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fgoodwin

Conducting an Interfaith Service (BSA supplemental training)

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The members were all Christian and Jewish. So the use of the old testament was a common thread. Since the Old Testament is recognized and respected in most religions it is a safe way to begin. As the syllabus ppoints out it helps to know the background of the participants.

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I think there are about four options with regard to worship services.

 

1. Hold none. Trevorum - "Why not let families handle religion ", John-in-KC - "stick to its premise that the family is the responsible agency for faith"

 

2. Hold an interfaith service, more or less according to the training listed here.

 

3. Hold a denominational or religious specific service. John - "Heterodoxy is not good."

 

4. Take the Scouts to a service at a local church / religious institution.

 

The problem with option 1 is that we typically are in camp on Sunday mornings, when the boys normally attend worship services. From scouting.org "Every troop going away for a weekend needs to plan to conduct or attend a service in keeping with the 12th point of the Scout Law."

 

The problem with option 2 is as John describes, and if you have Scouts plan the service and tell them not to mention core elements of their religion, well, you get complaints.

 

The problem with options 3 and 4 is that normally not all members of the troop are of the same religion. So you could do these, but then let some boys not participate - and that can generate its own complaints.

 

I think the right answer depends on your CO and their attitude towards the issue. And if at all possible, you need to let people, both Scouts and parents, know up front what the troop does in this regard at the time that they join the troop.

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I think I have suggested before that the Forum needs a "Chaplain" section...

 

I will be leading the discussion/class about "Scout's Own" at the IOLS next month. Our District (soon to be morphed along with 5 other Districts into a larger mega county region. Another story) has Units sponsored by Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Mormon and non-religious organizations. The curriculum I read in the link above really mirrors the stuff I talk about and ask. I pass out and we participate in a model "Scout's Own" that we have developed over the years and frankly have never had anything but good comments on.

Are we concerned with unintentional offense? Of course. I point out that Scouting is a world wide, near universal philosophy. Its intention is to include every religious attitude. The similarities around the world of the various Promises and Laws indicates this to me. That we cannot include those with religious question marks in their heads and hearts is hard for me to fathom. I also point out that "officially" BSA cannot allow an athiest boy to belong, but that we will rarely find that out until he declares himself. I'm not going to ask, but I might ask at a BoR how the boy sees himself doing his "duty to God".

 

After reminding our nascent Scouters that BSA is, after all, a "religious" organization but NOT a "religion", ( see again the Scout Promise, Law and the back of the application)

I mention that there are four possibilities:

1) You can avoid the issue by not having any religious observance at all at any of your activities, but merely remind the boys of their "Duty to God" at Boards of Review, etc.

2) If the Unit is homogenous, all of one faith, then it's easy. You plan accordingly and observe your faith accordingly.

3) If you have more than one faith represented in your Unit, then you have to judge what is appropriate and non-offensive. The model S/O that we do draws from Old Testament, American Indian (Navaho and Iroquois), Q'uan, non-descript Irish (Catholic? perhaps) and Buddhist prayer in it's text. It does mention Christ, Allah, God and Great Spirit. We do not sing, but I point out that is a personal thing. We include a period of silent worship, where folks are encouraged to pray, silently or vocally, as the Spirit leads. As it happens, our home Troop recently had a Hindu lad join. His dad is a priest in the local Mandhir (a new Scout Troop sponsor? Wait and see). And yes, our Scout arms can stretch to include him. The biggest problem here is accomodating his vegetarian diet.

4) The last possibility we speak of is actively letting the boys set the standard. The idea is that the adults often muck things up by setting expectations or requirements too stringently. Hence the term "Scout's Own". But, this possibility is to be tempered by the requirements of #2 and #3 above. We call this "education".

 

I am again reminded of the Scout I met at a formal Scout activity. He was fully decked out and I noticed he wore THREE religious medals. On closer inspection, he wore the God and Country, the Ner Tamid, and the Ad Altare Dei. I asked him how he came to wear these three together ( I only earned the G&C as a Scout). This over acheiver told me his father was Catholic, so he earned that attending his fathers church, his mom was Jewish so when he attended that Synagogue he earned the Jewish award. His troop was chartered by a Methodist church, so, he said, it was natural for him to attend MYF there occassionally. And so he earned the G&C. "Naturally".

