By Rod Lee
In a rapid-fire and unequivocal expression of disapproval, the Mormon Church severed its century-old partnership with the Boy Scouts of America after the organization announced in October of 2017 that it would open its Cub Scout ranks for the first time to girls age five to ten.
That November, the Girl Scouts sued “Scouts BSA,” claiming trademark infringement.
No such ill will exists, however, between Oxford’s Troop 147 and the Oxford United Methodist Church (OUMC). On the contrary; a special service will be conducted in the sanctuary of OUMC on Sunday, March 24th at 9:00 a.m. to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Troop’s charter with the church.
Troop 147 holds its meetings in the Fellowship Hall of OUMC on Tuesday evenings. The church is located at 465 Main Street.
Troop 147, which was first organized in March of 1942, has called OUMC home since the early 1950s; initially at the church’s former address on Charlton Road (when the Troop was sponsored by the Methodist Men’s Club) and from March of 1952 at 465 Main Street.
All persons interested in the March 24th ceremony are welcome to attend. Refreshments will follow in Fellowship Hall.
Rev. Barry Judd, the church’s pastor, whose enthusiastically received sermons are interwoven with rustic Maine humor, reflecting where his roots lie, and who will officiate the special service on the 24th, said “at Oxford United Methodist we praise God for the relationship He has forged between the Scouts and the church. For generations we have had the privilege to experience young [people] develop into mature citizens and committed leaders of families and communities, both social and spiritual, inside and outside our walls. We are similarly grateful for the life and vitality that this organization infuses into our own mission. We anticipate a growing relationship for many more generations to come, and continue to be eager to support Scouting in every way possible.”
The Troop 147-OUMC tie carries particular meaning for Troop 147 Scoutmaster Mike Zostant and his wife Kim, Mr. Zostant said the evening of February 26th while watching several local Eagle scouts share their experience in Scouting with younger members of Troop 147.
“Both of my sons were baptized here,” he said, referring to Max Zostant, 18, and Sam, 15. “We were looking for something in town for the boys to do…I didn’t know I’d get sucked into it like this!”
Over the years, Troop 147 has distinguished itself with such town-betterment and community-service projects as undertaking cleanups, performing flag ceremonies, tackling invasive vegetation at the Greenbriar recreational area, posting signage at Hodges for trail safety, conducting bottle and can drives and decorating the bandstand at the Oxford Town Common.
Hundreds of boys have benefitted from their involvement with the Troop and a significant number of them including Max Zostant have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, BSA’s highest level. On average, only two percent of all Scouts accomplish this nationally. In Troop 147, historically, that figure has run about nine percent.
In a conversation on March 5th, Max Zostant said he joined Cub Scouts in the first grade and moved into Boy Scouts after that. “It’s been amazing,” he said. “I have traveled places I didn’t think I would be able to, like in 2016 when several of us took a hiking adventure trip to New Mexico. On the last morning there I saw a sunrise from the top of the mountain. It was breathtaking. I have met new people who are kind and nice.”
For his Eagle Scout project, Max rebuilt a science nature cabin for the Clara Barton Diabetes Camp.
He is a senior at Oxford High and will be attending Quinsigamond Community College and then a four-year school for Engineering or Electrical Engineering.
The Troop’s membership is fairly low at the moment with eleven boys under the age of eighteen and several more under twenty-one according to Mr. Zostant. But this hasn’t always been the case, Assistant Scoutmaster Ron Rheault, who has been associated with Troop 147 since 1983, said. Mr. Rheault’s son Tom went through the program and became an Eagle Scout, as did nephews of Mr. Rheault’s.
Tom Rheault was one of three “36-ish” Eagle Scouts who offered remarks at the February 26th meeting.
Mr. Rheault admits the relatively small head count at present is “a concern. We have so many kids who have aged out,” he said. “We haven’t had an influx from the Cub packs.” The downturn is evidence of the cyclical nature of participation, he said. “It happens all the time. We had a big group and poof they’re gone. We had more than thirty at one time. It’s up and down but it shouldn’t be. We would like to have twenty or so.”
Neither man believes the furor caused by BSA’s decision to accept girls into the organization is a big deal. “It doesn’t bother us,” Mr. Zostant said. “The Cub Scouts here have five or six girls. For girls, it would be Troop 147G.” Mr. Rheault agreed, saying the change is not a problem “at this time” although still to be determined is “how the setup is going to work. My daughter would have loved to have the opportunity and now I have two grandkids including a granddaughter who might get that chance. But you need some adults to come forward to lead the girls.”
Mr. Zostant and Mr. Rheault said the conviviality between the Troop’s adult leaders and boys under their supervision is an aspect of the proceedings that everyone enjoys.
“We do a lot of fun things,” Mr. Rheault said. “We try to go on a campout every month. We do summer camp every year and lately we’ve done a high-adventure trip with the older Scouts. This year we’ll be going to West Virginia, to a newer Scout reservation where the World Jamboree will be held. We’re going for a week and will be hiking and kayaking, doing a bunch of different things, which they can choose from.”
Mr. Zostant said he and the Troop’s other leaders try to give the Scouts in Troop 147 “ideas, not just sit around the campfire. I am big on patrol cooking,” for instance, he said. “We all plan a meal. In November we made a turkey with all the fixings. The kids will say ʽlet’s do hamburgers and hot dogs’ but that’s old. So we leaders had beef stew!
“Do we have to kick them in the butt sometimes? Yes.”
Among his adult aides, “we have great volunteers,” Mr. Zostant said. “If you have a good group of volunteers there is nothing you can’t do. I tell the kids ʽyou might think [an outing they want to try] is out of reach. We can go there but there has to be a plan.’”
Members of Troop 147 are “a bunch of goofballs,” Mr. Rheault said. “They have fun learning, maturing and developing self-confidence.”
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.