Celebrating 60 Years of Scouting

Following the Opening Prayer

How many of you here this morning can count to 60?
How many of you here this morning could eat 60 pieces of popcorn in one sitting?
How many of you here this morning remember what it felt like to drive for 60 MILES? ..at 60 MILES PER HOUR … when it was 60 Degrees FARENHEIT out ?How many of you here this morning know someone who is 60 years old (or older)? Do you think 60 is old? I used to think 60 is old … but now … not so much …..
How many of you here this morning know someone who is 60 years old (or older)? Do you think 60 is old? I used to think 60 is old … but now … not so much …..
How many of you here this morning know someone who has been married for 60 years or longer? (that one’s a little tougher)

Ok so a slightly different question …..and I want to ask our young people.…. Do you see something at the front of the church this morning that might be a little different? Something you might not see every Sunday in church? (as congregation the question if they don’t come up with ‘balloons’)

Now, how many balloons do you think we might have up here this morning?  (at least 60)

I seem to really be stuck on 60 this morning, don’t I? ….. Well, I am, and there is a good reason for that. …. But before I tell you the reason, I want you to have a real close look at all these balloons …. Can you tell me what colours you see (point to the bouquet on my left) ….

Ok, so we have red, green, gold & purple …. Do you remember why some of those colours are important to our 24th Kitchener Scouting group?

Right – our necker colours.

We also have purple … that is the colour that represents the World Wide Brotherhood of Scouting ….so, that colour represents scouts all over the world, not just in Canada.

So, why do you think we have all these balloons, in all these group colours, and why do you think I’m so stuck on the number 60 this morning?

Well let’s start with why we’re here today, on this particular Sunday in February. Today – February 22nd –  happens to be the birth date of the man who is credited with starting the whole Scouting movement over 100 years ago …. Lord Robert Baden Powell. If he were still alive, Baden Powell would be 158 years old today.

It’s hard to imagine that something good could ever come out of the horrors of war. But the spark that started our Scouting movement goes back to a war in Africa well over 100 years ago. In 1899 during the Boer War in South Africa, Colonel Robert Baden-Powell found himself defending the small town of Mafeking. Baden-Powell was a commanding officer in the British army; the Boers – the charging force – outnumbered B.P.’s troops about eight to one (so for every one man that Colonel Baden Powell had on his side, the Boers – the enemy – had eight). Baden-Powell brought together volunteer boys in the town and formed the Mafeking Cadet Corps. The young boys performed many tasks and were extremely helpful in defending their town. They worked in hospitals, carried messages, and acted as lookouts to warn the townspeople when the enemy drew near. These responsibilities not only helped to keep the young boys busy during the long battle, but it also freed up the men for military duties. For over 7 months, Baden Powell and his small force held their ground until more British soldiers arrived.

Baden-Powell became a national hero. While still in Africa, he wrote a military training manual called Aids to Scouting. It was designed to train soldiers to become army scouts. The book became a bestseller and was used widely by teachers and youth leaders. Thanks to its popularity, Baden-Powell rewrote the book for younger readers – calling it Scouting for Boys —this version is now commonly thought of as the first version of the Boy Scout Handbook.

In August of 1907, Baden-Powell wanted to test his ideas of an outdoor program for boys based on military scouting. He gathered together 21 boys of mixed social backgrounds and held a week-long camp on Brownsea Island off the coast of England.

And so began the Scouting movement. And more than 100 years later, it’s still moving. It has changed since its beginnings, but it’s still here. And the 3 main principles of Scouting remain the same: Duty to God, Duty to Others, Duty to Self.

Out of war came a movement that focuses on shaping the inner core values (who you are on the inside) and teaching life skills to our youth. Out of war came a movement that helps to build the character of young men and women.

It’s hard to imagine that a small group… just 21 to start…. would grow as quickly as it did …or that so many would come, seemingly out of nowhere…and would keep on coming…. Without fuss, without ceremony or paperwork or red tape, and completely spontaneously, boys began to form Scout troops all over the country.

We give credit and thanks to Baden-Powell for starting Scouting, but his thoughts on the matter were somewhat different:

“As a matter of fact I didn’t actually start the Boy Scout Movement, because the blooming thing started itself unseen….In that year, 1909, I arranged to have a meeting of the would-be Scouts at the Crystal palace on a certain day. And when I got there, my wig, there were a lot of them. Rain was threatening, so we mustered them inside the Palace and arranged a March Past (that’s like a parade) and counted them as they entered at one door and went out at the other. There were 11,000 of them – 11,000 who had taken it up of their own accord! That is why I say that one didn’t see the start: Scouting started itself.”

