In Diversity There is Strength

October 18, 2014 in Grand Lodge

It is my pleasure to offer to you an article penned by Brother Jeff LeRoux of Berkeley Lodge #270. Jeff has served this Order in many capacities, most recently as Grand Chaplain for Junior Past Grand Master Rick Boyles. Many of us remember fondly the blessings and prayers he presented at Grand Lodge Sessions last May – they were certainly unique and informative because Jeff took these blessings and prayers from different religions – Christian, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. – and gave us the opportunity to experience the diversity and the commonality of the great religions of this earth

Jeff is a wise and thoughtful man, and I think you will find his article of great interest.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Deputy Grand Master
***********************************************************************************

In the Odd Fellows Text Book by Paschal Donaldson and Samuel Gwinner published in 1878 the authors noted that there was a great debate in Sovereign Grand Lodge in 1851 over the creation of the Rebekah degree and Rebekah lodges in general. The authors report that “The new degree encountered on the floor of the Grand Lodge a warm but honest opposition. It was contended that there was no necessity for such an addition, – that it was a dangerous innovation, – and that the building of Odd Fellowship was already complete and finished, and the cap-stone laid. Some, also, desired that final decision be deferred.”

It seems to me we are still in the same situation. We need great change and yet our reverence for our traditions keeps us from it. Sometimes we forget the old traditions weren’t always there; they were considered “dangerous innovations” brought in by the innovators of the day. In defending our sacred tradition we often fail to notice the bad parts of some of our old traditions such as the racism that caused us to split from the English Odd Fellows in the 1840′s and that this exclusion of people who were not of “full white blood” lasted until 1971 more than a hundred years after the Civil War.

My brothers and sisters our fellowship has declined in membership by 95%. We obviously need to make changes as drastic as the creation of the Rebekah Degree was in 1851. We need to acknowledge our love for our order not by holding to the forms and beliefs of the past but by holding to the spirit of benevolence and charity which led our forefathers to create these forms to which we have become accustomed and to create new forms and practices that honor the best intentions of our forefathers and carry them into a workable present. We need to do this now and no longer postpone it.

I visited a lodge last year in my capacity as Grand Chaplain and there was an interaction between a young, African-American woman who appeared to be in her late 20′s and an older Caucasian man in his 80′s. The older man said to the young woman “Did you ever imagine you’d be hanging out with a bunch of white guys like me?” She said “No, never.” And he said “Me neither.” A few years earlier the older man had confided in me about his prejudices. He told me he didn’t like Afghans, black people, Asians or “Muslims and other terrorists” which included many nationalities. This was an honest man. He was looking into his heart and acknowledging the fear and anger he held towards groups of people. I don’t know how he changed but it was this old man who had recruited this young black woman into that lodge.

We all need to look into our hearts and acknowledge the fears and anger that keep us from feeling warmth towards others beyond the beliefs we have developed in our childhood and over the course of years. We need to begin extending ourselves personally to those who seem to be “other” than us. If this old man had not developed a capacity to see humanity beyond his admitted prejudices and to extend a sense of benevolence and charity; this young woman would never have been interested in joining such a lodge as would have him as a member. Our first order of change as a fellowship is to look into our hearts as this old man did and become willing to extend ourselves individually in a spirit of benevolence to those who seem different than us.

There is no one way of believing others are different. I grew up as a military brat in a military that Harry Truman had ordered integrated and as a small child had little idea that many people held hatred for others on the basis of race. I did grow up in a very hierarchical society often wearing hand-me-down clothing and resenting the children of the high ranking officers who lived in big houses on the hill and had new bicycles. I still catch myself sometimes feeling resentful of people because they seem part of some exclusive in-group that looks down on others. Like the old man I mentioned above, we all can open our hearts even if we have to catch ourselves in our own particular form of prejudgment on a moment by moment basis and open our eyes to others humanity.

