Grand Master Melvin A Astrahan 2018 – 2019
May 24, 2018
One of the most socially useful things a Grand Master can do is to raise funds for charitable projects. As Grand Master of California for the 2018-2019 term, which happens to coincide with the 1819-2019 bicentennial anniversary of Odd Fellowship in the United States, I have adopted a bicentennial theme for my fund raising endeavors and memorabilia. My primary project is the Andrew Lamphere Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Foundation which provides free echocardiography testing of school children for this otherwise hidden, life threatening condition that can can trigger dangerous arrhythmias and lead to sudden cardiac arrest during strenuous athletic activities. Additional projects include our 2019 Odd Fellows and Rebekahs Float in the New Years Day Pasadena Rose Parade, and some long overdue roof repairs for the multi-purpose room (and other maintenance required) at our Three Links Camp.
To raise funds for my projects, I designed these bicentennial commemorative, silver and gold belt buckles which feature the three links and have arranged for their manufacture by the famous Montana Silversmiths company that also makes the CMSA trophy buckles that I have won and often wear. To celebrate the bicentennial of our Order, no more than 200 serial numbered copies of this buckle will be manufactured.
The buckles are of the finest quality and should be considered as family heirlooms. Each buckle is intended to raise $100 to benefit the Lamphere Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Foundation. Please support this project and help save the life of a young athlete. To learn more about this disease, please download this report: Hypertrophic_Cardiomyopathy.
My mascot is the infamous “Tribble“, originally a paradigm for the dangers of overpopulation, introduced in a late 1967 episode of the TV show Star Trek. The Tribble was an innocuous, purring, furry critter that multiplied prodigiously when fed.
Unfortunately, Odd Fellowship is not presently in any danger of overpopulation.
My watchword is “Feed an Odd Fellow“, the implication being that I hope Odd Fellows will heed the example of the Tribbles and prodigiously multiply our membership numbers after we feed them. My pins represent “IOOF bicentennial tribbles” and come in 2 sizes, the larger has a grey background, the smaller a shiny background for greater “bling” effect. The pins are sold in pairs, one large, one small.
Also in honor of our bicentennial, I have designed $200 “Wildey” souvenir bills. The bills are signed by myself, Rebekah Assembly President Ernestine Olson and incoming 2019 Sovereign Grand Master Douglas Pittman. Interestingly, the city of Trier in Germany has sold tens of thousands of €0 souvenir bills this year in honor of the 200th birthday of the infamous Karl Marx! Lets see if a $200 Wildey bill can do even better, please consider purchasing one for every member of your lodge.
Coming this summer will be collectable bicentennial themed coins, patterned after an early 1800s era silver dollar. The first 200 coins will be minted of fine silver (hallmarked .999) and will be serial numbered. Subsequent coins will be silver plated and without serial numbers or hallmarks but available at much lower cost. I have more commemorative items that may appear later in the year if these initial items sell out. It is my goal to raise between $20,000 and $30,000 in support of my projects, so, please, collect and enjoy these bicentennial commemoratives and also help save a child’s life by vigorously promoting and supporting all the promotional items.
In my subsequent monthly messages I will be presenting my legislative, organizational, and other projects designed to promote and publicize Odd Fellowship and eventually regrow our membership. I thank you for allowing me to serve our Order during this “bicentennial” year as your Grand Master and I look forward to visiting with many of you as I travel the jurisdiction.
In Friendship, Love and Truth</ br>
From PGM Dave Reed
When I was growing up, I used to sing Christmas carols. My family would sit around our living room and sing. Sometimes, my friends and I would stroll around our neighborhood and knock on doors and sing a couple of carols to the neighbors. Sometimes, a youth group would gather to go out caroling.
These are fond memories. It was fun to sing together. It was fun to sing for others. It was fun to see how others enjoyed and appreciated us reaching out to them.
A few years ago, my lodge started caroling. We decided to reach out to senior citizens. We organized an event at a local senior housing facility. We were allowed to stroll around the facility and stop and sing to residents who were not very mobile. Other times, we would sing in a common area where residents would come to listen and join us.
