OA Membership - Its Meaning; Was OA Pocket Patch question
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Sun, 16 Jun 1996 10:41:15 -0400
At the conclusion of the Ordeal ceremony, A.S. tells the heretofore
candidates "I congratulate you, my brothers, on your achievement of
Ordeal membership. You are now entitled to all the rights and privileges
of the Order of the Arrow, . . ." (Ordeal Ceremony Pamphlet) This is not
only a congratulatory message but a promise to these Scouts that they
are full and equal members of the OA.
The Order of the Arrow Guide for Officers and Advisors states,
"From the inception of the Order in 1915, it was intended that all
members should be of the same rank or standing. Brotherhood membership
does not carry with it any degree of rank, status, or special privilege
within the lodge. It is not to be thought of as a separate honor in the
same sense as the Vigil Honor."
"Social and service activities are not held for Brotherhood members apart
from other members of the lodge."
"The Brotherhood is an opportunity for members to evaluate their past
contributions to Scouting and the lodge and to reaffirm thheir belief in
the high purposes of the Order. The ceremony is intended as a source of
inspiration, motivating its members to render even greater service to
Reading this it seems pretty clear that an Ordeal member is a full member
and need not become a Brotherhood member to become a full member. When a
Lodge uses special patches, neckerchiefs, jackets, or the like that can
only be worn by Brotherhood or Vigil members, whether it intends to or
not, it is creating a special set of privileges in the Lodge that run
counter to National policy and the purpose of the Order.
There is a natural tendancy to want to recognize those who have accepted
the obligation of service cheerfully and who have continued in service,
along the way reaffirming this obligation through a Brotherhood ceremony.
Many Lodges have done so in the past, but self-evaluation by youth
officers over the years has resulted in a decision to discourage such
practices and the policy in the OA Guide for Officers and Advisors.
We have to remember that the OA has as its purpose the recognition of
Scouts who best live up to the Scout Oath and Law in the daily lives and
to inspire those Scouts to continue in service to their fellows. The
Order promotes Scout camping, emphasizing that the good camper is not
only an expert in Scoutcraft, but one who practices true Scouthood as
expressed in the tradition of the daily Good Turn. The OA was created to
promote the best of Scouting through cheerful service not to be a special
When I attended the National Order of the Arrow Conference in 1971 as
chief of Ojibawa Lodge, I was fortunate to have the chance to sit down
with Carroll A. Edson, one of the co-founders of the Order of the Arrow,
and to be able to chat with him for a bit. Mr. Edson, he'll always be Mr.
Edson to me, awed me completely with his humility and his explanations
about the Order. I left the discussion feeling challenged to be of
service to others for life! He really made clear the in truth one who is
of service to his fellows is of his fellows greatest and needs no other
reward than to know the value of being of service. As a teenager getting
ready to go to college that wasn't all that easy to understand, but it
took hold. Now as I look back, I can see more clearly the importance of
For me this means that in the OA we should be focused on service and not
so much on recognitions. The sash and pocket flap are ample recognition.
For those who have gone beyond to be recognized as a Vigil Honor member
or with a special award like the E. Urner Goodman Award, I think that
most understand that the recognition is more an obligation of future
service than of special privilege as it should be.
I would encourage you and others in your situation to discourage special
indicia of membership within a lodge for Brotherhood and Vigil members
only. This may discourage Ordeal members more than help, making them
feel they are really not yet a part, when we need each and every one of
these full members to be active in promoting Scout camping and Scout
spirit in their units.
In closing, let me share a poem that conveys far better than what I could
what the Order of the Arrow is about. This poem was written by Major
Arthur M. Tate during his second tour of duty in Vietnam in 1968 far from
home. In a letter to the National Office to he stated,
"While many miles from my family and Scouting, I found that the
principles thatt the Order of the Arrow engenders are a constant source
of comfort and strength."
"The Order of the Arrow has molded my life since I became a member in
1956. It is my desire to return a portion of the good I have received
from it to others."
Why make the world a better place?
For what reason respect the human race?
I'm asked to trust my fellow man,
To love my home--to covet this land.
To what avail is all this "right?"
Why should I shine to illumine the night?
Why not selfishly spend my day,
And let others make their own way.
The hint of reply now suddenly blends
With billowing smoke which slowly ascends.
The fire breeds cheer as flames leap and dance,
Eyes statre at the drama as though in a trance.
Across the fire, my brothers stand there,
Humbly proud of the red arrow they wear;
Hands clasped together, they form the ring,
With the spirit of fellowship they start to sing.
Voices proclaim that where cheerful service is found,
The clan and its brothers are solemnly bound;
An Order based on brotherly love,
Evoking the blessing of the great spirit above.
I perceive now the weld of our handclasp so strong,
The air ceases to move at the end of our song.
In this arbor of nature, the silence is sweet,
Reverent and inspired, the clan begins to retreat.
Empty, the isolate council ring gleams,
Dying candles yet reflecting ideals and dreams.
Words of devotion and dedication resound:
Brotherhood, Cheerfulness, Service; my answer is found.
In reflecting upon this poem and your own participation in the cermonies
of the Order of the Arrow, your answer should be found. In WWW I am,
Speaking Only for Myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
a/k/a Professor Beaver (WB), ASTA #2566, OA Vigil Honor '71, Eagle
Scout '67, Serving as Deputy District Commissioner for Training,
G.W.Dist., Nat. Capital Area Council, BSA - firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City