By Cliff Coan
“So, I finally get to meet your mistress?”
That was my wife’s response to an invitation to join me for a UM training conference at the Philmont Scout Ranch.
I guess all the stories I’ve told and all the Philmont caps and t-shirts I wear made an impression on Tracy.
I’ve been to Philmont a total of 10 times as a trekker, two as a Scout and eight as an adult leader, and Tracy knew of its magic gravitational attraction for me.
Tracy was anxious to meet my New Mexico mistress, and the Scouting in the UMC conference would combine two organizations I hold in high esteem.
In the UMC, I serve as a sometime-Sunday school teacher, a praise and worship band bass player, a nominating committee member, a certified lay servant, a member of the church audio/video team, and the person who maintains the church’s website and Facebook pages.
In scouting, I serve as an assistant scoutmaster, a scouting ministry specialist, a Venturing Committee member, a troop committee member, a council executive committee member, and a Venturing Crew adviser.
I founded a Venturing Crew and kept it in theoretical existence up until my conscience and pocketbook told me that I could no longer maintain a “paper crew” for the few times we used it.
Trying to do things right, I worked to get the church on board with a new crew. This turned out to be a lot harder than I expected.
I had one pastor ready to go, when the bishop relocated her and we ended up with a short-timer who retired before I could convince him of the value of a Venturing Crew.
The new pastor was a by-the-book, full-blooded, several-generations-born-and-bred, old-school Methodist and didn’t have scouting on her radar screen.
I needed to find a better approach to scouting in the UMC before I could march back into the church office.
So, when Tracy agreed to go with me to the Philmont Training Center for the United Methodist Conference, I was extremely happy.
I bit the bullet and paid the (highly-reasonable) fee for the conference, threw down the (much-less-reasonable) cash for updating my “official” Venturing uniform, and we left our home in DeLeon, Texas and headed for New Mexico.
On Sunday evening, we checked into our palatial (by my standards) tent, with a floor, cots, a closet and electricity.
When class began on Monday morning, it felt like somebody had turned on a fire hose — no, make that opened a floodgate of knowledge — and I was trying to drink from it.
Information came at us in tsunamis.
I took notes frenetically, recognizing quickly that these old hands knew pretty much everything about these two organizations and how they were designed to work together, and the new hands had lots of ideas.
Everyone was willing and eager to learn from one another. If somebody had a difficulty, somebody else had an idea of how to overcome that difficulty.
While I was in class, Tracy played. We’ve now been to Philmont twice, so I don’t remember which activities she did in which year, but I know she whitewater rafted, participated in COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience), made pottery, beaded, painted, welded, and shot 22s.
In the evenings, spouses and conferees went to opening and closing campfires, a buffalo barbecue, a cobbler night and concert, a performance by the Kwahadi Indian dancers, and chapel services. And there was one free day families could use as they wished.
Tracy and I persuaded the Jewish chaplain to give us a marriage blessing in Hebrew on our anniversary. As every Philmont staffer I have encountered, he was more than willing to be of service, and apparently got a kick out of the service.
The week ended far too soon.
I came away with a major in understanding of how things are supposed to work when they involve scouting and the UMC, a minor in the two languages (Methodist and Scouter) and a ton of tools to help coordinate activities between the two. I also came home with a bunch of awards I can use to recognize Scouts and church leaders along with a plethora of ideas.
Did it make everything daisies and sunshine when I got back to the church and crew?
Honestly, no. But I was able to put together a killer proposal to convince the church to reinstate our lapsed Venturing Crew, and to begin the hard work of actually being a chartered organization — rather than just sponsoring our Scout troop.
I also hope to help make other local churches, the district and the conference become more aware of how scouting can and should be integrated into the daily life of the church.
And Tracy is again willing to visit my mistress any time.
Cliff Coan has a BA and a MA from Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, and he serves as a computer science teacher at DeLeon (Texas) High School.