Catholic service at national scouting jamboree

Luke Robb of St Matthew’s L.L.O. Scout Troop, Christchurch, doing a reading
at the Renwick service.


Over New Year, the 21st New Zealand Scout Jamboree was held in Marlborough. Renwick was the venue where more than 4200 scouts and leaders camped for 10 days. Scouts took part in water activities in the Marlborough Sounds, there was an air activities base
at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, as well as activities in and around Blenheim
and Renwick.

Scouting’s aims include the physical, mental, social and spiritual development
of young people. At previous triennial New Zealand Jamborees, Catholic scouts have had their Sunday obligation catered for by Mass on the jamboree site, usually in a marquee. Because of the limited facilities at the jamboree venue in Renwick, the local Church of
St Francis de Sales was chosen as the venue for Mass. Marlborough parish was approached and the parish priest, Fr Pat McIndoe, CP, was happy that a Mass be celebrated at Renwick. Renwick parishioner Litty Newman worked with me and fellow scouting leader, Jane Hansen, (Cambridge), to organise things. St Francis de Sales church, which currently hosts Mass once a month, was opened in 1907 (the same year that scouting began).

A change in priests in the parish over New Year weekend meant neither Fr Pat nor another priest were able to celebrate Mass in Renwick, so Deacon Richard Booker was arranged to lead a Service of the Word with Communion. Deacon Richard, who had been a scout when he was a boy, preached a very appropriate sermon inspired by the final address of scouting’s founder, Lord Baden Powell. Baden Powell’s statement  from 1941 is still valid. Mentioned in this address was “happiness is making others happy”, “try to leave this world in better condition than they found it”, “how God has filled with beautiful and wonderful things this world so they can enjoy” and “God helping one to hold onto the Scout Promise”.

The late afternoon service was held on New Year’s Day. About 60 scouts and leaders walked the few blocks from the jamboree site to the church. Reflecting the international nature of scouting and the Catholic Church, in attendance were Cook Island and Australian scouts. A couple of dozen local parishioners were also present as were some families of scouts who were visiting the jamboree.

A couple of aspects of scouting were included in the service: the scout handshake
using the left hand during the Sign of Peace and singing the Scout Hymn as the closing song.

A collection taken during the service was earmarked for earthquake relief in Marlborough parish. In recognition of Renwick hosting the service, a donation of the same amount was afterwards made to assist the planned repainting of the church.

Badges play a large part in scouting and badge swapping at jamborees is a major activity, so I made a badge to mark the Catholic service. (A Mass was to be held when production of the badge started but when the Mass was changed to a service, it was too late to make changes to the wording). Some badge collectors, (who were of other Christian denominations), even attended the service as they heard that a badge was to be given out. The “new evangelisation” indeed! Scout groups affiliated with Catholic
parishes in New Zealand and Australia wear a badge sewn onto the apex of their scout scarf. The design from that badge was incorporated into the badge produced for jamboree. The large gold circle represents the eternal God and the small gold circle
represents Man. The cross, the traditional symbol of Christians, is at the centre of our
lives. The three colours represent the original three sections of the Scout Movement: yellow for Cubs, green for Scouts and red for Rovers. The Southern Cross identifies
New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere. The two shades of green tie in with the colours from the badge and logo of this year’s jamboree.

Services in Blenheim churches for other Christian denominations were advertised in the jamboree newspaper, but the Catholic service was the only religious service which took place in Renwick and was specially organised for those attending the jamboree. Each troop attending the jamboree was given a booklet of prayers and graces produced by the committee organising the jamboree. Currently there is a proposal to change the wording of the Scout Promise (Oath) which mentions “Duty to (my) God”, to “develop one’s
spiritual beliefs”. This partly reflects the changing nature of New Zealanders’ involvement
in organised religion. Fr Peter Fahy was National Catholic Chaplain for the Scout Association of New Zealand until about a decade ago. Since then this position has been vacant. Maybe another priest is willing to take on this role?

The next New Zealand Jamboree is planned for the first week in January, 2020, in the North Island, (possibly at Mystery Creek, Hamilton or near Taupo). Mass will again be held at this national event for Catholic scouts.

Edmund le Grelle lives in Christchurch and is an associate leader in scouting. When Edmund was part of Christchurch diocese’s Youth Team (as coordinator for World Youth Day in Sydney), he also helped organise the Mass held at the 2008 NZ Scout Jamboree.

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