Grand Master Peter Sellars 2016 – 2017
GRAND MASTER SPEECH – May 14, 2016
For me, it has been a long road to get here. For years, I was reluctant to place myself in this position – of Grand Master – because of the criticism directed at the one who sits in this seat. It was not a question of leadership ability or qualification, or support, but rather the hesitation of having to respond to the negative aspects of our Order.
As a membership, what you can expect from me:
- Fair and impartial decisions.
- A timely response to all questions.
- Ideas for improving your lodges.
- Suggestions for membership.
- Allowable assistance to help your lodge function – for the good of this Order.
As the leader of this jurisdiction, there are some basic expectations I demand of each lodge:
- I expect a lodge to meet no less than one time a month;
- Conduct a business meeting within that month;
- Have a minimum quorum of no less than five members;
- Have a qualified member sit in the seat of Noble Grand;
- Follow the Ritual;
- Legally, vote and pay bills;
- Pay the annual per capita dues and submit required forms to the office of the Grand Lodge on time;
- And, I expect members act in a fraternal manner toward each other in the lodge room.
Our Order is diminishing. This is a fact! It has been a fact for several decades. For years, I have been the optimist and I shall continue to be an optimist. I want to see successes. I want to hear all of the “good” stories and successes of our lodges. Far, far, too often, it is not the successes we hear about at the Grand Lodge.
All of us are guilty of emphasizing the obvious condition of our Order and the discrepancies within our lodges. Collectively, we need to start establishing at least one positive activity in each of our lodges. One Activity.
I would also be remiss, if I did not speak about the physical appearance of our some of our properties, the condition of our lodge buildings, and cemeteries. For ten years, I served as a Director on the Grand Lodge Board. Often, I heard lodge members blame the Grand Lodge for the condition of their properties. This blame usually intensified if Grand Lodge could not fund the improvements of these properties. Brothers and sisters, I want to be clear here: The only ones responsible for the condition of lodge properties are the members of that lodge – not Grand Lodge!
Properties are just as important as your membership concerns. Your properties are also reflective of all of you, your abilities, inside and outside of this organization. Take care of your properties. Put forth an effort to make your home shine.
I wish to thank several members for their assistance and support. Although many of us would like to think we are able to do everything ourselves, we are not. Nobody, can do everything him or herself. Preparations for this seat are probably more involved then most realize. I could not do this without the assistance and support of the line officers, my counterpart – sister Roberta, the Grand Secretary and Grand Treasurer, the Grand Lodge Board of Directors, and you – the lodge members.
I would like to thank my predecessor, brother Dave Rosenberg, for picking up where few individual members who tried to make strides in the evolution of our Order, for uniting this group of thinkers. Some members believe any change is somehow destroying our Order, where in fact, change is demanded to survive. Our survival depends on change. Thank you for clearing my pathway, Dave.
I shall leave all of you with a message from Past Grand Sire Alfred S. Pinkerton, who wrote:
“We live in a utilitarian age. Fraternities, like men are judged by what they do rather than by what they profess; judged by the ideal wrought into the actual. As a nation is measured by its citizenship, so is a fraternity or a lodge measured by the lives and conduct of those who compose it. You cannot separate the flag from the men who march beneath it.”
Brothers and sisters, we must not allow negative judgments determine our course of action. We must grasp onto those things that are positive and are still enjoyable within our Order. This is how we shall have fun.
Peter V. Sellars
Speech of Incoming Grand Master Dave Rosenberg to the California Grand Lodge Session – May 16, 2015
My brothers and sisters: It will be my privilege to serve as Grand Master of California for the next year. Thank you for your confidence, placing me in this position. I look forward to working with newly elected Rebekah Assembly President Donna Morrison, Deputy Grand Master Peter Sellars, Grand Warden Dave Reed, the Grand Lodge Board of Directors, and each of you in the coming year. I am especially delighted that Deputy Grand Master Peter Sellars, Grand Warden Dave Reed, and I are on the same page when it comes to a vision for the future of our Order.
Since I first ran for the position of Grand Warden, I’ve made no secret of my vision for this Order. I’m really a pretty simple guy, and so I’ve focused, and will continue to focus, on two things: (1) Stopping the 70-year decline in our membership. I will continue to suggest ways to increase Lodge membership, and I will do all in my power to facilitate and support our growth. (2) Returning to the great principles of this Order: friendship, love and truth. We are just too small and too few to continue the bickering and back-biting that I’ve seen. I will not tolerate it. Teddy Roosevelt used to say that the best thing the President has is a bully pulpit – and the same is true for the Grand Master – I intend to use the bully pulpit – with the spoken word and the written word – to move this Order forward.
