New Blog: Tawny’s Tales

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Proudly announcing the launch of a new blog: Tawny’s Tales: sharing ideas for Brownie Guiders.

I’ve been mulling for a while about this as a project and after a really positive response on Twitter this week about glow in the dark bowling we did as part of a blackout night for the Big Brownie Birthday badge, I thought it was about time to get cracking.

I love being involved in Guiding; it hits many of my nails on the head. It is voluntary work, making a difference directly into people’s lives, social action and working with girls and young women. Oh and it is bloody good fun.

I’ll be sharing ideas that hopefully will help other Brownie Guide leaders. I know I really appreciate it when people share ideas and experiences that help me plan well. It can be really easy to fall into a “oh crap what have we got in the craft box” routine. The three leaders at our unit decided we needed to break that habit and we’re really aiming to make 1st Booker Brownies the best on the planet! Well, we’re giving it a go and none of us can do it alone so Tawny’s Tales was born.

Girlguiding, Church and an overdue restating of affairs

toadstoolI’ve separated this [rant] out from another blog as it seems to have taken on a life of it’s own!

Had the Church of England’s General Synod actually discussed Christianity being side-lined in society this week, when discussing the loss of the word ‘God’ in the Girlguiding promise, I probably wouldn’t have such a bug up my butt. When I read the background documents, spluttering at the inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the Girlguiding organisations, I was angry but I understood the intention. However, that intention never materialised.

That the Church of England recognises the importance of Girlguiding is great. We are the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK.  We also have a massive worldwide presence working on equality, women’s rights, education and more by engaging with girls early. We teach leadership, build girl’s confidence and raise their aspirations.

No one from Girlguiding was consulted during the compilation of the motion and no one was asked to speak before the Synod. A few ambassadors spoke on our behalf but Guiding representatives had to queue for the public gallery along with everyone else.

The Synod may have intended to debate the promise as a reflection of the loss of God in the secular environment, but had seemingly (from the background documents) based their position on a few anecdotal conversations and newspaper reports, which are not reliable.

The Synod agreed to ask GirlGuiding to offer an alternative so those who want to can promise to God and the next day in the press there was a lot of claiming of victory. Girlguiding released a statement (reproduced in full below) responding specifically to one story in the Daily Mail but those doing the happy dance missed the fact that the position outlined was the current one. Any girl can say anything she likes as part of the promise ceremony but the promise wording is set.

Today the Daily Mail has printed a misleading and inaccurate piece suggesting that we have changed our position on the Promise and are considering offering an alternative. This is not the case.

While Girlguiding remains committed to ensuring all girls have the opportunity to be involved in guiding, we are also fully committed to one Promise for all and the wording that resulted from the consultation.

The article refers to guiding units in Jesmond Parish Church. We did recently meet with some of the members and leaders and suggested to them a way forward. However that suggestion did not include changing the wording of our new Promise or compromising Girlguiding’s commitment to having just one Promise for all girls. Discussions are continuing with the group.

The Chief Guide, Gill Slocombe has since written a strong piece in the Huffington Post reiterating that the option to include God in the promise ceremony that was celebrated as a victory was the one that was available all along.

I was really glad Guiding didn’t capitulate at all and were strong in their response even if it was spun in the media. There was a huge consultation on the changes to the promise, which was open to anyone inside and outside the organisation. The CofE could have and should have got involved then rather than passing judgement a year later.

For Girl Guiding to have offered any change at this point would have created a two tier promise, a “right and wrong” scenario and undermined the entire consultation process. It would have undermined their integrity and they wouldn’t have been able to run a democratic process like it again.

The National Secular Society accused the Synod of bullying and I this it looked that way too. You don’t stand on a stool and denounce something that was done fairly, openly and say you’re oppressing people if you haven’t taken the chance to speak when invited. Be really informed, and engage with the other parties. Listen to some people who have a different view. I couldn’t believe the spin in the Synod documents, talk of the old promise being ‘jettisoned’ and replaced with a whole new promise. It really hasn’t been.

It made the Synod look foolish. We all know they move glacially slowly, sometimes for  good reasons, but to bring this motion a year and change after the event raises serious questions to be answered over how this motion got to the floor of the synod at all. If the only information the members of the Synod had were the background documents, they were all sorely mislead on facts and the hyperbole and scaremongering in the documents beggared belief.

