I will preface this letter with the idea that printed word is occasionally better that spoken, there is a certain ambiance to a written letter.
I find myself thinking often about our Order and what it means to me. I wonder if our founders would be proud of the paths we have taken and the strides we go through. I often ask myself “why did I become a member”? I even wrote a letter to the Illinois Odd Fellow telling a tithe of that story.
While it is true that idle curiosity caused me to join, what I found in the organization is what kept me coming back. It kept me going to meetings, researching, looking for ways to improve myself and my Lodge. My Lodge and the Order it belongs to impressed me in a way that nothing in the world ever has. It has presented me with the privilege to meet some of the greatest people I have ever met. Doing the work of the order and moving through the chairs has been one of the greatest honors I have ever been able to experience outside of fatherhood and my marriage to Jessica who shares in Odd Fellowship with me.
I truly and wholeheartedly enjoy calling myself an Odd Fellow.
I ask that the membership reflect upon themselves why you “became Odd”
Do you find yourself to be a better person? Is there an ability to make a change in the world you weren’t afforded as an individual? Is there a deeper purpose for you in this Order?
As you reflect you may find the answers to be surprising.
I hope that in the near future all of you are eying up the chair of Past Grand as a good spot to sit. But please understand what I like to call the “Columbus Factor”. You see everyone laughed at Christopher Columbus when he set sail. The world ended at the end of sight, the horizon could not be seen past, so there was not an understanding of what lays beyond. Trust me when I say that there is an entire world beyond your current vision. As you are contemplating these things please know that I am not telling you that you have to seek the further instruction, degrees or even committee’s or chairs in the Grand Lodge. Quite to the contrary the Grand Lodge would not be able to exist if it were not for the members just like you, doing the daily work of our Order in Local Lodges. Our Local Lodges need you, your ideas and most importantly your ACTION.
Our Local Lodges need ALL of our help and commitment. We need to set our sights on growth and the future of our order. All of this has to be done without compromising our values, beliefs or principals. We need to grow membership and we need to take an active role in our communities. A simple idea can become much, much more that you may have ever thought and it could be lost in your own head without bringing it to light. When an idea is brought to the lodge it should be well researched with the idea and a plan. The next step is to form a committee to bring this to life. Just talking about things does not make it happen. ACTION is the answer to most questions. If you cannot bring your ideas to life and present them in a way that is captivating to the Lodge you will be hard pressed to get action from others. Take notes of your thoughts and bring them with you.
Remember the part of the valediction where we say ‘My Home, My Church or Temple my Lodge and My Community deserve my best work, my earnest faith and my deepest loyalty? This pledge falls upon every member of the order. Lodges used to be located in nearly every small town and big city across our country. This is sadly no longer the case. Members have to travel to Lodge for meetings. It could be harmful to the Order if we narrow our scope to the town our hall is in. We need to look beyond the “horizon” that is the city limits. Members need to know we care about where they live too. This showing will bring more support and potentially members. We need to grow membership, not only in our lodge but our entire order, but building membership can be dangerous if not performed carefully. We do not need members to keep seats warm, we need members that are going to DO! Members that cannot make it to meetings but work events are better than ones that come to meetings but don’t perform. Strength in number and truth in deeds.
Along the lines of membership, there are a group of people that think we need to step away from our traditions and focus on the newer age. These people seem to think that the pageantry is causing membership to slide?! Seeing as I am the one writing this, I will offer my opinion on that… IT IS CRAZY!!! Our traditions are rich, our ceremonies are strong and heartfelt, our order is not losing membership due to performing ceremonial degree work, we may be losing membership due to not performing it however! If we handle degree work as if it is a technicality of membership it may be the demise of our order. Have you ever attended a Regional or District meeting where there was a degree team? Watching the degrees be performed in detail is exciting and making it an exciting moment for new members is something that keeps them coming back. Without this work we are nothing more than a bunch of people sitting around, with this work we become brothers and sisters united in common teachings and intertwined on a common goal!
This past few terms I have, and will continue, to spend a lot of time reviewing the quality of membership. I have shared this message with all of the members of my Lodge and now I bring it to you! We have seen the burden of proof in my own “home” Lodge and in many of the lodges I visit.
I do wish all of you who are reading this the very best and I know that we form a great bundle of sticks. I cannot wait to see and hear the future plans of our Lodge and our Order. Remember as we go through life that the shoulder of the Samaritan is now yours! You are bringing the man to shelter, safety and fraternity.
Yours in Friendship, Love & Truth and Faith, Hope & Charity,
Bro. Mathew R. Yingling D.D.G.M #21
I AM AN ODD FELLOW!
I AM A PATRIARCH!
I AM A REBEKAH!