My tenure as your Grand Master will be different. I extend the hand of friendship to each of you. I truly love this Order and what it stands for. And I will always tell you the truth, no matter how painful it may be. And here’s the truth: Our Order is diminishing with declining membership and closures and consolidations of Lodges. Slowly withering away, piece by piece, because we have talked for 70 years about our declining numbers, but we have done precious little besides talk. Let me give you just one statistic. In 1860, when we first started keeping statistics, the number of dues-paying Odd Fellows in California, was 5,370. As of December 31, 2014, we had 4,252 dues-paying members in California. Yes – we had more members in 1860 than we do today. Well, the time for talking is over. We have to be bold. We can’t be afraid to take big steps. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps. And you can’t attract young men and women to Odd Fellowship in 2015 by behaving like we’re living in 1945. To thrive in this new Century, our Lodges must become three-dimensional: We must focus not only on the great history and ritual of this Order, but we must also remember to have some fun in our Lodge experience, and we must open our Lodges to our communities to do good works in those communities.
This speech will be short. Because we don’t have time for fluff. We need to get back to the business of strengthening, building and growing Odd Fellowship. So, when you look at the Itinerary of the Rebekah President and the Grand Master for the coming year, you will not see a flower, or a song, or a hymn, or an emblem, or a motto, or a bird, reptile, amphibian or mammal for that matter. We’ve kept it simple. We’ve only chosen watchwords, colors and projects. Our watchwords are Evolution and Change. Because if we don’t evolve with the 21st Century and if we don’t change the trajectory of our membership declines, this Order will diminish and may very well die. We can’t continue losing members and closing Lodges. It’s just not sustainable. And we can’t hide the truth that many of our Lodges can barely muster quorums for meetings. The history of our great Order is one of occasional evolution and change – it seems to happen every few decades – and brothers and sisters, you and I are about to embark on another such era. Our chosen colors are black and white. Because truth is black and white. You either tell the truth and face reality, or you are dissembling, evading, pretending, or just plain lying. My projects are “helping others to help themselves” – and so I am focusing on the Culinary Academy at RCS which trains foster kids to work, our member benefits program which helps Odd Fellows and Rebekahs overcome temporary financial obstacles, and the IOOF Educational Foundation which helps men and women get the education they need to help themselves.
And as your Grand Master, I will be visiting Lodges, but I won’t be bringing buttons or coins or pins. Instead, I have written a second book about the future of our Order which focuses on my vision to increase membership and to get back to the basics of friendship, love and truth. This book is entitled “The Future of Odd Fellowship – Evolution and Change”, and will be available starting today for any brother or sister to purchase at $10 – and every penny of the proceeds will be contributed to support Odd Fellows charities which help people to help themselves: the Culinary Program at the Rebekah Children’s Home, the Odd Fellows Member Benefits program, and the Educational Foundation. The book, itself, is full of information to help members and Lodge re-focus on ways to increase membership and on ways to get along in the Lodge room as true brothers and sisters in a fraternal organization.
Today I will distribute a list of my committee appointments for 2015-16. This year I did something different. In April I sent a letter to each Lodge in the jurisdiction, and requested that members interested in serving on a committee contact me directly. My goal was to expand the universe of members on these committees. For too long, our Grand Lodge committees have operated in a closed universe, with the same people serving again and again, year after year. Nothing wrong with experience, of course. But I also wanted to give some of our newer members the opportunity to serve. You will notice that I have created some new special committees, including a Code Revision Committee and a Public Relations Committee – because our Code is in dire need up modernization and our Order needs a focused effort to reach out to members of the public. There will also be a renewed emphasis on a re-charged Membership Committee under the leadership of Deputy Grand Master Peter Sellars, and we are bringing back the think tank and engine of new ideas that is the Dedicated Members for Change Committee under the leadership of Past Grand Master Rick Boyles.
My Grand Lodge Officers reflect evolution and change, as well. In the entire history of Odd Fellowship in California, only two women have ever served as Grand Lodge Officers. You will note that the majority of the Grand Lodge Officers that I have selected are women. Equal treatment of all Odd Fellows is very important to me, and I expect to every Lodge and every member of this Order. I am very pleased to announce my appointed Grand Lodge Officers – a strong team for 2015-16: Grand Marshal Nancy Johnson, Grand Conductor David Fleck, Grand Chaplain Rita Cooper. Grand Color Bearer Lawrence “Stark” Dagesse, Grand Guardian Lea Rosenberg, Grand Herald Anita Donnell, and Grand Instructor Neil Allen.
Some of the changes will be symbolic. For example, incoming President Donna Morrison and I have decided that we are not going to have a dozen separate receptions for our Grand Lodge and Rebekah Assembly Officers. Instead, we will work hand-in-hand to have one very large and festive joint reception for all officers. We also are not going to have that expensive Hawaiian Cruise that only a handful of members can afford – instead we are going to have a wine country bus trip – a fun and inexpensive excursion right here in California. Other changes will be very substantive. For example, our Code is replete with inconsistencies, archaic requirements, and ancient dogma which don’t fit the realities of today. In the coming year you will see proposals to simplify and modernize our Code.
