When humans participate in ceremony, they enter a sacred space. Everything outside of that space shrivels in importance. Time takes on a different dimension.
– Sun Bear
Every ceremony or rite has a value if it is performed without alteration. A ceremony is a book in which a great deal is written. Anyone who understands can read it. One rite often contains more than a hundred books.
– George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff
Scouting ceremonies for the presentation of awards, raising or lowering of the flag, opening or closing a meeting are “a book in which a great deal is written”.
Ceremony asks us to stop, listen, and share an important moment. Scouting ceremonies are an enunciation of values and aspirations, a celebration of achievement.
Establishing and maintaining ceremony is the Scoutmaster’s job. We needn’t preside over every ceremony but should see that they are properly conducted and respected. We ought to make our ceremonies simple and meaningful.
We may be tempted to change ceremonies often because we fear Scouts will grow bored with them. In my experience Scouts appreciate predictability and familiarity. Repeating the same ceremony also gives scouts more opportunities to understand exactly what is being said.
It’s the job of a Scout-aged boy is to question everything and to seek boundaries. They may act aloof or disinterested, adopt an attitude of insincerity or condescension, or otherwise try to disassociate themselves from what their peers may consider silly or to cover their own stage fright. Expecting and, for the most part, ignoring is usually the best way to handle any awkwardness and the occasional reluctance of some Scouts to participate.
While Scouting ceremonies ought to be formal and meaningful they shouldn’t be staid or flowery. Sincerity is the most important production value, everything else is window dressing. Ceremonies ought to be simple direct and brief: a few words, a salute, a handshake and that’s it.
Saluting, lowering and folding the flag with respect and a sense of moment leaves a greater impression than listening to a lecture on patriotism.
Opening a meeting with the recitation of the Scout oath and law promotes discipline better than rules of conduct listed on the wall.
The formal presentation of an award in a candle lit room is a greater reward than simply handing out badges.