Ritual Ceremony or Rote?
May 3, 2009
By Krist Novoselic
There have been letters in the Washington State Grange News regarding the way many local GrangeÕs open and close meetings. Some say the pomp and ceremony we use is outdated and turns new people away, while others defend it as part of the Grange identity.
So what is this ritual? If you donÕt know, like many fraternal orders, clubs or civic groups, the Grange begins meetings with what is actually a short ceremony. It dates back to 1867 when the Patrons of Husbandry (The Grange) held closed meetings where only members could attend. In those days and many years after, there was good reason for secrecy but no Grange that I know of continues this practice.
Some deem the ceremony a vestige left over from the secret society days and there are some local Grange meetings without the traditional opening. All I can say is - to each their own.
IÕll admit that there are people who have come to meetings and disliked the way we open and close them. It has cost us potential new members. But thatÕs OK because, again, to each their own. Some individuals donÕt like the Grange meeting opening and closing because itÕs too religious; or itÕs not religious enough; or with the Roman elements itÕs the wrong religion. We open a New Testament bible at our meetings but itÕs Grange policy for any spiritual text to be accepted.
I find our ceremonial opening and closing of meetings endearing. I listen to the words. TheyÕre kind and nurturing. The Grange oath for our officers is a positive message. And this takes me to another point – if the Grange is opening and closing meetings only by force of habit – whatÕs the point? Saying, "because we've always done it like this" won't cut it. And that is where we can find any failure in our ceremony.
As a rural / farmers group the organization was founded with the intent of cultivating the earth and the individual. ThatÕs why the Grange language is important. There's a lot of crass and cynical media out there. The Grange, with its traditions, is a refuge from that.
I am interested in history and politics. The Grange tradition is a way to experience late 19th Century Americana. At the same time, the Grange can speak to contemporary needs. Our organization is decentralized in an era where Too Big To Fail is indeed failing. And small-scale, local agriculture is experiencing a renaissance.
A Grange will thrive by initiating projects and serving the local community. If thatÕs the focus, we will continue to be relevant. And a little pomp and ceremony will not hurt a thing!
May 3, 2009