Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Past Grand Master Rick Boyles has penned another intriguing article for the DMC Newsletter. Never one to shy away from controversial topics, Rick tells it like he sees it. And that’s one of the purposes of DMC: As a think-tank of issues, DMC puts ideas on the table for open discussion. Whether you agree or disagree, Rick helps us put our collective brain cells in motion!

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Deputy Grand Master

If Nothing is Permitted…, No One is Welcome…

Some lodges and members are good at one thing in particular: …the word “No”. New members often think of new ideas or favorite projects and older members are often the first to turn a blind eye and talk about the idea’s implausibility. They call it a hobby, or demean it as a club; anything but give it a shot. But how do you know unless you try? Our state of California is the seat of innovative thought, home to Silicon Valley, and much that is new and yet as Brother Dave Rosenberg says, we in the Odd Fellows are almost as backwards as the Amish. If I were to differ with Brother Dave, I would say that we are even more backwards than the Amish because the Amish have made a conscious decision to keep it simple while we have been guilty of no such conscious act. Our order is backwards simply because it is a reflex mechanism against any manner of intrusion. I’ve spoken to dozens of members who have no use for a computer and no feelings of affection for anything new. Why is that exactly? To put it bluntly, many seem to think that they are too old or too comfortable to go outside their sphere of influence. But not all older people are like that. As I liked to mention in my travels, my mother, who is 88, actually has 3 computers and would die if any of them blinked out. They have become her lifeline, and it is the cheapest, most efficient way to keep in touch with relatives and friends. The Davis Lodge had a committee set up to teach the elderly basic computing which is an excellent idea and a great advertisement for a caring lodge.

Some members use the words “heritage”, “code”, “history” as their private bludgeons. We have all those things but they won’t stop our demise as an order. Those who think we should adhere to some antiquated path are really only fooling themselves. If an antiquated path were the answer, then our membership would not have decreased by such a dire amount thus far. We now number less than 5% of our original membership count. Tuxedos and long dresses are not the answer. If anything, our membership has stopped growing and has shown a great fear to adapt to change. To be frank, we would draw more members if we were in jeans and t-shirts. Of course, the old-timer’s response would be “we don’t want that type of member”. This is where the old-timer loses me. I am not sure what he or she means. Do we only want the public to attend in tuxedos and long dresses? That time is long gone. Do we only want members who can recite the “unwritten work”? Here’s a hint. How many know it now? I find it ludicrous that we talk about loving one’s brothers and sisters as some sort of secret rite for our order. Do you really think this is endemic to the Odd Fellows? To me, this is the intrinsic issue we now have – there is nothing specific, no trait or characteristic emblematic of the Odd Fellows. If we just constantly sputter friendship, love and truth, these are great things, but clearly all good souls want this. No, we have to be something more.

There has been discussion of late for us all to unite behind one charitable goal. I tend to agree, but more than that, the discussion that must be initiated in depth is…: Who are we? What do we represent? How can we connect up with the population surrounding us? Good questions. These are the questions that must be answered both at a lodge level and at Sovereign Grand Lodge Level. Those lodges who can answer these basic questions are more likely to have success with drawing and retaining members. Those who can’t answer these basic questions surely can’t expect to remain relevant within this changing world.

In Friendship, Love and Truth, Rick Boyles

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