“Most Guide units meet in church premises and for all these units to now be banned from  being able to say in the promise that I ‘love my God’ cannot be right. …..They are being forced to choose between faith and Girl guiding.  It is also a wonderful opportunity for girls to hear about God and the Lord Jesus Christ when learning to understand what the Promise means. This then is a serious Gospel issue.”

Harrumpf.

Not one girl is made to choose between Girlguiding and faith.  I wrote a series of blogs last year about why I think this is the case. Links below.

I’m really not sure how the fact we meet in church buildinfs leads to a direct correlation that the girls in those units are going to be frustrated they can’t promise to God.  Are the religious preferences of a person related to where the group they go to can afford the rent? My understanding is that Guides and Scouts meet in churches because historically they were the only places with large enough spaces for community groups to meet. My Brownie unit meet in a church because it was free (it’s not anymore, understandably.) We’re not named after the church but the neighbourhood in which we meet.

And as for the promise being a chance to evangelise, well we might well talk to girls about Jesus when talking through the promise or work towards or Discovering Faith badge, but equally we’d talk about other faiths and agnosticism and atheism. Girl Guiding is NOT an outreach mechanism for the Anglican church, thank you very much. Do the CofE really look at Girlguiding as a mechanism for conversion? This sort of underhand, opportunistic evangelism is part of the reason why I left the CofE.

I have even heard of a church putting attendance at Church Parade into the terms and conditions of rent with Guide companies, suggesting if they don’t attend, they won’t receive a discounted rent anymore.  There is no grace or true generosity there. This also represents a shameful manipulation of girls, that they will have pressure put on them to attend church, not for reasons of faith. I can’t imagine how any church would want this to be the way to fill their building but it not an isolated occurrence.

Also can this really be representative of something a large proportion of the Anglican communion is worried about? If it had been about the secularisation of society I’d have understood (even if personally I struggle with the idea of secular v spiritual.) If it had been well researched, if someone had shown the motion to Girlguiding so they could help get it right before hand, it might have been a useful exercise for both parties.

But my conclusion from this whole event is that the Church are worried that they are losing influence and control over groups that have previously been thought of as ‘on their side.’ Maybe people did believe Girlguiding was a Christian organisations and therefore the church looked good by extension through the work Girlguiding was doing.

Perhaps Girlguiding has benefited from that arrangement too but now we finally stand alone, our position clear.

Whatever your beliefs you are welcome in Girlguiding. We’ll stand by you, encourage you, help you identify your passions and talents, develop them and hopefully set you on a course to be a confident, active member of your community however you define it. We won’t judge you or turn you away for living life differently.

I wish I was describing the church I was a member of for 30+ years but I’m not. I don’t want to tar all parts of the CofE with the same brush but as the representative body, the Synod did some significant damage this week.

See my other blogs on the promise itself and why I don’t think girls are being asked to choose between Girlguiding and faith:

The Girl Guiding promise is not an island

To do my best: further reflections on the promise

I promise, doubts flaws and all

Also see: Rev Miranda Threlfall-Holmes fantastic blog on her experience at a Girlguiding promise ceremony and why it made her think the church could learn from guiding.

Saturday Stuff 15/2/14

toadstoolBest – politely put shut up and bog off – press release of the week

Today the Daily Mail has printed a misleading and inaccurate piece suggesting that we have changed our position on the Promise and are considering offering an alternative. This is not the case.

While Girlguiding remains committed to ensuring all girls have the opportunity to be involved in guiding, we are also fully committed to one Promise for all and the wording that resulted from the consultation.

The article refers to guiding units in Jesmond Parish Church. We did recently meet with some of the members and leaders and suggested to them a way forward. However that suggestion did not include changing the wording of our new Promise or compromising Girlguiding’s commitment to having just one Promise for all girls. Discussions are continuing with the group.

Had the General Synod actually discussed Christianity being side-lined in society this week, when discussing the loss of the word ‘God’ in the Girlguiding promise, I probably wouldn’t have such a bug up my butt. When I read the background documents, spluttering at the inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the Girlguiding organisations, I was angry but I understood the intention. However, that intention never materialised.

That the Church of England recognises the importance of Girlguiding is great. We are the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK.  We also have a massive worldwide presence working on equality, women’s rights, education and more by engaging with girls early. We teach leadership, build girl’s confidence and raise their aspirations.

