Grand Lodge of California

Dave Rosenberg, Grand Master
Dave Rosenberg - Grand Master, Grand Lodge of California

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Read the Odd Fellows and Rebekah Magazine

Odd Fellow and Rebekah Magazine

Odd Fellows News

If a Tree Falls in the Forest . . . .

Dear Brothers and Sisters, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Certainly, you have heard this ancient philosophical conundrum during your school days. But I think it applies not only in the philosophical realm, but also in the real world of Odd Fellowship. How so? Well, let’s start with the teleology of Odd Fellowship. What is it’s purpose? I wager that most of you will say that the purpose of Odd Fellowship is to foster friendship, love and truth. And, at one level, you would be correct. That certainly would be the extrinsic purpose of our Order. But, let’s delve a little deeper. If we do so, we would have to admit that the intrinsic purpose of Odd Fellowship is to continue to exist, to grow and to prosper as an Order. Pretty basic and rudimentary, I admit, but also quite true. If a Lodge closes down, for example, the lofty purposes of its existence become meaningless. The great philosopher Aristotle put it very simply when he said that the purpose of an acorn is to become an oak tree. High and mighty admonitions mean very little if our Lodges diminish and close. I often use the example of the Knights of Pythias – an ancient fraternal Order that was once the third largest fraternity in America with close to a million members. Today, the Knights of Pythias are reduced to a handful of Lodges. The Knights also have great and noble admonitions and goals, but their membership numbers are now so few as to render...

100 Ideas for Community Involvement

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Business as usual will not sustain our Order. Business as usual as caused our Order to lose members and Lodges for the past 75 years. We can’t continue doing what we have been doing for the past three generations and expect a different result. Odd Fellows Lodges of the future must become three-dimensional Lodges. It’s not enough for a Lodge to emphasize the rich history and ritual of our Order. That is vitally important, but is only one dimension of a successful Lodge. The other two dimensions are equally important. We are, after all, a fraternal Order, so the Lodge must be a social and fun place for the members and future members. And the third dimension requires us to get involved in the community, doing good works outside the four walls of the Lodge Hall. This is what the young men and women of the 21st Century expect – and this is what the successful and growing Lodges of the future must offer. But we’re not going to just talk the talk in this newsletter. We’re going to walk the walk. Here, for your reading pleasure, are 100 ideas to help your Lodge get involved in your community! You don’t have to scratch your head and wonder what it is that your Lodge could do to be involved in your community. Here are 100 options. Surely, there is an idea or two that is right for YOUR Lodge. At a minimum, these ideas should get your own creative juices flowing. Review these 100 ideas with your Lodge members. Have a discussion about the possibilities....


Dear Brothers and Sisters, I have visited some Lodges and have been amazed at how boring the meetings can be. Here is a revelation: There is nothing in our Ritual or in our Codes that mandates we must have boring meetings. In fact, boring meetings are the surest way to discourage members – particularly new members – from sticking around. Does your Lodge have very low member turnout at your meetings? Does your Lodge have difficulty retaining members? Well, perhaps it’s because your meetings have no substance to them. Or perhaps it’s because your meetings are uninteresting (e.g. boring). To combat the boredom quotient, the SGL Revitalization Committee came up with a list of 27 ways to improve and lighten up your Lodge meetings. This active committee was chaired by California’s own Deputy Grand Master Peter Sellars – and he and the committee members should be commended for actually producing useful products and useful reports. I doubt that SGL will do much, if anything, with this committee’s products and reports. But that shouldn’t stop us, as progressive members and Lodges, in getting value from them. Try one or two or three of these ideas in the near future! What do you have to lose? F – L – T Dave Rosenberg Grand Master Jurisdiction of California ****************************************************************** 27 ideas to make meetings more enjoyable and fun for the membership: 1. Place all correspondence (extra copies for announcements of events or sign-ups) on a table 1 hour prior to a meeting, so that all members can have an opportunity to read or review if desired. (This shall eliminate a great...

Impressions of the Sovereign Grand Lodge Session

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL) session – held this year in Fort Worth, Texas – is over and I’m now back in California. I’ve been a member of the Order for 11 years, but this is the first SGL session I had occasion to attend. I can summarize my impressions in three words: Interesting, Informative, Impossible. Interesting because I’d never seen or experienced it before. Informative as I got my first glimpse into how the highest body in Odd Fellowship is run. And impossible because it confirmed my suspicion that SGL is structured to resist evolution and change in this Order. Let me explain. First, however, the statistics. Those statistics continue to show the diminution of our Order, and they are sobering. In 2013, there were 1,364 Odd Fellows Lodges in North America. In 2014, the number had dropped to 1,325. That’s a loss of 39 Lodges. In 2013, there were 37,035 Odd Fellows in North America. In 2014, there are 35,167. That’s a drop of 1,868 members. Remember, our Order once had over one million members in North America. We have shrunk to less than 4% of that number. The trajectory is chillingly clear. These statistics show that – if no changes are made – in 20 years, our Order will be virtually invisible – perhaps 50-100 Lodges surviving here and there. But the situation is grim right now in many jurisdictions, and certainly, within the next five years this Order will start hemorrhaging in many serious ways – much like a great ship whose hull is weakening and springing leaks. Right now, in North...