Over the years, our group of carolers has grown. Some bring their children or friends. Some of us bring guitars to play along. With a group of singers, no one’s voice stands out (so you don’t need to have a good voice).
In the last few years, we have ended our show by reading ‘Twas the Night before Christmas. We each read a few lines and go around the group. We have a great time!
What is even better is that the seniors enjoy it very much. They are very appreciative. It is wonderful to see the joy they feel from listening and joining in.
This is an example of what we can do together. All it takes is a little time and effort. Whether you make it an event in your lodge for your members or go out into your community to entertain seniors or others, it is something any lodge can do. It is good for our members. It is good for our community. It is good for the Order!
If any of you would like more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I would be happy to share our song lyrics file with you. Happy Holidays!
In Friendship, Love, and Truth,
August 2, 2017
Goals and Plans
I remember when I was Noble Grand of my lodge. At first, I was overwhelmed with the responsibility. When things went wrong, the buck stopped with me. After a while, I became more and more comfortable working with people, making decisions, delegating tasks to others, being a leader.
I suspect a variation of this experience happens every year in nearly every lodge. But it is a bit different in every lodge since every lodge has their own personality. Every lodge has their own challenges.
As we get comfortable in our lodges, we have an opportunity to take a step back and look at who we are and what we do and what are we capable of doing. I have yet to see a lodge that is not capable of doing more; of being better Odd Fellows.
Doing more or doing better does not happen by itself. It takes effort and a willingness to act. I like to think in terms of setting goals and making plans. All of us, as individuals and as lodges, should set goals for ourselves from time to time. There are certain goals that nearly everyone and every lodge could set. How about getting members to participate more; getting members to serve in officer’s positions; doing more for our communities; attracting new members? How about doing one more event or activity this year? Try setting a one-year goal or a five-year goal. Think about where you would like your lodge to be in five years.
If you thought about it for a while, I am sure you could think of a variety of goals that would improve your Odd Fellows experience or your lodge. Ideally, lodges would invite input from their members to set goals for the lodge. One lodge held a strategic planning meeting. Another lodge had a visioning meeting. The members talked about what they wanted to get out of their lodge and Odd Fellowship and what can do for the lodge. Of course, the goals of every lodge would be unique to them. The goals would reflect the personality and interests and skills of their members. Goals that are right for one lodge may not work in another lodge.
Regardless of what goals you set, the next step is to think about what you can do to accomplish your goals. Make plans to accomplish your goals. This planning can be individual or it can be the work of your lodge. Planning and accomplishing your goals requires action. It requires doing things. It requires doing things that will interest your members in participating. It requires doing things that will make others want to be a part of your lodge.
We are part of an Order of good people seeking to go good things. But, except writing an occasional check, we do surprisingly little for our communities. One of the best feelings I have felt as an Odd Fellow is helping others in my community, whether it be doing chores for senior citizens or planting trees or working at the Food Bank or Christmas caroling.
How many of us have a lodge where just a fraction of our members participate in lodge events and activities? Think about what your lodge could do if every member participated in one more event or activity every year. Think about what satisfaction your members could receive if your lodge did one (more) activity or event for your community this year There is a passage in our Valediction that our community deserves our best work.It doesn’t seem like such a big goal! The possibilities are only limited by the imaginations and interests and energy of your members.
Try this. Make a few goals that you and your lodge can achieve. Make plans together or individually to accomplish your goals. It doesn’t have to happen fast or be a huge step. Make it an opportunity to work together; to do good things together. Isn’t that what we are supposed do? Do it! And we will All Rise!
In Friendship, Love and Truth,
Grand Master Installation Message — May 20, 2017
Sometimes dealing with lodges and hearing their conflicts reminds of traffic court. Years ago, I presided over Traffic Court. You hear the wildest stories in Traffic Court. Let me tell you one.
A female business executive was pulled over for speeding. 65 in a 40 mph zone. The officer approaches her and asks for her license. She tells him that her license was revoked two years ago for drunk driving. The officer asks her for her registration. She says “I stole the car and killed the driver. He’s in the trunk”.
