It happened again last night. Sitting at the
Festive Board, I was asked which Lodge
I was from. I explained that my Lodge was
for people with an interest in Scouting and
found that all around me had been Scouts.
We talked about how Freemasonry offered
the same values and fellowship that we had
first learned around the campfire and in
our Troops. Then my new friends asked
me about Scouting now and what it is
doing for young people today.
I felt immensely proud to be a Scout as
well as a Freemason. And wondered how
interested Freemasons could connect to
Scouting today; to understand what
Scouting is doing and, maybe, even to
offer some form of support to Scouting
in their local communities.
This year we celebrate the centenary of
Scouting. From a small experimental camp
run by Robert Baden-Powell (B-P) in 1907,
Scouting has become the world’s largest
values-based youth organisation with over
28 million members from 216 countries and
territories around the world. Scouting
bridges cultural and religious divides.
It provides a purposeful programme to
develop the whole person.
Sounds familiar? Freemasons will easily
recognise, and be attracted to, many of
Scouting’s characteristics. In my booklet,
Scouting & Freemasonry: two parallel
Movements?, I identify at least seventeen
similarities between the two. The strongest
of these is a shared moral basis.
One modern parallel is the challenge
both movements face to change the public’s
perception about itself. Any Freemason
older than me would remember a Scout
Movement with big hats and shorts and
a rather quaint public image. But it has
changed much since then, while still
retaining its values and continuing its good
work. What Baden-Powell called his “Great
game” is in safe hands and continues to be
supported by his own family and successors.
Similarly Freemasonry today does not
accord with the public image that has
prevailed in the last 50 years. Again, it retains
its values and much of its tradition. But it is
open rather than secretive and follows a
progressive programme of development
while also contributing to the greater good.
And yet, despite all these parallels, both
traditional and contemporary, many
members of each Movement probably have
little understanding of what the other is doing
in 2007. Why should they? Well, perhaps if
Freemasons can understand and support the
work of Scouting, the movement to which
many Freemasons owe so much of their
“infant nurture”, perhaps more members
of this highly important youth organisation
might, in turn, develop an understanding
and respect for Freemasonry and its purposes.
In the UK, Scouting has experienced new
growth since we refreshed our programme,
uniform and training a few years ago.
Scouting is still based on the same moral
principles, still asks members to make a
promise and to abide by a moral code, and
still offers a progressive and balanced
programme of development, recognised
by a badge scheme. But by connecting with
young people in a way that is relevant and
attractive to them, Scouting has become
“cool”, the in-thing for young people to join.
Nowadays, a child can join Beaver Scouts
at six years old and continue through the
various sections to the culmination of
personal achievement, the Queen’s Scout
Award. This is earned by following a
programme that reinforces physical,
intellectual, social and spiritual development
and the values and principles of Scouting.
Scouting in all Scout Groups is now open
to girls as well as boys. The Scout Association
believes that it is more appropriate nowadays
for young people to grow up and socialise
together and wishes to be an inclusive
Movement, open to all young people.
The key reason young people join
Scouting is adventure. Scouting still offers
probably the widest range of outdoor
activities available today. Camping has been
supplemented by hiking, rock climbing,
gliding, sailing, pioneering, canoeing, parascending,
abseiling and many more. The
uniform of activity trousers, with polo or
long sleeved shirt, supports an adventurous
lifestyle in the same way that B-P’s first
uniform did one hundred years ago.
Scouting also continues its traditional
service to local, national and international
communities. “Bob-a-job” has been
replaced by organised community projects
ranging from local initiatives to installing
water supplies to remote villages in Africa.
Successful Scouting depends on the
quality, commitment and enthusiasm
of its adult leadership and volunteers who
give their time to help young people.
All leaders undertake training to equip
them for their roles and the adult training
programme is recognised externally as
one of the best of its kind.
Scouting is a world-wide movement
Web site created by Mark Griffin