Over the past 21 years there have been many traditions that have been started in the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek. They run the gambit from our fine masters, the holiday Christmas program and the 12 days of Christmas, 60 second spots, the Cartwright Challenge, recognizing the officer and soldier of the month/year, standing and applauding for just about everything, and others.
One of the traditions that was started from the very outset of the club was beginning each meeting with an invocation and the pledge of allegiance. We are not the only Rotary club that does this. But there are many that do not. More specifically there are many that do not have an invocation. They may start the meeting with the Four Way Test, a moment of silence or just start into the meeting without anything other than a welcome to members and guests.
And once again the tradition of having an invocation has raised the eyebrows (I was going to say hackles but that seems a bit harsh) of some of our members. This is certainly not the first time this has been raised as an issue by members. The last time it came up and was addressed was during Dave Weaver’s year as president. And Dave did an excellent job of researching what Rotary has to say about invocations and what is right or wrong. What Dave found and what I have found is basically the same. Rotary does not have a stated position on invocations. In fact if you go to the Rotary website you will find the following:
“Belonging to a Rotary club gives men and women an enjoyable and organized way to make a contribution to their community. Rotary members meet weekly to plan club, community, and international service activities. By using their skills and expertise globally, members also enhance their professional network, career development, and cross-cultural understanding.
Rotary clubs are nonreligious, nonpolitical, and open to every race, culture, and creed. Members represent a cross-section of local business, professional, and community leaders.”
And that is about it. If you do some research on what other clubs have done regarding invocations you will find a range of things from no invocations to suggested ideas for invocations, etc. It has affected some clubs to the point that when it was raised and challenged, some members chose to leave the club rather than change their thoughts on an invocation.
As I have tried to get my hands and thoughts around the idea of invocations I have asked the past presidents to weigh in on the issue. We had a lively and spirited discussion after one of our regular meetings. And the thoughts expressed were across the spectrum. We have discussed it at our Board meetings and again it was rather lively. I have asked our resident reverends to help me out and point me down the correct path. I was hoping, much like Dave, that there was a simple consensus and agreement from all parties that we could apply to the issue and be done with it. But as one of my favorite sports announcers likes to say…..”Not so fast my friend”.
Trying to get total agreement from 160 type A personalities, most of whom have a deep belief system and a sense of tradition that most anyone would applaud is next to impossible. And I think in the end that is a good thing. I enjoy the differing opinions, ideas and discussions from all concerned.
So where are we on the issue?
As Dave wrote so well a few years back, having an invocation and not alienating anyone is not an insurmountable task. I enjoy the idea of having an invocation to start each meeting. And I would not suggest that we stop this tradition. (Although I have certainly thought that on several occasions.) Many times I have used what someone said or shared in their invocation in my own day or life. I would also not attempt to tell someone how to offer an invocation or an idea that is against their beliefs.
After reading everything I could find, speaking to numerous individuals, and looking at Rotary’s 4 Way Test, specifically Is It Fair to All Concerned, I would like to offer the following.
If you choose to sign up and offer an invocation please take into account that this is a group of members and guests that represents many different religions, beliefs and ideas. And that we are part of a non-religious organization.
Take some time to insure that your invocation is all inclusive, non-sectarian, and is planned to avoid embarrassing one of your fellow members or guests.
Consider an alternative that might fit a particular time or situation, including a moment of silence.
Use common prayers that seek blessing, not to preach.
Keep it short and recognize we are opening a Rotary meeting and not at a church service.
And as was said a few years ago, if you are reluctant to offer a general invocation, please do not hesitate to decline.
Finally, and on another note, as we start the new calendar year I would like to say thanks to the entire club for making the first half of the Rotary year a truly rewarding experience. To all of you that have stood up and made your presence felt in some way you are to be commended.
I hope we can continue in the new year to share with others the friendship and fellowship we all enjoy and to live up to the Rotary idea, Service Above Self.