As male members of the Odd Fellows, we take a lot of things for granted, and are sometimes, frankly, unaware of the impact of the words used in the Lodge Hall on members of other genders.
I recently received an email from an Odd Fellow who is not male, who said the following: “Having been initiated into the world where people only exist as members of the male gender, how does one find gender equality? In the case of current Odd Fellowship, the Ritual demands that all players (male and female) play only male roles from the Old Testament. It’s interesting enough to participate, but as a member of the audience, I get uneasy, even with all the dialogue about having a good character.” The member concludes as follows: “The source of all the problems (and solutions) will be found with the Ritual. We live in interesting times.”
Indeed, male members of the Order may not have focused on this, but the Ritual of an Odd Fellows Lodge is heavily male oriented. The characters and players in the Degrees are all male. That might be perfectly dandy if you are a man, but put yourself in the shoes of a woman member of the Odd Fellows Lodge – how uncomfortable is that? The stories of friendship, brotherly love, and truth are all male-oriented. (Sure, some may say that in the Rebekah Degree, the focus is on women. But in reality, that focus is very diffused. Again, even in the Rebekah Degree the male characters dominate. And what of Rebekah, herself? It’s a story of a young woman who kindly provides water to a traveler and his camels. And then, when the traveler, a servant, tells Rebekah that he wants her to accompany him back to a far-away city to wed the son of his master – a person she does not know and has never met – she humbly and dutifully follows him. What message does that convey to women in the 21st Century?)
But let’s take a moment and go beyond the male and female genders. How does Odd Fellowship treat persons who have a different orientation? This is an absolutely valid question as we enter the third century of our Order. Today’s DMC Newsletter article is written by a relatively new and young member of Mountain View Lodge #244, in California. I commend it for your review – it definitely provides food for thought.
F – L – T
Pasts Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
The Queer Generation
Arike van de Water
27 October 2019
My father hates neckties. He only ever wore one to his own wedding. To him, they are part and parcel of the traditional masculinity his father exuded and he rejected. To me, they are a favoured tool in my wardrobe, helping me elbow open the full breadth of masculinity and femininity I wish to perform as I go about my business. I am working on the trinity knot, which seems to me to be eminently suited for wearing at Odd Fellow get-togethers, such as the membership education seminar in 2020.
How do we reach the young people? is a question my Dutch church asked, when it was three-quarters silver-haired. I now see it on the agenda for the seminar, how do we reach the 20- and 30-year-olds? That Dutch church found its answer in a combination of re-inventing tradition, doing ministry in community and connecting with the local neighbourhood. I do not know what the answer will be for you, for us, but perhaps I can give you a piece of the puzzle by explaining one reason that helped me join the Mountain View Lodge #244.
I want to help people. I like to be at ease when I do. I can spend all my energy on helping, that way. I could not be, where I served before. When I helped organise a course on evangelism, this spring, I felt I had to censor my clothes, my words, my opinions and even filter my small talk for the topics I discussed. I was welcome, because I passed for a sufficiently normal woman, but I was too conscious that persons of other genders felt they could not enter a church at all. And that as a woman there was a limit to what I could do, without being censured.
Since I had had the ability to serve as elder or deacon since my confirmation at seventeen, such limits felt unnatural at the age of 31. I started looking for places where I could be fully myself as I served. I knew Mountain View Lodge #244 were at least allies, since they hosted the Oddizens.
This fall I have gone to meetings in dress and suit and tie. I have not had to filter myself in talking to other people. I have met other queer people. I have met people of various religions and backgrounds, with a wide variety of beliefs and opinions. I have not had to question if I was welcome.
So if you are wondering how to make members out of Millenials, the part of the answer I can offer is: welcome the queer who do not feel at home in their church or mosque or temple and who are looking for a place to do some good in the world. I hope that will be taken under consideration when we meet for the seminar in the new year.