For those not aware of the back ground to this. Guiding held a promise consultation early this year which gave the public and members of all ages, the chance to say what they felt our promise should say.
After first I was disapointed. Promising to serve God was something that was very important to me as a christian but the more and more I thought about it I realised that developing my own beliefs as a christian was something that meant far more to me than attending church, praying and reading a bible. I am a devout christian but I dont attend church and consider some things christians will tell you are acceptable such as sex outside of marriage, women priests or homosexual marriage totally acceptable. These are based on my experience of God as well as reading the bible. They are my own beliefs, not ones someone has told me I should have and I really struggle at times with this and cant be true to them.
I know many people are struggling with the “be true to myself” part and my initial thought on this was that it defended selfishness but then it occured to me that, as a guider and guide, the one thing I have always felt was most important about guiding was that it was the one place I was safe to be me. For so long our promise has taken that away from people and denied them what I hold dear. As a consequence of our not being true to ourselves by forcing people to commit to a God they dont believe in (or in my case a set of values far removed from my experience of God), has denied young people the opportunity to share their faith and explore what they believe further. I also think its intimidating for children who might be scared to open up and from a christian point of view, scares them away from the church. Can I truly love my God when I dont agree with what a vocal minority of christians say I should?
Interestingly, today I attended assembly at the Catholic school my children attend and it was interesting to see the childrens responses to the question, What is God? The wide range of responses, maturity and understanding was amazing. Those children answered that question freely, based on their own experience of God, and every single piece was heartfelt. They were confident in their beliefs, something which as a christian adult I find incedibly difficult because im often made to feel my beliefs go against God.
Guiding has always tried to provide a safe space for young women and increasingly our role has become about dealing with issues effecting young women. As a unit we have dealt with peer pressure, celebrity, self esteme, bullying and probably loads of other things I cant think of. We have rewarded acts of kindness some times and explained to them why behaviour isnt acceptable at other times. All of these things that we do week in week out are teaching the girls that its ok to be themself providing that they help other people and are considerate of the needs of others in their Brownie community. If the promise is the beating heart of everything we do then being true to ourself is one of the most important values in it.
I think we all need to sit down and compare the new promise with the program and in relation to our own lives. I think it opens up a new chapter in relationships between units and churches which embrases the importance of being part of a community in the lives of those children. We need to teach them that they are loved and the door is open when they are ready to explore faith for themself rather than trying to get them into church when they have no interest in what is being said to them and theyd rather be somewhere else. Loving my God has little to do with going to church, exploring my faith has.
So what would my ideal future be? Id like to see the church community get more involved in the units, run events with the young people in mind rather than relying on them to come to church parade. Welcome those families on their terms. Ill never forget the visiting preacher who summed it up perfectly, Go through the bible and work out what Jesus did – yup, he invited everyone for tea. Walking into a church for the first time is tough, imagine walking into a room of strangers when you dont know the “rules”. Imagine instead walking into a room full of friends who you know love you. See the difference?
I have been involved in Guiding for 25 years on and off and find some of the media coverage disgusting. To say were “dropping God” is total nonsense, to say were turning into Nazis is libellous even. What Guiding gives the girls and the wider community is incredible. The hours upon hours we put in, showing the girls we love them for who they are, for no reward outweighs any negatives millions of times over.