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The New Brotherhood Ceremony

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The Big Picture

In our history of nearly 100 years as the Order of the Arrow, few changes have been made to our ceremonies. Many of these changes were made around the time of our founding. The last time a new ceremony was introduced was 1979. The last time the Ceremony for the Brotherhood was revised was around 1961-over fifty years ago.

The path that brought us here is unique. The introduction of the new Ceremony for the Brotherhood text occurred in 2013 at Section Conclaves throughout the Order of the Arrow. In the largest ever effort of its kind the national Order of the Arrow committee sought the feedback of Arrowmen around the nation on this proposed change. Over 3000 Brothers from 200 lodges in 45 sections had the opportunity to view and comment on the proposed ceremonial text through a Brotherhood Demonstration consisting of a live ceremony or a DVD presentation. The 3700 responses that were received informed changes made to the proposed text before its scheduled release in mid-2014. The overall response from the nation was positive though a few changes were clearly desired.

Why a New Ceremony?

The Brotherhood Ceremony is a special and unique time for an Arrowman. Indeed, many are excited to “receive their bars” after months of service to their unit by describing their commitment to the lodge, and their newfound understanding of the Obligation. Many Arrowmen find personal meaning in the three tests (now called “seals”) of the ceremony and are inspired to deepen their service commitment to Scouting and the outside world.

Until now the Brotherhood Ceremony has focused on brotherhood as membership and said almost nothing about brotherhood itself. Many Arrowmen have found the Brotherhood Obligation unnecessary, the progression of the tests clumsy, and the tone of the ceremony administrative. It has been characterized by dramatically unequal parts, actions that are often frightening, and a lack of connection to the symbolism of the previous ceremonies. Many ceremonialists have been reluctant to fully memorize and properly conduct this ceremony.

The new Brotherhood Ceremony addresses these shortcomings while retaining the familiar tokens and tests of the current ceremony. It features a “legend within the Legend” where Uncas encounters a warrior from an enemy tribe while on the trail to warn the other Delaware tribes of invaders. The face to face encounter of enemies, their struggle to understand one another, and the eventual resolution of their conflict is a demonstration of Brotherhood that builds upon the lessons of the pre-Ordeal and Ordeal ceremonies.

The new ceremony holds a number of updates and advantages to inspire Arrowmen to greater service:

  • It rewards those who have seen the Arrow with a rich exploration of brotherhood and its application in daily life.
  • It offers attending members opportunities for rededication.
  • It is written completely in verse, like the pre-Ordeal ceremony, which makes the lessons easier to retain for new Brotherhood members and the ceremony easier to memorize for ceremonialists.
  • The four spoken parts are balanced.
  • It encourages dramatic interaction among the principals, making them more three-dimensional.
  • The traditional Brotherhood seals provide a historical connection to previous Brotherhood ceremonies.
  • It simplifies the procedures for administering the seals and presenting sashes.
  • It provides a rich, symbolic meaning for the two bars on the Brotherhood sash, the hailing sign, and watchwords.
  • The Brotherhood Obligation is eliminated.
  • Updates the Closing Ceremony, with emphasis on the lessons learned from each principal, and creates the possibility of removing the Ordeal Ceremony Closing in the future.

Even more than the collected effect of these changes, there is a renewed emphasis on the Admonition and Obligation which is only appropriate as we approach the 100th Anniversary of the Order of the Arrow. With our historic milestone fast approaching the new Brotherhood ceremony will become optional in 2014 and made the official Brotherhood Ceremony of the Order of the Arrow on January 1, 2015.

Where can I find the new ceremony?

The ceremony text can be found in the Publications Section.

How do I learn more?

Conducting the Brotherhood Ceremony: Notes for Ceremonial Principals and Advisers provides insight into key areas of the new ceremony. Interested Arrowmen and ceremonialists are encouraged to review the document for hints on symbolism, suggestions from the principals, and other useful commentary.

Conducting the Brotherhood Ceremony

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