Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Every Odd Fellows Lodge in every jurisdiction of our Order has the right to send representatives to Grand Lodge Sessions, which are typically held once each year.
In point of fact, however, a majority of Odd Fellow Lodges don’t send any representatives to Grand Lodge Sessions. That is a remarkable fact. And it’s also a shame. If a Lodge doesn’t send members to sessions, the Lodge misses out on the opportunity to shape legislation and resolutions that govern all Lodges in the jurisdiction or that might affect Code changes both in the jurisdiction and at Sovereign Grand Lodge. Failing to send representatives to sessions means the Lodge can’t vote in jurisdictional elections. Additionally, leadership of the Lodge abdicates its responsibility to raise concerns and questions to the Grand Master, Grand Secretary and Grand Treasurer, and to participate in decision-making regarding the future of the Order and assets of the Grand Lodge. Further, Lodge leadership misses out on the opportunity to meet leaders from other Lodges and also defaults on the chance to advance in Grand Lodge office.
So, given the opportunity, why do so many Odd Fellow Lodges fail to make an appearance at Grand Lodge sessions? Why do so many Lodges fail to send even one representative to sessions?
I suggest that there are multiple reasons for this failure to participate.
Some Lodges may, literally, be too small, with too few members and too little money, to send representatives to sessions. Alternatively, there may be no member in these small Lodges who has the time or inclination to attend.
But, I have found that even medium-size or large Lodges have failed to send members to Grand Lodge Sessions. So, being too small or too poor can’t be the reason for those Lodges.
I have given the matter considerable thought, and I have spoken to Lodge members from Odd Fellow Lodges that don’t send representatives, and here is the reason that I have discerned. Many Lodges don’t send representatives to Grand Lodge Sessions, and frankly, don’t participate in activities outside their own Lodge (for example, membership seminars) for one simple reason: They want to be left alone. They are content to just do their thing in their own Lodge Hall, and would rather not see or hear anything or anybody from Grand Lodge. They tolerate the occasional official visit by a DDGM or a Grand Master. But beyond the minimal requirement of submitting an annual per capita report, Grand Lodge never hears from them. These Lodges have become islands.
How have we come to such a disconnect? And how can we encourage Lodges to participate in fraternal life beyond their Lodge Hall buildings?
These are two very challenging, but important questions, that will affect the future of our Order. I suggest that leadership at Grand Lodge has to take the first step to reach out to their absent Lodges, and prove to them that Grand Lodge does not exist to criticize, harass or nit-pick Lodges. Lodges should not fear Grand Lodge. Grand Lodge has to show absentee Lodges that Grand Lodge’s primary motivation is to assist and educate Lodges, to focus on helping with membership development, to educate on proper financial reporting, and to encourage Lodges to send representatives to sessions to engage in a democratic process of decision-making. DDGMs can play a key role in identifying Lodges that have failed to attend Grand Lodge Sessions, to meet with Lodge leadership to explain the value of attending sessions, and to encourage attendance in the future.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
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