No one attends “Odd Fellows University” before they become an Odd Fellow.
Like everyone else who first joins the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, I was generally ignorant about the ritual, the codes, the rules and traditions of Odd Fellowship. Over the years, of course, through study, observation and just plain old osmosis, I have learned a quite a bit. I’ve served as a Noble Grand of my Odd Fellows Lodge, as Grand Master of my Grand Lodge, as Grand Patriarch of my Grand Encampment, Secretary of my Rebekah Lodge, and as Deputy Commander of my Military Council of Patriarchs Militant. I’ve written three books about Odd Fellowship, and on three occasions, I have chaired my jurisdiction’s membership educational seminar. Yet, with all this background and experience, eighteen years after I first joined, I still learn things about our fraternity every day. Education is a key component of Odd Fellowship, yet it is often overlooked or ignored – particularly at the Lodge level. The things we learn in this Order occupy multiple dimensions. At the apex is the ritual and secrets – the things that make us a fraternal order rather than a club. The ritual and the secrets cover the gamut in four Odd Fellows Degrees, the Rebekah Degree, the Encampment (and, while it lasts, the Ladies Encampment Auxiliary) and the Patriarchs Militant. Ours is a fraternal order of symbols – the three links, the three pillars, the heart in the hand, the dove, the crook, the sword and dozens of others. Ours is also a fraternal order that operates at different levels – local Lodges, Grand Lodges and the Sovereign Grand Lodge. We have Lodges in other countries and on other continents that are both similar and different from what we have in North America.
There is the unique history of this Order. The voluminous Codes that contain our laws, and the Constitutions and Bylaws of our units have changed and morphed over the decades. There are colors, and regalia, and meeting room layouts, and costumes, and accoutrements. There are seals, and ball ballot boxes, masks, and “scenes”. There are established procedures, and warrants. There are rules for “escorting” and “honors of the Order.” Lodges have numerous officer positions, both elected and appointed, with distinct responsibilities. There are unwritten “rules” and “traditions” that we follow or try to follow, or at least try to understand.
If you want to be a “life-long learner” Odd Fellowship would be a great endeavor for you. After 18 years, I’m still learning.
Bottom line, the more you know, the more you can participate fully in our Order. New members just being initiated come into our Order with a very small quantum of information of what it means to be an Odd Fellow. It is really incumbent on long-time members of our fraternity to find ways to mentor and educate our newer members.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
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