By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Westborough – After 40 years meeting at Westborough's Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, local Boy Scout Troop 4 has been forced to find a new home after the church decided not to renew its charter.
The troop, comprising about 45 Scouts, had 60 days following notification to find a new chartering organization. The charter had been renewed annually “almost as a formality,” said Eric Lebow, who handles public relations for the troop.
After approaching numerous churches and organizations in Westborough, the troop finally found a home in Shrewsbury, at the American Legion Ray Stone Post.
“The town of Westborough, where we produced 103 Eagle scouts and were tightly woven into the fabric of the community, wasn’t able to come through for us,” Lebow said.
The reason for the church's decision not to renew has been the subject of much speculation, including the belief that the church did not agree with the Boy Scouts of America's (BSA) “don's ask, don's tell” policy on gay members.
“No one comes out and says that's the reason,” Lebow said, adding that the philosophy may be too strong for some and not strong enough for others.
“We either tick off one half or tick off the other,” he said, adding that he believes Scouts are in a “Catch 22” which made it more difficult for the troop to find a new home.
Rev. Jeffrey P. Goodrich, pastor of Good Shepherd, maintains the reasons were much less controversial.
“There were a couple of factors involved,” Goodrich explained. “The BSA requires things from the sponsoring organization that we no longer felt able to provide.”
For example, he said, they require someone from the church to serve on the troop's adult leadership committee and council.
“We do not have a single member of the troop from the congregation anymore, so finding parent volunteers is more difficult,” he said.
“The church also assumes liability for the troop,” he continued. “And without any direct connection to the church, we felt we were going in a different direction.”
Regarding the BSA's policy on gay members, Goodrich said he understands why some might believe it to be one of the reasons for the move.
“We were conscious of the fact that some might think that,” he noted. “But that did not play into it at all. We are pleased with the position the BSA has taken on gays and lesbians. We entirely support the role Scouting plays in the community.”
According to Goodrich, who was a Boy Scout himself, some residents are upset about the church's decision, even sending an “inflammatory post” to its Facebook page.
“There has been a lot of misinformation put out there,” Goodrich said.
He also said the troop should not have been surprised. “We debated not renewing the charter a year ago,” he explained.
Regardless of the reasons, Troop 4's move to Shrewsbury is proving beneficial for all.
“The American Legion has a long history of supporting Scouting,” said Walt Josti, the post's Scout representative. “Part of our doctrine is service to youth.”
As the chartering organization, the American Legion Ray Stone Post will provide a safe meeting place, assume liability, oversee that Scout policies are adhered to, and select leadership.
The post already had a Cub Scout pack and a Venture Scout troop, so the addition of a Boy Scout troop is a natural addition.
“We saw an opportunity to have all three organizations, so boys can move from Cub Scouts to Venture Scouts with the same organization,” Josti said. “Before, there was no Cub Scout pack to feed into the Boy Scout troop. It's a win-win all the way around.”
In addition, about half of the troop's members are from Shrewsbury.
“We are very happy to have landed at the American Legion Ray Stone Post, where we have access to Dean Park for many scout activities and training, as well as Cub Scout pack 62 to help the boys learn how to teach younger scouts,” Lebow said.
The troop hopes to continue to be part of the Westborough community.
“We want the [Westborough residents] to know that even though we have “moved” our home to Shrewsbury, we want to be known as an organization that both groups of Scouts can come to,” Lebow emphasized. “We are continuing our service projects in Westborough and looking to start new ones in Shrewsbury, too.”
Boy Scout Troop 4 meets Thursday nights from 7:30 to 8 p.m. at the American Legion Ray Stone Post, 2 School St., Shrewsbury. The troop will host an open house Thursday, Feb. 27.
For more information, email [email protected].