Friday, 31 January 2014
The New Girl Guide Promise
The New Girl Guide Promise: from static duty to dynamic faith.
This evening, I was a guest at our local Girl Guides. And I heard the new Girl Guide promise being made for the first time. Not only was it the first time I'd heard it, it was the first time Guides in this unit had become members with the new promise.
Oh, yes? I thought. This is the promise that got rid of God, and replaced it with some vague stuff about 'being true to ourselves'? The one that General Synod are debating the week after next? How ironic, that my visit as vicar coincided with it being used for the first time...
But then, I heard the new Guides rehearsing it. And I was struck by what it had actually changed, and why. Because I hadn't actually realised, in all the rhetoric and fuss about 'duty to God' being replaced by 'being true to myself', that the sentence doesn't end there.
What the promise to do my best to do my 'duty to God' has actually been replaced by is 'to be true to myself and to develop my beliefs'. Well now - that is rather different.
Hearing these young girls promise that, I was struck by a profound sense that this new promise was actually very fitting indeed, and a huge improvement. Not just because it avoids the charge of hypocrisy (and here I hold up my hands - I was an atheist Girl Guide who perjured myself with the old promise!) - after all, one at least of the girls making the new promise tonight is a regular member of our church.
No, the improvement that struck me is that it replaces a static sense of duty with a commitment to development. It is now much more akin to the promises made at baptism or confirmation.
'To do my duty to God' is a promise that embodies a very static, hierarchical view of God and our relationship with him/her. The implication is that this 'duty' is a given, and our only valid option is to obey and do what we are told. Whereas the new promise embraces an understanding of faith and life as something that is, ideally, always growing. I'm still not entirely sold on 'being true to myself', but the more I think about it, the more I love the promise to 'develop my beliefs'.
In fact, this is a far more significant and far more religiously profound promise to make. It commits the new Guide to taking faith seriously, whatever their current beliefs. It commits her to working for her faith development, to accepting, and desiring, that her beliefs will change and grow.
In the church, we spend huge amounts of time and energy trying to achieve culture change from maintenance to mission, from a consumer view of church to a participant view, from a static receptive idea of being a member to a dynamic proactive one. Even among the clergy, we strive - often with little success - to create a culture of continuing professional development, life long learning. The change we want to see is one from seeing faith and discipleship as static reception, to dynamic growth. This change of promise has achieved that at a stroke. It would be not only churlish but perverse for the Church to reject it.