Keep Moving – Nothing to See Here?

Keep Moving – Nothing to See Here?

Several years ago, I ran for the position of Sovereign Grand Warden. No one knows me, so of course, I failed abysmally.

But why did I fail so abysmally? Because I made my speech about membership. Many members, including several Past Sovereign Grand Masters, advised me not to discuss membership, and to their credit, they were right. No one wants to hear how poorly we are doing. Particularly, since the median age now is at least 70 years old. We all want the order to survive at least as long as we do. But the figures show that this may no longer be possible.

About 2 years ago, I wrote a message projecting a 9-year future for the order in its present state, and of course, now the projection would be downgraded by 2 years. Unfortunately, my 9-year projection was close to the true figure because of several factors. Many years ago, in college, I was a literature major, but minored in mathematics, so I have always found projections and things of that sort of interest. Of course, at my age now, my head is no longer good at computing figures, but it no longer requires a Mensa candidate to determine these figures as they decline quickly. Here is what I see by today’s figures. Remember, that SGL figures are based on reports often at least 2 years past.

In the Rebekahs, of which I am a member, at least thirty-two states are now below two hundred members, so clearly more than three-fifths of the states with Rebekahs are close to dissolution.

In the Odd Fellows, at least twenty states are now below two hundred members, plus the District of Columbia, so two-fifths of the United States are close to dissolution.

As everyone knows, California is the largest jurisdiction by far, and yet, a mere 4,000 members in a state with a population of about forty million people seems small by comparison. A minuscule percentage, to be sure.

But there are some scary figures we have yet to see. For example, since the figures given out by the Sovereign Grand Lodge are from reports often more than 2 years ago, this does not include figures during the pandemic. Many lodges in our own state seemed to almost cease to exist. The question this raises is that if lodges virtually ceased to exist in our largest state, what happened to lodges in the lower populated states? Of course, many lodges communicated by zoom or other remote methods, but given our average age and the treacherous times, what do we expect from lodges when these years are filed in the annual reports.

Sovereign Grand Lodge has done their best to lighten the load. They have eliminated the premise of unscrupulous or unknowledgeable members pursuing mindless trials by deciding to oversee all trials of members. In viewing annual reports, they have also suggested that California take a more active role in the national discussion, allowing more representation, understandably since our member numbers are greater than the bottom twenty states combined, even by figures 3 years past. Also, they have reinforced the generally accepted rule that the Grand Master is the absolute head of each jurisdiction no matter how well-meaning another individual may be. Hopefully, this will clear up some issues going forward. In my reading of previous SGL annual reports, I have seen that infighting within a state generates more turmoil than anything else.

Lastly, the question arises that if we are losing members by an ever-increasing rate, do we proceed to lower our standards? In my humble opinion, that answer is no. Lodges have been absolutely decimated by wild inebriates, and those too proud to admit their own inadequacies. If anything, we should be more stringent on our admission standards. Good people will not stay long where drunkards or members of low character congregate, to be frank, and we must be careful to be a bit more observant when prospective members come and pay a visit. The Davis Lodge, for example, takes months to admit prospective members and they must prove they’re worthy, and yet they are one of the biggest lodges in the country. People want to go where they feel welcome. If we genuinely want our order to survive, we must see the individual trees in the forest, and help them grow.

In F, L, & T,

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

Analysis of Membership Projections

Analysis of Membership Projections

2 years ago, my initial projection for the future of the IOOF in America, as it existed at that time, was a 9-year future. This was not based upon a guess, but rather an analysis of several inter-related figures. Some figures can be changed but others are unalterable....

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

This report is a draft written by one of California’s Grand Representatives. It allows the membership to get a sense of what happens at Sovereign Grand Lodge. It touches on what this Grand Representative sees from his perspective. With the reports or input of our...

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

It's Just Math Too many Lodges find themselves standing pat on members - that is, years go by and no new members are added to the rolls of the Lodge. It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that the inevitable result of this pattern is the eventual demise of...

