Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Allow me to relate to you three actual comments made in the recent past by Odd Fellows:
- “If they make me get e-mail, I’m dropping out of the Order.”
- “If my Lodge ever admits a woman, I’m resigning.”
- “You are the enemy.”
The first comment was related to me by a Noble Grand from a Southern California Lodge who overheard one member of the Order say those words to another member. The second comment was made directly to me by a 20-year member during a visit I made to a Northern California Lodge. The third comment was made to me at last year’s Grand Lodge – I had held out my hand offering a handshake and the Brother refused to shake my hand, saying the quoted words – I assume in reference to my progressive views. (The Brother later came back to apologize and shake my hand, saying “A Brother should always shake the hand of a Brother held out in friendship.”)
I offer these three actual comments to underscore the obvious: Change is hard.
I understand that. Members who have been part of this Order for 20, 30, 40 or more years have become “comfortable” with the way things are – whether good, bad, or ugly. Many members have literally grown up in Odd Fellowship from their teen years to their retired years. Any alteration in the status quo is unwelcome, and may be disturbing. Why change the way we have been doing it for the last 50 years?
Indeed, it’s a fair question.
The answer, however, is because the survival of this Order depends on our ability to evolve and change. And that’s because America has evolved dramatically in the last 50 years. We have seen an unprecedented societal and technical evolution. Fifty years ago, Lodges were typically all white and all male. For any Lodge to continue being all white and all male in 2015 is just wrong – it ignores reality and good sense. We have also experienced a technological explosion of unprecedented proportions. Some would argue that the changes are not for the better. Maybe so. The point is, however, that society has changed with the use of the Internet and websites, e-mail, cell phones, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. And for Odd Fellowship (and Odd Fellows) to ignore the changes effectively ignores a new generation of Americans born in the 1980’s and 1990’s. We ignore this new generation to our fraternal peril.
Bottom line: We have too many Lodges which have become stagnant and dormant. We have too many Lodges with less than 20 members on the books. Heck, we have Lodges in California with less than 10 members on their books. Query: How many of these few members actually participate and come to meetings? These are Lodges that don’t bring in new members, and that don’t really involve themselves in the community around them or plan any fun activities for the members that they do have. A Lodge that does little more than have a monthly meeting in form, with ritual and regalia, practices the barest minimum of what we should expect of an Odd Fellows Lodge.
Today, in California, we have 120 Odd Fellows Lodges on our books. Yet a majority of our Lodges show net losses of members year after year. That, obviously, is not sustainable – and there will come a time when a Lodge can no longer function because it has too few members. 10 members become 8; 8 become 6; 6 become 4 – and the Lodge no longer has a quorum to even conduct a meeting let alone fill officer positions and function as a real Lodge. This is the path of too many of our Lodges today.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master