St George, good neighbours and campfires!

Address given at the District Scouts’s St’ George’s Day Service, 23rd April 2017

Today, St. George’s Day, we celebrate and feel proud of – our country and our achievements – and of the Scouts and our achievements: We’re celebrating who we are – and how proud we are of all the people like us.

And I for one think that is a good thing to do – we are helping each other to feel good about ourselves and recognising that we need each other to be part of something bigger than ourselves – our Scouts group and our country.
But it feels a bit strange to me, this year, to be marking St. George’s Day – following the Brexit vote – and just a few weeks after our government started the process of taking our country out of the European Union.

Here we are celebrating our national day as normal, but also having to work out again what “being British” actually means – what being English actually means –
and how our country now fits in with the rest of the world.
And I think we’ll need to be careful to spot the difference – between people who are just proud of their own country – and those who actually want to separate themselves off from everyone else.

In our own minds, we need to try not to divide the world into “people who are like us” and people who are not like us.

In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches us that “our neighbour” is anyone, and everyone, who needs our help.

No matter what we look like or sound like, no matter what religion we follow or what language we speak – to Jesus we are all neighbours.

So, yes, we can and should be proud of who we are, but we also need to be generous in the way we look at other people “outside” our own country AND in the way we treat the “strangers” who are here with us – people who’ve come from another country and made their home here.

These are our neighbours, Jesus says, just as the Samaritan was a good neighbour to the Jewish man in our story.

I hope that all of you are proud of whichever Scouts group you belong to – whether Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, or Explorers, Sea Scouts, Air Scouts or anyone else I’ve forgotten!

But I hope that you also feel proud when you join together with other groups from around the District – for occasions like this.
It’s good to really know the people in our own group – but it’s also good to know that there’s a much bigger group of people all doing the same kind of things that we do, and to know that we belong to them as well.

And if you’re ever lucky enough to get to one of the bigger meetings – perhaps with Scouts from other countries – you’ll get an even better sense of what it means to be part of the Scouting movement – which spreads around the world.
There are Scouts who wear uniforms very different from any of yours, there are Scouts whose language and culture would seem very strange to us – and yet, they too are proud to be Scouts. And it’s good for all of us to remember and celebrate just how big and varied that movement really is.

Whether you are part of 1st Wilton, Old Sarum, 1st Boscombe Down, Tisbury, Bourne Valley, Fisherton Explorers, or somewhere else entirely – you are first of all a Scout – part of the worldwide Scouting Movement.

No matter which country you come from, you are first of all a child of God – part of the one human family.

So, be proud of who you are and of those people closest to you – God has made you special and unique – but don’t let that pride turn you against everyone else.

It’s only by working together –
with people like us and with those who are different –
that we discover just how good we really can be and just how much good we can really achieve.scouts 17b