Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
We have Odd Fellows Lodges throughout this vast state of California. Yreka Lodge #19 is near the very northern top of the State of California – just about 20 miles from the Oregon state line. To give you a sense of the size and length of California, it’s about 760 miles (close to 12 hours of driving time) from Sunset Lodge #328 in San Diego to Yreka Lodge #19. That vastness and that distance has not deterred the Yreka Lodge from hosting this unique annual event. Every year – with precision – the Yreka Lodge hosts the Cave Degree. This year was the 69th annual Cave Degree – held on August 29 and 30.
I will wager that even though this Cave Degree has been offered to Odd Fellows for the past 69 years (longer than most of us have been alive) the majority of Odd Fellows know nothing, or very little about it. Here is a quick synopsis, because it encompasses much more than you may think. Over a two-day Saturday and Sunday, the Yreka Lodge confers all four Odd Fellows Degrees to all Lodges who send applicants or members who wish to obtain their degrees. Typically, the Initiatory Degree is conferred on Saturday afternoon, followed by the First Degree and then dinner. After dinner, participants are driven to a massive cave near Yreka (in a somewhat harrowing, but memorable, bus ride). There, in that cave, by moonlight and with a view of Mount Shasta, the Second Degree is conferred. The timing is just right, so that the cave is illuminated by a full moon rising over Mount Shasta. The sight and the experience is impressive. The next day, Sunday, starts with an early morning breakfast, and then the conferring of the Third Degree. The event is adjourned pretty early – around 9:15 a.m., and folks can be on their way for the long drive back home.
This year, eight different Lodges sent applicants and members to receive their degrees. The Initiatory Degree was conferred on 11 applicants, the First Degree was given to 16, the Second Degree – in the cave – was conferred on 17, and finally the Third Degree was given to 16 members. In short, if one wishes to receive all four degrees in an Odd Fellows Lodge, one can do so in one weekend in Yreka.
And what is most significant, is that each degree was conferred properly, in full costume and regalia, by degree teams who had studied and rehearsed their parts. The meaning of each degree is enhanced in this fashion. This year, the degree teams came from San Pablo Lodge #43 in Vallejo. The Yreka Lodge has diminished in numbers, and the members are no longer able to completely staff the degree teams. That’s why degree teams from other Lodges are invited to present the degrees. I must say that I was very impressed with the care and professionalism of the San Pablo Lodge degree teams. Their skill added immeasurably to the gravitas of the degrees.
I attended the entire weekend this year and experienced the conferring of all four degrees. Also in attendance all weekend were several of my Grand Lodge Officers including Grand Marshal Nancy Johnson, Grand Chaplain Rita Cooper, Grand Color Bearer Stark Dagesse, and Grand Guardian Lea Rosenberg. A number of Third-Degree brothers and sisters from neighboring Lodges in California and Oregon also were present. I feel confident in saying that all in attendance gained insight and knowledge of the degree work, simply be attending and observing. A number of the attendees had been observers of the Cave Degree in the past – but wanted to experience it again.
As I have often emphasized in the five years of my writing DMC Newsletters, the success of Odd Fellowship in the 21st Century will be based on Lodges becoming three-dimensional. The Cave Degree is a leading example of the first dimension of Odd Fellowship – an emphasis on the rich history, regalia and ritual that make use uniquely Odd Fellows. I hasten to add that the other two dimensions are equally important in the structure of a modern and thriving Lodge. These other two dimensions are: having a rich social and fraternal life within the Lodge (e.g. having fun together), and reaching out into the community to do good works (e.g. charitable, environmental and other endeavors which benefit our local neighborhoods and towns).
I commend the Cave Degree to you. I believe it is an important endeavor that we should all support. That is why I made the Cave Degree Committee an official committee of the Grand Lodge this year. It is worth the drive to Yreka. Although, now you must wait until the 70th Cave Degree is offered – in 2016.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California