What I Learned as Grand Master By Toby Hanson, PGM

What I Learned as Grand Master
By Toby Hanson, PGM https://ioofwa.org

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I have just finished my term as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of
Washington, IOOF.  We had an excellent session of the Grand Lodge at
which we conducted a lot of very important business and then I turned
the gavel over to my successor.  The whole process of proceeding through
the chairs of the Grand Lodge felt like a whirlwind but now that it’s
complete I have the opportunity to reflect and share what I’ve learned.

I came into the job with a lot of grandiose ideas about what the Grand
Lodge should be and what it should do.  While that was somewhat of a
naive way to begin, it was also useful because it gave direction and
inspiration to what I ultimately did as Grand Master.  While it may seem
quite grandiose to be Grand Master, in reality, I was the chief code
enforcement officer of my jurisdiction.  I set the agendas for meetings,
made a few small decisions on my own, consulted with Past Grand Masters
and others in my jurisdiction and, on one occasion, the Sovereign Grand
Master.  Mostly, I worked with the Executive Committee in my
jurisdiction to manage the business of the Grand Lodge.  I was very
fortunate to have an excellent Executive Committee with which to work.

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With 2019-2019 Sovereign Grand Master Doug Pittman

A big part of the job is administrative.  Our jurisdiction manages
certain properties of defunct lodges that haven’t been sold yet.  We
oversee our investments and our budget.   We keep track of our various
charitable projects and activities.  We run a home for the aged.  All of
this involves working with a lot of different committees and boards and
coordinating a lot of schedules.  I had an excellent Grand Secretary who
managed to keep everything under control.  She’s a huge asset to our
jurisdiction and Odd Fellowship in general.

Along with the administrative part of the job is being familiar with the
Code and Digest to ensure I can give accurate answers as questions come
up during my term.  This is one of the areas where it really helps that
Grand Masters go through the chairs starting out as Grand Warden and
then moving up to Deputy Grand Master.  We get a couple years to get
familiar with everything.  I don’t claim to be the most knowledgeable
member in the jurisdiction but I did become fairly proficient at finding
answers quickly.  The answer is always available somewhere in either the
Code or Digest if one is willing to look long enough.  It also helps to
have the guidance of a good Parliamentarian, which I did.  There were
also several Past Grand Masters who were willing to jump in and help me
which I greatly appreciated.

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Our DDGM meeting was a huge success. We shared a lot of important information about the proper function of Odd Fellowship today. Big thanks to the Grand Secretary and all the Past Grand Masters for their time and input.

Another big part of the job is interacting with our individual lodges.
I loved making lodge visitations.  It was always a wonderful experience
to drive across the state and find new friends inside the doors of some
small, rural lodge hall.  At every stop I had the opportunity to spread
a message on behalf of the Grand Lodge and I tried to be as
inspirational as possible each time.  I always tried to point out
something I felt the lodge was doing well and giving them some praise
for it.  In truth, it was never hard to find something that each lodge
was doing well.  There were many wonderful projects and activities that
each lodge was doing and I was always able to find something to
compliment the lodges on.

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Had a wonderful visit to Hunters Lodge No. 216. They may be a small, isolated lodge in the middle of nowhere but this is one of the truest groups of Odd Fellows I’ve ever met. The dedication to their community is amazing.

I always appreciated the courtesies and honors that the various lodges
gave me on my visitations.  Whether it was giving me lodging for the
night or preparing a delicious meal, I loved and appreciated every
minute of it.  Every moment spent with brother and sister Odd Fellows is
valuable, whether it’s pizza in the home of a member, beef stew in the
kitchen of a lodge hall, or a steak dinner at the finest restaurant in
town.  I experienced some truly humbling things, like my visit to a
small town of not more than two hundred people out in farm country where
the only restaurant in town was shut down for a banquet in my honor.  No
matter how slight or grandiose, every honor and courtesy was deeply

One of the things I’m most proud of were the many lodges I was able to
assist with degree work, especially initiations.  There were many lodges
that hadn’t done their own initiation in years and I was able to
participate in many of those initiations.  Few things were as thrilling
as seeing members who hadn’t initiated a new member in several years
getting the opportunity to do the Initiatory Degree for their own new
members.  I have to thank my Executive Committee again for jumping in to
help out with many of these initiations and degree days.

