The scourge of a pandemic is a lesson none of us will ever forget. How it affects life in our lodges remains to be seen. But in the midst of all this, there are lodges still being formed–the allure of Odd Fellowship is persistent even through a deadly pandemic.
I conducted research online searching the question “what will life be like after the pandemic?” Scanning through dozens of webpages, I gleaned some ideas for how our lodges might be different after Covid-19, and how we need to prepare.
More people will be working from home. This means they will be home all day, and when the workday is over, they’ll want to leave home for entertainment. Odd Fellowship must be part of their entertainment. These same people won’t have to leave work, go home, eat, and then return to lodge. They’ll leave their homes after working all day, come to lodge, and socialize.
Large events like concerts and sporting events may not be as popular for a time. People may seek smaller gatherings of people because of the safety issue. Lodge life fits this perfectly. Venues may still enforce social distancing, which could mean they will have to charge more per person to cover their costs. Lodge life is much cheaper which gives your lodge the chance to be particularly creative when it comes to lodge entertainment.
Lodges should be prepared to deal with members who suffer from depression, loss of a family member or friend, marital issues, and other mental health issues because of the pandemic. Most of these issues will have been caused or exacerbated by social isolation and the fear a pandemic brings with it. Lodge members who work in the medical field need the support of the lodge. They’ve been through a lot–they’ve endured extreme working conditions and personal sacrifice to do their jobs. Some suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Perhaps your lodge could have someone trained in “Psychological First-Aid,” (https://www.coursera.org/learn/psychological-first-aid) so you can help lodge members in an emergency.
Because of social distancing and mask wearing our ritual may need some temporary updates. Handshaking, grips, etc…
A lodge must become aware of vulnerable members working service jobs. Waiters, retail clerks, grocery store workers, truck drivers, etc. It’s become clear these are the people we are most dependent upon to get us the things we need. Yet, before COVID, these were some of the lowest paid workers. A lodge should be prepared to advocate for Odd Fellows that are in the service industry.
Many members may no longer feel safe coming to lodge and will continue to fear getting infected long after the pandemic is over. A lodge must take these member’s concerns seriously and adopt measures to ensure they feel safe at lodge. They may have fears about being around people, shaking hands, or being in a large group. Lodges should provide things that will make personal hygiene easier. Be prepared to purchase hand sanitizer dispensers and air purifiers, or whatever items are recommended by science and medical practitioners. Be sure you have someone who can keep your lodge clean and organized as this will reassure some members.
Demographically, there may be a shift from living in larger urban areas to areas with smaller cities. Grand Lodges should be ready to adapt to this change and consider if starting lodges in smaller cities and towns in their states is a good idea. It may be necessary to redirect funds to these areas as well. A small city in the U.S. typically has a population of 100,000-500,000. A midsize city is 500,000 to 1 million. If these moves to small cities occur, local lodges should be prepared to offer advice about good neighborhoods, good schools, decent apartment complexes, etc., for those who are moving.
Some lodges may see a dramatic drop in membership. Lodges should be prepared to start recruitment right away.
Lodges may realize they may not be able to govern from the Noble Grand on down. It’ll be more important than ever for members to cross train and share information about the work the lodge is doing in case a member falls ill and can’t complete their duties.
Lodge potlucks may be out for the foreseeable future. Lodges will need to become more creative in ways to entertain members.
Lodges may want to adopt projects that support public health, which is something we should be doing anyway.
Members may not have as much disposable income as they used to. This creates financial stress for the lodge. Lodges may have to conduct more fundraisers in their local communities to bring money in the door. I hate to point this out, but lodges may need to more closely guard loans to membership.
During the early days of the pandemic, more people became aware of the natural environment: skies were clearer, wildlife reclaimed some of its territory, and people flocked to local and national parks. Lodges may want to move environmental work to the forefront of their mission in order to draw in people concerned with environmental issues.
Lodges should emphasize how they create an environment for mutual support. Helping out during distress is what we do. Prove that to your new members. What plan do you have when a member becomes unemployed or has a lengthy illness? Does the lodge maintain a small foodbank for members? Can it help pay a utility bill, car payment, provide help with a home emergency? Is it prepared to run errands for the sick or take them to doctor’s appointments?
How will your lodge deal with someone who wishes to join, yet they are unemployed because of the pandemic? How will their dues be paid? What guidance or networking can your lodge offer to an Odd Fellow who has become unemployed by the pandemic?
The pandemic has heavily damaged the arts and cultural heritage community. Museums, theaters, concerts, art shows, libraries, zoos and aquariums, literature, and publishing have all been hit. Is your lodge interested in helping out an art museum? Or donating money to a specific animal exhibition at a zoo? Can your lodge sponsor an art show, poetry or book reading, or concert and give the money to the artists?
At this writing we are seeing another surge among the unvaccinated in the United States and in some European countries. So your lodge should be prepared to communicate its requirements for attendance clearly: Are masks to be worn? Should the unvaccinated attend lodge? Can you do some tasks using ZOOM? These are difficult issues to deal with and decisions should be based upon sound scientific principles and advice from medical practitioners. Don’t kill members of your lodge because someone watched a random Youtube video about COVID made by someone who’s only qualification is that they want to be famous!
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows has much work to do when the pandemic is over. Be sure you and your lodge are up to the task.
Scott Moye is an award-winning history educator and author of the book Think Like An Odd Fellow, Wisdom and Self-Improvement In 21st Century Odd Fellowship . He grew up on a cotton, soybean, and rice farm and is currently a museum worker. Hobbies include: old house restoration, writing, amateur radio, Irish traditional music, archery, craft beer, old spooky movies, and street performance. He is a member of Marshall Lodge #1, in Marshall, Arkansas, and a founder of Heart In Hand Blog. He currently resides in Little Rock, Arkansas.