So today we celebrate the life of Baden Powell and we give Thanks for Scouting.

But that’s not all! Let’s get back to the balloons … and 60 …

Today is officially the 60th Birthday of our Scouting Family.

24th Kitchener turns 60 today. And that’s exciting. That’s something we should be proud of … it’s something we should celebrate … so that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to have some fun and celebrate here in our service this morning, and then everybody here is going to come downstairs with us and have lunch & cake & we’ll talk some more & laugh some more and we’ll celebrate what a great thing it is to turn 60.

Way back in 1954, the people of this church – St. James’-Rosemount United Church – didn’t have their own building yet … so this building that we now meet in every week for Beavers, Cubs, Scouts & Venturers – it hadn’t been built. The people of the church started out by having their worship services in the gym of Smithson School, just up the street. Within the first year of being a church, a small group of people had a vision to sponsor a Scouting group. And so our Scouting family was born … our charter – the document that makes us an official group – was granted in February  of 1955 (confirm that it was actually Feb 22, 2015). And so, we are now officially 60.

And, at the age of 60 we – the 24th Kitchener Scouting Family – are the only, continuously running, mid-week youth program that is offered by this church. This community was given the gift of Scouting 60 years ago and for each of those 60 years, without fail, we have been able to keep on giving that gift back. One of the main reasons we gather together today is to say Thank you, St. James’-Rosemount, for setting the example of giving a gift to a neighbour that you hadn’t yet met…the neighbours who have come and gone over 60 years, and hopefully, continue to do so for the next 60 years.

Of course, we are not the only Scouting group out there.

Today, there are over 40 million Scouting members around the world. In Canada alone, there are over 100,000 members; 20% of them are female. And we here at 24th Kitchener are a part of that.

Scouts Canada is a highly diverse organization that welcomes all people regardless of gender, race, culture, religious belief, sexual orientation or economic circumstances – so it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl, or where you ancestors came from, or what church you go to (or if you go to church) or how much money your family has …. None of that matters in Scouting.

For more than 100 years, Scouts Canada has brought a world of adventure, outdoor experience and friendship to over 17 million Canadian youth. And today we celebrate the fact that for 60 of those 100 years, the partnership of the 24th Kitchener Scouting Family and St. James’-Rosemount has touched the lives of thousands of young people in our neighbourhood by offering a program based on those 3 original, basic principles:

Duty to God … Duty to Others … Duty to Self.

Imagine how much has happened in 60 years; imagine how much there is to celebrate and give thanks for. And what better way to do it than in true “Scouting style” …. with a good ole’ fashioned campfire. We’ll sing some silly songs, and maybe have a skit and a cheer and a story, just like we did at winter camp and fall camp. In a few minutes, many of you will come up and sit around our campfire to be part of that …

Singing of On My Honour

The Campfire

Campfires aren’t meant to be concerts or performances … they’re an “everybody in the pool” kind of deal. Everybody participates. They are a time when your age has absolutely no bearing on the amount of fun you have; young & old laugh together at the same corny skits; young & old stand side by side doing their best to follow the actions and remember the words to the fast paced songs. Age doesn’t matter at a campfire.

A typical campfire has a rhythm to it … a life cycle …and it bears a great resemblance to life itself. As it grows in strength, our campfire time builds in energy and excitement through action songs, lively songs, skits, and cheers. At its peak, we move into a time of calming down, a time of quieter songs; a time to listen to stories or thoughts that give us something to think about.

And as with everything that has life, the time comes when the campfire must come to an end.

And so at this time I would invite our Campfire Chief, Scouter David, to officially close our campfire …. Scouter David …..

A fire, in its later life, goes dim. No longer does it have the fierce brightness of its youth. Still, it gives a gentle, steady warmth, just as an elderly man or woman shares the warmth of understanding and the steadiness of experience.

And, this is a fact of life: all things must die. The memory of those passed on lives deep and dear in our hearts. This fire will fade to cold ash, but its flame will glow in our memory.

When it comes right down to it, 60 really isn’t all that old, but a lot sure can happen in 60 years.

