Some of you may have Scouts BSA or Venturers in your families who are in the process of becoming members of the Order of the Arrow. Just when you thought you were getting a grasp on Scouting, they threw something new at you!
The Order of the Arrow is Scouting’s national honor society. OA members are dedicated to the ideal of “cheerful service”. They also encourage other Scouts to participate in camping events.
To be eligible, Scouts must be First Class rank or higher. Venturers must have earned the Discovery Award. Scouts and Venturers must have 15 days and nights of camping in the past two years. That must include one long term camp (summer camp), but you cannot count more than one long term camp when counting up nights. Members are elected by the members of their Troop – including those who are not OA members.
The induction ceremony is called the Ordeal. This involves some service and looking inward. Scouts and Venturers must also sleep “apart from others”. For our group who were elected at camp this year, this caused some anxiety in the parents when their sons took off with just their ground cloths and sleeping bags, but I assured them that it is a perfectly safe experience. The Scouts were not dumped in the woods in a survival situation.
Order of the Arrow members generally do not give specifics about the ceremonies. This is not because there is anything outrageous going on, but because the experience is more meaningful if new members experience it without any expectations of what is going to happen. Parents who are concerned about what happens at the ceremonies can watch, but are asked to keep the experience to themselves so they don’t diminish it for other potential members.
Adults can also become members. This is less as an honor and more to help the Scouts with the experience. I became a member of Shawnee Lodge #51 last year. So now, I go on the OA campouts and to events and provide adult leadership to our Scouts who are participating in the organization.
This is a very worthwhile society. If your sons or daughters are new members, encourage them to do more than just complete the Ordeal. They should stay involved and fully participate. For those who do, there are further honors, called Brotherhood and Vigil. My sons and my husband are all Brotherhood members.