FOR an open Troop, or for Troops in camp, I think the Scouts’ Own (religious observance) should be open to all denominations, and carried on in such manner as to offend none. There should not be any special form, but it should abound in the right spirit, and should be conducted not from any ecclesiastical point of view, but from that of the boy. Everything likely to make an artificial atmosphere should be avoided. We do not want a kind of imposed Church Parade, but a voluntary uplifting of their hearts by the boys in thanksgiving for the joys of life, and a desire on their part to seek inspiration and strength for greater love and service for others. A Scouts’ Own should have as big an effect on the boys as any service in Church, if in conducting the Scouts’ Own we remember that boys are not grown men, and if we go by the pace of the youngest and most uneducated of those present. Boredom is not reverence, nor will it breed religion.
To interest the boys, the Scouts’ Own must be a cheery and varied function. Short hymns (three verses are as a rule quite enough — never more than four); understandable prayers; a good address from a man who really understands boys (a homely “talk” rather than an address), which grips the boys, and in which they may laugh or applaud as the spirit moves them, so that they take a real interest in what is said. If a man cannot make his point to keen boys in ten minutes he ought to be shot! If he has not got them keen, it would be better not to hold a Scouts’ Own at all.
As I wrote, this was the last day of part one in our Weekend Wood Badge. I was sore and tired beyond words, but this hour together in the woods was a soul-renewing experience. It was the best I’ve ever attended, even better than the one I did at Philmont!
I feel and find God in the woods and love B-P for making Duty to God key to our program. This Sunday morning, pause and reflect on what outdoor worship does for you and your Scouts. Tell us about it in the comments section below:
(Chris Blitzinger, the Fox Patrol Chaplain, shared his thoughts below and then went on yesterday to run an interfaith service for the course along with the other four patrol chaplains. The power of the one minute personal silent prayer had the same effect on me both weekends. Thanks Chris for sharing!)
Author: Darryl Alder | Director of Strategic Initiatives, Utah National Parks Council, BSA, has served on multiple Wood Badge Staffs and as Philmont Chaplain for a week last spring.