Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Rick Boyles is a Past Grand Master of the Jurisdiction of California and also one of the three founders of DMC. He is also a bit of a philosopher. In today’s DMC Newsletter, Brother Rick muses about Odd Fellows and Odd Fellowship – plumbing the depths of who we are and what we are. Take a moment with Rick to think, ponder, reflect, consider and muse.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California
Sometimes, when we look at our codes, our rituals, our by-laws, it’s hard to realize who or what we are. We seem to be a mass of rules.
While rules are in print, and we must adhere to at the very least the spirit of the printed word, it’s also important to remember that we are “The Independent Order of Odd Fellows”. No accident there. We have a better chance for survival if we remember the independent nature of things. It’s important to note that what works for my lodge may not work for yours, and vice versa. When any of us find lodges doing things in a positive way, we tend to want to emulate them. This is not always possible. A lodge, with hundreds of active members, can easily support dozens of committees, whereas a small lodge can’t possibly do so. A small lodge can actually turn off its membership by asking or even requiring too much. But a small lodge can be innovative, too. Rather than attempting the same ponderous ordeals and ceremonies, we can shake things up. Even Sovereign Grand Lodge likes to send out examples of distinct lodges, lodges where uncommon individuals do events or activities in unique manners. Take a look at your members. Many lodges are full of interesting, unusual, and yes, even eccentric characters, but this gives every lodge its own particular flavor. Use this to your advantage. Many lodges are now forming committees based upon their members’ interests. This tends to keep members engaged.
Of course, some decry this as making lodges cliquish but in fact, lodges have to share something otherwise it becomes questionable what the purpose of the lodge is. In earlier messages, I have suggested serving meals to members and prospective members. But beyond this, we need to plumb our members’ interests. In many cases, a lodge member’s interests are easily apparent. Serving dinner may bring the member in, but we need something to pique his or her interest. One of the core reasons for the demise of lodge settings in all fraternal groups is the boring, ponderous way we do things. If all we do is put our members to sleep with a monotone droning of the ritual; then we miss the point of a lodge meeting. My impression of the ritual is that it is a guide for a meeting, but not necessarily a roadblock to enjoyment. Humor is a wonderful adjunct to ceremony, and in my mind, adds considerable flavor to a meeting. If we can’t laugh together, share a smile, than why exactly are we here? Lodge participation has dropped for a number of well-documented reasons such as all the media around us, a quicker world, an environment less dependent upon one’s neighbor for co-existence, many of us simply becoming too elderly or sickly to cope in a group setting and many others. How do we combat this? By quickening our pace, by acting as if we realize that today exists.
It’s rather alarming how robotic many lodges are, where we seem to admire a member for the effortless method in which they repeat a charge they have read 200 times previously! A clinical psychologist might take a completely contrary view to this act, to the point of questioning the sanity of someone who was willing to do such an interminable chore continually. While the loss of members is indeed alarming, another way to look at it might be surprise that so many still exist! Clearly, there is a core disconnect between our lodges and the outer world. No longer do politicians or prominent citizens seek to join for their own reasons. Now, it is up to us to show them why they should join. But if a lodge can create a reason for joining, such as a Wine Committee, a sports committee, a chess committee, a music committee, or many others than members feel a need or even feel compelled to join.
It’s no mistake that the lodges that fail have failed psychologically before they physically do so. Failing lodges gave up mentally sometimes long before they lost the keys to the front door. If your lodge is continuing merely on a whim, stop performing trance-like rituals and ceremonies and simply ask your members what exactly they would like to do. I have found this simple question sometimes very enlightening. Many members have grown tired of putting on ponderous events or acting as if they are a large lodge when they are not. Try to please those you have left and you may spawn additional members. One new energetic member can make all the difference between failure and progress.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles