Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Earlier this week, I completed my 31st and last official visit to Lodges during my year as Grand Master. It has been a very revealing journey, and here are my Top Ten impressions from these trips – the good, the bad, and the ugly of my visits:
1. At every stop, Lodges welcomed me and my Grand Lodge Officers with open arms. Universally, Lodge members were fraternal and friendly, and always tried to make us feel comfortable and welcomed.
2. Lodges did their level best to run proper meetings. There were, however, remarkable variations in how members ran their meetings.
3. Many Lodge Halls – some dating back more than a century – were in need of maintenance, repair, refurbishing and upgrades. Many Lodge Halls still had chair lifts and non-commercial kitchens, making them generally inaccessible to public events. One Lodge I visited had lost their Lodge Hall and was meeting in member’s homes.
4. Too many Lodges ran what I call the “20 minute meeting” where there were no committee reports, no old business and no new business.
5. I visited a number of Lodges where associate members served in one or more of the five elected officer positions. Some Lodges are functional only because they have associate members.
6. Some Lodges did not engage with the community, and had no community outreach or community events. They were, for all intents and purposes, invisible in their communities.
7. Sixteen years after membership in Odd Fellows Lodges opened to women, remarkably, we still have some Lodges in this state that have no female members. That is not smart, not good for our Order, and unacceptable.
8. Most Lodges that I visited had no members under the age of 60. The fact that an entire generation of members has been skipped does not bode well for those Lodges. And when they bring in a new member, that member is typically over the age of 60 – continuing to ignore the next generation. It will be only a matter of time until the Lodge becomes a Lodge of grandmothers and grandfathers, making it virtually impossible to bring in younger members.
9. Quite a few of the Lodges that I visited had no involvement with Grand Lodge other than the submission of the annual report and payment of per capita fees.
10. I visited Lodges that had gone through the entire year without bringing in a new applicant – sometimes two, three, four, five or more years with no new applicants for membership.
With a few exceptions, my overall impression of the majority of the Lodges that I visited was one of complacency. Lodge members seemed to be resigned to the status quo and seemed to be satisfied continuing to operate as they always have. However, while this may be comfortable to the current members, it is disastrous to the survival of that Lodge (and the future of our Order). To be brutally frank, for most Lodges, it is only a matter of time till the bubble will burst, Lodges will slowly continue their net losses of members, and will eventually fall below quorums and wind up consolidating or having their charters pulled. Reliance on associate members to keep the Lodge afloat is equally unsustainable. Eventually, the reality of complacency and shrinking membership will catch up with them.
Complacency is the true enemy of fraternity.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California