No one from Girlguiding was consulted during the compilation of the motion and no one was asked to speak before the Synod. A few ambassadors spoke on our behalf but Guiding representatives had to queue for the public gallery along with everyone else.

The Synod weren’t debating the loss of God in the secular environment, but had seemingly (from the background documents) based their position on a few anecdotal conversations and newspaper reports, which are not reliable. The Synod agreed to ask us to offer an alternative so those who want to can promise to God and the next day in the press there was a lot of claiming of victory. Girlguiding released a statement responding specifically to one story in the Daily Mail but those doing the happy dance missed the fact that the position outlined was the current one. Any girl can say anything she likes as part of the promise ceremony but the promise wording is set.

I was really glad Guiding didn’t capitulate at all and were strong in their response even if it was spun in the media.

There was a huge consultation on the changes to the promise, which was open to anyone inside and outside the organisation. The CofE could have and should have got involved then rather than passing judgement a year later.

For Girl Guiding to have offered any change at this point would have created a two tier promise, a “right and wrong” scenario and undermined the entire consultation process. It would have undermined their integrity and they wouldn’t have been able to run a democratic process like it again.

Honestly, I’ve never been that keen on a promise at all, or certainly think we should make it when we’ve been on the Guiding journey longer than a few weeks which is when we make it now.

The National Secular Society accused the Synod of bullying and I this it looked that way too. You don’t stand on a stool and denounce something that was done fairly, openly and say you’re oppressing people if you haven’t taken the chance to speak when invited. Be really informed, and engage with the other parties. Listen to some people who have a different view. I couldn’t believe the spin in the Synod documents, talk of the old promise being ‘jettisoned’ and replaced with a whole new promise. It really hasn’t been.

It made the Synod look foolish. We all know they move glacially slowly, sometimes for very good reasons, but to bring this motion a year and change after the event raises serious questions to be answered over how this motion got to the floor of the synod at all. If the only information the members of the Synod had were the background documents, they were all sorely mislead on facts and the hyperbole and scaremongering in the documents beggared belief.

“Most Guide units meet in church premises and for all these units to now be banned from  being able to say in the promise that I ‘love my God’ cannot be right. …..They are being forced to choose between faith and Girl guiding.  It is also a wonderful opportunity for girls to hear about God and the Lord Jesus Christ when learning to understand what the Promise means. This then is a serious Gospel issue.”

Harrumpf.

I’m really not sure how the fact we meet in churches leads to a direct correlation that the girls in those units are going to be frustrated they can’t promise to God.  Are the religious preferences of a person somehow related to where the group they go to can afford the rent? My understanding is that Guides and Scouts meet in churches because historically they were the only places with large enough spaces for community groups to meet. My Brownie unit meet in a church because it was free (it’s not anymore, understandably.) We’re not named after the church but the neighbourhood in which we meet.

And not one girl is being forced to choose between faith and Guiding.

And as for the promise being a chance to evangelise, well we might well tell girls about Jesus when talking through the promise, but equally we’d talk about other faiths and none. Girl Guiding is NOT an outreach mechanism for the Anglican church, thank you very much. Do the CofE really think these girls come to us as blank slates ready to be co-opted into the Church? This sort of underhand, opportunistic evangelism is part of the reason why I left the CofE.

I have even heard of churches putting attendance at Church Parade into the terms and conditions of rent with Guide companies, suggesting if they don’t attend, they won’t receive a discounted rent anymore.  There is no grace or true generosity there.

Also can this really be representative of something a large proportion of the Anglican communion is worried about? If it had been about the secularisation of society I’d have understood. If it had been well researched I’d have thought ok. If someone had shown the motion to GirlGuiding so they could help get it right before hand, it might have been a useful exercise.

I approve wholeheartedly of the wording which we’ve been using since September. See my other blogs on the promise and its content.

The Girl Guiding promise is not an island

To do my best: further reflections on the promise

I promise, doubts flaws and all

Best – that’s how I wanted to say it – blog of the week.
Holy Trinity Brompton and the New Form of British Evangelicalism at Alastair’s Adversaria

HTB often strikes me as an example of a highly successful ecclesial adaptation to contemporary capitalism. Implicit within its approach are new models of the Church, the world, and the Christian. The Christian is now the religious consumer, to whom the Church must cater. The Alpha Course (whose approach has been imitated by many others) is a polished and franchised showcasing of Christian faith in a manner that minimizes the creative involvement of the local church. It provides a technique of evangelism and discipleship along with a vision of Christianity in which the distinct voice and authority of the local church are downplayed in favour of a predictable, uniform, and airbrushed product. The danger is that evangelism becomes the implementation of a standard series of marketing scripts, rather than the practice of a distinct voice of local witness.