In just 60 years, our Scouting family – 24th Kitchener – has:

– attended 11 Jamborees
– seen 50 fall camps and countless winter camps … that’s a lot hotdogs over the fire and hot chocolate to keep you warm at night
– we’ve tied thousands of knots, served over 5,000 pancakes, sold over 10,000 Christmas trees, hiked more kilometres than any of us count, collected over 5 tonnes of food for the Food Bank to help our neighbours in need
– we’ve eaten breakfast outside in the snow, fed chickadees out of our hands, learned about butterflies, toured recycling facilities & sewage treatment plants, attended city council meetings,
– we’ve built snow huts and slept overnight in them …we’ve slept out in -22 Celcius
– we’ve shut the t.v. off and walked away from the computer so that we could go out and learn how to canoe on flat water and on white water; learn how to shoot a bow & arrow
– we’ve slept under the wing of a WWII fighter plane, flown in an airplane for the first time, set up a tent for the first time, ate our own cooking for the first time, used an outhouse for the first time, travelled to the top of a mountain, and worked up the courage to get up in front of 100 people we don’t know and participate in a Scouting service

And yes, this movement continues to be one that focuses on our youth … helping them realize and achieve their potential … providing them with opportunities to experience things in Scouting that they might not otherwise have the chance to do ….

That is why we do it ….

But I would be remiss if we left here today without acknowledging and thanking “who” does it ….

We owe a great deal to our youth members who happen to be in their 40’s, or 50’s … or up … the ones who  give up their personal vacation time, their family time, and share their patience, their sense of humour, their acceptance, their knowledge … they give it willingly and selflessly ….they give it to help deliver  that once-in-a-lifetime jamboree experience to a Scout or Venturer, or to encourage a Cub who has never been away from home overnight before to come to camp, or to offer a safe place to the youth who struggles to be accepted anywhere else … they give to help our young people experience what it means to share … to take them winter camping – many for the first time, to sing crazy songs around a campfire, to explore a pumpkin patch, to go sailing for the first time …

…they give to open up a world of endless possibilities of Doing Your Best and respecting each other. And they have families backing them, giving the support that is needed to make it happen and keep it fun.

These are, of course, our Scouters – the ones behind the scenes and on the front line, so to speak … and I referred to them as our youth in their 40’s and up because let’s face it, an old 50 year old would NOT think it fun to head out into the wild blue yonder with a group of youth – most of whom are not his or hers – to sleep on the ground, in a tent for 8 days & have fun doing it … but a young 50 year old would, and does … and an old 60 year old would not get excited about and look forward to racing off for the weekend to sleep on a plywood bunk in a dusty, drafty barn with over 40 youth … none of which belong to him or her …. But a young 60 year old would, and does …

Today’s celebration is about and is for ALL of the youth of 24th Kitchener – no matter how many candles will be on your next birthday cake. Today, we’re all 60, and we’re proud of it!

At some point this morning, you probably noticed that the colours of our campfire smoke include our Scouting colours. Those colours represent the many songs, skits, cheers, laughs and friendships that have taken place around campfires at Scout camps and events over the past 60 years. Although the fire itself cannot last forever, there is a part of it that we can carry with us in our memories, in our friendships, and in the anticipation of the next time we will gather as brothers and sisters in Scouting around that warm fire to sing about camels with 2 humps, and sharks, and little red wagons … and other songs that really make not much sense, but sure are a lot of fun to sing…. and we carry with us the memories of the skits done by the young and the young at heart … skits that perhaps don’t make much sense, but they sure are fun to do and to watch … and we carry the stories that teach us something … and the quieter, gentler songs that touch our hearts …

As in past years, today you will go home with something that we hope helps you remember 60 years of Scouting, 60 years of campfires and all that they hold.

There is a tradition in Scouting that when you go to a campfire, you bring with you ashes from campfires past, and when the embers have died down and the ash is cool, you take a small amount of that campfire with you. By giving and taking from each campfire, using the same small container, you hold with you the glow from each one you’ve been to. The memories – the friendships – the Spirit of Scouting travels with you in that small container of ashes.

And so this morning, we are sending you home with a small container of campfire ashes to symbolize 60 years of memories.

While our young helpers are distributing the packages, I leave you with parting words from the founder of the Scouting movement, Lord Robert Baden Powell:

“Dear Scouts – If you have ever seen the play “Peter Pan” you will remember how the pirate chief was always making his dying speech because he was afraid that possibly when the time came for him to die he might not have time to get it off his chest. It is much the same with me, and so, although I am not at this moment dying, I shall be doing so one of these days and I want to send you a parting word of good-bye.

Remember, it is the last time you will ever hear from me, so think it over. I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have as happy a life too.

I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness doesn’t come from being rich, nor merely from being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can enjoy life when you are a man.

Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.

But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. “Be Prepared” in this way, to live happy and to die happy- stick to your Scout Promise always- even after you have ceased to be a boy – and God help you to do it.

Your friend, Robert Baden Powell

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