The OA: Service and Secrecy
Robert Sheneman (rsheneman@PPPL.GOV)
Wed, 13 Dec 1995 16:48:27 -0500
I'd like to take up some bandwidth to speak to the issues of OA service and
the "secrecy" of the OA. Most of my experiences are 15 or more years old,
but the principles of Scouting and the Order have not changed so I think
they are still pertinent.
When I was active in my troop, district, OA chapter and lodge, we had many
opportunities for service. As both SPL and Chapter Secretary at the same
time I saw many many examples of how the Order could help strengthen the
local Scouting program. Our activities ranged from helping new troops with
camping skills, teaching Indian lore and other appropriate skills/subject
areas, to the assisting the district to organize events and serving on the
staff, to actually taking complete charge of our district's fall Camporee
(the theme was Indian Lore). That started with a request from the district
that we help by doing a few demos and maybe getting our dance team to do
some campfire programs. As a chapter, and with the _very_ strong support
of our adult advisors, we went back to the district and said, "We'd be glad
to help with the Camporee, but why not let us do the everything for the
Camporee...and allow you busy adults to concentrate on other things." The
truth is we didn't want "them" messing up a good thing. After some
hemming and hawing by some of the more entrenched leaders, they agreed.
What followed was one of the most hectic six months of my life at that
time....I was the Camporee Chairman. Well, with lots of support from our
adult leaders, a core team of about a dozen Scouts who worked incredibly
well together, and much sleep deprivation, we pulled it off with
overwhelming success! This was the same core group of Scouts that
regularly helped organize the district first-aid meet and Klondike Derby,
helped with an international camping exchange program with Scouts from the
Toronto area, and most of whom served as the core of the district and
council Junior Leader Training program staff. Today, most of these guys
are still my closest friends although we are geographically quite
What was the effect on other Scouts?
I know that many Scouts learned to look to OA members for role models.
They knew that at just about _any_ district event they could look for
someone with the OA sash for guidance, assistance, and information. When
you couldn't find an adult who knew what was going on, you could always
look for an OA brother who would get you back on track. I have no doubt
that each Scout's home troop benefited immensely from the growth of us all
through the OA. I like to think we made some positive impact during our
tenure as Scouts.
What message can I draw from this experience?
We were all very active in our home troops, schools, sports teams,
religious institutions, and families. Most were Eagle Scouts or well on
their way. Most held significant youth leadership positions in their home
troops, schools, and other organizations. But it was the Order of the
Arrow that brought us all together and gave us a very special bond of
Brotherhood. It was that bond which enabled us to do extraordinary things
for the good of Scouting and the community. Frankly, we developed a bit of
a reputation for not being afraid to rock the boat, question the way things
had always been done, and generally try anything that sounded like it would
enliven the program. If it wasn't illegal, immoral or life-threatening, we
were probably willing to give it a try.
I'm very distressed to hear of Pat Hamilton's experience with the "tapping
out" for Ordeal (his posting of 12/12/95). It is incumbent on the local OA
leaders, as well as troop leaders, to help Scouts understand what the Order
is, how it compliments the Scouting program (or should compliment it), and
the general principles of membership. It's important that Scouts
understand that membership is an _honor_ that is bestowed by one' fellow
Scouts. I'm not afraid to tell Scouts about the Order in some general
ways. You don't need to know the legend, ceremonial details, etc. to
understand what Dr. Goodman and the others had in mind when they created a
"Brotherhood of Cheerful Service." Let's not get wrapped around the issue
of secrecy and forget that the OA is a service organization within
Scouting. We all play an important role in helping it achieve that goal.
Thanks for the chance to share.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City