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LilSisKin

Chaplain's aid prayer policy

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Gee, MrBob, it seems you were right.

 

I posted the materials in case anyone had interest in BSA's answers to the Op's question.

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Thank you all for the feedback.  I spoke with our charter organization and we decided together that it would be best to keep it as non-denominational as possible.  We do have several faiths within our troop so I didn't want any parents or kids upset.

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Oh, don't go quoting BSA publications here... that'll just fuel the discussion of how "yeah, but my system is better than that" and "those rules don't apply to us".

 

Smile when you say that.  I certainly do.  (Says the mostly-by-the-book guy.)

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By the way of helping the boy, I would encourage him to talk to his pastor about earning the religious award for his denomination. That may give him some broader view of public prayer.

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Smile when you say that.  I certainly do.  (Says the mostly-by-the-book guy.)

 

But... if I smile, you'd think I'm joking, right?   :)

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LilSisKin:  I like Qwazse' suggestion.  I am surprised I didn't think of that before!

 

Which leads me to give one of my favorite stories.

 

I attended U of S some years ago, and met a young man with four medals on his uniform. I recognized the Eagle, the God and Country..., and then I recognized the  Ad Altare Dei and the Ner Tamid. . I had to waylay him and ask, how did he come to wear all three of these religious awards?  He told me his Scout Pack and Troop was sponsored by a Methodist Church, his mom was Jewish and his dad was Catholic.   When he went to the various clergy to earn the medal, no one objected, as he was active and  known in all the places. 

Talk about over achiever....

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This topic is a bit troubling to me. In my faith, prayer is not a speech for the benefit of its listeners. Prayer is a conversation. When I pray, I know exactly who I am addressing and I have a name for this being. So why then must I pretend that all of a sudden I don't know His name just because others will be listening? That indicates that I am slightly embarrassed or ashamed to be speaking to my God. Being purposefully vague is something many Christians (and I imagine Muslims) would be very much against. It says something about BSA that someone who has very strong convictions is actually less qualified to be a Chaplain's Aid than someone who is willing to speak at their "higher power" in a vague and non-committal way lest they offend.

 

Personally my faith is such that if you told my son he could not pray as he'd been instructed then that would be a deal breaker for me and I would leave the Troop immediately. Better that we just leave religion out of scouting altogether than to teach boys its better to practice watered-down faith. 

 

If the shoe was on the other foot, I would instruct my son to either listen respectfully as someone else offered up a prayer appropriate for their own beliefs or tell him to use that time to silently reflect.

 

This is very uncomfortable ground to tread. I had no idea that BSA advocated that boys alter how they practice their faith to be PC. This has come as quite a surprise and I am very disappointed to read that policy. 

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This topic is a bit troubling to me. In my faith, prayer is not a speech for the benefit of its listeners. Prayer is a conversation. When I pray, I know exactly who I am addressing and I have a name for this being. So why then must I pretend that all of a sudden I don't know His name just because others will be listening? That indicates that I am slightly embarrassed or ashamed to be speaking to my God. Being purposefully vague is something many Christians (and I imagine Muslims) would be very much against. It says something about BSA that someone who has very strong convictions is actually less qualified to be a Chaplain's Aid than someone who is willing to speak at their "higher power" in a vague and non-committal way lest they offend.

 

Personally my faith is such that if you told my son he could not pray as he'd been instructed then that would be a deal breaker for me and I would leave the Troop immediately. Better that we just leave religion out of scouting altogether than to teach boys its better to practice watered-down faith. 

 

If the shoe was on the other foot, I would instruct my son to either listen respectfully as someone else offered up a prayer appropriate for their own beliefs or tell him to use that time to silently reflect.

 

This is very uncomfortable ground to tread. I had no idea that BSA advocated that boys alter how they practice their faith to be PC. This has come as quite a surprise and I am very disappointed to read that policy. 

 

I totally understand where you are coming from with this line of thinking.  Faith is a very personal issue for most people who have it.  But one must realize that being a Chaplain is different than simply being a person of faith.  My faith can reside in the issue of God and me.  Being a Chaplain expects me to assist someone else with their faith/God relationship, not mine.  For that reason just because I have a majorly strong God/me relationship it does not qualify me to be helping others with their God/them relationships especially if their faith journey is drastically different than mine.

