From time to time I enjoy looking through old books or historical sketches on the Internet regarding the Odd Fellows, it’s origin and evolution. And I often chuckle to hear some members of this great Order disdain “change” and believe that the way we do things in this Order today must remain essentially inviolate from the way we have been doing it for the past 20, 30, 40 or 50 years. They view the word “change” as if it were profane and antithetical to Odd Fellowship. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Change, brothers and sisters, is the historical norm for Odd Fellowship. This Order has evolved time and time again, to fit its times. And, now this Order – in 2013 – comes face-to-face with its own fraternal “mortality.” As the membership numbers in lodges dwindle to historical lows, we must again evolve and change to fit our age and entice the new young members we require.
For those who continue to doubt that change is the custom and pattern of our Order, allow me to quote some excerpts from an Internet article I read only yesterday:
“The Odd Fellows or Oddfellows are second only to the freemasons as a long-established and still reasonably healthy fraternal organization or secret society. They have, however, been subject to many schisms, and the number of members today is unclear. The date of foundation is likewise unclear, but it was presumably prior to 1745 when the first recorded Lodge of Odd Fellows met at various London taverns, including the Oakley Arms in Southwark; the Globe in Hatton Garden; and the Boar’s Head in Smithfield. Dues were a penny a visit. The purpose is as obscure as the origin of the name, but the society seems to have combined the functions of a modern working men’s club – that is, offering a place for reliable food and drink at a good price – with a degree of self-help. The members, who were mostly working men, would pass the hat to help a fellow in distress and would provide an out-of-work member with a card that entitled him to accommodation at other lodges until he found work. Most members were originally mechanics and artisans, though is seems that anyone who could afford a penny for the dues was admitted.
In the late 18th century, many individual lodges were prosecuted by the Crown on the grounds of potential sedition and were closed (this was the period of the French Revolution and the rebellion of the American colonies), but the order as a whole survived. Some Odd Fellows lodges seem to have arisen at around this time as a result of disaffected Freemasons seceding from their parent order; these coalesced into the Ancient and Honorable Loyal Order of Odd Fellows. At the same time, most other Odd Fellows’ lodges amalgamated into the Patriotic Order of Odd Fellows, which later became known as the United or Union Order of Odd Fellows. London remained the seat of the order.
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