February 4th, 2017

hound of heaven

One at a time

I went over to the Council Training Expo today. Schmoozed a lot of people about high adventure, District programs, yada yada. But what I was there for was to lead one short training session -- slated for the last period in the day's schedule -- on Religious Emblem Awards in Scouting.

I've led this session at the Training Expo several times. And, of course, I've done more extensive training that covered the same material many times as Conference Scouting Coordinator, as President of NAUMS, as a trainer of Jamboree Chaplains, at the UM Scouters Workshop at Philmont . . . I've been doing and teaching Scouting as Ministry for forty years now. And I just can't seem to say no when I'm being importuned to come teach this stuff again.

You see, I typically get 3 or 4 learners who've been trying to get a straight answer about how to do these programs, and nobody has been able to help them before now. This is because the various Religious Emblems aren't BSA programs, but programs designed by one or another of the denominational or ecumenical bodies that publish them. BSA approves their awards to be worn on the uniform, but they're not from BSA, and nobody at BSA offers them as program. For that, you've got to work with the various churches. Which means that in order to tell you how to do Religious Emblems with your kids, I have to disentangle all the various religious bureaucracies for you so you'll know how to help all the kids in your unit.

I also inevitably wind up talking about churches doing Scouting, about who "owns" Scouting, and about issues of religious integrity. People who attend one of my sessions get a lot more than they bargained for.

This year, only three persons signed up for my class, and only one actually showed up that last hour of the day. I stood outside the classroom like a carnival barker, asking people to step right in and find The Sum of All Human Knowledge. Still only one taker. So we sat down to go over the various Religious Emblem awards programs, and to talk about her unit in its community and the families in her Troop.

She thanked me repeatedly for clearing up all kinds of issues. She also asked about a lot of difficult things, including how we pray when we're together. She had just been told in Wood Badge that we all had to censor the way we pray and use religious language from all kinds of sources in order to "include" everyone. I patiently explained that the word salad some people think is appropriate for all-Council worship events is not only empty of meaning, but potentially blasphemous. Every child and every adult in BSA has a right to be who he or she is, and to pray the way one prays at home and in one's own religious community. We affirm the teaching of the home and religious community. We do not censor it. Religious Charter Partners have the right to be who they are, too, and to use the Scouting program as part of their outreach.

Even though I only had one learner today, I was glad I went. People like that Scouter need someone to empower them to work with their kids properly. I only wish I could get the Council leadership -- including the people who run summer camp and Wood Badge -- to sit through forty minutes of my class.

I am the only religious professional on the Council Executive Board, but I wound up on the Board because I was once Council Vice-President for Older Youth and Venturing, not because of my background in chaplaincy or religious relationships. I am an at-large member; I have no committee assignments. I have tried to convince the Council to start a Chaplaincy Committee. I've offered to raise money to fund a resident Chaplain for our summer camp. I've offered to work with them to forge seminary connections where we could offer it as an internship earning credit toward the M.Div. degree, and I have the academic credentials to serve as a supervisor for that. I have frequently pointed out that we have never had a Relationships Committee in the Council (we have a Membership Committee, sometimes called Membership and Relationships, but nobody actually works with the major charter partners). I am happy to lead worship at Council events and do small workshops like today's, but dear God! I'm tired of speaking eis aera to Council leadership.

Oh, well. One at a time, Lord, if that's how it needs to be. Every one of those children and youth is precious, and every leader who works with them is precious, too. If I have to help them one at a time, it is still time well spent.