I have noticed that people tend to sit in the same groups and talk to the same people within lodges. This tends to breed a sense of otherness with some members of the lodge. It tends to lead to differences of opinion becoming a division in which there is an “us” and a “them” instead of members having different ideas. Try sitting beside someone different at the next meeting. Talk this over with the lodge members. Integrate within the lodge. When new or prospective members come into the lodge, go out of your way to introduce yourself and as welcome as you would a guest into your home. When I have visited as district deputy there have been markedly different reactions within different lodges. In some lodges people introduce themselves and are welcoming. In other lodges people go and sit in what appear to be their usual small groups and ignore visitors. I have noticed this happening during Grand Master visits as well. Visitors usually feel uncomfortable and appreciate hosts friendly gestures.
My brothers and sisters you can make a point of speaking to people different from you and your usual crowd in social situations. While they have their own prejudices and may think you are Odd that it is OK – after all we are Odd Fellows. Some will be interested enough to talk and you both can extend the feeling of brotherhood. Do it enough and you will discover potential new members and invite them into the lodge.
You may ask how we as an order rather than as just individuals open our hearts. The first is, as a lodge, discuss bringing new people in and how to do it. Then decide who may be odd enough to join and make contact with groups they may already be in. Invite leaders in churches, temples and synagogues to visit. Be actively friendly when they do visit. Make an effort to approach historical societies, civic organizations, interest groups, and teachers; visit them and learn a little more about them and their group. Busy as our lives are we can all do these things once in a while.

The most successful lodges lately have activities that interest people and bring them into the lodge as he Davis Lodge has done. Some lodges have grown by making personal contact and connections of friendship with individuals. This sense of connection is the essence of Odd Fellowship and there are many ways of doing it. Pick your own and invest an hour a month in it and I guarantee your lodge will grow. But do something.

Jeff LeRoux

2014 Grand Encampment / Ladies Encampment Session

October 16, 2014 in Grand Lodge

Click Here For All Registration Forms and Information

HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR LODGE MAY BE FAILING?

October 7, 2014 in Grand Lodge

The declines in membership in our Order over the past half-century-plus have been appalling. On this continent, we have lost over 90% of our membership numbers. We have many jurisdictions (states and provinces) where the sum total of membership is under 500, some under 200. In California – the largest jurisdiction – our total Odd Fellows membership numbers used to be over 58,000, and are now under 5,000. We once had over 600 Lodges in this state, and now have 120. We have dozens of Lodges with 20 or fewer members on their books, and some with 10 or fewer members. Our Branches are in even worse shape. The sum total of members of Encampments in California today is less than 200. And there are less than 75 Patriarchs Militant in this entire state. And, as always, those are the numbers on paper – query how many of those are active members.

I believe – by now – virtually everyone in California understands the challenge of declining membership and understands that the responsibility to reverse that trend lies with each of us. We can’t just depend on “the other guy” to fix the problem. However, it may be that there are some Odd Fellows out there who still don’t “get it” and still don’t appreciate that the Order (and perhaps their own Lodge) is in trouble. So, with tongue slightly in cheek, for these few unseeing and unknowing members, I offer the following 10-point Primer.

How To Know if Your Lodge May Be Failing?

1. You know your Lodge may be failing if you have to get on the phone each month to roust out members to have a quorum of five for a meeting.

2. You know your Lodge may be failing if you haven’t initiated a new member into your Lodge for over two years.

3. You know your Lodge may be failing if, at your yearly elections, you have to rotate your elected officers between the same 5 or 6 people.

4. You know your Lodge may be failing if your “members sick and in distress” item is the longest segment of your meeting agenda.

5. You know your Lodge may be failing if your Lodge Hall is rarely used except for your Lodge meetings.

6. You know your Lodge may be failing if your youngest Lodge member is over 65.

7. You know your Lodge may be failing if your Lodge meetings last 20 minutes, and there is no new business and no committee reports.

8. You know your Lodge may be failing if your Lodge has no fundraising activity to replenish the Lodge bank account.

9. You know your Lodge may be failing if your Lodge members organize no activity to benefit the local community, and have no social activity for the members.

10. You know your Lodge may be failing if you have some Lodge members who shoot down every new suggested idea with words such as “that won’t work”, “we tired that once”, or “that’s a dumb idea”.

