(Press release) Presbyterians have always been open to service and missions. Before the Boy Scouts of America was formed, some Presbyterian churches embraced scouting. The need was especially obvious after so many wars. In England, Lord Baden-Powell, who had fought in several areas, determined that the young men needed wholesome, faith-based training to prevent such wars ever again. He created an organization to help young men across the world join in faith, love of the outdoors and brotherhood across beliefs and nationalities. He wanted to equip young people to grow in faith, understanding and service. This idea resounded with people tired of war and the devastation it wrecked.
Some visitors to Europe learned of the movement among young men to create a faith-based, international effort. They too wanted to bond individuals and nations as hope of ending the threat of wars. Additionally, ministers, came from England and other parts of Europe and established scouting in their church outreach program in Canada and the United States.
Thus, many troops existed before the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was organized. Then, W.D. Boyce learned of scouting in England, supposedly from a young scout who did a “good turn,” helping him one foggy night. Consequently, Boyce visited the British scouting headquarters, bought a copy of “Scouting for Boys,” and through this unknown Scout, inspired the philanthropic Boyce to help finance the start-up of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
Once BSA was officially created in 1910, many of the existing troops joined. In 1918, Presbyterian churches hosted the first Scout Sunday, officially recognizing scouting as a ministry of the church. Later, the National Association of Presbyterian Scouters (NAPS) was incorporated in the state of Texas in 1986. In 1988, NAPS became linked with the Education and Congregational Nurture Ministry Unit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), but continues to recognize and work closely with all Presbyterian congregations.
NAPS has a regional structure consistent with that of the Presbyterian Church, and is represented on the B.S.A. Religious Relationships Support Committee and the Protestant Committee on Scouting. NAPS enjoys a good relationship and representation with Programs for Religious Activities with Youth (P.R.A.Y.). Presently, there are approximately 3,600 Presbyterian-sponsored B.S.A. packs, crews and troops. Included in that number are almost 60 Presbyterian churches that, by the end of 2018, will celebrate 100 or more years of Presbyterian-sponsored Scouting.
All of this historical rooting continues to flourish despite many program changes over the years. To celebrate the centennial anniversary of Presbyterian scouting, the National Association of Presbyterian Scouters, teamed with B.S.A., will host two tents at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree July 19 to July 28 at the Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve in West Virginia. One tent will focus on the National Association of Presbyterian Scouters and the other will be the Presbyterian Scouting Centennial tent. Among items in the NAPS tent will be new B.S.A. video on Presbyterian scouting, a photo op with John Knox, self-decorated John Calvin fans and materials related to Presbyterian scouting. They will also host meetings with Presbyterian ministers and chaplains.
The Centennial tent will feature Presbyterian scouting history, particularly focusing on displays from the troops that will be 100 years old or older by the end of 2018. There will be a large blue velvet banner draping the walls of the Centennial tent which will feature patches from as many Presbyterian troops, crews and pack as possible. Any group wanting to celebrate their troop’s 100 or more years or add their patches to the permanent tent banner, should contact Amanda Ballenger, NAPS Communications Director, P.O. Box 2097, Leesville, SC 29070; email [email protected]; or phone 803-920-4061.
AMANDA BALLENGER is the communications director for the National Association of Presbyterian Scouters.