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The reconstituted Prosperity Lodge No. 301 of Wenatchee, WA. Props to our Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, Grand Warden, and Grand Marshall for taking the time to put on the degrees.

Another thing I’m proud of is assisting some of the lodges in our
jurisdiction that were rebuilding after having some serious challenges.
I was fortunate to have followed two Grand Masters who laid a lot of
groundwork for success in the jurisdiction.  I was able to continue with
their work and help out those lodges.  Now both lodges are strong and
growing and doing excellent work.  Both of my predecessors put a lot of
work into assisting those lodges and helping them get back to a position
to thrive and I’m very proud of the work I’ve done to help that process

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Made an official visitation to South Tacoma Lodge No. 211. and got to participate in conferring the Second and Third degrees.

The other major part of the job of Grand Master is to provide
inspiration and direction for our jurisdiction.  I tried to write
columns for our jurisdictional newspaper that offered a sense of
direction and hope for Odd Fellowship.  I’ve seen some wonderful things
during the years I was going through the chairs of the Grand Lodge.  I
truly believe that Odd Fellowship has turned a corner and is going to
start building again as more and more people rediscover the wonderful
feeling of belonging to a lodge.  I always tried to reinforce that sense
of optimism with any message I sent out on behalf of the Grand Lodge.  I
hope that I provided a sense of optimism about the future and some
inspiration to act on that hope and bring about a better future for Odd

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A visit to my home lodge, Ballard-Alki No. 170. It was in this lodge that I was first restored to light and liberty as an Odd Fellow. Now I return as their Grand Master.

One of the enjoyable side benefits of this job was visiting the Grand
Sessions of other jurisdictions.  Over the years that I’ve been going
through the chairs of my own jurisdiction I’ve made some great friends
in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia.  I always have a sense
of pride when I represent my Grand Lodge in any of those other places.
I came to appreciate my own jurisdiction in new ways watching the
challenges and advantages at other sessions.  I also got to learn a lot
as I observed other Grand Masters conduct business.  Each jurisdiction
has its own unique personalities, challenges, and advantages.  I always
appreciated the professionalism and courtesy of my fellow Grand Masters
in the discharge of their duties.  Most of all, I really appreciated
being welcomed in the true spirit of friendship at every session I
visited.  I may have shown up unknown but I always left as a friend.

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The Four Grand Masters: Glen Schultz, Idaho; E.V. Smith, Oregon; Toby Hanson, Washington; Bill Murphy, British Columbia.

One of the surprises I found during my travels was that all of our
lodges were very different from one another.  For the most part that’s a
positive because it means each lodge is adapting to its own community
and doing things that are meaningful in those communities.  However,
that also meant that some lodges had drifted away from mainstream Odd
Fellowship.  Many lodges had become so expeditious in their business
that they weren’t conducting proper initiations of candidates for
membership or were not wearing proper regalia or doing full ritualistic
openings and closings.  I hate to see lodges that aren’t doing their
best with our rich heritage of ritualistic work.  It’s an important part
of the legacy and meaning of Odd Fellowship.  Every time I found one of
those lodges that wasn’t doing its best work, I took that as an
opportunity to teach the lodges and give them the chance to learn about
why those things are important.

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Visited Golden Rule Lodge No. 207. They had thirty-four members present, voted on three more, and read an application for a fourth. Lodges can be successful even in small towns if they are active and interesting. Also, big props to PGM Kelly who did a lot of work helping this lodge last year. I get to enjoy the benefits of his hard work.

Now that my term is completed I have entered into the community of Past
Grand Masters.  I look forward to doing as much as I can to help my
jurisdiction and my local lodge.  I’ve already been able to get new
t-shirts made for my lodge so we can proudly identify ourselves as Odd
Fellows wherever we go.  I hope that as a Past Grand Master I can find
ways to use my talents to keep building Odd Fellowship.  I came into the
job with some big ideas and, now, having completed it, I feel like I’ve
left it with some equally big ideas and accomplishments.  My greatest
hope is that my time as Grand Master will have strengthened my
jurisdiction and prepared it for a future of growth.

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Our new lodge t-shirts are ready! Shout out to Bro. Ainslie @vintagekarma for his awesome design.

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