Every year since the mid-1940s, religious communities around the US have celebrated “Scout Sunday” on the Sunday before February 8.
The date coincides with that on which scouting had been founded.
“The Orthodox became involved with scouting in a formal way in 1955, while the Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting [EOCS] was established in 1960,” according to Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, Secretary of the Orthodox Church in America, a member of the Religious Task Force for Boy Scouts and EOCS, and one of six members of his family to have earned the rank of Eagle Scout. “Today, EOCS is under the aegis of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America.
“Scout Sunday is a special time to recognize the scouts and their leaders in our parishes,” Father Eric added. “The great benefit of scouting has shaped our young men and women for generations and have produced some of the finest leaders we have in the Church, both clergy and lay.”
The OCA encourages all parishes to recognize their scouts and leaders this Sunday, especially for the tremendous amount of time they share with their respective communities and parishes.
How can your parish honor its scouts? Father Eric offers the following suggestions.
- Encourage scouts to wear their uniforms on Sunday. Recognize and pray for them.
- Develop occasions on which a parish’s scouts can get together regularly. Quite often, scouts are scattered across different troops, dens and packs, and rarely interact. Consciously planning special gatherings will get them to identify with one another.
- Look into sponsoring a parish scout troop or pack. While getting Orthodox Christian scouts together under the “church’s roof” will help build identity, this also is a good way to open up the program to others—and introducing them, perhaps for the first time, to Orthodox Christianity. Many scout troops are in need of meeting space, so parishes that can do so can “rise to the occasion.”
- Encourage scouts to pursue the Saint George, Chi-Rho, or Alpha-Omega Orthodox Christian badges. Requirements can be found on the EOCS web site. Hosting an award ceremony is always a boost to the parish community.
- Nominate local adult scout leaders for the Prophet Elias Adult Religious Award to recognize their good work and ministry.
- Organize a parish service project for scouts. This is a “win-win” situation—scouts need to earn service Have the parish’s scouts do a service project around the church or for a parishioner. Scouts need to pursue service projects, while another item on the parish’s “things to do list” will benefit the whole community.
- Encourage scouts to complete their Eagle or Gold Award project at the parish. Such projects are a tremendous resource involving the whole scout troop and parish—another “win-win” situation.