Traditional Odd Fellowship
by Michael Greenzeiger, Grand Warden of California
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I have often been asked if I consider myself to be more of a traditionalist or a reformer when it comes to Odd Fellowship. I actually don’t consider those to be a contradiction, however. Odd Fellowship itself has evolved considerably over the years, from the “convivial society” of the 1700’s through the height of ritual and symbolism during the 1800’s and the charitable and service focus of the 1900’s. I do not yet know what this century will bring, but I do know that there is much of value in our past.
Often, those who label themselves as traditionalists are thinking of Odd Fellowship as its been in the last hundred years, but I like to go a little further back than that. One reason Odd Fellowship thrived in the “Golden Age of Fraternalism” towards the end of the 19th century was because people knew what Odd Fellowship meant as expressed in its degree work and other symbolism.
Odd Fellowship wasn’t just about doing good works or making a few donations, but about elevating the character of humankind. Social events, service work, and charity were important and they were practiced enthusiastically, but they weren’t the main point. The main point was to help a person reach their ultimate potential and to make the entire world better in the process. If you don’t believe me, pay close attention next time you hear the Past Grand’s charge in the Initiatory Degree. The answers to what Odd Fellowship was and is about are still there, waiting to be heard.
Another major facet of what made Odd Fellowship unique was its willingness to take men from all walks of life. It was only men back then, but they were still on the right track, accepting members from different religious views and socioeconomic backgrounds and bringing them together to meet on common ground. We are fortunate to be able to finish the work they began and to widen the welcoming arms of the Order further still. This too is traditional Odd Fellowship as evidenced by certain lines in the Chaplain’s or Noble Grand’s charge, depending on what version of the Initiatory is being performed.
I am a traditionalist in that I grapple with the history, rituals, and symbolism of Odd Fellowship. I believe in elevating the character of humankind and in bringing together people of all walks of life. I don’t believe any of this is a contradiction with harnessing modern technology. Nor does it conflict with tweaking our message and our methods to be effective in the modern world in which we live. Those who have come before us have brought us the gift of Odd Fellowship. We can do our part as links in the chain of a living tradition by bringing it forward to future generations.