Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
I’m delighted to present this thought-provoking and provocative article by Past Grand Master Rick Boyles. Odd Fellows is, indeed, a fraternal order. We have the history, the ritual, the regalia, and the secrets, images, passwords and signs that make us a fraternity. Yet there is nothing wrong with being “club-like” at times. Engaging in some social time does not diminish our fraternal essence. In other words, having potlucks, going on hikes, showing movies at the Lodge during social nights, going bowling or on trips together, hosting a St. Patrick’s Day party, etc. – none of these types of activities are anathema to a fraternity. In fact, they enhance the friendship, love, truth, and trust that is central to the core of our very existence. Let us not forget that IOOF was founded by men who met in pubs to drink, eat, sing, and engage in social time with their brothers.
If more of our Lodges engaged in social “club-time” we would be a much more vibrant, and growing, Order.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master
On the Nature of Clubs (Why they Work)
Merriam-Webster’s defines the word “club” as: “a group of people who meet to participate in an activity (such as a sport or hobby): the place where the members of a club meet: a sports team or organization”. Occasionally, in my journeys during my year as Grand Master, I heard the DMC, the Dedicated Members for Change, derided for being club-like. I have never really understood this talk since in reality the Odd Fellows represent the image of a club anyway. I guess the critics like to imply that being club-like is too chummy, too close-knit, too much attention being directed to our own well-being, but to me it implies something more, and something intrinsic to our history. That which generated enthusiasm for the Odd Fellows in its beginning was what many people appear to deride today. A quick study of our history brings out the early settlers search for security, for some type of safety net, and camaraderie. In 1850, if a meeting was held, dinner was served, the mayor, the town sheriff and other dignitaries were present and bread was broken. Today, oftentimes the failing lodge has none of these characteristics. The failing lodge often has no influential members and does little or nothing for the few members it has. How much does it cost, really, to provide a snack or meal to your few long-suffering members? Very little, and yet I am still stunned by the failing lodges that provide little or nothing to their members, and yet still seem incredulous that they can’t attract new members. What, in particular, are the new members being offered? I recently attended a fraternal function with four other members and we were told that even though the lodge members were having dinner at their lodge themselves, we would have to eat dinner elsewhere. To me, this seems anathema to our very essence. We either want to be open to new members and visitors or we do not; if we don’t want new members, we need do nothing because we are on the right path. If we want to obtain new members, we need to treat them like we ourselves would like to be treated; if we arrive somewhere unannounced we should be greeted with a smile, a handshake and a refreshment of some type. If we can’t at least do this, then our order is already finished.
Merriam-Webster’s defines a fraternal group as: “A fraternal organization is a brotherhood or a type of social organization whose members freely associate for a mutually beneficial purpose such as for social, professional or honorary principles, also of or relating to brothers: made up of members who share an interest or purpose: friendly or brotherly.”
You may take note, then, that the definitions of “club” and “fraternal” are nearly identical. If we want to be an order comprised of warring factions that refuse to greet each other and see the world only as an invading essence, then surely our order is going to quickly fade from sight. Why would it survive? If we are serious about friendship, love and truth, we will see that our order has lost its way when it fails to invite in the world. And, when it fails to even be hospitable to members who pay a visit, what is the point to continuing? Sometimes it seems that the most appropriate response to what should we do to ensure that our lodge is a pleasing environment is to step back and look at ourselves. Ask ourselves the following questions: What do we do when a perspective member visits? What do we do when other lodges come calling? Are we an inviting group or do we present ourselves in a foreboding manner? People join clubs not because they are forced to but because they want to. They see something that piques their interest. Some lodges have caught onto this simple fact and have created committees with many diverse interests. We can’t attract and keep members by force, in other words, we can’t guilt-trip people or demand that others walk in lock-step with us. The world is a large and beautiful tent with many options, nooks, crannies and a myriad of other paths to follow. Successful lodges have the interests of their members at heart. We can only make our position inviting by making our lodge, our members, and our personalities personable, happy, and open. Closed minds soon enough evolve into closed doors.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles