Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

A week does not go by that I don’t get an email from a new member of a Odd Fellows Lodge, voicing a mighty level of frustration. These new Odd Fellows express a level of dismay that ranges from bafflement at one end to virtual defeat at the other extreme. As members of an Odd Fellows Lodge, they are not happy, and they feel thwarted and stymied by other members. The goals of friendship, love and truth are stretched thin in their particular situations.

The frustration almost always boils down to one root cause: The new member (along with other newer members) wants to try some new things, but there is another long-time member (along with other long-time members) who does not. This is the yin and yang in some Lodges. It’s the disconnect between generations. This conflict can take several forms.

One boiling point happens when the new member suggests a new concept. The new member might have an idea for a social function at the Lodge or a charitable project in the community. But no matter what is suggested, the new member is shut down and sometimes put down. The words might be, “We can’t do that,” or “We tried that before and it doesn’t work,” or “That’s not permitted by the Code”, or simply “That’s a dumb idea.” The members who so readily shut down or put down the new idea seem to forget that EVERYTHING we do as Odd Fellows was once a new idea suggested by a member.

Another flash point is sparked when long-time members hold onto certain Lodge positions as if their very lives depended on it, and never let go. No one should have life-time tenure in an office in the Lodge. No one is indispensable. We elect officers; we don’t crown royalty. It’s healthy to have many people serve over time. And it’s perfectly all right for the newer members to make mistakes – that’s how we grow and learn. Long-time members should – in the spirit of FLT – assume the role of mentors when newer members are ready to step up.

Some long-time, old-time members will stop at nothing to prevent change – to the point of changing the rules, even to the point of using those changed rules to keep new members out of the Lodge. I recently became aware of a Lodge which was ball balloting on new initiates. The long-time members argued strenuously that just black cubes cast against an initiate means that the applicant is rejected and could not be initiated. Trouble with that is that the three black cube rejection model was thrown out many years ago – that is no longer the rule in Odd Fellowship. A simple majority of white balls is all that is required to admit a new member. The old days – when three “no-change-on-my-watch” members could reject a new member – are long gone. But that didn’t stop them from trying.

It’s the immovable object meeting the irresistible force. But the immovable object ultimately cannot prevail because it is limited by the human lifespan. The irresistible force will eventually prevail because change is natural and inevitable. Even in Odd Fellowship.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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