I was proud and a little nervous about my first foray into the Lodge Officer Corps and competing with our Ritual Team. It has proven to be a thoughtful and deeper education into Elkdom that I truly appreciate.

The first step involved a special request to me from our Exalted Ruler to be the Inner Guard. I am involved at the Lodge, yes. And, I am no wallflower. But, I consider myself to be more of a heckler and peanut gallery resident in the world of theater. So, to actively choose a position in this cast was daunting.

But, under the care of PER Lee Watson, who focused on my position especially, I slowly learned my words and deportment. There is a lot more to it than what most people see. Through the rehearsals and onto competition at the District level, this somewhat tedious repetition and awkward language begins to teach you so much about our Lodge and all of Elkdom. We all became a team in this process.

You don’t realize it, but while you’re training, the coaches and those who did the role before pass on their knowledge and lore. I heard tidbits of stories of “when I was Inner Guard,”  and “remember when…” and it slowly brings you deeper into our brotherhood. I felt I was experiencing a rite of passage that stretched back to the beginnings of the B.P.O.E.

Why We Should All Care About Ritual

We all experience the ritual at least once when we are initiated, but if you are like me, your memories of that first time are very fuzzy. You don’t know what’s going to happen and you are caught up in the strange surroundings of the Lodge room, the faceless members in the circle, and all you hear are these words you have to repeat, right arm raised high, without any chance to review before taking that oath. And, you’re standing for oh-so-long in unvetted shoes, eyes on you as you try not to sway. Or pass out. When a member experiences the Ritual for the first time, we need to note that, in that moment, they trust us. This trust placed in the officer corps and all the members at that moment is something none of us should take lightly. The Ritual IS a lasting impression, so we should make it count.

A Broader Brotherhood

As we went through our installation ceremony in March and celebrated with our own Lodge and then by going to other Lodges doing the same, it was interesting to experience an expansion of the brotherhood. It’s fascinating to hear the same words repeated by other Elks outside of our own Lodge and to feel linked to them and other Elks we will never even meet.

I couldn’t believe the emotional high I felt after we swept District. We have a reputation as the Lodge in the Bay District that works the hardest on the Ritual and we guard our legacy fiercely through hard work and dedication. But, it was also such a positive feeling to know that all of the Lodges in our district participated in the contest this year. And, we hear rumblings that other Lodges are “coming for us.” We should be proud of that, as well. Bring it on!

This year’s CHEA convention was my first ever. I was excited to travel with my fellow officers. The team spirit felt for each other helped solidify our commitment to our Lodge. But also to represent our District and feel their support strengthened my commitment to the Elks. Waiting for our competition times, and going into our last practices, definitely got the adrenaline going. It’s intense. And, no matter how good you are, even if you are the team that goes on to National, we are all human and in that room, anything can happen – a line is flubbed, a chair squeaks, a judge’s cell phone starts to jingle.

In much the same way we are the “elite” team of our district, the top teams in State are too, (of course at a much higher level) and they could appear cocky and imposing. As we walked down one of the halls in the convention center, we passed by Garden Grove, resplendent in their crisp, deep red, personally embroidered bowling shirts, and their ER said to us, “You’re in the elite now.” It felt weird, maybe a tad arrogant on his part. But, also kind of cool. Because we were in the elite now.

In the end, we ended up in third place. Bronze level. They say that bronze medal winners in the Olympics are happiest with their outcomes. And, I have to say, we all felt like our third place was the result of our best. And for that, we drove home feeling good about what we did.

May every initiation for the rest of our Elk Year create positive lasting impressions on our new members!