 

This is in contrast to the Scouts I have met who are "not sure about this God stuff". So you teach by example if not lesson and lecture. Respect for beliefs other than my own.

 

I vaguely remember a MASH episode where Fr. Mulcahy did a Bris. Maybe not.

 

YiS&C

 

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SSSscout,

 

... and I will say it again, Sir: To me, as a Christian, what you model in your Scout's Own is anathema. I have said that about other "mix and match" services.

 

I regret having to be bold in so saying.

 

Peace be with you.

 

 

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The Scouts Own is clearly a worship service, meant to take the place of a usual weekend worship service conducted by many denominations. If Duty to God means anything at all, it means worshipping your God as your religion professes.

 

By participating in a worship service which mentions "Gods" that are not the triune God of the New Testament, I am not living up to my Christian beliefs.

 

As Americans we are obligated to respect the rights of others to worship (or not) in whatever way they choose. The right to religious freedom is self-evident. However, we are not in any way obligated to accept other religions as being valid. Like it or not, my God tells me that all other gods are false and that I must not accept them. As far as I am concerned, "case closed".

 

This is not religious intolerance. In a bit of tongue in cheek, it might best be summed up as "I firmly support and respect your right to be wrong".

 

Perhaps rather than a Scout's Own, it might make sense for us as Scouters to encourage the boys to make packing their religious text as important as raingear. Designate a quiet time in camp when each Scout will worship quietly in his own manner. Since the Scout Law requires belief in a supreme being, there should be no problem for each Scout to do so. As leaders, if we see a boy who does not seem to participate, it might be a great opportunity for a Scoutmasters Conference.

 

I think that by encouraging each boy to carry his religious text and to actually spend time with it, we might be better serving the intent of the Twelfth Point.

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Narraticong and John,

Please help me understand your position. Are you suggesting that you would prefer that there were NO services at all during scout outings or that should be Christian ONLY sevices?

 

Thanks

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I have no problem with having non-denominational services at camp as long as they are optional.

 

I often attend them and find them interesting but they don't meet the spiritual obligations dictated by my faith.

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Sylvar,

 

Let's go back to the explanation of the 12th point: "A Scout is reverent, he is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion." (emphases added)

 

Some of Eric Kelly's post describes how I feel... "they don't meet the spiritual obligations dictated by my faith."

 

Before I go farther, when someone says "interfaith" to me, we're not talking a mix of Baptist/Lutheran/Catholic/Orthodox/Pentecostal. We're talking crossing the major faith community lines: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hindu, Shinto, Islam (not in any special order...)

 

Also, when we talk "interfaith," I think there is plenty of room for fellowship, service, and learning outside explicit worship. I went to UC Santa Barbara all those years ago. The University Religious Conference was a gathering place for all manner of campus ministries. Did Hillel and Lutheran Campus Ministry share a spaghetti dinner study hall night during Dead Week? Yeppers!

 

Am I willing to learn about other faiths and worship traditions? Yes. The operative word is learn.

 

Am I insistent that only Christian chapel be held? NO. Adamantly. The obligation of the 12th point is for each Scout/Scouter to support their brothers and sisters when they are worshipping ... as they are taught in their own faith communities.

 

The young people in our charge are starting to form and mesh their lifelong values. We do not need to play mix and match with their Faith. They need clarity, not confusion.

 

If you ask me to sit down across a cup of cocoa and we discuss each other's faith? Sure. Ask me to observe your worship? Probably. Ask me to worship in your way? NO.

 

The interfaith service to me is the last of those 3. It's where I draw a bright line.

 

To close, I'll look at Revelation 3:14-16. I know there's a similar verse in the OT: It's the First Commandment. I suspect there are similar verses in other holy writings:

 

14"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!