The officer backed off and told her not to move and called for backup. Several other officers arrive and a lieutenant approaches her. He says “Ma’am, can I see your license?” She says “Of course. It’s in my purse” and she pulls it out.
The officer says “Can I see your registration?” She says “It’s in the glove compartment.” The officer looks and pulls the registration out of the glove compartment.
The lieutenant says “Stand back” and goes back to the trunk and bangs it open and flinches. It’s empty. The officer stands back and looks at the officer who pulled her over and says “I don’t understand?”
The woman points at the first cop and says: “That liar probably told you I was speeding too!”
I want to tell you a little about my vision and my goals. First, I recognize that some of our lodges have problems that cannot be solved in one year. I believe that any solution to their problems must come from within their lodges. I can help. Grand Lodge can help. We can make suggestions. We can offer assistance. But struggling lodges must be willing seek out help. They must be willing to accept help. That probably means they must be willing to change.
Second, I hope to inspire and challenge lodges to continue to do more and to do better.
Third, I hope that by the end of the year that I still have some hair and that I still have more hair than Dave Rosenberg.
I have chosen a motto and watchwords and symbols that reflect my vision. When I see things or read things, I think about how they may apply to the Odd Fellows either directly or symbolically.
I believe Odd Fellows and Rebekahs are fundamentally good people. But I think sometimes we get distracted from what we should be.
The motto I have chosen is “All Rise!” Every morning when I enter my courtroom, my bailiff says “All Rise”. Those words demand that everyone in the courtroom come to attention. Those words create order amidst chaos.
There are specialty court programs for drug addicts and homeless people and mental health patients and veterans. For these people, “All Rise” has even greater meaning. These court programs provide hope and support for those who may have been considered hopeless. When these people rise about their challenges, we, society, ALL RISE. When a cycle of dysfunctional behavior is broken, we ALL RISE. In that context, ALL RISE is a challenge to summon our collective strength. A challenge to help lighten the load on the shoulders of those who cannot carry it alone. That sounds like Odd Fellow territory to me.
For my term as Grand Master, I challenge us to ALL RISE. When one of us does something good for another member or for our community, we ALL RISE. Our lodges rise and the Order rises.
When our lodges do something good for our members or our community, we ALL RISE. When we give our brothers and sisters support and encouragement to try new and different things to help our members or our community, we ALL RISE.
The more we rise, the stronger we get. The more we offer our members, the stronger we get. The more we give to our communities, the stronger we get. We ALL RISE. Think of our bundle of sticks symbol. We are stronger as a group than as individuals.
There used to be a comic strip called Pogo. How many of you remember Pogo? One line from Pogo has become timeless. That line is “We have met the enemy and he is us”. Think about it. “We have met the enemy and he is us”. In the lodges that have few members, we have let ourselves become the enemy. In the lodges trying to grow with conflicts between old members and new members, we have let ourselves be the enemy. Those lodges can and must ALL RISE to survive.
One of my emblems are the Eyes of Wisdom. I chose the Eyes of Wisdom to symbolize three things. First, we should be looking out for our brothers and sisters. Help them when in need. Treat each other with respect and kindness.
Second, we should look out for our community. We should use our group resources and energy to help our communities.
And finally, we should look at ourselves. Who are we? Who do we want to be? What are we willing to do to help our brothers and sisters or our lodge or our community? How can we do better?
That leads me to one of my watch phrases: Actions speak louder than words. Quite frankly, there’s too much talking and not enough doing in our Order. The Odd Fellows did not become leaders in their community by talking about good things or by talking about how good they are because they believe in Friendship, Love and Truth. We became leaders by doing. Pursuing those goals is our journey. It is our journey that gives meaning. It is the journey that helps our brothers and sisters and lodges. It is the journey that builds that bundle of sticks. It is the journey that enables us to ALL RISE. If our words are not coupled with action, there is no progress on our journey.
