Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Support Structure of Odd Fellowship and Why It Works

Some of you probably already know but I'm a sucker for signing petitions. You put one in front of me and I... just... can't... stop my hand from signing it. All of a sudden, I'm Dr. Strangelove, gnawing on my palm to stop from getting another dues card. This petition addiction finally led me to the Odd Fellows. The tale of how I joined can be found here (and yes, I did gain a nickname already, Two Chainz). I'm very proud of my IOOF Lodge, Friendship Lodge No. 50 in Northfield Minnesota.

As I continue my journey through Odd Fellowship, I am always struck by how well designed the system really is. Unlike so many other fraternal orders, Odd Fellowship has a clear mission statement, our Order’s valedictation and Order’s motto, a clear leadership structure, and an incredibly solid lodge officer strategy.

Odd Fellowship’s leadership structure is designed with individual support and mutual aid. In the Masonic world, of which I have spent most of my fraternal time, the officers line is a straight progression, where you are brought through a conveyor belt and once completed, you are proverbially dumped into a box labeled “Past tense”; a fact you are reminded of constantly. Unless a lodge is recycling past masters, which is rarely a welcome sight, there is no desire to keep past officers in the body except to be a warm body. This is not the case in Odd Fellowship. 


And just a note, this “past tensing” of previous Masonic leaders is not prevalent everywhere. Lodges under the UGLE Constitution and most lodges of that progeny, have an officer, the Immediate Past Master, that is still a must have officer.


In Odd Fellowship, the past presiding officer, the past grand is expected to remain active as a supporter, literally sitting on the left or right of each principal officer. These supporters are hand selected by the Noble Grand and Vice Grand, each principal officer getting to select her or his own brain trust. All I can say is what an incredibly insightful idea that Odd Fellowship has! Mutual aid is in the framework of the officers themselves. 


This supporter model, that of servant leader, is very unique. In a functioning Odd Fellows lodge, a Noble or Vice Grand can expect to have good counsel whispered to her or him by other knowledgeable Odd Fellows. No one is ever left alone to struggle in the shifting sands of leadership. Servant leadership is the name of the game with the power of the lodge shared amongst the sisters and brothers and the Noble Grand really there to serve his lodge in mutual aid.


Certainly there can be some drawbacks to having past grands serving so close to current leadership. There may be decisions made or not made because “we’ve always done it that way” but having served as a principal officer in more than a dozen fraternal organizations, I really appreciated those times I had a past officer there to offer advice or support. 


I keep finding myself impressed by the novel approach to Fraternalism that Odd Fellowship offers. Having such an effective leadership structure, where you can find support from past principal officers, on your left and right sides, is a shining jewel. Mutual aid and support is our ultimate goal and is so deeply embedded in our love for each other and love of Odd Fellowship. Makes me proud to proclaim: I AM AN ODD FELLOW.

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