In closing, remember this: Our ritual says that “Odd Fellowship is Progressive”. The Constitution of the Sovereign Grand Lodge says, “The rules and regulations set forth in the Constitution and Code of General Laws shall be liberally construed. The chief concern shall be following the spirit of the law and good of Odd Fellowship rather than harshly enforcing rules to the letter of the law.” That, brothers and sisters, shall be one of the hallmarks of my year as your Grand Master. We will work together to re-vitalize and re-energize this great Order. And we will do so in a progressive spirit, following the spirit of our laws and the good of Odd Fellowship rather than a harsh enforcement of rules. In this regard, I will be issuing a number of dispensations throughout my year – as the Code authorizes me to do as Grand Master – which will facilitate the opening of our Lodges to the world around us, a renewed emphasis on having some fun, and the recruitment of new members to join our Order.
In friendship, love and truth, we will take this journey of evolution and change together. I will leave you with the story I heard many years ago – it has stayed with me – of two stonecutters. They were asked what they were doing. The first one said, “I’m cutting this stone into blocks.” The second one said, “I’m on a team building a great cathedral.” Let’s work together – like that second stonecutter – to re-build this great fraternal order.
Grand Master Tim Brown 2014 – 2015
Holding on to our Heritage
Traveling through this wonderful state, I had the unique opportunity to visit many of our lodges, and meet numerous Odd fellow and Rebekahs in California. This has allowed me a diverse perspective of our past and future in our fraternity. By the past we discover the rich history, traditions, and customs, in which have allowed this fraternity, to survive when many others have diminished and faded away.
That Fraternal core or foundation of odd fellows and Rebekahs, and there ever faithful perseverance to the order has shown us that a fraternal order can still survive in a modern world. It is those foundations and traditions we must embrace not only to respect the past and history of odd Fellowship, but also to give future members a solid principle to follow.
As we move into the future of this fraternity, we need to continue to strive in our efforts to expand new and creative approaches to increase membership of this order. This will allow us to secure a place in our rich history in California. Working with our brothers and sisters, within and outside of our lodges, will allow us to gain support from our communities, as well as the respect of the fraternal order.
Many lodges in this state have had difficulty with membership within their lodges, not only with attendance, but also with questions on protocol and ritual, and although gaining new membership is a must to continue, we need to look not only without, but within our own ranks to utilize the vast experience that our own members have learned through the years. They are the key to the continuation of the history of this order, and we should make a conscious effort to retain their membership and restore them back into the lodges in which they have devoted many years of service.
Lastly as brothers and sisters we must look forward, keeping a positive attitude and respect for one another. Be proud of our history, embrace our unique principles and customs, it is those which make us a fraternal order, without them we may also diminish and fade away.
Timothy A. Brown
June 9, 2014 in Grand Lodge
Grand Masters Speech
I wish to thank the members for electing me as Grand Master for the upcoming year and to thank my wife Nancy and daughter Khristian for their patience and understanding in this endeavor.
My gratitude to the Master and Mistress of ceremonies Past Grand Master Rod Metoyer and Past President of Rebekah Assembly Diana Carranza, Paul Pike my sponsor and Past Grand Master, and all the dignitaries and members who made it possible for my officers and I to serve you as your state officers for the 2014- 2015 term. It has been a privilege to be a part of the Grand Lodge for the past several years as a Grand Lodge Officer, and I will continue to give this fraternal order my utmost support.
I have several focus goals that I will strive to accomplish this year. With the backing of our brothers and sisters, I will be continuing some membership programs already in place, but also I will be working with lodges, on an emphasis of fraternal ritual and lodge functionality, for a strong lodge is a successful one.
Through the years, our order has had a strong decline in its youth programs, which have been struggling to survive. At this time, we are making a positive step forward and I will continue assisting the youth orders to grow in California, working with lodges to develop youth groups and Jr lodges, to build a solid foundation of a new generation of brothers and sisters, to secure our fraternal future of this order.
Our goal as a fraternity is to assist our members and our communities in which we live. The image and condition of our lodges and cemeteries are a direct reflection of odd fellowship. Many of these lodges are in need of critical repair, and code updates due to the age of the structures. Many of the lodges in these historical buildings need funds for repair that they are unable to financially allocate. To preserve the rich history of our order, and to give a positive image of odd fellowship to our communities, I will be working with Grand Lodge to find ways to assist these lodges in need of repair. To find funds in the form of a loans or grants, for I believe it is the responsibility of all of us to keep our history and image alive in California.
Lastly, I have been working with the Rebekah Assembly on a possible joint wrap around program. This program would set up several outreach offices in California that would assist children and families in our communities to receive the necessary support and counseling needed to develop a functional environment for all children and families who are at risk, and give them the support and ability to move in a positive direction in their future.
I thank you all again for your support and confidence, and I will continue to serve you with honor and dignity.
Grand Master of California