My other watch phrase is “Do it”. “Do It” is intended to have an exclamation point. This watch phrase adds emphasis to “Actions speak louder than words”. “Do It!” is a challenge to all of us. We do something (other than talk). We do something together. We work together. We make goals together. We are willing to do things that may be new and different if our brothers or sisters want to try it. We let our brothers and sisters lead our lodges doing new and different things. We never, never say “we’ve never done that before, so we can’t do that”. If you don’t want to participate in an activity, that is fine. But don’t obstruct it because you don’t want to do it. Let them run with it.
There is no “me” in Odd Fellowship. Odd Fellowship is not about “me”. Odd Fellowship is about “us”. A friend once told me that “You can accomplish a lot if everyone isn’t to trying get the credit”. Think about it. We ALL RISE! It is good when you rise or when I rise, but Odd Fellowship is not about you and me. It is about us. Us rising together.
My other emblem is the Lightning Bolt. The lightning bolt symbolizes action. Doing things that will engage your lodge. Doing things that your members want to try. Doing things will benefit your community. Doing things that will make your lodge an organization others will want to join. Doing things. Period. Do it!
A great man once said: “The future depends on what we do in the present”. What we do in the present. Think Actions. Think Do It! I challenge each lodge to do more!
My colors are orange and blue. Orange symbolizes sunrise and the promise of a new day. The opportunity to accomplish something, anything. Awakening with energy and inspiration with goals and plans. Blue symbolizes the clear blue sky and the endless possibilities of what we can accomplish together. Orange also symbolizes sunset. A time to reflect on what we have accomplished during the day. A time to think about what more we can do. What we can do better.
I also chose orange and blue because of Oskee-wow wow. Does anyone know what that is? It’s my secret.
One of my goals is find ways for our lodges and Grand Lodge to connect better. That need was clearly visible this week. One step towards that goal is the new Odd Event Library. This is a new page on the Grand Lodge website. To find it, click on the Odd Fellows Resources tab. The Odd Event Library is a source of information about activities and events that lodges have tried. My hope is that lodges that have tried different events will post details to share with other lodges. My hope is that lodges looking for ideas to try will looking at the Odd Event Library for ideas to try. The entries have brief details of events and a contact person if more information is needed. I hope that the Odd Event Library will be one small way for members and lodges to connect with Grand Lodge and with other lodges.
I chose With a Little Help From My Friends and Margaritaville as my songs. With a Little Help From My Friends has the chorus: I get by with a little help from my friends, I get high with a little help from my friends, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends. For me, the beauty of Odd Fellowship is the friends I have gained and the things we have done together. The high you feel when you have accomplished something together.
Although I like margaritas and am practiced at making them, that’s not why I chose Margaritaville.
In Margaritaville, the chorus says: “Wasted away in Margaritaville/Searching for my lost shaker of salt/Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame/But I know it’s nobody’s fault.” The second chorus is the same but ends with: “It could be my fault.” The third chorus ends with: “It’s my own damn fault.” And it won’t be because there’s a woman to blame!
My point is this. Our Order has been struggling for a long time to stop the decline in membership. To stop the bleeding. We may have finally started to turn the corner. Our membership grew slightly last year. But we can do better. We can survive. And if we don’t, it is our own damn fault.
I have a pin that I am selling for $5. All proceeds from the sale will be shared with the Cave Degree Fund to help them replace the stairs and deck of the cave and with the Rebekahs Children’s Services Culinary Institute.
The Cave Degree is a wonderful annual event in Yreka where all four degrees are given to new and rising members. If you have never been to it, you should go sometime. During the second degree, you can look out the cave and see the full moon rising over Mt. Shasta. They are always looking for members to help with the degree teams. This year the Cave Degree will be held the first weekend in August.
Respect. Always. We must show more respect for each other. It OK to disagree with each other. But we must continue to remind ourselves and each other that we deserve to be treated with respect. And, we must strive to always treat our brothers and sisters with respect. Even if they do not show you respect. We should strive to rise above pettiness. If you are treated with disrespect, ask them: “Why must you treat me disrespectfully?”
