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Orthodox Scouting “Slays Dragons” at Regional Jamboree
by Rev. Michael Johnson
The summer before each national jamboree held by the Boy Scouts of America, a regional version takes place in Washington State at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle. On August 25-28, “Washjam2016” brought together some 4,500 Scouts and adult leaders from the States of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, plus the Canadian Province of British Columbia. While most of the attendees were members of the Boy Scouts of America, there were also participants from Girl Scouts USA.
Washjam2016 included a wide variety of activities, from monkey bridges to climbing towers. But there was also a chance for young people to learn about the religious awards available from many different faiths through Scouting. Manning the Orthodox display were Fr. Michael Johnson, Pacific Northwest outreach coordinator for the EOCS, ( Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting) plus Scout Commissioner John Prekeges and Eagle Scout Chris Macris.
In addition to information about the Church’s religious awards, the Orthodox display featured an icon of St. Alexy, crown prince of Russia. In 1909 Alexy became the world’s first Orthodox Christian Scout. As far as is known, Alexy is also the only Boy Scout of any faith to become a saint. The young prince was only 13-years-old when he and his entire family were put to death by their Communist captors. These atheists were determined to destroy not only religious freedom, but religion itself.
At Washjam, Scouts of many faiths visited the Orthodox site. Here they were challenged to follow the example of Scouting’s patron, St. George by “slaying a dragon.” This was done symbolically by tossing a beanbag, thus earning a “dragon-slayer” badge. More importantly, participants learned that the “dragon” can represent any evil they may encounter – for example bullying in school. Scouts should not only urge a bully to stop “acting like a dragon,” but also befriend a child who has been a bully’s victim.
At previous Washjams, there have been displays by a number of different faiths. But for some reason, at Washjam2016 only the Orthodox Church and the LDS (“Mormon”) Church were present. Under the circumstances, Fr. Michael determined that the Orthodox should provide information on religious awards intended for youth of any faith who visited their display.
Many of the visiting parents thoroughly appreciated this ecumenical gesture by the oldest of Christian Churches. While there are certainly important differences between Orthodox Christianity and other faiths, there is broad agreement on one important truth, that religion is vitally important in the proper development of any growing child.
SOURCE: EOCS – Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting facebook page.
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