The Guide Promise

A few months ago, I began a new journey as I worked hard to get a Senior Section Unit up and running. Because Girlguiding UK took SOOOOOO long to get me registered with them, it has created a number of obstaclesBut, it has all been worth it to give a place to encourage 6 fantastic Girlguiding members who had felt they’d outgrown Guides but still wanted to be part of Girlguiding in some way.

For our first term we floundered just trying to help the girls work out what being part of Senior Section meant – it has changed so much since I was a Ranger & Young Leader and gotten way more complicated because EVERYTHING is on a computer (which isn’t too helpful). But one thing was for sure, the girls wanted to remake their promise. And so after finding some activities that ‘looked’ at the promise, from week one we faced a number of challenges as a group because the girls were not happy with the wording, and did not want to make a promise they didn’t believe in.

The UK Girlguiding Senior Section promise is:

I promise I will do my best
To love my God
To serve the Queen and my country
To help other people
To keep the Guide Law and
Be of service to the community.

We had a lot of chat about what it means to do your best, serve the Queen & Country (which brought up debates about the royal family and Scottish independence), serve your community and to love a God. We had a lot of chat about different faiths and beliefs, and it was through this the girls discovered I was a Christian. As someone who grew up not believing in God and was able to study the bible with fresh eyes that hadn’t been tinged with religious add-ons (it’s amazing what church cultures add and make people believe is in bible) I’m a firm believer in letting people choose whether or not they want to believe or worship God. I believe forcing people to make promises in the name of God is offensive to God and quite frankly abusive to people. After a number of meetings with lengthy discussion, I actually told the girls that they could change the sentence about promising ‘to love my God’ as long as it was something that kept the principle of that part of the Guide promise. Some chose to say ‘to respect others beliefs’ or ‘to respect my right to choose what I believe’ and I was okay with that. I realise now that maybe Girlguiding UK would not be happy that I let them do that, but I do not think we were untrue to the core of Girlguiding and its promise, nor did I like the idea of the girls being uncomfortable about essentially lying to their fellow Guides. I also couldn’t understand why as an adult leader I wasn’t to say the added bit about ‘serving the community’ because I believe that’s a huge part of being a Guiding leader.

The announcement of the Promise Consultation has come at the perfect time. When our unit heard, we joked about whether they’d been a fly on the wall at our meetings last term! I believe, like a fellow Christian Guider over at Kelloggsville, that it would be better to take ‘God’ out the promise. I do believe it is important to still have something about respect for beliefs or developing spiritually as one of the cores in guiding, but I think it has to be more encompassing and inclusive so that girls and women can be true to the promise they are making. And I am glad that they are spending time consulting all members of guiding, the parents and outsiders. Knowing now that people have apparently decided not to make the promise or become a member of Scouts & Guides because of the ‘God’ part of the promise makes me sad so it’s important to see what people would be comfortable with if they decided to become part of the Guiding movement.

Some Guide Associations in other countries have already updated their promise. My favourite is Australia’s…

I promise that I will do my best
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs
To serve my community and Australia
And live by the Guide Law.

And I also like Canada’s, though I’m not fond of the wording they’ve chosen.

I promise to do my best,
To be true to myself, my beliefs and Canada.
I will take action for a better world
And respect the Guiding Law

You can see a whole selection of variations on the Scout & Guide promise used by associations in countries all around the world here. I love the use of words like ‘On my honour’. I do wish some of the female members of the royal family were still more prominently seen as Guiding volunteers [insert my usual rant about the Scouts always getting more attention here], as I think perhaps then some wouldn’t have a big hissy fit about serving ‘Queen and Country’. Anyways.

The consultation goes on until Sunday 4th March, and then we’ll wait to find out what the outcome is.