Impar Socii Aeternum
I have coined a new phrase. And to give it sufficient gravitas, I coined it in Latin. Impar Socii Aeternum. Essentially, it means “Odd Fellows Forever.”
To me, the phrase hearkens back to a time when Odd Fellowship was fresh and new in North America – in the 1800’s. In the early part of that century, a few Lodges emerged in the New England states, and then, like a fraternal wild fire, Odd Fellowship spread right across the United States and the Canadian Provinces filling most every nook and cranny of the continent. There was a time in that century when Odd Fellowship, with over one million members, was the largest fraternal order in the USA.
Odd Fellowship popped up in California in 1849 and then exploded across the new state till there were over 500 Lodges, and over 40,000 members. The enthusiasm of the new members who linked up with the burgeoning fraternity was palpable. Books and records of the time reveal that members were young – many in their 20’s and 30’s. They dedicated themselves to the task of building a fraternal order from scratch. Raising money, building and furnishing Lodge Halls, carefully accumulating costumes and regalia, memorizing passages from the ritual, finding tenants to occupy first floor space (in the standard Lodge plan of two-or-three story buildings), They invited senators, mayors, judges, lawyers, bankers, accountants, and community leaders in business and farming to join their Lodges.
The early Odd Fellows devoted years, and sometimes a lifetime, to building the Lodge and the reputation of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The fixed plumbing, constructed signs, repaired roofs, cleaned, sorted and filed a plethora of documents, books and records. Their lives were intertwined with the Lodge and they dedicated themselves to the health, welfare and growth of their fraternity. Virtually every single member of the Lodge contributed to the Lodge in some way. The early members, I have to imagine, felt that their Lodge Hall and their fraternity would last forever. Impar Socii Aeternum.
So, what happened? Today, in 2022, Odd Fellowship is a shadow of what it was in 1922.
Human beings have lifetimes that are finite – a person who hits the age of 100 is given great honors for their longevity. But fraternal orders can live on for centuries and, in theory, live forever. One generation can hand over the reins to the next, and so on, and so on. So how did Odd Fellowship in California drop from 500 Lodges to 100 Lodges, and how did membership diminish from over 40,000 to barely 4,000?
To me, the answer is painfully apparent. Most members today have lost the drive and enthusiasm of the early members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. They have grown complacent. Lodges are full of “takers” and very few “givers”. Don’t believe me? Well, examine yourself as an Odd Fellow. What have you done lately to improve your Lodge? What have you done lately to improve Odd Fellowship? How many new applicants have you sponsored for your Lodge? Are you a “giver” in your Lodge, or just a “taker”?
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)
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