The Elephant Is Still in Our Living Room

Dear Brothers and Sisters, For the last decade, I have been talking about the elephant in the living room of this Order. That elephant is our continued decline in membership. As I have said time and time again, this Order cannot continue to experience a net loss of members year after year, decade after decade, and survive in its current configuration. Without significant change in the way we operate as a fraternity, we will continue to diminish with all the attendant misfortune that that entails: Inability to fill all offices in a Lodge, failure to maintain quorums for meetings, diminution in talent in the Lodge to handle the duties (particularly reporting and financial) that are required, inevitable suspension, closure and consolidation of Lodges. The landscape of America is littered with the bones of great fraternal orders that once thrived and then lost members and died. The solution is before us, because we do have some Lodges that are thriving and growing. Why so some Lodges thrive, while others wither? Because the thriving Lodges are three dimensional Lodges, emphasizing not only the rich history and ritual of our Order, but also making sure that Lodge members enjoy a fun social life, and also reaching out into our towns and neighborhoods to do valuable charitable and community works. All that as preface, it’s now time for my annual review of the statistics for Odd Fellowship in California. This time we review the statistics for the year ending December 31, 2014. Here is what I have found: * We have now dropped to 120 Lodges and 4,252 dues paying members. That is...

Choosing the Right Path

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Time is not on our side. As I looked at our California Odd Fellows membership statistics over the past 70 years I see that in 1950 (65 years ago) we had 29,096 members. In 1960, we had 21,744. In 1970, our membership had dropped to 14,027. By 1980, we showed 10,151 members on our books. In 1990, we had 7,617 in our membership. The year 2000 revealed 5,846. Today, in 2015, our California Odd Fellows membership hovers around 4,000. And, need I remind us all that 4,000 members on the books does not translate into active members. My best guess is that if our books show 4,000 members, then about 2,000 are active, participating members. Having so few members impacts our Lodges in many negative ways. We have an aging membership and our “gene pool” of competence has diminished. Many Lodges have difficulty filling officer positions, and a substantial number of Lodges even have trouble meeting our very low five-member quorum threshold. The diminished membership, for some Lodges, means an inability to have the necessary financial checks and balances we require for our books and records. While the situation is certainly dire in California, it is much, much worse in other jurisdictions in the USA. There are jurisdictions in this country with fewer than 200 members. It is amazing to me that many Lodges in our Order continue to operate in a “business-as-usual” mode. Very little, if anything, changes. The leadership and members of many Lodges seem to be content with the status quo. That may be comfortable and familiar to those members, but to...

Change Is Hard

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Change is hard. I understand. But change is necessary to save this Order. Fact: We have lost members in this fraternity, year after year, for the past three generations. Should we just repeat what we have been doing for the past 70 years and expect a different result? Hardly. We simply can’t continue the way we have done business for those past three generations and expect to suddenly gain members to this Order. Today, virtually everyone in a leadership position in this State understands that change is required to save Odd Fellowship. That hasn’t always been the case, so to the extent that Odd Fellows’ leadership accepts the fact that change is needed, we have made progress. So, now the hard work begins. What does “change” really mean? How do we “change”? And what do we “change”? As Grand Master of the Jurisdiction of California, I have reflected on these three important questions, and have come to the following conclusions: First, we can’t wait for change to come to us from the Sovereign Grand Lodge. While there is inspired leadership at the top of SGL, ultimately, that entity is too cumbersome, too imbedded in the status quo, too slow to react, and too much in the control of remarkably small jurisdictions. Change, if any, from SGL, will be slow in coming. Accordingly, change has to occur at the Lodge level, and has to be undertaken by Lodge members like you and me. Grand Lodge can help – for example, the membership development grant program can provide up to $1,000 to Lodges that submit membership development...

There Are No Secrets in the Age of the Internet

Dear Brothers and Sisters, At its inception in England, Odd Fellowship was, essentially, a social club. The members – all men in those days – gathered in the local pubs to swap stories, sing lusty songs, have conversations, drink ale, and generally have a good time. Because there were no telephones, or radios, or television sets or movies, these social gatherings were important interludes for the working men of of the time. In the latter part of the 18th Century and well into the 19th Century, Odd Fellowship morphed into what the British call a “friendly society”. Because government provided virtually no social services to citizens, and because there was no insurance industry to speak of, people were essentially on their own. Under these conditions, fraternal organizations like Odd Fellows stepped in to provide support. The Order, over time, provided hospitals, old-age homes, orphanages, and cemeteries. The Order also provided help to members who had lost their jobs, including small grants of money and assistance in finding a job. From these services grew the ancient principles and admonitions of the Order such as “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.” Due in large measure to the wide range of services, help and support provided by Lodges in those early days, there was great demand to join Odd Fellowship by those who desired that safety net of support and assistance. And it was not uncommon that men who were not Odd Fellows, would attempt to get services from the Order by passing themselves off as brothers. There is documentary evidence about men traveling from...

“Camp Festival”

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Recently, I attended the annual “Camp Festival” at Three-Links Camp. As part of the event, early Sunday morning before breakfast, we all wandered up the hill to the small camp chapel and were inspired by comments from the Rebekah Assembly Chaplain Marjorie Knieriem and the Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge Rita Cooper. It is my pleasure to republish the comments of Grand Chaplain Rita Cooper, which ring very true and which inspire us. F – L – T Dave Rosenberg Grand Master Jurisdiction of California ******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* Comments from the Grand Chaplain Rita Cooper Presented at Three Links Camp on June 28, 2015 Odd Fellowship is not a religious organization. It is more inclusive than any single religious organization. We share our Fellowship with all faiths, all races, all stations in life. Male and female, young and not so young, rich and not so rich, all are welcome to Odd Fellowship. But the work we do is rooted in universal religious doctrines. As you study the scriptures and tenets of the many religions in which the people of this world find hope and the meaning of life, you can find a common theme, a divine message if you will: the simple command “Love your neighbor.” It is familiar to many of us as a version of the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The 17th century Dutch philosopher, Benedict Spinoza, declared that within the doctrine of every true religion is the very basic moral imperative that we “love others and live by justice and truth”. Doesn’t this sound...

Rebekah Assembly of California

Donna Morrison, President
Donna Morrison- President, Rebekah Assembly

Rebekah Events

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