Best bringing it altogether blog.

For anyone who has ever said – well of course it is a stereotype, sterotypes are based in truth…and ended their discussion there…

What have toys got to do with violence against women? At Let Toys be Toys by Liz Ely Of Zero Tolerance

If ‘girl’ is such a potent insult, what are we teaching boys about girls? But isn’t that just nature? Some people might suggest that stereotypes mimic natural behaviour; however evidence shows that stereotypes shape behaviour too.

Best – tongue in cheek but making a really important point – blog
If men got the Titus 2 treatment….by Rachel Held Evans

The curse of Genesis 3 clearly describes man’s primary activity as difficult physical labor. “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,” God declares in Genesis 3:19.

The men of Scripture—Abraham, Isaac, Sampson, Daniel, Jesus, Peter, Paul—are men of action whose occupations centered around physical labor like farming, shepherding, carpentry, tent-making, and fighting animals with their bare hands. (Note: any exceptions to this trend should be immediately discounted as irrelevant anomalies.) Nowhere in Scripture is a man of God described as sitting at a desk in an office building from nine to five.  Nowhere. 

To do my best: further reflections on the revised Guiding Promise

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I took my Brownies away on Pack Holiday last weekend. We spend a glorious couple of days in the Buckinghamshire countryside at a purpose built home. There was little sleep, a few bruises, lots of giggles, zombies, map making, ice lollies and we all got our Out and About badges.

On the Sunday morning after duties were done, I took the Ladybird six to prepare for Brownies Own, a small service, for want of a better word, that we always hold on Sunday mornings on Pack Holiday. The idea is it gives us all a time to reflect on the weekend and be thankful. The girls picked a couple of well known songs and a few prayers to read. They also asked each girl to state what they were most thankful. It is always a really lovely time.

In preparing for Brownies Own we pulled some books off the resource shelf at the house, most of which have been gathering dust there for many years. I found a brilliant little book called: To do my best, reflections on the promise and the law.

With all the hoo haa about the revised promise recently I was delighted to read a really rounded set of short reflections on the promise, which while supporting a faith based approach to Guiding, recognise the value of Guiding being more than that, and how we must aim to be inclusive. The bit of the new promise which has received the most criticism is surely the “I will be true to myself” portion. I wrote a blog, The Promise is not an island, on my views. The book I found is copyrighted so I beg forgiveness in publishing a couple of extracts here.

[The Promise] should be a Promise that grows with us, not one we need to grow into. Our promise allows individual interpretation and is not written in stone, but is a ubilding block, a code for life which increases our understanding and enjoyment of daily experiences.

As experiences change,  the interpretation of the code will also develop, adding new meaning to the initial words spoken.

A Guider is responible for creating opportunities and supporting the girls while they mature and grow in accorance with the Law.

Guiding belongs to girls of today. It is up to us as their Guiders to see that they have fun living by a code they understand.

And a second piece which really went home:

Let’s try and give people a pride in themselves.

Often pride is immediately jumped on as a quality which promotes self to the detriment of others, but this need not necessarily be so. Pride is a quality which needs to be worked at, it needs to be balanced with other characteristics of our personalities and aspects of life and yes, I think we should be giving young people a pride in themselves.

  • Pride in the talents and gifts they have been given, and direction to use these in the service of others rather than seeking glory solely for themselves.
  • Pride in who they are, as people journeying through life, often taking wrong turns and arriving at dead ends, but honest travellers, seeking a destination in life and who have respect for their fellow travellers.
  • Pride as young people who belong to a Movement, who have said that in the Promise and Law there is a code for living and a vision of an ideal they want to ascribe and aim for.

Be true to yourself and you will be true to others.

I wish I could publish the whole thing! It was written in 1996, compiled by the Law Resources writing group with a lovely forward by HRH The Princess Margaret. There are a couple floating around on Amazon but not cheaply.

Now the dust is settling and we have had chances to speak to our girls and young women about the promise, it would be interesting to hear any thoughts you have on the above, or what girls have been saying to you.