As an organization, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows aims to provide a framework that promotes personal and social development. Lodge degrees and activities aim to improve and elevate every person to a higher, nobler plane; to extend sympathy and aid to those in need, making their burdens lighter, relieving the darkness of despair; to war against vice in every form, and to be a great moral power and influence for the good of humanity.
For members, the degrees in Odd Fellowship emphasizes a leaving of the old life and the start of a better one, of welcoming travelers, and of helping those in need. The command of the IOOF is to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.”
Specifically, IOOF today are dedicated to the following purposes:
- To improve and elevate the character of mankind by promoting the principles of friendship, love, truth, faith, hope, charity and universal justice.
- To help make the world a better place to live by aiding each other, the community, the less fortunate, the youth, the elderly, the environment and the community in every way possible.
- To promote good will and harmony amongst peoples and nations through the principle of universal fraternity, holding the belief that all men and women regardless of race, nationality, religion, social status, gender, rank and station are brothers and sisters
Ideally, an Odd Fellows lodge is a place for fellowship in all its forms, from hanging out and just having fun, to having discussions, to networking, to collaboration on creative and constructive projects, all with an eye not only on our own satisfaction but on what we might offer to the community at large. An ideal lodge is a great venue for a lot of positive energy and all members are encouraged to contribute their share.
In addition, lodges provide an international social network of brothers and sisters that extends to more than 26 countries worldwide. If traveling is an interest, membership can provide a valuable network that will very much welcome an international visitor, and assist in their enterprises, and certainly their travels wherever possible.
Genuine Friendship, which hears all things, believes all things and hopes all things, is the first step toward progress and personal enrichment, and the forefather of Temperance, Prudence, and Justice: unrestrained Love is the basis of all life’s ambitions –the controlling passion of service to humanity–more powerful than the atom–more potent than any finite source: Inflexible Truth, the imperial virtue, begets economic stability, equality under the law, freedom of enterprise, the highest of ethical standards, and lasting peace, the ultimate goal of fraternity: Universal brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God is necessary to the survival of the world, and can be accomplished only through the catalysis of fellowship — implanting the togetherness which stems from understanding and goodwill among peoples, states and nations.
To improve and elevate the character of man.
How the Odd Fellows Began
In 17th Century England, people were facing a lot of challenges. Life was tough, often lawless and desperate. Medicine was still crude and in a primitive stage. Life expectancy was about 45 to 50. There were lots of sickness, orphaned kids, widowed mothers and many people cannot afford to pay a decent burial for the dead.
So, ordinary people from different trades and walks of life found it necessary to group together as brothers and sisters and contribute some of their hard-earned wages to a common fund which they could use for unfortunate times such as sickness, losing a job and even death. They would work together to help each other and the unfortunate families back on their feet, whether it was rebuilding a barn that had burned or putting in a new crop after a devastating season.
Such altruistic and friendly society came to be known as “Odd Fellows” because it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and of pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. It was believed that they were “an odd bunch of fellows” who would behave in such a selfless and seemingly impractical fashion. Odd Fellows are also known as “The Three Link Fraternity” which stands for Friendship, Love and Truth.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded on the North American Continent in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819 when Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England instituted Washington Lodge No. 1. This lodge received its charter from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England. At that time, the city was suffering both a yellow fever epidemic and mass unemployment so they dedicated the organization to “Visit the sick, relieve the distress, bury the dead and educate the orphans.”
Odd Fellowship became the 1st national fraternity to include both men and women when it adopted the beautiful Rebekah Degree on September 20, 1851. This degree is based on the teachings found in the Holy Bible, and was written by the Honorable Schuyler Colfax who was Vice President of the United States during the period 1868-1873. Odd Fellows and Rebekahs were also the first fraternal organization to establish homes for our senior members and for orphaned children.
Today, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs continue to exist with nearly 10,000 lodges in approximately 26 countries consisting of men and women who united together for mutual aid and conviviality, providing social and practical support for each other and their communities in every way possible. Even though we have come a long way now, there are still more needs to be done. Working together to achieve these goals and help our fellow men creates a bond that cannot be described – a brotherhood and sisterhood of benevolence that can only be felt as an active participant. Working together, we can really help make a difference!
Are you interested in becoming a member?
Information on this page was taken from The Sovereign Grand Lodge Independent Order of Odd Fellows website.