I pledge to treat everyone with respect. You may not always agree with what I say or do. I do not claim to know everything. But I pledge to look for the answers to things I do not know. And treat you with respect.
Knowledge is learning something new every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day. There will be times when we individually or we as a lodge or we as an Order must let go of things. Albert Einstein supposedly defined “insanity” as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Does this sound familiar? We should move away from insanity, seek knowledge and show wisdom.
It has been said that “Everyone has the power for greatness, not fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.” We all have power for greatness.
There is a saying that “The best leaders of all, the people know not they exist. They turn to each other and say, “We did it ourselves.”” That would be the ultimate compliment for me to be here with you next year and hear about the good things that have happened and to hear it said “we did it ourselves”. Let’s ALL RISE together.
Thank you for allowing me to be your Grand Master.
GRAND LODGE OF CALIFORNIA
PGM Pete Sellars
THE CHOICES WE MAKE, FOR BETTER OR WORSE; STILL, IT IS OUR CHOICE
In May, our jurisdiction faces some very important decisions. In May, each year, we elect our next leaders. In May, we either support or defeat various legislation – bills and resolutions – which all of us are supposed to be studying in April. April, is the month for preparation. It is the reason our lodges receive the Advance Proceedings seven weeks before the session. These documents are to better prepare all of our lodges’ representatives. May, is the month every lodge has an opportunity to be heard. When roll call is taken, and all those in attendance know which lodges are still relevant or not, be sure the silence is not for your lodge.
This May, we decide if our dues shall increase another five dollars. This May, we decide to modernize the tasks of our line officers. This May, we decide if we are going to forgive loans to several lodges. This May, we decide if we should recognize certain members for their efforts in the Order. This May, we review the actions of our Grand Lodge Board, the Grand Master, the Camp Board, the Home Board, and others. This May, we decide whether or not we shall keep the Camp. This May, is when we decide many issues.
This leader wishes every member would attend our session. I wish members read the documents provided to the lodges and submit themselves to an educated and well-thought out vote. I wish for a peaceful and positive session, where all of our members realize there are bigger and more important things in this world, then the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, yet realize they are taking a moment out in their lives – spending moments of their life time – to improve our Order and make it a suitable organization for the future. I want all of you to put matters in perspective. I wish for peace and harmony amongst the membership of this Order. The session is where decisions are made. It is the place to ask questions without retribution. I ask all of those who are attending the session this May, to vote for what you know is right; and do not vote for what suits a selfish motivation.
In May, some of our members may feel intimidated and reluctant to stand up and be recognized; BUT, I TELL YOU NOW, DO NOT FEEL THIS WAY BECAUSE OF WHAT ANYONE SAYS OR THREATENS. This leader encourages members to stand up and speak. I want to hear your motion and your discussion put on the floor. I want to see your confidence grow as the session moves ahead. Brothers and sisters, this moment is yours. This is the time to speak up and voice your opinion, but in an orderly fashion. I ask that all of our “experienced members at sessions” to be respectful and even helpful and encouraging to these newer brothers and sisters. This is a fraternity after all.
In a month and half, I end on what has been a very busy year. There were a few lodges I wish I could have addressed personally, but, instead, I assigned special deputies; I could not be in so many places at the same time. I laugh to myself, as I write this, because my report was several pages longer than what was expected. I had a lot to say, but it was important to tell all of you what I could about the experiences and issues we face and must make decisions upon. Several of these decisions are contained within my resolutions. I carefully thought about each topic. I ONLY CHOSE WHAT WAS BEST FOR THE ORDER, and did not succumb to the selfishness of individuals who siphon from the precious assets used to keep our jurisdiction operating in the black. I hope you shall read the advance proceedings, which your lodge should now have, and the reports by myself, the boards, and other leaders, which you shall receive at session.
In repeating myself: In May, our jurisdiction faces some very important decisions.