A need for “Third Places”

A need for “Third Places”

Recently, an Odd Fellow sent me the following link:

@nathanallebach

We need walkable communities to support third places and third places to support healthy societies #thirdplace #thirdplaces #walkability #walkablecities #walkablecommunities #urbanplanning #urbanism #community #carfree

♬ original sound – nathan allebach

The link contains a short video about the need for “third places” – these are places other than home and work. The video focuses on how we have generally lost these third places all across the continent. I urge you to watch the short video, as it has speaks to a real problem that confronts all clubs and lodges in this country – including our own Odd Fellows Lodges.

There was time in America when almost everyone who was anyone belonged to a Lodge. “Back in the day,” Odd Fellows Lodges boasted over one million members, and Masonic Lodges had a similar number, plus millions of other adults were members of hundreds of different fraternal orders. Those were the days when there was no Internet or even television, there were no peripheral shopping centers or malls, and towns had downtowns that were active and vibrant. Men and women wanted to congregate and socialize outside of the home and work – and they could readily do so by active participation in their churches and temples, and/or participation in various fraternal lodges and social clubs.

Society morphed dramatically and exponentially over the decades. Downtowns shrank or disappeared. Newer generations spent less time in social contact with others and more time in individual pursuits on desktops, laptops, iPads, and mobile phones. Nowadays, young people spend much of their days (and nights) looking at screens. Even reading of books, newspapers and periodicals is done on screen, rather than flipping pages of paper.

But the COVID Pandemic of 2020-22 (as horrible as it is) may have done us an unintended “favor”. The lock downs and isolation, the working from home. the disconnection with live people, reminded us of how much we really MISS our face-to-face contact with live people. And at my own Lodge, we have seen this playing out over the past two years. Folks are starting to reach out for the social contact that they have avoided over those past two years. Folks are starting to contact my Lodge – often through our website – wanting to learn more about “the Odd Fellows.” This year, alone, we have seen a tremendous uptick in applications. When the dust settles in December, my Lodge will have initiated over 40 new members.

Perhaps it’s old fashioned, but that personal human contact is vital to our species. And Odd Fellowship is a place where men and women can find it.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

Analysis of Membership Projections

Analysis of Membership Projections

2 years ago, my initial projection for the future of the IOOF in America, as it existed at that time, was a 9-year future. This was not based upon a guess, but rather an analysis of several inter-related figures. Some figures can be changed but others are unalterable....

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

This report is a draft written by one of California’s Grand Representatives. It allows the membership to get a sense of what happens at Sovereign Grand Lodge. It touches on what this Grand Representative sees from his perspective. With the reports or input of our...

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

It's Just Math Too many Lodges find themselves standing pat on members - that is, years go by and no new members are added to the rolls of the Lodge. It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that the inevitable result of this pattern is the eventual demise of...

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Every Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge has one. Sometimes, more than one.

I’m talking about (on the positive side) “the most knowledgeable member”. Or (on the negative side) “the member who knows everything.” These are typically long-time members who have a history with the Lodge and an understanding of the codes, rules and rituals of Odd Fellowship. They have probably served as Noble Grand of the Lodge – perhaps a decade or two ago – and they continue to serve in some capacity. Often they sit for years in the Secretary’s chair or the Treasurer’s chair, or serve as Right or Left Supporter of the Noble Grand.

Just like Kings, these members can be kind and helpful, or they can be dictatorial and manipulative.

These are the members whom you go to if you want to know about serving in an elected or appointed office in the Lodge, or about Grand Lodge sessions, or what happens if a member fails to pay his/her dues during the year, or whether an associate member can be elected Noble Grand, or where the regalia is located, or the myriad other questions that pop up in the course of Lodge life. These are the members who probably have keys to everything. These (sometimes) are also the members who can’t seem to let go. It is normal and natural for the long-time older members to step to the side to allow the newer younger members to assume more and more authority and responsibility. That’s one reason that the term of the Noble Grand is one year, and it is common for a new NG to be elected every year.

