Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

As Grand Master of California, I have just returned from Yreka and the annual Cave Degree weekend, sponsored and organized by Yreka Lodge #19. This year, San Pablo Lodge #43 (Vallejo) provided the degree team which conferred the Initiatory Degree, the First Degree, the Second Degree and the Third Degree on applicants and members of the Order. This was the 69th year for this event. The degrees were conferred in regalia, with costumes, and with full dramatic impact. Ultimately, 18 Odd Fellows received all four degrees over the weekend, including the conferring of the Second Degree in a cave by moonlight. It was an inspiring and worthy endeavor to watch the theatrical performances of the important messages of our Order: Trust, Friendship, Love and Truth.

Grand Chaplain Rita Cooper accompanied me to the Cave Degree weekend (as did Grand Marshal Nancy Johnson, Grand Color Bearer Stark Dagesse, and Grand Guardian Lea Rosenberg). And Rita has written a worthwhile article for the DMC Newsletter, below.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

CALIFORNIA ODD FELLOWS: Reverence and Resurgence

My Concerns
As is the case with so many in our Fellowship, I continue to be touched by the beauty and strength of our rituals and traditions, by the reverence held for them, and by the importance of our Mission to reach out to our local community and having fun, while viewing with alarm the seemingly inexorable decline of our numbers, by the shrinking and even closing of Lodges in the state. As I have written before, I see our Mission to be as important as ever, while there are ever fewer of us to carry it out, fewer of us to revere and maintain our rituals and time-honored traditions. We must sustain our essence and rebuild our Lodges.

So I have a couple of ideas that I would like those of us who care deeply about the Odd Fellows and the future of our Order, to consider. They fall into two categories: Recruiting and Public Relations.

A key to successful recruiting is focused targeting, making approaches and appeals to the demographic group or groups to which the recruiter has the most to offer, to people whose needs and interests will fit with the recruiter’s virtues and goals, “to reach for the low-hanging fruit”, if you will. I believe that the sector of our society that has the largest number of probable candidates, those who would be most interested in what we offer, in what we do, is recent retirees. This is a group that is growing rapidly (The oldest Baby-Boomer turns 69 this year.) and is being constantly replenished. They typically are accustomed to being in organizations with missions and hierarchies and often find that they miss the structure, purpose and camaraderie of a purpose-driven organization. And that’s what we have!
Of course we should always seek to bring young adults into our Fellowship, to continue our long term effort to attract the millennial cohort. We want our children and their children to enjoy and contribute to our Fellowship.

But let’s not overlook what we can immediately bring to those men and women just entering their golden years with accumulated wisdom, and still some energy, and a desire to contribute to their, and to their children’s and their grandchildren’s world. And have fun and fellowship while doing it!

I would like to start a thoughtful conversation in the Lodges and the Leadership on how to access and address this regular flow of new potential members for our Fellowship. What do you think about recruiting for an Odd Fellow resurgence?

Public Relations
All too often the Odd Fellows are “flying below the radar” of public awareness in our state and our respective communities. There are a few exceptions to this, of course, but as a whole we and our works are not well-known in this state. Such obscurity hampers a concerted recruiting effort. I contrast our situation with the Shriners and their charitable work for crippled children. I am not suggesting funny hats and crazy parade cars for the Odd Fellows. But I would like us to consider the possibility of all Lodges, all Members, getting behind, getting our identity attached to, a well-known, highly-visible charitable effort that is widely-admired, pooling our charitable efforts and funding in a way that makes a visible impact, that gets media attention and public recognition. Beneficiaries of such a concentrated effort could be organizations such as Meals on Wheels for needy seniors, or Wounded Warriors for men and women whose bodies paid the price for their service to our country, or programs for foster children or other youth at risk. I don’t believe that we should entirely eliminate the contributions that Odd Fellows Lodges make to their local communities, but that the major thrust of our charitable effort should be focused to maximize impact and public recognition.

Once again, I would like to see a specific consideration of this idea in each of our Lodges and by the Leadership of the California Odd Fellows. Let’s talk about this.

In Friendship, Love and Truth,

Rita Cooper
Grand Chaplain
Director, Grand Lodge

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