16 So, because you are lukewarmneither hot nor coldI am about to spit you out of my mouth.

 

Respecting the convictions of others does not equal worshipping after their fashion. It also does not mean trying to make "of the many, one."

 

Have I made sense? Did I answer your question?(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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Narraticong: I like that. A fifth choice.

 

John-in-KC: I respect what you have said. In fact, I find agreement in your Christian attitude, however...The idea that I am seeking to "mix and match"....

I'm not sure that is what a "Scout's Own" seeks to do.

Very often, the idea that someone else may have ANOTHER, different faith than my own, equally important, equally rewarding, taught and accepted equally as fervently as my own, can lead to both consternation and seeking. The Christ that I accept may not be acceptable to another. I may not judge them except by their actions ("fruit"). So the Hindi Scout in Mombai and the Muslim Scout in Djakarta is still my brother Scout. If we happen to come together in a camp, I say it is still possible to pray seperately together, to see the beauty in their vision of God as in mine. The Iroquois prayer may not mention Jesus, but the truth expressed is still acceptable to me and (surprise!) to my Muslim brother Scout. So they have told me. And the truth expressed by the prayer written by Rumi, a Sufi poet, agrees with a verse from Paul. This is not bad.

Are there differences? Of course. I would not seek to insult my brother Scout by pointing them out. He and I know of the differences. God knows, too. But by their fruit shall ye know them.

The Troop of my youth once went to a Jewish Synagogue to hear a famous Army General speak. Little did we know,(mostly Methodists) we would also sit thru a Jewish religious service. I doubt if it swayed any of us religiously, but it was educational. 'So that's what they do...'

I tell you true, the lack of ritual and overt ceremony in my Quaker faith is every bit as important to me as the beauty of the ritual and ceremony is important to my Catholic Scout brother, or the religious habits of my Mormon Scout brother , as the spiritual habits of my Muslim Scout brother are to him.

And yet they all find worth in sitting and at least THINKING and SPEAKING religiously, together. How is that?

 

If, after sitting thru our discussion, they choose to go from our circle and NOT attempt a "Scout's Own", inclusive worship, well, nothing wrong with that. At the least, I have reminded them of the diversity of our organization.

And the truth of the idea that "no, one need not be Christian to be a Scout".

 

God speed you all.

 

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http://www.scouting.org/media/relationships/chaplainrole.aspx

 

From the text:

 

Planning Worship Experiences

 

Every troop going away for a weekend needs to plan to conduct or attend a service in keeping with the 12th point of the Scout Law. You may be invited to conduct the services or work out a program with the chaplain aide and other adult leaders. An overnight event should include worship experiences, either for the individual or for the troop. You may want to recommend scripture readings or devotional readings to be used at the close of the evening or as a morning meditation.

 

Emphasis added...

 

Peace be with you! :)

 

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Thanks John,

You answered the second question clearly. I am still unclear on your position on the first. Let me try to restate (and narrow) that question in a clearer fashion: In an multifaith troop would it be your position that NO services should be held?

 

I just wanted to also say that I fully understand your position on your personal faith and that an interfaith service is in opposition to those beliefs.

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Sylvar- My response to your question would be the the same as John, only not as well stated as his. Maybe it's a "Lutheran thing"?

 

Do I think we should have no "service" at all? I think if that means an interfaith service where gods other than the one I worship are acknowledged as equals, I would just as soon not participate. As I stated previously, I believe that time is better spent in quiet personal worship. I would encourage other Scouts to do the same. If the entire group is of a similar background, group worship is certainly called for and encouraged.

 

Our responsibility is to encourage our Scouts to worship in the manner dictated by their own individual faith. Group worship in a manner which runs contrary to what many faiths proscribe serves only to potentially water down the faith of the Scout. For that reason, in a multi-faith unit I would encourage each Scout and Scouter to bring whatever he needs to worship in his own personal manner. Just as we make time for dinner, skills and games, we should then make time for personal worship. And encourage each boy to participate in his own manner.

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Sylvar,

 

OK.

 

My position is the individual worship experience should be the emphasis, not a group service.

 

Scouts and Scouters should spend time with God during the weekend.(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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