Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Some seven or eight years ago, I had a discussion with a well-spoken and respected member of IOOF about the future of our Order. This member was what I consider very conservative, dedicated to a strict adherence to ritual, and completely resistant to change. On the other hand, I am quite progressive, willing to liberalize the structure to evolve with the times, and very open to change. We had quite a lengthy and intense discussion about the continued loss of members, the aging of our Order, and the lack of new members in many Lodges. I argued for the need to evolve and change our Order to fit the 21st Century. He argued that the status quo must be maintained. I parried every one of his arguments against change with citation to facts about our diminishing membership. Finally, after I had essentially made my case and had shown all his arguments for the status quo to be hollow, and had backed him to the proverbial debate wall, the member said words that I will never forget. He said: “I would rather that the Order die, than change.”
Frankly, at that point I felt our discussion was ended. But those words remain with me to this day, because they show the depth of resistance to change that exists within this Order.
In his article, below, Past Grand Master Rick Boyles addresses the need to evolve and change and become a fraternity that fits into the 21st Century.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California
Live Like its 2015…
When you consider ways in which to change our order, one of the primary ways is to modernize. This seems like a no-brainer to those outside our order, but to many within our order it appears to be a sacrilege. In different avenues of our order many things appear antiquated, and frankly, deadly dull. I have actually seen some of our prominent elderly members sleeping through various rituals and ceremonies. In order to grow we must enliven things, but some find this actually too invasive to accept. We must be willing to face facts. If it is too boring for our regular members, it is clearly too boring for our newest recruits. Our Grand Master this year has done a great job attempting to establish actual membership counts, but some members seem to think this is wrong, as if hiding our true counts would somehow make us feel better. It does not. If anything, it gives us a basis upon which to build. A foundation can’t be fortified without knowing the internal structure upon which it depends. It’s no secret that many states now number less than 200 members, and if this is not a wake-up call, I don’t know what is.
There is political disparity within our ranks, but I am not sure why, except to suggest that there are those members who simply don’t want new members unless the new members are just like them. But this is tricky, for even recruiting your brother for membership could be problematical, since even on a familial basis people may argue. So, the old line members tend to lean towards recruiting no one, and often can present an antagonistic front. Some older members talk about new members as if they are a mirage never to be actually reached. There is a general widening fear by some that new members may threaten some type of hollowed out existence we have all created within this crevice in the divide of Odd Fellowship. The Odd Fellows at large are failing, diminishing rapidly, and political wrangling does nothing more than hasten its demise. But this almost seems preferable to those who don’t want new members because in reality they also don’t want to save the Odd Fellows, they only want it to last as long as they do. In fact, one old-timer I spoke to said when he died he could not care less what happened to our order, because he would be gone and it no longer served any purpose. However this was not the intent of the order when it began – it was the societal umbrella for whole towns and groups, it would “bury the dead, educate the orphan” and much more. I think it’s clear that many years ago when a member died, that member was remembered, cherished, and his family cared for. Much of that has been lost, within and without our order. If we want our order to survive and grow, we must return to the spirit of that earlier time.
How do we effect change? First, we need to be as good as our advertisements. We need to practice friendship where no member should feel a cold shoulder due to some political thought or stance. We need to resurrect love and not act combative towards anyone within our midst. We all march to different drummers, but belong to the same band. A symphony only works if it is all in tune. We must encircle truth and learn that it is through truth we grow and not through some unspoken resentment or disparity with each other. Just as we all may disagree on some level, we must agree at our core that not only must we survive, we will.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles