How many times in life are we given the opportunity to push the reset button on our Elks lodges? I am not talking about a Bill Murray from “Groundhog Day” reset where we wake up every morning and get to relive the previous day until we get it right. I am talking about the new dawn type of reset like when Michael Bublé sings “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me” type of reset — a reset that will help us feel good again! We know with each setting sun that dawn will come. How will we adapt to this new dawn? Our success will be measured by our reaction, not to making things happen, but to what has happened and what is happening!
Maybe the way we best reset our lodges is to return to our roots. I have often believed that what sets the order of Elks apart from just about any other fraternal/civic organization is our structure and discipline — our roots, if you will. But how many of us really understand our structure and practice the discipline? Let us start by examining what I am referring to.
The supreme law of our order is the Constitution, the statutes and the ritual. These, and the governance they represent, are what comprise our roots. Read below the “Preamble to the Constitution of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the USA:”
- To inculcate the principles of charity, justice, brotherly love and fidelity;
- To recognize a belief in God;
- To promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its members;
- To quicken the spirit of American patriotism;
- To cultivate good fellowship;
- To perpetuate itself as a fraternal organization; and to provide for its government
In everything we do, every action we take, every word we speak, an Elks member or not, how can we ever go wrong being guided by these fundamentals? Perhaps in the days that come, we should focus more on the fundamentals of love, happiness and fellowship! This pandemic has caused a lot of despair and financial hardship for our members. Although we should absolutely take part in celebrating our charitable actions and contributions, our reset must also include a return to our roots in the treatment of our very own. We need to learn how to have fun again!
Our roots also include our governance, and with Elks, the powers are divided into three independent coordinate departments, viz., legislative, executive and judicial.
- Legislative — Is the Grand Lodge which is representative since it includes all Past Exalted Rulers in good standing in their respective lodges
- Executive — Rightly resides with the elected Grand Exalted Ruler/National President
- Judicial — Or the courts of the order consisting mostly of a Grand Forum and our local forums
We must never abandon and we must always respect the need for governance and its associated powers. These roots are time-tested, and their structure contains the rules and processes that make the organization function. It is important because it makes clear how we should model our behaviors. It may well be the very reason we remain here and viable to this day! Our reset must include a healthy respect for governance. Our members must see this behavior modeled daily by the lodge officers and its importance can never be emphasized enough with our members, both the new and the faithful!
The third and perhaps most critical component of our reset is our rituals. Our rituals are our teachings. The disciplines they instill in us guide us not only in our lodge work but also in the daily living of our lives. They instruct, they inform, they guide and they support. They further the fundamental principles of our order and form a lasting impression upon those who observe them.
- Opening and closing lodge meetings
- Initiation of candidates
- Installation of lodge officers
- Institution of a new lodge
- Elks Memorial Day
- Flag Day services
- Special services
- Eleven o’clock toast
- Funeral service
Today, our rituals as we knew them have been shortened. They have been reduced to sometimes undignified presentations and often their rendition becomes the spectacle upending their beauty and meaning. Many of the customs and traditions that set us apart from just any organization are no longer practiced. However, the content is still there. It still has meaning and is still applicable. Our reset must include a visit back to the roots of our rituals. Perhaps the lodge could hold ritual study nights where ritual can be interpreted and discussed. How many Lodge Secretaries send their newly initiated members home with a copy of the obligation they assumed that night before the altar? Trade in a lodge game night for a ritual club night like a book club. Read our rituals, discuss them, absorb their every meaning and be inspired by the history and lore they impart. An example of one of our rituals that I personally feel has been way overthought is our eleven o’clock toast. Rightly so, it is done to honor the memory of our departed members. Look at the photo depictions of the toast being delivered back in the days of our performer/musician founders. It was a jolly toast! Today we have turned it into a nearly cultlike activity. We dim the lights, force everyone into a circle and do introductions. Many bow their heads. We do tributes to the toast when it is not eleven. I get it. Believe me, I do, and I do not mean to sound critical, but today, don’t we “celebrate” the lives of the departed? One day, I am going to be in a lodge and at eleven o’clock, the lights are going to dim, and the chimes are going to chime, and the toast is going to be delivered. We are going to raise a glass and then we are going to get back to our fellowship and not go home!
Finally, no discussion of our roots would be complete without understanding that we as Elks abide by the golden rule and have made it the “foundation and groundwork” of our order: “Do unto others as we would they should do unto us.” Our work as Elks conforms us to this rule and it so perfectly expresses our dedication to brotherly love. We further exemplify our expression of this love by practicing the teachings of our motto —
“The faults of our members we write upon the sand, their virtues upon the tablets of love and memory.”
Our roots anchor us. They represent the structure upon which the Elks order was built. If we will but remember from “whence we have come,” we can remain strong and get even stronger. Dolly Parton once said, “Storms make trees take deeper roots.” I don’t know about you, but I hope we never have to again weather a storm like the one we are emerging from now! Find and hit the reset button on your lodge with a revisit to the roots that have supported us so well for so many years!
How is your lodge preparing for the new dawn? Please visit https://floridaelks.org/carls-corner and join the conversation by logging in and posting your comments.