Friday, October 21, 2016

Bonus post! We Go to Church at a Boy Scout Jubilee in Nebraska

troop flags at Boy Scouts Mid America Jubilee 2016
“I hear there are Scout troops that take a French press for coffee on their camping trips.”

The conversation wasn’t an indictment of the Scouts for becoming soft, but rather a discussion of the importance of coffee in people’s lives. The coffee was especially appreciated that morning as we waited for the worship service. For many of these parents, it had been a long weekend without lots of sleep at the Boy Scout Jubilee.

So no one was doubting the value of coffee, but there was concern about the glass in the French press breaking in a backpack.

We were at the Mid-America Council Jubilee at Mahoney State Park in Nebraska along with over 5,000 Scouts and Scout-related people in attendance. We learned there is a regional Jubilee every two years (not the every 50 years found in Leviticus 25) and a national Jubilee every four years.

We were just looking for a place to pitch our tent when we went to the park office to make reservations at Mahoney. The woman at the desk warned us that during the weekend we’d be surrounded by Scouts. We thought that would be a good thing and it was. Certainly the Jubilee provided much entertainment. We missed the animal demonstrations, the lumberjack show, the concert by Hairball, and much more. But we did get to hear a live radio conversation with astronauts on the Space Station, watch an Omaha steak eating contest (Scoutmasters tackling 48 ounces of beef), and a pretty decent fireworks show.

On Sunday morning, two worship services were offered: a Catholic service and what was called both a Protestant service and an interfaith service. We went to the latter. While all of us were waiting outside for the service to start (after the coffee discussion), a woman from the park asked for help with the worship service. She told us that the Deacon who was scheduled to lead the service was sick. Someone had volunteered to give the homily, but readers and a song leader were needed. Since I don’t have any relation to the Scouts (besides being a Cub Scout as a kid), I didn’t feel right about volunteering. Another man volunteered to do the reading. But no one volunteered to lead singing. So I did.

Wagon Wheel District Chaplain Joe Haggerty arrived, and the service began. By this time there were about 180 people gathered outside the Mahoney Conservatory. There was first a reading of Psalm 100, and then Haggerty read an invocation from the bulletin.

I asked people to turn in their bulletin to “America the Beautiful.” In churches, I’m sometimes uncomfortable with patriotic songs. I become concerned about whether glory and honor is going to the country rather than to God. But I’m okay with such songs at a Scout service, because that is something all gathered have in common. And now seems like a good time to be asking God to “mend thine ev’ry flaw” and “confirm thy soul with self control.”

Next came a responsive reading. The adults read affirmations such as “The Good Samaritan showed the spirit of doing a Good Turn,” and the Scouts responded with “A Scout is helpful.” They also affirmed that a scout is trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.  (The affirmation before “clean” read “Cleanliness is next to godliness”. I’ve always said that if that’s true, why settle for second best?)

The Scripture reading was Jeremiah 31: 27 - 34, which is not an easy passage. It speaks of God’s coming judgement and includes verses such as “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth set on edge.” Perhaps the Reverent Deacon who got sick had great plans for that reading, but it seemed an odd choice for this crowd.

Chaplain Haggerty then read a different Scripture for his message, the parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10, from the Message (“this is a paraphrase of the Scripture many of you may be not be familiar with,” he said in introduction). Haggerty said that it is important for Scouts to follow the example of the Samaritan. He told about a troop of Scouts who found a baby floating in the Platte River. They rescued the child, providing CPR and a trip to the hospital.

We then read together the prayer of Saint Francis (I wonder if they read that at the Catholic service as well). We sang “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” and closed with a benediction.

It was a brief service, barely twenty minutes. If Chaplain Haggerty hadn’t been there to speak from the Gospel of Luke, I’m not sure Jesus would have been mentioned in the service at all. But God was honored, along with Scouting.

There was an interesting image at the end of the bulletin. It looks like this:

It means “Gone Home,” and it’s on the tombstone of Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts It’s not a bad symbol for the conclusion of a service, a Scout weekend, a life.