The New Guide Promise

Yesterday I came home to the news that after January-March’s consultation on the Guide Promise, a decision had been made. The promise is changing. Two thoughts sprang to mind. Firstly I was relieved I hadn’t said to Jo to get some more promise cards when she was at the Guide Shop this week. Secondly, I was pleased that the 3 main points I’d hoped would change/stay the same, did.

All members of Guiding had been told to keep quiet until the media announcement today. But as the clock struck twelve the articles started appearing. You know that saying ‘Don’t believe what you read in the papers!‘ – well, today just proved why you shouldn’t. I’ve been utterly appalled this morning as I’ve seen such terrible misleading journalism in tv, online and on paper. First Guiding and Scouting isn’t the same thing (you wouldn’t believe how many newspapers had pictures of girls dressed in Scout uniform). Some people had used pictures of the Old logo and old uniform from over a decade ago. One newspaper droned on about our CEO ‘Julia’ (that’ll be Julie Bentley then!) and her previous job. I haven’t seen one piece of unbiased journalism, and it’s been very unhelpful.

You might remember me writing about the promise back in January. A number of our girls were not comfortable with the wording and what it would mean they were promising to do. I was uncomfortable with allowing and encouraging people to make a promise to a God I avidly believe in that they might not believe in.

So let me take the promise piece by piece to explain why I like it, and why I believe it is a better reflection of what the core values of Girlguiding are. These are my own opinions and is my own interpretation and understanding of the words that are going to be used come September.

I promise that I will do my best:

Let’s start here. I promise is a serious statement to make. It’s a vow, an oath. The words following it should be meant and not taken lightly if you are promising to apply them to your life. We’re not perfect people, so we don’t promise that we will definitely do something, but we make a public commitment that we’re going to do our best to keep our promise!

To be true to myself and develop my beliefs,

This replaces ‘To love my God’. Now, ‘God’ was allowed to be replaced with another word for God (e.g. Allah) if appropriate. However, this was not great for girls who didn’t believe in God or just weren’t sure if they did or not. In fact I know at least one of my girls when we were looking at the promise last Autumn confessed ‘I don’t know if I’m a Christian or not‘.

Exploring spirituality (or as my current counselling training would say ‘exploring the transpersonal aspect’) is important and has always been a core part of Girlguiding and children’s education. Even as a youth and children’s leader in a church context, I would not be comfortable unless we allowed children and young people to ask questions and choose whether or not they believe or don’t believe in something. It’s also important that we allow people to change their beliefs. One of my friends from when I went to Guides used to go to church as a teenager, and is now an atheist. I used to be an agnostic, now I am a Christian.

To be true to ourselves, is key part of having integrity. Girls with faith beliefs should be encouraged to stay true to them even if some of it seems ‘uncool’ to their peers. Equally girls who have no faith beliefs should not feel they have to pretend to believe in something they don’t. I kind of think that ‘To be true to myself‘ is a bit like ‘On my honour‘.

Developing our beliefs means that we are always learning, always evolving and hopefully respecting each other despite differences in what we do or don’t believe in, and not teasing people for not knowing yet for sure.

Now girls who do not love a ‘God’ can keep the first part of the Guide law…. ‘A guide is honest…’

To serve the Queen and my community,

There was a chance that ‘the Queen’ would be taken out, but after the consultation most said they wanted to keep the Queen in. She is our patron, and I think that is great. I’m not sure how I’ll feel if we have a King in future mind you! 😉

One of the things I could never understand was why Senior Section said ‘to serve my community’ but the rest of us didn’t, when a huge part of Girlguiding has always been serving our communities and making them a better place to be. In fact a big part of why I encourage girls to take part in Remembrance Sunday is how it brings communities together and encourages the older generation that even though we ourselves weren’t around when the World Wars occurred, we are working to remember what happened and standing by them in their losses.

As leaders, we are trying to serve our community by providing Guiding programmes in our areas. And community is much more understandable than ‘country’. Community can be local or global, and Guiding has always been a local and international organisation.

To help other people

This was in the old promise and remains the same. I think it’s self explanatory!

and To keep the  Guide Law.

This is the Guide Law:

A Guide is honest, reliable and can be trusted.

A Guide is helpful and uses her time and abilities wisely.

A Guide faces challenges and learns from her experiences.

A Guide is a good friend and a sister to all Guides.

A Guide is polite and considerate.

A Guide respects all living things and takes care of the world around her.

I realise that today, some are not happy with the news of this new wording. I was raging myself when I heard some of the comments from a lady from an organisation called Christian Concern (well, I’m a Christian and I have concerns about Christian Concern). I actually believe that they really missed the boat with this new promise because it is actually actively encouraging leaders to get the girls to think about the words they are saying, what they mean and how we support girls in applying that promise to their life. They are missing an opportunity to help girls keep that part of the promise to ‘develop their beliefs’ and help them learn about the faith they believe in. We have world culture and discovering faith badges for the purposes of girls learning about lots of different things in a way that is less prescriptive than a school curriculum. I also think some of these people representing ‘Christians’ need to take a good look at the bible and notice that the Christian God is one who does not believe in dictatorship but free will and choices. Oh, and community. 🙂

Today, I’m prouder than ever to be part of Girlguiding. I do not feel anymore that I need to be uncomfortable about my faith. I am happy that all our members can make the same promise honestly. I look forward to supporting our girls, present and future, to explore what it means to keep the promise they make.

I’ll end with this message from our Chief Guide…thanks Gill, for representing us so well! 🙂

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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.