In Friendship, Love, & Truth,
Peter V. Sellars
Greetings Brothers and Sisters,
We are in the new calendar year – 2017. Happy New Year! There are a little over four months remaining in my term as Grand Master. This also means the per capita forms are either on your secretary’s desk or in front of a small group of officers working to complete those five pages of forms.
Part of my opening speech during my installation last May, included the importance of having these forms completed and submitted, along with the per capita payment by February 28, 2017, which is the deadline set by the Grand Secretary, by code.
Having a successful lodge and an active membership, is reflected in how well a lodge complies to Order related requirements, such as filling out simple per capita forms and sending them on time. This is as important as completing your lodge’s IRS reporting, corporation filing and other required documentation. In fact, I would go so far as to say, this year, submitting the completed per capita forms is paramount in sustaining the lodge charter.
IF YOU ARE HAVING A PROBLEM WITH COMPLETING YOUR PER CAPITA FORMS, contact the Grand Secretary immediately! Do not wait until the end of January and especially February! I am strongly urging you to submit these forms as soon as possible.
A lodge, by code is deemed “Not in Good Standing” if its per capita is not satisfied by the due date. I hope all of you are asking your lodge officers about the status of the per capita forms.
With that admonition, I am confident I am speaking to the choir and all of you are working diligently and responsibly on your per capita forms.
On February 4, 2017, there will be a Dedication Ceremony of the new Grand Lodge office in San Jose. Myself, with a few of our Grand Lodge officers shall dedicate the new office building. This is a space worthy of our Order and the business of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. I hope to see all of you on this date. There will be refreshments and tours of the new office. Your lodge secretary should have read the details of this event to you.
Finally, I wish to challenge all of you to bring an applicant to your next lodge meeting to submit an application for consideration. When was the last time you introduced a new applicant to the lodge? It is a fairly easy task. As a sponsor, you should explain all the benefits of our Order to a new applicant. The Educational Foundation is one of the best avenues for benefits we offer our members. Any member may apply for a grant, scholarship, or loan, from the Educational Foundation at Sovereign Grand Lodge. Our lodges offer numerous activities to members; as a member of the Order, you may visit any other lodge. There are so many avenues of interests to be created by new members. Some members enjoy researching the history of their lodge within a given community. Members enjoy fundraising for a local cause. Others, enjoy preparing a meal for a group. There are so many things any lodge can try. The Odd Fellows offer a 501c corporation, already in place within a community, where countless ideas may be tried. The opportunity for good works and fulfilling our command of the Initiatory Degree is right in front of all of us – new applicants and longtime members, both have that opportunity. Make a difference. I challenge you to bring a new applicant into this Order. Then, I hope to see open hearts and open minds being used.
I hope to see you, soon.
In Friendship, Love, & Truth
Peter V. Sellars
GRAND MASTER’S MESSAGE For The Holiday’s
Greetings Brothers And Sisters: I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and a joyous Merry Christmas or other specific holiday event you may celebrate. I also wish you a prosperous New Year. December is upon us and I have concluded my obligated number of visits per the code. This leaves me with the real work at hand: Membership. A few years ago, I became part of the Dedicated Members for Change because I strongly believed this Order needed a forum, such as this, to share ideas and to be able to make suggestions without hurtinganyone’s feelings. When I joined this Order, I was received by a group of very elderly men, who had been clinging to a dying lodge. I did not receive my initiatory degree in the traditional manner, as this handful of old men simplyrecited phrases to me by memory. There were no degree robes or other apparatuses involved. It was a dry initiation. I had no idea what defined a proper initiatory degree, as I was new. Years later, I realizedthese men had held on long enough to find someone like me to perpetuate the Order they loved. They were gone within two or three years. Upon becoming active, I witnessed resistance to change and the need to come up to today’s standards. Change is what was needed, as the 20th Century was nearing an end and the IOOF was still in the 19th Century.In short, I learned to memorize the Ritual and to use our code books. I did this so I could effect change – or at least work toward proposing change. I was as good as anyone when it came to degree work, beinga degree captain. I was as good as anyone writing