 

I am a former ordained minister.  I could fit the role of Chaplain for the Council/District/etc. with no problem.  I just choose not to because this is an opportunity for the boys, not me.  As a matter of fact very few people in my council know I am a minister and for 35+ years they haven't even so much as to ask me to put together a Sunday morning devotion for the boys.  For the same reason I don't take a religious track when I'm dealing with church youth groups.  I am there as a counselor, not a pastor.

 

This is why I suggested the OP not have this boy as a CA.  I don't think he understands what a Chaplain is.

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This topic is a bit troubling to me. In my faith, prayer is not a speech for the benefit of its listeners. Prayer is a conversation. When I pray, I know exactly who I am addressing and I have a name for this being. So why then must I pretend that all of a sudden I don't know His name just because others will be listening? That indicates that I am slightly embarrassed or ashamed to be speaking to my God. Being purposefully vague is something many Christians (and I imagine Muslims) would be very much against. It says something about BSA that someone who has very strong convictions is actually less qualified to be a Chaplain's Aid than someone who is willing to speak at their "higher power" in a vague and non-committal way lest they offend.

 

Personally my faith is such that if you told my son he could not pray as he'd been instructed then that would be a deal breaker for me and I would leave the Troop immediately. Better that we just leave religion out of scouting altogether than to teach boys its better to practice watered-down faith. 

 

If the shoe was on the other foot, I would instruct my son to either listen respectfully as someone else offered up a prayer appropriate for their own beliefs or tell him to use that time to silently reflect.

 

This is very uncomfortable ground to tread. I had no idea that BSA advocated that boys alter how they practice their faith to be PC. This has come as quite a surprise and I am very disappointed to read that policy. 

One thing to consider is: what is the Chaplin's Aid actually doing when he leads the group in prayer? What is his role? Is he just praying for himself, or is he offering a prayer for the whole group? The role of the Chaplin's Aid is to serve the group's spiritual needs, not just his own. Does that mean he can't lead the group in a prayer that includes the name Jesus? No. But it does mean that he has to be cognizant of the fact that he is not just acting for himself, and be aware that there might be people of different faith traditions than his own in his audience; and too address those differences with respect. I don't think anyone is arguing, nor is the BSA saying, that a scout can't "pray as he'd been instructed". But when you lead a group in prayer, you are in essence speaking for the group, and you have to be mindful of the diversity of the group. There are many ways to address a diverse group, the trick is to find what works for both the one leading the prayer, and the group he is speaking for or too.

Edited by Rick_in_CA

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I thought I posted this before, but here goes.

 

Since I was taught that God hears all prayer, including in your heart, how is it possible for one not to pray "as instructed"? 

 

If this is a offensive question, please disregard it.

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I thought I posted this before, but here goes.

 

Since I was taught that God hears all prayer, including in your heart, how is it possible for one not to pray "as instructed"? 

 

If this is a offensive question, please disregard it.

 

No offense here.... I don't actually think there is any set formula to prayer. I don't think you need to actually say "In Jesus' name" or anything like that. But other faiths/denominations teach certain prayers (and the boy from the OP's post seems to have been taught something specific) and I don't see anything wrong with that. But even if you omit saying Jesus, God, Yahweh, or Allah, it doesn't change who you are actually addressing. It just seems so disingenuous to be talking to one person but never use His name so others can pretend you are talking to someone else. It's like we are all agreeing to participate in a polite farce.   
 
I went to Bible College before enlisting in the Air Force. I know the issues that military chaplains face. I know the DoD would prefer them to conduct watered down services that never cause offense. But many chaplains struggle to find a balance between meeting people's various sprititual needs vs staying true to their own beliefs. It's not as simple as saying, "Chaplains should just encourage people to practice their own faith." Many do not actually feel that is their calling at all. 
 
