Scouts' Own Inter-faith Worship Services

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Scouts' Own Interfaith Worship Service is a brief worship or meditation, specifically designed for Scouting events where there may be members of more than one faith group. The intention of an interfaith service (formerly known as a Scouts’ Own) is to provide a spiritual focus during a camping experience that does not reflect the views of a particular denomination or faith. An interfaith service can be defined as a gathering of Scouts held to contribute to the development of their spirituality and to promote a fuller understanding of the Scout Oath and Law, with emphasis on one’s Duty to God. Let’s take a look at what this definition means.

An interfaith service is a gathering of Scouts consistent with the 12th point of the Scout Law, a Scout is Reverent. This can be in groups as small as two or as large as a world Scout jamboree, though groups of a few patrols work best. In smaller groups, Scouts are able to get involved, share their experiences, and learn that spirituality is something that affects everyone.

An interfaith service is held for the development of the Scouts’ spirituality. Spirituality is that which is beyond the material, that which gives meaning and direction to one’s life. Scouting is primarily concerned with how people live out their beliefs in everyday life.

Hence, an interfaith service should connect in some way to the Scout Law, the ethical code of Scouting. Usually, mentioning the Scout Law, making allusions to it, and/or including a recitation of the Law as part of an interfaith service provides this connection. An interfaith service may simply include ethical content that the Scouts themselves can connect to the Scout Law.

Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, believed that a person’s religion is not in how he behaves; rather it is in what he believes. This is where the Scout Law intersects with spirituality. In developing character, Scouts may connect their spirituality to the Scout Law so that the living out of their religious faith is also an active expression of the Scout Law.

As explained herein, the goal is to provide an uplifting and positive experience for all attendees. It is not necessary to attempt to account for the sensitivities of every conceivable religion on Earth; rather, seek to account for those religions whose members reasonably might be expected to be present. As promoters of the religious emblems program, unit leaders should have a good sense of the religions of those unit members present on a campout. For larger camping activities, such as camporees, all unit leaders could be asked about members’ religious preferences to ensure that reasonable care is given to inclusiveness.

In the event that an individual attendee becomes offended as an outcome of an interfaith service, an apology is in order in the spirit of “a Scout is friendly.” Similarly, though, in the spirit of “a Scout is friendly,” the individual offended should accept the apology graciously and explain how the service might have been conducted so as not to be offensive to him or her. The acts of seeking to make subtle theological distinctions or looking to be offended are grossly out of place at an interfaith service, particularly when the service is planned by youth members with adult mentoring and conducted by youth members.

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