No one is ever indispensable, and the normal life cycle certainly proves that to be the case. Yet some of these members hang on by their fingernails, declining to allow younger, capable members the opportunity to learn, grow and serve the Lodge and the Order. These self-anointed “indispensables” refuse to try anything new or innovative. The old ways, to them, are always best. And their typical responses to attempts to think outside the box is “that’s against the Code” or “we tried that years ago and it doesn’t work.”

So, a word of advice to these “members who know everything”: The greatest contribution you can now make to the health of your Lodge and the success of the Order is to impart your knowledge to the next generation of members. Take a more passive role as the trusted elder and wise advisor. Step a bit to the side and let the next generation of leaders develop, learn, flourish and lead.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
IOOF, Jurisdiction of California

Analysis of Membership Projections

Analysis of Membership Projections

2 years ago, my initial projection for the future of the IOOF in America, as it existed at that time, was a 9-year future. This was not based upon a guess, but rather an analysis of several inter-related figures. Some figures can be changed but others are unalterable....

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

This report is a draft written by one of California’s Grand Representatives. It allows the membership to get a sense of what happens at Sovereign Grand Lodge. It touches on what this Grand Representative sees from his perspective. With the reports or input of our...

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

It's Just Math Too many Lodges find themselves standing pat on members - that is, years go by and no new members are added to the rolls of the Lodge. It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that the inevitable result of this pattern is the eventual demise of...

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)  is dedicated to Friendship, Love, and Truth. Let’s take a moment to speak some truth.

As our Order slowly shrinks in size, some of our iniquities come to light. We have jurisdictions where the total membership of the Odd Fellows Lodges in the jurisdiction is less than 200. In fact, the statistics just published by Sovereign Grand Lodge reveal that fully TWENTY jurisdictions each have less than 200 members on their books. Some of these jurisdictions actually have less than 100 members.

On the other hand, the largest jurisdiction (California) has over 4,000 members.

Each of the jurisdictions with less than 200 members is permitted to send 1 representative from their respective Grand Lodges to Sovereign Grand Lodge. That’s a total of 20 representatives for those 20 very small jurisdictions.

California is permitted to send a total of 2 representatives from its Grand Lodge to Sovereign Grand Lodge.

So, the 20 very small jurisdictions – whose membership totals less than 4,000 – gets to send 20 representatives, while California – which has more members than the combined total of the 20 small jurisdictions – gets to send only 2 representatives. California is outnumbered 10 to 1.

By any standard, does that seem fair?

I do not mean to suggest that any of those smaller jurisdiction should be deprived of their allocated Grand Lodge representatives. I have no problem with each of these 20 jurisdictions being allotted a representative at Sovereign Grand Lodge. My concern is that the allocation of only two representatives to California’s Grand Lodge creates an inequity – and in fact, a gross inequity. We have single Lodges in California that have more than 200 members. It seems to me that California should receive more than two representatives. And I am not suggesting that California should receive 20 representatives. But, in fairness, I believe California should be allocated at least 5 representatives to properly represent the diverse interests of this large jurisdiction. And, to be frank, any jurisdiction with more than 2,000 members should have an uptick in its representation.

We should value and recognize our larger jurisdictions, while continuing to value and recognize our smallest.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
IOOF, Jurisdiction of California

Analysis of Membership Projections

Analysis of Membership Projections

2 years ago, my initial projection for the future of the IOOF in America, as it existed at that time, was a 9-year future. This was not based upon a guess, but rather an analysis of several inter-related figures. Some figures can be changed but others are unalterable....

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

This report is a draft written by one of California’s Grand Representatives. It allows the membership to get a sense of what happens at Sovereign Grand Lodge. It touches on what this Grand Representative sees from his perspective. With the reports or input of our...

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

It's Just Math Too many Lodges find themselves standing pat on members - that is, years go by and no new members are added to the rolls of the Lodge. It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that the inevitable result of this pattern is the eventual demise of...