legislation. But, I quickly realized there were barricades for ANY proposal for change. Membership decline was alarming. The history of decline in the IOOF was alarming. I pushed for the acceptance of members, regardless of their religious beliefs, social standing, where they lived, their appearance,their ethnicity, and any other factors I witnessed to be barriers with the older members. In 2001, when women were allowed to join the lodges, I embraced the idea. This was the most important legislation, in myopinion, that Sovereign Grand Lodge ever passed. Allowing blacks and others to join extremely important. These moves were a push in the direction of what Odd Fellowship was truly encompassing. We accept people ofall nations or all heritages. We do not discriminate by gender, either. These moves should have been embraced by every Odd Fellows lodge, but sadly, those lodges who have not moved into the 20th Century, havedoomed themselves. They do not represent the modernization and direction the Order must move to survive â€“ and to eventually grow. Over the years, I have read, with pleasure the suggestions and ideas to expand a lodge’s membership. The tools are in place, but our members do not take advantage. I have read motivating articles written byleaders and past leaders in this jurisdiction. Some of us have found the easiest way to attract new applicants. Unfortunately, some are still stuck in some era of self-destruction and condemnation. Let me keepthis on a positive level and tell you how to expand the membership in your lodge; you must do a few things: 1. Be motivated.2. Look to bring in anyone who is eligible to join the I.O.O.F. The key word is “eligible”.3. Have an event in place where you can invite a potential applicant; i.e. a dinner, an art event, a dance, a party, a BBQ, a musical, an outing, etc.4. YOU MUST FIND OUT BY ASKING WHAT THIS POTENTIAL MEMBER ENJOYS. THEN, YOU MUST TELL THAT PERSON, “WE WANT YOU TO HELP US DO THAT PARTICULAR EVENT OR IDEA.” MAKE THAT PERSON’S INTEREST, THE LODGE’S INTERESTThis my brothers and sisters is the easiest method of interesting someone in joining an organization. 5. With each new member, add an event or combine an event. Create a committee for that event and perpetuate that event. Lodge members enjoy events. Of course, I cannot resolve your membership issues by one DMC message. But, I can share an idea that works. It is my prerogative to gear you and your lodge in a more positive direction. We are in a race to save this Order. While some lodges shall ignore the changes made in the last quarter of the last century, some lodges shall open their eyes and realize the principles of our Order havea greater meaning that what they believe or what they are holding onto. Free your mind brothers and sisters. Open your doors and your hearts. Expanding membership is key to success. In Friendship, Love, & Truth, Peter V. SellarsGrand Master of California
Brothers And Sisters: I now realize one of the roles of a Grand Master in this all-volunteer organization is to speak up when he or she sees an injustice or a situation being exaggerated. By code, “fraternal” aspects are my babies to handle – and I shall. I promise not to shy away from situations where a decision is needed.
Recently, I was informed of a situation involving a disabled member of our Order being discriminated against. I am not sure if the parties who were discriminating knew they were discriminating. “Discrimination” to me is defined by a prejudicial treatment of individuals who fall into a category, such as disabled or other groups.
Let’s be clear: The Independent Order of Odd Fellows and its members ARE NOT allowed to discriminate against people because of their gender, race, disability, etc. If anything, the members should be tolerant, if not embracing toward such people – period!
I have heard members say, “Well, this is private property and the laws don’t apply.” My brothers and sisters, lawsuits and human dignity and condition apply in public and private settings. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 applies to physically and mentally disabled persons, and also gives them the “broad benefit” of the courts, in such matters of discrimination of disabled persons.
Sure, this is a message some members, but only a very few, want to see written, because they see it as a liability exposure. Well, then, those few better be on their best behavior and know that due process has been given by this Grand Master. I have that privilege by code; if a member harms another then it is a fraternal matter.
Most members would see this message as welcoming because they have witnessed discrimination and wished someone would just stand and speak out or even take action against the offending parties.
If you see a member being treated differently or rudely because of age, sexual preference, gender, race, ethnicity, or disability or other, put a stop to it immediately and notify me.
Peter V. Sellars Grand Master of California
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
Grand Masters Speech
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