Something Different

We have a dilemma. Not only must the Order survive, but it must grow. If our goal isn't for growth, then what are we doing? Are we merely trying to hoard our money or something? If that is the case, then I am younger than most of the membership and I will outlive most of you. Someday, perhaps I and the other 10 members left in about 15 years can vote to divide the spoils up amongst ourselves. This group has been engaged in discussing which Presidents were members in the good old days. Sure they were--think of how many votes they received by joining up with an order that actually had membership. I ask you this; how many mayors do we have in our ranks now? How many other important people? Not many.

This morning, I was reading some old posts from a member of another fraternal order in a similar, but even worse, situation. I have always been impressed by this man's thinking, and he is by far my senior. So I will copy his idea, because it makes sense, and bring it up for discussion here. As always, I welcome the criticism, and I will go ahead and bring up the usual ones. "We must never alter our rituals unless we make them longer and more culturally irrelevant." "We must not water down our order to become anything less than a secret fraternal order with a philosophy that can only be practiced by being a member of our order." "We must never change anything and throw away all the things that our forefathers worked so hard to build."

There are no long-time businesses alive today that haven't re-oriented from their original form and manner of doing business. What makes us different? If the I.O.O.F. was selling stock, would you buy any? How long ago would have you have dumped it? Odd Fellowship must be restructured with new packaging, components, and marketing to allow it to attract the citizens of this day and age.

So here is the topic for discussion. New units of a few "members" could be formed. They would help meet a need for growth and be a functional alternative to the dying lodges. These clubs would consist of members that practice Odd Fellowship. Odd Fellowship should be about improving ourselves and helping others. We don't need buildings, secrecy, passwords, signs, and regalia to do that. I don't see many lodge halls being built or purchased these days, and don't expect any to be any time soon. Since the Order is all in favor of having multiple branches and units, why not have a branch that meets in the public and puts on a face of welcome towards the outsiders? Look at the success of the Red Hat Society. They have reached a membership of over 500,000 in only 8 years. They are not burdened with the tasks of keeping up halls, memorizing ritual, and performing degrees. While they engage in no charitable work, what they have accomplished must be put into consideration. Look at the Rotary, started in 1909, the Lions, started in 1917, and the Kiwanis, started in 1915. They are no longer as popular as they once were, but consider that they were just getting started about ten years before most secret fraternal orders started declining. I believe that was about this time that insurance companies went mainstream, and left little incentive for people to endure the rituals so that they could reap the benefits the Odd Fellows once had. When you consider the fact that the service organizations have many times the membership as the Odd Fellows, and they help others, what does it tell you?

The rituals consist of nothing that can't be learned from a plethora of other sources. Society has grown far more sophisticated than the culture that the rituals were written in. Can we expect anyone to take us seriously anymore? I can't even get these kids today to treat me like a human being. As long as they have enough tact not to make fun of us, if and when they ever hear about us, I suppose it will be ok though.

I feel that the Order has reached a point where most that saw no hope for the future or no real sense of purpose have already left. Many see the ridiculousness of our severely out-dated methods and traditions. What do we have to offer to people in the 21st century? Few have time for much involvement. How many have time to help keep up a hall? How many have time to memorize rituals? How can we expect new lodges to ever be formed, especially with their own building?

Why not form a new branch of Odd Fellows Clubs, or something similar, that meet in public spaces? A branch that is focused on community, fellowship, doing good works, and practicing the tenants of our Order, all without the extra baggage that is dragging us down. Our current methods have shown proven results. Should we remain content with the way things are, and continue clutching the sacred rituals, our ancient practices, and failed business practices until our imminent demise? Or should we try something different?