Rethinking Role of Chaplain
“FLT is enough, man”
Written by Billy Sanderson, contributor Eric Bramble
Being a member of Columbia Lodge #2 in Victoria, BC Canada you get to be part of 80 members each one full of personality. Brother Eric Bramble is perfectly positioned to use his special personality and FLT tuned mind in role of Chaplain. His appointment has been so true for the current period of the lodge that he has continued to hold the position for six years.
According to the Odd Fellows’ ritual book, the Chaplain is to conduct the devotional exercise of your lodge and to perform such ritualistic work as appertains to their office. When I think of Brother Bramble in associations to these duties the words “exercise”, “perform” and “devotion[al]” jump out to me.
To witness, understand and enjoy what we call the Bramble Ramble is an exercise. Your mind will work, and in some cases the introspection that he desires to occur within you requires your brain to translate this storytelling about his day or the musical lyrics that he loves.
You will see him step to the middle of our Hall with its towering 30-foot ceilings preparing to elevate a performance to fill the vastness, pulling you into his moment to share twice a month.
When he finishes his devotion to the principles of Friendship, Love and Truth is so strong, and crystal clear that there are moments when his own emotions strike him in the heart producing a flutter in his voice followed an “Amen” shouted by a brother in the room.
The interview for the Modern Goat Rider was all of this as well. Tara and I brought our podcasting A-games to keep up with his mind, to enjoy the show he put on out of natural habit, and his words were so simple that we re-indoctrinated ourselves in deep, syrupy FLT.
Brother Bramble talks about his 3-minute rambles which are a cross between daily observation, rock ‘n roll reminiscing, and evangelical homilies. I asked if we could share some of his writing and the “everyday replacement” used for the Lord’s Prayer. So, with his blessing here are highlights from his last thirteen Rambles followed by the current “opening and closing blessings”.
November 18th, 2021
I thought a lot while I wandered the FLT desert that was my heart last summer. What were our founding Brothers’ goals when they opened the “Odd Fellow café” and started serving Love with a side of Friendship and Truth?
They could have chosen anything to serve at that café. Charity stew made with Compassion and a hint of Kindness? Or the old classic Honesty dog slathered with Integrity and Trust, perhaps.
I don’t know about you brothers, but Love has helped me transcend all space and time one day and then on the next has put me in the battlefield. For me, I find it hard to truly love all the important people in my life because, as of yet, I haven’t figured out how to truly love myself. It makes my serving of Love a hard swallow. And yet, there I was years ago standing blindfolded in our hall promising to believe that Love was the ultimate destiny for me and mankind.
I think our founding Brothers chose this particular menu because they want us to understand that at its core Love is just an emotion, neither good nor bad. Pure, like the best vodka. Brothers, I think that Oddfellowship requires us to feel something rather than nothing, because indifference towards our fellow man leads to hatred and lies; and that awful sandwich, an Odd Fellow can never digest.
January 6, 2021
Brothers, my heart is warmed by your Friendship, Love and Truth and I am blessed to be on this journey into 2021 with all of you. For a lot of people January is a time to reflect on the past year, plan for the future, to make resolutions about things we want to do, goals we want to achieve. You can go on the internet and spend countless hours learning how to make a plan, put it into action and achieve your way to happiness and fulfilment. This is a compelling narrative, and I must admit, it is a practice I have dabbled with in the past, though like many, not too successfully.
These days I am reminded of a quote attributed to Mike Tyson that goes something like “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. The way I interpret this is that it might be more important WHO you want to be, rather than WHAT you want TO DO.
If 2020 has shown us anything, we as individuals and as a society have very little control of what we can do when adversity comes a knocking. What it has shown me personally Brothers, is that the one thing I am in control of is myself and over the last few years I have concentrated more on who I want to be rather than what I want to do.
We have many more adverse days ahead of us brothers and may I suggest you look to Oddfellowship for inspiration if what you are doing isn’t jiving with who you want to be. At that moment, refrain from beating yourself up about not hitting your target or meeting your deadline and instead focus on who you want to be. Calm your mind with the thought of Friendship, Love and Truth.
I have a personal mantra now that I use to quieten the voices in my head, but I got to that mantra by starting with FLT, which I wish for all of you as my Brothers.
December 2, 2020
Brothers you are the thinkers of your thoughts, and your thoughts are not real. And as the thinkers of your thoughts, you can think anything you want. Whilst I wandered the summer missing our meetings, that phrase banged around in my busy mind. It reminded me of a friend who when asked how he was, always replied with “marvelous”. It seemed to be a great way to respond and so I adopted the habit and when I answer “fantastic” or “wonderful”, it is the truth
At the same time though Brothers, my mind creates other truths about how bad I am at being a husband, a father, a companion, and yes, an Odd Fellow. At 55, I can still grapple with a lack of self-belief and the voices in my head are loud and they have done a good job of convincing me of those “truths” regardless of the realities I live.
Therefore, Brothers, I think our Odd Fellow founders chose Friendship and Love to accompany Truth. Because it is only with Friendship and Love that we can ward off the negativity that life can bathe us in. They can help us create another truth, a truth where we are positive and capable and brave and determined and grateful; just to list a few.
Odd Fellowship can be as much about helping yourself as it can be about helping others around us. You can make a mistake and be amazing at the same time. And that is a truth I embrace.
The verses that are available to Chaplain Bramble when meeting time is short or when his stand-in has not prepared their own ramble:
Let us be thankful that our Brothers have returned to this lodge safe from the realities of life.
Let us feel the spirit of togetherness to lift us up and through this all things done will be in the promotion of charity and brotherly kindness. May our daily labors advance the principles of our beloved Order.
Let us see the needs of the stranger, the afflicted, the widow and the orphan. With the strength of our Brotherhood, we will act with wisdom, and without fear, to fulfill their needs. AMEN
Brothers. Let us be satisfied with the good work we have accomplished tonight. As we leave, may it be with a glow in our hearts, so we see the world in a more caring way to assist and protect our Brothers and our neighbors. And remember, that we are all nourished by the same stardust of life.
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