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Many of us are guilty of one of more of these petty things. These problems are almost inescapable, but fraternal groups because of their tight, orderly nature can be rampant breeding grounds for distrust, dishonesty, and various disappointments. Here are a few of the problems, we are all often guilty of doing.

  1. Gossip. This is the most popular of these petty offenses. Some of us love to gossip, but most gossip is detrimental to someone. Why do we care? Because we at least have a passing acquaintance with many members throughout the order. But, do we know them, really? We need to realize that all of us are human beings, capable of mistakes.  Why do we gossip? Because we see it as a sense of personal empowerment.  Remember what we learned early on – “if you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.”
  2. Public Intoxication.  Most of us are adults.  Being adults, though means that we are responsible for our own actions. We must learn to control our alcohol intake, and not lose control in public. Oftentimes, overuse of alcohol in a public setting may result in a poor outcome. Some members who drink too much can become abrasive or even combative. Many lodges ban or limit alcohol intake due to bad histories surrounding it, although the preferable response is for all of us to act like we’re responsible members and adults.
  3. Feeling Untrained.This can sometimes come with what I would call a willing illiteracy. Some people may become irate just being asked to read the ritual or understand coded references; while others may have a serious inability to read or to comprehend what they read.  Dyslexia is a common problem, which is basically a reading disability, but can last forever unless one seeks care, or helps oneself. Some members may talk of the ritual or our codes, but have they ever really read them? This is rarely spoken of, but dyslexia is a common issue, affecting millions. While the codes and the ritual are not very much fun to read, in order to grow within the order, one must have a familiarity with them. I know of a few members who either can’t read because of a disability, or just refuse to do so. Some also just resist reading in public. Of course, there are other reasons for poor reading skills, such as intoxication, or basic vision issues. Would we want someone to be Noble Grand or Grand Master, who had not even read the code or tried to understand it?
  4. Political or Moral Superiority. In this era of heated political debate, it is best to keep these feelings to ourselves. The ritual even mandates that there will be no such debate in meetings themselves, but even at dinners or other functions, it is best to remember that each person has their own beliefs, and it is best to keep it to ourselves. No one is better or worse than anyone else, no matter their beliefs.
  5. Too Little Structure. Especially today there is a random nature due to the pandemic. We can easily lose touch with each other. If we want our lodge to return to normal, we need to return to a pre-pandemic reality. Some of us have become extremely comfortable with zoom meetings or continuing membership without a real meeting, but we must eventually return to our old ways.
  6. Too Much Structure. Conversely, some lodges are really too rigid for their own good. Some lodges fail due to demanding members all walk in lockstep. If your membership is declining or failing entirely, you might consider loosening up a bit. If a lodge has many members on its books, but very few show up for lodge, that should tell you something. If no dinner is served, or you charge for dinner, or limit it to cold pizza, you might consider something new.  Ask yourself, why would someone attend your meeting?
  7. Get over Yourself. Some people find this hard to do. While many members of the order have reached a high office or offices, this does not make them better or worse. All members deserve equal respect, and all of these previous issues are solvable.

In F., L., & T.,

Rick Boyles
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California

Analysis of Membership Projections

Analysis of Membership Projections

2 years ago, my initial projection for the future of the IOOF in America, as it existed at that time, was a 9-year future. This was not based upon a guess, but rather an analysis of several inter-related figures. Some figures can be changed but others are unalterable....

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

This report is a draft written by one of California’s Grand Representatives. It allows the membership to get a sense of what happens at Sovereign Grand Lodge. It touches on what this Grand Representative sees from his perspective. With the reports or input of our...

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

It's Just Math Too many Lodges find themselves standing pat on members - that is, years go by and no new members are added to the rolls of the Lodge. It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that the inevitable result of this pattern is the eventual demise of...

Religion and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Religion and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Imagine a young man in his late-30’s who is a medical doctor, specializing in surgery, happily married for the last ten years, two young children (a son who is 8 and a daughter who is 6).   His wife is a delightful and educated woman.   This young man was born in India, but came to the United States as a young boy and became a naturalized citizen of the USA decades ago.   He is a tennis player, also quite good at bridge and chess.   He is a great fan of the NFL.  He is educated and urbane, reliable, honest, friendly to all, very devoted to his family and his faith, and would give you the shirt off his back.

