BY JOE STEFENONI
National Grange Membership/Leadership Director | membershipnationalgrangeorg (membershipnationalgrangeorg)
Tradition and culture issues and concepts word cloud illustration. Word collage concept.
Recently, I visited my high school to enjoy their production of Fiddler on the Roof, the classic story of Tevye and his family. As I sat in my seat listening to the opening tones and lyrics of Tradition one line spoken by Tevye truly stuck with me. “Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything; how to sleep, how to eat, how to work, how to wear clothes… You may ask, how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you, I don’t know, but it’s a tradition!”
As the story goes on, Tevye must come to terms with the changing world around him. To do this, he must learn how to balance the old traditions of his faith with the world he lives in, and by the end of the story, Tevye has learned how to celebrate traditions while at the same time adapting to the world around him. Immediately, my mind went straight to the Grange with our numerous rich traditions. Our traditions that have stood the test of time, but how do our traditions play a part in the recruitment and retention of new members? Is it possible that we can strike a balance between our traditions with the need to remain relevant to our members and our community? I say, “ABSOLUTELY”!
When we look at the identity of our organization, it’s necessary to remember that at the end of the day we are a fraternal organization and it is our ritual and fraternal bonds that are the foundation of what binds us together throughout the nation. At times, we shy away from our traditions either because we feel they don’t fit with society or we don’t understand why we do what we do. How often have we heard a member ask why something in the ritual is done the way it is and the answer they receive is “because we’ve always done it that way”. This is almost the same as Tevye exclaiming “…it’s tradition!” Wouldn’t it better serve our members and ourselves to take the time to understand and explain the history and meaning behind our traditions?
Much of our ritual dates back almost 150 years to the founding of the Grange and as such may not be quickly understood by someone who is new to the Grange. Ritualism is something that was commonplace to those of my Grandparents generation who were involved in many different organizations from Masons to the Royal Neighbors who each had their own unique ritual. However, ritualism isn’t as common today as it was a century ago. When we bring new members into our Grange, we must ensure that our rituals and traditions are fully explained to them. Place yourself in the shoes of a new member who is observing our ritual for the first time. It could be unusual to see certain aspects without an experienced member to answer questions that a new member may have.
Our traditions can also be a tool by which to both recruit and retain members. We should not be afraid to share our traditions should be shared with new members upon joining the Grange and we should also be sure to refresh the collective memory of our current members. Our traditions are rich and meaningful and there are many people who are looking for a return to the more traditional and basic values that our rituals and traditions espouse.
For those of us who have been Grange members for a number of years, our traditions seem to be natural and second nature to us and we may have become complacent with them. It is of the utmost importance to take pride in our traditions and fully understand what we do and why we do it. It is then that we will be able to share our traditions with and excite new members about the history, ritualism and traditions of the Grange. So let’s pull out the manuals, the stations, the regalia and unwritten work. Blow the dust off and practice the floor work once again. As we do this, let us take the time to understand the meaning behind these traditions and strengthen our fraternal bonds.
Reprinted from The Patrons Chain, the E-Newsletter of the National Grange.