by Michael Greenzeiger, Grand Warden 2019-2020, CA
Odd Fellowship is Progressive – this is one of the most often quoted and least understood lines in the Initiatory Degree of our Order. In order to interpret it, we must know what the word meant at the time it was written, and here we are helped by the next lines in the speech which describe advancing step by step through all the gradations of Odd Fellowship. “Progressive” refers to the gradual process by which one learns more about Odd Fellowship and unites ever more closely to the Order. Originally, this process of drawing nearer occurred via the degrees, though it has fallen by the wayside in the last century due to the advent of degree days, video degrees, and the constant pressure many lodges are under to replenish their supply of officers.
In earlier times, it would take at least a month, and in many instances a year or more to progress through each of the degrees of Odd Fellowship in turn. This slower pace allowed the candidates to really reflect on the meaning of each degree and to work within their own lives to incorporate the lessons of the degrees while becoming more involved with the organization. The lodges had requirements for receiving the more advanced degrees, which at the very least always included demonstrating a proficiency in the signs and passwords of the degrees.
Over the past few years, my own home lodge, Mountain View Lodge #244, has been experimenting with a modern take on this venerable tradition. We have established a set of requirements to earn each of the three degrees which are intended to help the candidates deepen their involvement with the Lodge and the District as well as to further their internalizing of the lessons of those degrees: Friendship, Love and Truth respectively. The requirements we are currently utilizing are as follows.
Requirements for 1st Degree:
1. Have attended at least 4 meetings.
2. Have attended at least one Mountain View Lodge social event.
3. Have attended at least one social event at another District lodge.
4. Have demonstrated the secret work of the Initiatory Degree in open lodge.
5. Have exemplified the meaning of Friendship in their actions.
Requirements for 2nd Degree:
1. Have attended at least 4 meetings since receiving the 1st Degree
2. Have attended at least one Mountain View Lodge service event.
3. Have participated in at least one Mountain View Lodge committee.
4. Have participated in at least one District program (e.g. District Degree Team or Triple Links)
5. Have demonstrated the secret work of the 1st Degree in open lodge.
6. Have exemplified the meaning of Brotherly Love in their actions.
Requirements for 3rd Degree:
1. Have attended at least 4 meetings since receiving the 2nd Degree
2. Have lead the planning of at least one Mountain View Lodge event
3. Have mentored at least one new member of Mountain View Lodge
4. Have written an article or given a talk about Odd Fellowship
5. Have demonstrated the secret work of the 2nd Degree in open lodge.
6. Have exemplified the meaning of Truth in their actions.
These requirements are specific to what we think makes sense for our lodge, but another lodge may have their own ideas that are better suited to their membership. We have noticed that this program has resulted in improved involvement for many of our newer members and certainly has resulted in more of a sense of achievement and pride in conjunction with receiving the degrees. The challenge in growing and maintaining our Order today is primarily one of retaining new members rather than getting them in the door and in our experience this is an effective strategy for that goal. If you are interested in learning more about our experiences with the program or want advice on how to set up a similar program for your lodge, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org