Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
As you know, I am an advocate of evolution and change in this Order. I have suggested that Lodges must become three-dimensional Lodges to survive and thrive in our 21st Century environment. Those three dimensions are: (1) Recognition of the rich history and ritual which makes us uniquely Odd Fellows; (2) Attention to the social aspects of Odd Fellowship (translated: make sure to have some fun); and (3) Reaching out to the community at large to engage in good charitable and community works.
Just the other evening, I visited a Lodge which is a prime example of the three-dimensional Lodge: Oustomah Lodge #16 in the tiny hamlet of Nevada City. Of particular interest is the fact that this Lodge is nestled in a community of only 3,000 people. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from members that, “Being involved in the community and growing our Lodge may be all well and good for Davis or San Francisco, but my Lodge is in a really small community. We can’t do the stuff you do.”
Oustomah proves that any Lodge, in any community, can be a three dimensional Lodge, can thrive and can grow.
Oustomah #16 is one of the oldest Lodges in California, having been instituted in 1853. The Lodge Hall is situated on Broad Street, the main thoroughfare of the town. Just a handful of years ago this Lodge was in trouble, having devolved to just a few older members. This is, regrettably, a storyline that is all too familiar in Odd Fellowship – great Lodges failing to add new members for a generation or two. But these older members were dedicated members who saw that the Lodge was heading toward a major fork in the road. One of those forks represented comfort, complacency and the status quo. It was the easy path, because it required little, or no effort. The Lodge could just continue along for a number of years with no changes, and as the older members passed away, the Lodge would eventually lose a quorum, lose its charter and would also pass away as a footnote into history. After all, the Rebekah Lodge and the Encampment that once existed in Nevada City had already taken that path. They were gone – only their names remained, painted in gold letters next to a door. But this handful of older members, led primarily by Allen Rogers, took the other fork in that road. They thought more about the future of the Lodge than of their own comfort. These older members determined to save their historic Lodge and they brought in new members – younger members – and they also loosened the reins of power and allowed these younger members to assume leadership positions. They brought in both men and women, and they brought in activists, and artists, and business people, and leaders in the community’s volunteer radio station.
Today, the Lodge boasts close to 40 members, with many new applicants being considered for membership. The Lodge Hall, itself, is one of the most beautiful in California, and it has been lovingly restored. It contains one of the best Odd Fellows Museums I have ever seen with hundreds of fraternal items and memorabilia on display. I attended a meeting of Oustomah #16 and was very impressed with their energy, efforts to reach out and involve themselves in the community, and genuine friendship and love that they showed for each other.
In truth, you don’t have to be located in San Francisco or Davis to have a vibrant and growing Lodge. Even a Lodge in a community of 3,000 people can be a model for the resurgence of Odd Fellowship. In fact, in many ways, the Lodge in the small or tiny community has advantages over the Lodge in the medium or large community. For one thing, because Odd Fellowship was the big show in the 1800’s, most Lodges are situated in the very heart of their towns. For another, folks in small towns and tiny communities tend to know each other and their neighbors. Oustomah #16 has shown us a path back for Lodges that have fallen behind. It can be done.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California