are typically held once each year. In point of fact, however, a majority of Odd Fellow Lodges don't send...

The Quiet Successes in a Declining Organization

The Quiet Successes in a Declining Organization

​Before our beloved members go blind with rage over reading the word “DECLINING” this is the reality that the DMC has been trying to wake them up to for over a decade. Unless the majority of the members step up and put forth a serious effort of valuing its fellow...

Change: Common Thread in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Change: Common Thread in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

When "Dedicated Members for Change" first formed in 2010, we were criticized, mocked, ridiculed, and sidelined. Early on in our existence, we asked to use a meeting room during Grand Lodge sessions. The Grand Master at the time denied us even the use of a room. We had...

Why the Odd Fellows Must Move Forward

Why the Odd Fellows Must Move Forward

Think on this too. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows in California started over 170 years ago. Do we realize the actual technological changes that have occurred in that time? In just 30 years we have gone from telephone to pagers to cell phones to being on the verge of implanting cellular devices within our bodies. In more than five times that time change has been so pervasive as to almost obliterate the past. Someone who feels that we can imitate the order from 1850 is oblivious to what that time was really like. Why, for instance, do you suppose the normal member was required to memorize his (women were not allowed) part of the Odd Fellows ritual? Simple, many members were unable to read or write. Internet searches estimate between 33-50 percent of the population at that time was illiterate. Usually, it was the village elders, the doctors, the lawyers, the merchants, who led a lodge. The illiterate members were forced to memorize their lines. The world 170 years ago was very different. Did you realize that slavery was legal until 1850 in California? In other states, of course, it was even later.

Anyone who has studied the history of California would find that the settling of California was filled with incredible hardship. Of course, the 1840’s and 1850’s were legendary for the California Gold Rush, but most settlers were poor and very needy. Many had families who were hungry and virtually lost in the gold country. Gold was not as readily available as widely rumored. An Odd Fellows lodge which promised food, security and some temporary shelter from the ongoing hardships was clearly a welcome port in the storm. Is it any wonder why we were at our most vibrant at that time? We filled a need. It is hard to relate to those times. Lodges often were comprised of a great percentage of the town where they were situated. Not only that, in some of the older gold country towns, the building next to the lodge, often was a Masonic lodge or other fraternal set up. Often there were several fraternal groups in a small town. It is not difficult to imagine that members found sustenance in being Involved with multiple groups. There are towns where one can still see the remnants of this. This was truly the time when fraternal groups showed their real value.

Lately there are some who feel that we, the Odd Fellows, should return to at least the vestiges of that time. They like the idea of the old robes, regalia, long dresses, and memorized ritual work. While I find the image of an historic lodge attractive to look at, we miss the forest for the trees. Much of the old dress, rote memorization and secret work was the product of a time long gone. Remember, that was 170 years ago! It is hard for me to even believe we must debate this at all. How would we recruit with this type of attitude? Being a past state officer, I have worn my share of robes and regalia, and it can be fun, and to me, an excellent disguise for my unwillingness to wear a tuxedo, also a part of the past, although not as long gone, but in my view, it’s just an exercise in masquerade. What we don’t realize is that in another time the robes and regalia may have well been a covering for the dusty clothes the old settlers wore during the day. When one member of the order puts on an old robe, one might take a moment to think of those who may have worn the same robe decades ago. It can be a bit sobering, wondering whether they were wealthy or poor, tired, or enlivened. A bit of all types, but poor and bedraggled was definitely the predominant type.

So, how do we try and repeat historical events? Of course, we’re all more literate now, so returning to yesterday’s world is really an exercise in illusion. We can’t return to yesterday we can only emulate its more admirable traits. We can don the robes, act like we’re in Elizabethan England (which of course is gone now even in England), recite the ritual, but what are we telegraphing to the onlookers wondering what we are doing? That we admire the past or, that we want to return to it?

In my own view, while candlelight was romantic, light bulbs are more illuminating. We need to move forward, accept that the world has changed, and we have to connect with that change. Everyone outside our environs says this with their actions as they move about, it’s not about yesterday, it’s more about where we go today. We need to move forward, we can admire the past for all its quirks, but we need to see that the time has come to ask ourselves who we are, not keep trying to explain who we were.

In F., L., & T.,

Rick Boyles
Past Grand Master, Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)
Jurisdiction of California

 

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