Ever since the OA National Committee published their policy regarding lodge numbers back in 2004, there has been a huge and ongoing perception that lodges are no longer supposed to be using their lodge number. Even worse, some believe that they are supposed to be using their council's number instead of their lodge number.
Now, this update included several corporate-speak excuses as to why using lodge numbers supposedly created some kind of confusion with filing and reporting. It is certainly understandable that there could be some headaches for the office workers higher up in the organization when recording records and other paperwork. However, anyone who uses modern database software can very easily match things up with the appropriate council, especially when pre-printed forms or email templates are used.
As far as a perception that lodges are asserting themselves separately from their council-- just because they use a number in addition to a name and totem-- makes about as much sense as dumping unit numbers and having troops, teams, and posts identify themselves based on their chartering organization.
Now, this update did correctly point out that lodge numbers weren't necessarily a historical indicator. Lodge numbers used to be assigned sequentially as lodges were formed. Lower numbers meant older lodges. When lodges merged, they'd keep one of their former numbers. You could then tell where a new lodge came from, based on this continuity. In 1972 National began to allow new lodges to choose a number that was no longer in use: Mascoutens (1972) "recycled" No. 8 from Unalactigo, Sassacus (1972) used 10 from Wawonaissa, Wiatava (1973) used 13 from Wakay, etc. As lower numbers were considered by some to be more prestigious, many lodges choose the lowest available number. Because of this, there was a fair amount of bickering. Also, picking the lowest number from the lodges involved in a merger could imply that one was more "important" and that this would make it harder for the new lodge to work together.
When Pocumtuc Lodge of the Western Massachusetts Council was chartered, it expressly stated that they would not chose a lodge number. Depending on who you ask, Tschipey Achtu was going to pick a number, but after four years they don't seem to be using one.
After not using a lodge number, Kishahtek Lodge voted to use #88. According to Lodge Adviser Elliott Patton: "When the youth first started merger stuff they never could agree on a number. After 2 years or so the youth decided they should have kept the 88 number. So in order to pick the number back up, last year they went through the motions of amending our SOPs. Part of the amendments was to re-establish the number. With the final full lodge vote on Dec 12 2014 the number was put back in service."
Pony Express Council's new lodge, O Ni Flo, has included their council's number, 311, on their new flap. Unfortunately, this conflicts with Es-Kaielgu Lodge #311. Pony Express Council's scout executive confirmed that they are indeed using 311 as their lodge number. He also claims that their use of this number was supposedly approved by national council and it is not his concern if any other council has this number.
As each new lodge is formed it remains to be seen which number they choose, if at all! Some new lodges are officially choosing their council's number. Now, this is hardly new, but my fear is that once a lodge insists on adopting a council number that is already in use by another lodge, this could push the concept of perhaps all lodges should be renumbered according to their council's number.
In fact, Mandan Lodge #372-- for a couple of years-- was using 194 as their lodge number, as shown on their website and at least one flap, a 2012 NOAC issue. One should wonder what Orca Lodge #194 thinks about another lodge co-opting their number. I myself even tried to email both lodges, but of course I only got bounce-backs.
According to Jeff Ansley, for a couple of years Tisquantum Lodge 164 was using their council's number (249) on their flaps before switching back. He also said that Spe-Le-Yai 249 in California was not pleased.
In doing so, National created a huge and unnecessary mess, and in my opinion is yet another part of a trend to water down individual lodge histories, as well as the traditions of the Order-- all in the name of conformity. As arrowmen, we all took an oath to "observe and preserve" at least some of these traditions.
One Lodge per Council
In my opinion, the one-lodge-per-council policy ignores the fact that lodges above a certain size lose their effectiveness-- not unlike school and classroom sizes. The economies of scale that make councils more efficient simply doesn't translate well to the OA program. Now, unfortunately, more and more lodges simply don't have the membership needed to function. But when you create a mega-lodge, chapters often have to be created, which then end up functioning as a lodge. Why not simply allow viable lodges to continue to function by having their members step-up and support their individual district as well as their council as a whole.
I think a great example of how this could actually be done is how theMichigan Crossroads Coordinating Council #780 was organized around the four Field Service Councils and their respective lodges.
I also fail to understand why OA section boundaries and lodge composition need conform to Area divisions that are based on, for example, how many area staffers there are, and/or how many councils that they can be responsible for. And yet, two sections in Texas have overlapped Areas SR-2 and SR-3 for over four years now.
This begs the question of why not just leave the old lodges as they were. Ask the youth officers and lay advisers to work that much harder with and assist the professional advisers and staffers. Again in my opinion, constantly realigning-- and some cases expanding areas and sections-- to accommodate professionals at the expense of the youth hurts the program at a most fundamental level. Some sections now cover several states! This means several more hours of driving, or even plane flights, for conclaves, CoC's, and other section events.
As an alternative, I would ask that we better avail ourselves of the huge resource of volunteer scouters and youth who are willing and able to pick up the slack. Indeed, that is the point of leadership development, if not the entire scouting program. Youth arrowmen can and will do more than what has been expected of them in the past, and in my opinion should therefore be allowed more of a say in these matters.
Maybe this is an old issue that I am making too much of a big deal about. However, I do know that I am not the only one who feels this way. In my opinion, if it ain't broke and doesn't conflict with policy, why fix it? As a youth-run organization, I think that the youth-- and not just the national and section officers-- should be allowed to make an informed decision, without just going along with what National insists.