In all the various responses to Girlguiding’s new Promise, there is one question that has stuck out. One question that I truly believe needs to be answered now, by everyone who believes in the organisation and what we do. One question that is being whispered by people both within and outside Girlguiding, on various sites and media outlets.
How can you abandon 100 years of tradition?
Funnily enough, that wasn’t the one question I intended to write about, but it is the one that feels most prolific and important right now. It’s the one that’s burning inside me, that I am desperate to answer on Twitter but haven’t the expertise or eloquence to answer in 140 characters.
Tradition is a beautiful thing. It’s embracing the wonderful, varied and rich heritage that we have. Tradition comes in the form of the Promise, the laws, various activities that we do, but traditions do evolve and change over time. We look back to our traditions, but we embrace what works for us as an organisation. Tradition is important, but so is relevance.
But is the wording of the Promise the tradition, or is the act of a Promise and the beliefs it represents the important tradition? Personally, I would say the latter, but I can understand the nostalgic value of past wording.
The truth of the matter, however, is that we are not abandoning 100 years of tradition, but rather making that tradition more explicit. For the last twenty years, Girlguiding has been desperately trying to explain that “love my God” means to develop your beliefs, whatever those beliefs may be. Now, we’re actually saying what we mean, rather than alluding to it through religiously-loaded language. This is not pandering to minorities, it’s not being overly-PC, it’s simply changing the wording to what they meant in the first place.
Of course, to some, the removal of God from the Promise makes us no different to any other youth group. I beg to differ. We still promise to explore our beliefs, we promise to serve our community and help other people. The essence of our Promise is still to look outside ourselves and find value in the world around us, and to give back. That is not the aim of most other youth groups. We still strive to develop our girls and young women give them leadership opportunities, let them speak out for their respective causes. That is also not the aim of most other youth groups.
We are not abandoning 100 years of tradition, we are preserving it.