There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way lodges function, especially with regards to inductions. With most of the country in some form of lockdown, meeting in larger groups is still nearly impossible. One lodge, however, utilized relaxing restrictions in their state to effectively host one of the largest Ordeals since the beginning of the pandemic, welcoming an astonishing 107 new members into the Order of the Arrow. After a year of having no Ordeal opportunities, Section SR-9’s Mowogo Lodge is that success story, and their lodge leaders have some reflections and advice for those wishing to host their own in-person inductions.
So how did they do it? Mowogo Lodge first started off by taking a look at their council and state COVID-19 guidelines. At the time, these included limiting participants to groups of 25 or less, social distancing, and no intermingling between groups. All would become roadblocks on their path to success. In terms of sleeping arrangements, the groups of 25 proved difficult, as normally the lodge would use one field for over a hundred candidates. To resolve this, they used another field for the night alone, as well as breakfast the following morning. Following the Ordeal, the groups once again created an interesting problem for the lodge, as they normally would combine different chapters into the same clans and then host separate chapter meetings immediately following the conclusion of the Ordeal. To resolve this, the lodge did a welcome session for all of the candidates in one place, rather than having the chapters do it on their own.
Another issue the lodge faced was lunch. The candidates couldn’t gather in a common location to receive their meals in fear of breaking the groups of 25. To solve this, the lodge leadership delivered the meals to the candidates where they were working, creating a unique bond between the two groups. Although these solutions were not necessarily the most creative or unique, they ultimately proved effective, allowing for each candidate to receive as close to a pre-pandemic ordeal as possible.
Mowogo Lodge Chief James C. reflected on his experiences planning and running their Ordeal weekend.
It [COVID-19] presented a different challenge than normal years. The LEC had to basically start over from scratch and build an entirely new way of running this event. However, it was a fantastic opportunity for our youth to step up and solve problems. On top of managing COVID precautions, we were also able to make some necessary changes to how we run Ordeals. I think that everyone involved learned a lot more about cheerful service and were able to become better leaders. Hopefully, we made some lasting improvements and provided more Arrowmen with the opportunity to cheerfully serve.
Mowogo Lodge Adviser Rusty Royston had some great things to say about their event:
I could not be prouder of these kids! What they were able to do, through following the Georgia, Northeast Georgia Council, and BSA guidelines regarding COVID-19, they have truly done something that will continue to impact our lodge in years to come.
Mowogo Lodge delivered nearly 750 hours of service to Camp Rainey Mountain on the weekend of their spring induction, and that's just the beginning of their plans. Due to even looser restrictions just released in Georgia, Mowogo Lodge will be hosting their pre-camp event at close to full capacity, involving not just Ordeal candidates and staff, but also chapter service teams. James believes that their goal of allowing every potential candidate the opportunity to attend this Ordeal will further help their lodge recover from the inactivity caused by COVID-19. Mowogo Lodge is truly taking the lead during the pandemic.