by Kate Harrington
On February 2, 2019, a small group of witnesses at All Souls Episcopal Church attended the induction of the first District all-girl troop of Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Troop 248 is comprised of twenty girls, ranging from ten to seventeen. The Declaration of Formation was ordained by Mariann Budde, the Bishop of Washington. Fitting that a woman inducted the first all-girl troop in the District, Budde discussed the notion of beginnings, as she described this troop as “the beginning of something noble.”
“I have every confidence that this particular endeavor, because of the values that are upheld and transmitted through Scouts, will come back to your daughters one hundred fold,” said Budde, addressing the parents of the Scouts. “As you watch them grow and develop skills, and increase in confidence and joy, that you may feel the reward and the goodness of what you’re making possible for them.”
After encouraging and giving weight to this beginning, Budde then initiated the troop. Each girl raised three fingers in the air and recited the oath, which entails three commitments: physical strength, mental alertness, and moral soundness. Scoutmaster Craig Burkhardt expounded upon each of these, but lingered on moral soundness as the most important component. Burkhardt, along with six Associate Scoutmasters, committed to helping this troop fulfill their moral and physical duties.
Along with solidarity, the members of All Souls Church accentuated the newfound inclusivity of BSA. Although the ceremony took place in an Episcopal church, and was formally inducted by a bishop, Rector Jadon D. Hartsuff made a clear distinction to the use of ‘God’ in the Scout’s oath: “This means God in the broadest and most inclusive sense.”
While no longer restricting girls from entering BSA, Hartsuff affirmed that the program was inclusive to boys and girls of all creeds. It was made clear that BSA was not affiliated with one specific religion, and is now open to anyone who embraces the oath.
Troop 248 made the unanimous decision to stay a small female group (while making a controversial decision to decline an offer to join the ‘super-girl’ troop). A father of one of the Scouts, and a member of the church, said he was happy that the group decided to stay one small, all-girl troop. While there will be many co-ed activities, he believes that keeping Troop 248 completely female will “build solidarity.” As far as his daughter was concerned, she joined the Scouts for the activities, and is most looking forward to being outdoors and attending horse camp.
When asked why girls should be allowed into BSA, Susan Snare, Assistant Scoutmaster, responded, “It is a truly amazing and wonderful program. You know, they don’t give parents a handbook on how to raise a kid, but the closest thing is Scouting. And I think everyone should have the opportunity to experience this program because it is truly amazing.”