Out of the events and activities offered by the Order of the Arrow, section conclaves are among the most highly anticipated for Arrowmen nationwide. In 2023, there were many outstanding conclaves hosted by sections across the country. Conclaves are weekend-long adventures hosted by sections full of engaging learning experiences and fun activities designed to inspire Arrowmen to become better leaders within the OA. A section is a collection of lodges in a geographical region, and the conclave is the annual gathering of these lodges. The event should be on every Arrowman’s calendar regardless of where it is held.
In the Eastern Region at the Rodney Scout Reservation in Maryland, the Section E10 Conclave hosted over 350 Scouts. One of the core elements of a conclave is training, and Section E10 Arrowmen went into depth with the learning opportunities by presenting four different training tracks. Each one was designed to cater to different groups of members in the OA while still providing a unique and diverse training experience. One of the tracks focused on teaching Arrowmen life skills, including stress management and how to apply to college.
Another track was dedicated to teaching new Arrowmen about the different opportunities the OA provides. For example, it focused on leadership within the OA and included an informative session about the OA High Adventure program. Another track was about growing OA involvement and improving membership retention. The adult training track had a roundtable opportunity and classes about effectively coaching youth.
Section E10 had the best trainers from across their section — and even National Chief Zach Grinvalsky, who did a question-and-answer session to tackle aspects of life and the OA. Significantly, Section E10 recently added an OA history museum and ArrowPride space at its conclave for members to have amazing fellowship.
In April, at Camp Elmore in Miami, Florida, Section E5 had over 600 people in attendance for their conclave. At the conclave, almost every activity was a friendly competition, including yard games, shooting sports and challenges that elevated each lodge. Furthermore, they included a competitively graded publications challenge, a website competition, and ceremony evaluations. There was also a field full of exhibits during the event, with over fifty vendors present. Even the United States Coast Guard visited with a helicopter.
Section E5 Chief Marc Homburger-Jacobs remarked,
“Conclave is a life-changing experience. You have your lodge where you meet friends. Then you come to the conclave and meet new people, build relationships, and better yourself and your lodge by being challenged and by engaging in meaningful fellowship.”
In the Gateway region, Section G1 hosted its conclave in April at Salmen Scout Reservation in Perkinston, Mississippi. A total of 125 members had an awesome weekend with two great shows and a big bonfire. There was a “quadrathlon” where contestants battled it out in swimming, biking, climbing and running. In addition, the weekend had many learning experiences and a volleyball competition between the lodges.
Section G1 also had a “Founder’s Festival,” which showcased lodge booths based on past decades. This was an opportunity for lodges to celebrate their lodge spirit by representing a specific decade and hosting activities at their respective booth. The section also tied underwater and exploration elements into the conclave to fit in with the theme of “Charting the Course.”
The G1 Section Chief Jasim Ali reflected,
“Conclave was a great activation event for Arrowmen. It is a great opportunity to mix fun, learning and training. I hope everyone has the opportunity to attend and help lead a conclave.”
Another way Section G1 makes the conclave special is by providing breakfast for new Arrowmen. This event allows new members to familiarize themselves with the program and speak to older members about their experiences within the OA.
Finally, Section G17S hosted its conclave at West Hills Community College in Lemoore, California. There were 123 attendees, and the theme was representative of James Bond, “OOA: License To Serve.” The weekend kicked off with a “spy orientation” where each attendee received a program designed like a dossier to complete different spy-themed training sessions. The weekend's activities included knife throwing, a forensics course, a squirt gun shooting range, gadget retrieval and archery.
The Arrowmen had an exhilarating time becoming “spies” and earning a “license to serve.” At the end of the weekend, Arrowmen had a banquet-style breakfast where everyone received a real “License to Serve.” Arrowmen received a physical card with their picture and a quote from the OA’s founder, E. Urner Goodman: “He who serves his fellows is of his fellows greatest.” The G17S Section Chief Laura Sun stated,
“The conclave is something that inspires Arrowmen to go back and serve the unit, to reinspire the mission of the Order of the Arrow.”
While each of the featured conclaves had a different program, they all furthered the values of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service. It was done through the unique fellowship opportunities and learning experiences at the conclave. There are many ways to experience a conclave, whether on staff or as a participant. Overall, the section conclave is a memorable and universal experience for Arrowmen nationwide. Talk to your section and lodge leaders to find out about yours today!