It just seems to me that this issue is not simple and I am surprised that anyone would even think of trying to instruct someone over whom they have zero spiritual authority on how to conduct themselves (much less a child). I think the best bet is to let the scout pray however he wants. If someone doesn't feel it is "inclusive" then open up the floor to allow anyone else to pray however they want. Then end with a moment of silence to allow anyone who doesn't wish to pray aloud to be reverent in their own way. If the other boys feel a chaplain's aid is being too pushy or not meeting their needs they can choose a new one later. 

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This is part of the Christian challenge. They know that God listens regardless of he form used, because their Master taught us to look forward to a day when everyone worships "in spirit and in truth."

But they are also called to, in going into all the world. Preach good news to every creature ...

 

So, prayers take a form that emphasizes in whose name they are doing this. The paradox is, when Jesus talked about using his name, it was about everything except praying (e.g., making disciples, teaching, baptizing ..., healing, xcorscism). When He was talking about prayer, he never said "and be sure to drop my name."

 

So, we wind up with boys being taught that form is really important, but they aren't taught how to admit that this is the a form they are obliged to follow, and others are welcome to join him by silently using their form, and we're sure the Almighty will graciously attend to us all.

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So, we wind up with boys being taught that form is really important, but they aren't taught how to admit that this is the a form they are obliged to follow, and others are welcome to join him by silently using their form, and we're sure the Almighty will graciously attend to us all.

 

And they won't learn this lesson if they are barred from participating as a Chaplain's Aid because their form of prayer is a deal breaker for adults who are likely to see it as a much bigger issue than the boys will.

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At summer camp this year the camp chaplain said the word Jesus 77 times in 15 minutes.  At the end of the service he mentioned that Jews and Muslims should pray too.  Even the most religious in our troop where pretty offended by his daily service.  That was from our Southern Baptist parents, I'm Jewish and more sensitive to it.  We attended every day as a manner of respect but even Adults need to learn to understand what interfaith service actually means.

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Quaker shaggy dog story:

 

A newcomer, seeking to find out what these strange Quakers do,  enters the Meetinghouse to find the congregation already sitting quietly. We would say "the Meeting has settled". He looks around , finds a space on a bench  and sits down beside another man.  As can happen, nothing is said for a time, no messages are given.  After  some  minutes of the silence, the visitor leans over to the other man and whispers, "when does the service start?"   The more experienced Friend leans toward the visitor and whispers back," at the end  of Meeting".

 

So what is a Scout Chaplain's Aide supposed to do?  Entertain?  Explain his faith?  Discuss other Scout's faith?  Remind folks of the first of the four promises a Scout makes?   Of Scout Law number 12?    What an idea.....

How "mature" do we expect a Scout CA to be?   I would be very proud of any Scout taking on that role and "doing his best" at it.  A good Scouter might suggest the Scout go to his faith leader and discuss it with him.   Another Scouter might tell the boy "let's do it THIS way in our Troop.  " , regardless of how the Scout feels about it.    "Well, Johnny, what do you think should happen? " 

 

With my experience as a Chaplain at the Jamboree,  I was once asked to organize a "Scout's Own " for the Camporee.  I said to the organizers, OK, tell each Troop to send their Chaplain Aides to meet with me after lunch Saturday.  The announcement was made in the Camporee instructions.  From 25 Troops attending , 3 CAs came round.   I said, Okay , boys, I've been asked to organize a Scout's Own for sunday morning.  Do you see the same problem I see?   They looked at each other (never having met before).  One boy offered,  "You're not a Scout?"   I said "Ya think?"   I asked , did they think they could whip up a respectful reminder of our Duty to God ? Maybe 15 minutes, max?  I did not ask what faith they themselves professed.   told them I would help with anything they wanted to do. I handed them some sample programs I had from past events, and from the discussion I lead at IOLS.  I said, you probably won't be able to produce a handout program, but what do you want to do? And I sat back....

These three went to the other Troops, got other Scouts together. Sunday morn, they  set up the area, got Scouts to (signs held up) enter silently and respectfully, and made a Scout's Own consisting of solo readings, a choral reading (group reading together) and recitation of the Philmont Grace and some other things.  It was well received.  Jesus was mentioned,  as was Allah.   I heard no complaints after.

As I've suggested,  the boys frequently have a better grasp of these inter-something faith problems than us old -stuck -in -our- individual and collective mud. 

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