I would love to invite him to join my Odd Fellows Lodge.  But I can’t.   He is not permitted to join Odd Fellows.

Why?

Because he is a Buddhist.

Buddhists number over 500 million people in the world – or close to 10 percent of the planet’s population.   That is a significant number of humans.   So, why does the Independent Order of Odd Fellows reject them from membership in our fraternity?

Buddhism is the fourth largest religion on the planet, following Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism in number of adherents.   By comparison to Judaism which is the fifth largest religious group, Buddhism is over 50 times larger.  Buddhists are the dominant religious group in 15 countries of the world.   There are 3.5 million Buddhists in the United States alone.

Members of the Buddhist faith seek to elevate the character of man by living a good and honorable life.  They are all about being honest, forthright, and kind with others.   They focus on achieving enlightenment.   Sounds like persons who are Buddhists would be prime candidates to join our Order.   But he belongs to a denomination of Buddhism that does not believe in “a Supreme Being”.

The rules that govern Odd Fellowship require that a member believe in “a Supreme Being, the creator and preserver of the Universe”.   Yet, at the same time, Odd Fellowship professes to not discriminate against a person on the basis of religion.   Membership in Odd Fellows is supposed to be “non-sectarian”.   On the homepage of the Sovereign Grand Lodge, you will find the following statement:  “Membership is open to all regardless of sex, race, religion, political affiliation and social status . . . .”   Our Order – at the Grand Lodge and Lodge level – has adopted amendments to bylaws which profess that Odd Fellowship does not discriminate on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, race or religion.   So, which is it?    Isn’t the exclusion of those who follow the teachings of Buddha a discrimination on the basis of religion?  The rules of Odd Fellowship also require that a copy of the “Holy Bible” be in the Lodge room during meetings.   What about the Talmud or the Koran?   What about the religious works of other religions like Mormonism?   By mandating placement of the Bible, doesn’t this favor one religion over others; in other words, isn’t that sectarianism?

And what about Deists?  While Deists believe in “a Supreme Being”, they reject all organized religions and the various writings of men that claim to be divinely inspired.  Famous Deists include Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Locke, and Albert Einstein.   Deists believe in “a Supreme Being” but are uncomfortable by works of men (like the Bible) that purport to be divinely inspired.

And what about those who follow the teachings of Hinduism?  This is a religion with many gods?  While Brahma is the most prominent, there are preeminent gods such as Shiva and Vishnu that are central to the teachings and traditions of Hinduism.   There is no single “Supreme Being”.

Bottom line:   “Religion” is a thorny thicket.   Odd Fellowship in the 21st Century is laboring under inconsistent tenets when it comes to religion, and this inconsistency is keeping potentially good and moral men and women from joining our Order – and potentially impacting our membership growth.

To make the point of this article, I have taken some literary license by creating a fictional character in the “young man in his late-30’s”.    That said, within the last three weeks, I have spoken to an interested and potential member who felt she could not apply for membership (and ultimately did not apply) because of her faith as a Buddhist.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.)
Jurisdiction of California

Analysis of Membership Projections

Analysis of Membership Projections

2 years ago, my initial projection for the future of the IOOF in America, as it existed at that time, was a 9-year future. This was not based upon a guess, but rather an analysis of several inter-related figures. Some figures can be changed but others are unalterable....

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

Sovereign Grand Lodge: A Report

This report is a draft written by one of California’s Grand Representatives. It allows the membership to get a sense of what happens at Sovereign Grand Lodge. It touches on what this Grand Representative sees from his perspective. With the reports or input of our...

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

It's Just Math Too many Lodges find themselves standing pat on members - that is, years go by and no new members are added to the rolls of the Lodge. It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that the inevitable result of this pattern is the eventual demise of...

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