There you have it. Now you know.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Deputy Grand Master

Sovereign Grand Master

September 22, 2014 in Grand Lodge

SGM, episode 2
SGM, episode 2: The Local Level

HAVING A LITTLE FUN WITH ODDNESS

September 22, 2014 in Grand Lodge

You never know what you will find when you rummage through old boxes.  Well, looking through some old boxes at my Davis Lodge the other day, I came across a card dated 1946 (almost 70 years ago) that a Noble Grand had printed.  This Noble Grand – by the name of J. Osborn Brink – had served in Monrovia Lodge #330.  I did a little research in a wonderful book by Frank Christy entitled “California Odd Fellowship” and found that this Lodge was instituted in 1887 in Monrovia, Los Angeles County.  In 1935 Temple Lodge #398, at Temple City, consolidated with Monrovia #330.  Regrettably, in 1966, Monrovia #330 surrendered its charter and is no more.  But this Past Grand of Monrovia #330 had printed a small card which contained the following few words, which that Noble Grand entitled “Odd”:

“An Odd Fellow is a fellow who was odd until he became an Odd Fellow.  Yes, before he became an Odd Fellow, he was just an odd fellow, a fellow who is odd.  You see, an odd fellow ceases to be odd when he became an Odd Fellow.  Or does he?

When you are looking for an Odd Fellow, do not be deceived by taking a fellow who is odd for an Odd Fellow.  An Odd Fellow is no longer odd when he becomes an Odd Fellow.

It would be quite odd for an Odd Fellow to mistake an odd fellow for an Odd Fellow, for odd fellows are just odd fellows until they become Odd Fellows.

I am looking for you to be less odd when you become an Odd Fellow.  And when all odd fellows cease to be odd by becoming Odd Fellows, then it will be really odd to see a fellow who is not an Odd Fellow.

Brother, the odds are against you if you are not an Odd Fellow.”

I got quite a chuckle out of this little refrain from the pen of Brother J. Osborn Brink.  I imagine he used his little card as a recruiting tool, and one day one of the members of Davis Lodge picked up that card in the 1940′s and it found its way into a box and ultimately, into my hands, so I could share it with all of you.  It reminded me that Odd Fellows of the last generation, and the generation before that one, and the generation before that were not Dour Fellows.  They were not Joyless Fellows, or Sad Fellows, or Stern Fellows, or Severe Fellows, or Gloomy Fellows.  They were fraternal members who knew how to laugh, have a good time, and have some fun.

If we are dour, joyless, sad, stern, severe, or gloomy our Lodges will be dour, joyless, sad, stern, severe, and gloomy.  That won’t retain members, and that certainly won’t attract members.

So, let’s all endeavor to have some fun and enjoy our “oddness”.  And in memory of Brother J. Osborn Brink, and all the fun-loving Odd Fellows of past generations, I have been inspired to compose the following “Ode” which I call:

HAVING FUN WITH ODDNESS

You may think it odd

That I wish to trod

The venerable sod

Of oddness.

 

You may even think me a clod

That I purport to prod

And give a hearty nod

To oddness.

 

In truth, I don’t mean to be a lightning rod

And I don’t wish to ride roughshod

But from Cape Cod to Riyadh

There is oddness.

 

Here in our own community

I speak to you with alacrity

About a certain commodity

That transcends our heredity.

 

Do you sense a bit of rigidity?

A touch of liquidity and fluidity?

A certain turbidity and morbidity?

Or just a taste of acidity?

 

I offer it with validity

And a fair amount of timidity

Assuming a certain absurdity

It’s all about our oddity.

 

For I am a futuristic mod

By no means an Olympic god

I trust the instincts of my bod

And support oddness.

 

It’s far heavier than a monkey pod

It’s much lighter than a hot rod

Its tastes better than a boiled cod

Let’s all hear it for oddness.

 

So, don’t report me to the Mossad

Don’t spit in my direction with a wad

Instead, lift your glass of Pernod

And toast the oddness.

Have fun with your oddness.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg Deputy Grand Master