Church’s big presence at Boy Scout Jamboree
By Joey Butler
GLEN JEAN, W.Va. (UMNS)––It wasn’t hard to find a UM among the crowd of 30,000 attendees at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree.
The UMC is the second-largest faith group represented at the event, with 3,500 at the quadrennial celebration, held July 19-28 at the Summit-Bechtel Reserve.
West Virginia Area Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball presided over the UM Holy Communion service on July 23. She also received the Susanna Wesley Award of Excellence. Larry Coppock, director of scouting ministries for UM Men, was recognized for his 20-year career with the commission. Coppock is retiring in 2018, so this is his last jamboree as director.
There are 15 UM chaplains on the 85-member pastoral support staff at the jamboree.
During the 10-day event, chaplains play a big role. It’s a long time for young people to be away from home, and the same goes for the 1,500 volunteers. Even at such a fun event, it can be a trying experience.
“They use us to diffuse tense situations, maybe arguments, maybe a kid or an adult is dealing with something difficult, homesick or something bad going on at home,” said the Rev. Tanya Edwards-Evans, Mississippi Conference. “We’re here so people know our faces and are OK coming to us with a problem.”
Edwards-Evans is one of only two women pastors on the chaplain staff, so she stays busy as she’s often called to counsel girls and women.
Chaplains serve as peacemakers.
“You’re in a tent with three other people, so you get roommate issues. Volunteers may have issues in their marriages, maybe their spouse didn’t want them to come and there’s tension. It’s just giving people an ear,” said the Rev. Creighton Alexander, Oklahoma Conference.
Alexander said because Scouts have different interests, chaplains move to each program area to pray with them and “tell them we’re here for them.”
The Rev. Terry Tilton, Minnesota Conference, said he stresses how scouting teaches appreciation of the world, “especially nature and our place in it.
Chaplains are on rotation in the medical unit, to minister both to those who are ill and the staff caring for the injured.
“My whole thing is morale,” Edwards-Evans said. “People are exhausted. I make people smile, and I really try to talk to the volunteers. They pay to be here to do hard work like taking out trash.”
In the “Duty to God and Country” tent, youth and adults lined up at the UM Men’s booth to learn more about the denomination’s dedication to scouting ministry. Currently, 324,000 youth meet in 7,000 UM churches in the U.S.
Tom McKee, a scouting ministry specialist from Richmond, Va., said working at the booth is “an awesome opportunity we have here to reach out to the kids,” adding that scouting brought him and his family to join a UM church.
Gil Hanke, top executive of United Methodist Men, said the booth had been busy.
“We’ve been active at our booth giving material on our ministries. A lot of people ask how we do what we do and it’s nice to share that good news,” Hanke said.
Joey Butler is a multimedia editor/producer for UM Communications.