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Induction Guidance to Lodges Under COVID-19 Restrictions (Virtual Inductions)


Induction Guidance to Lodges Under COVID-19 Restrictions

The following guidelines have been issued to provide lodges in areas under COVID-19 restrictions to proceed with induction events. The objective is to build membership growth and maximize the number of completed inductions while under COVID-19 restrictions and particularly between now and December 31, 2020.

Unit Elections

Lodges have been provided instructions regarding the conduct of unit elections under COVID-19 restrictions. Specifically:

  • Contact every unit (Scouts BSA, Venturing Crew, Sea Scout Ship) that has not yet conducted an election in 2020.
  • Make every effort to gain approval to conduct a Unit Election. If no Scouts are eligible, ask to conduct a Unit Visitation to promote the Order of the Arrow and its programs.
  • Conduct Unit Elections and Unit Visitations

If at all possible, visits should be conducted in-person following the guidelines listed in the Guide to Unit Elections.

If in person elections/visitations cannot be conducted, authority has been granted for these events to be conducted until further notice using a video conferencing platform following the posted guidelines.

Conducting Induction Events

Inducting new members into the Order of the Arrow is critically important for lodges. Recognizing the unique environment we are living in, careful guidance has been developed to assist lodges in conducting both in-person and virtual induction events.

In-Person Inductions

If possible, induction events should be conducted in camp and in accordance with the guidelines provided in the Guide to Inductions.

Recognizing the uniqueness of conducting such inductions under COVID-19 restrictions, the national OA committee has authorized use of the OA Induction In-person Event Suggestions Under COVID-19 Restrictions outlined below. It is emphasized that these are only suggestions. Because COVID-19 restrictions/requirements can vary significantly between localities, lodges must ensure they have the approval of their local Scout Executive before attempting to host any in-camp inductions.

Alternative locations may also be substituted to allow an in-person event. For example, the council’s camp may be closed, but a different outdoor location or indoor facility may allow for an induction ceremony to be held.

Virtual Inductions

In-person events will not always be possible due to COVID-19 restrictions or parental reluctance to allow their youth to attend in-person gatherings. Recognizing these challenges, lodges are authorized to conduct virtual induction events when in-person inductions are not possible under COVID-19 restrictions utilizing the guidelines that follow.

Virtual induction events should consist of five primary components:

  • Advance preparation
  • Pre-Ordeal ceremony
  • Introduction to the Order of the Arrow
  • Application of the four tests (scant food, period of silence, night alone, day of service)
  • Ordeal ceremony

Each of these components will be addressed below.

Advance Preparation

Because of the uniqueness of conducting virtual induction events, lodges need to consider the following in advance of commencing the actual induction:

  • Selection and training of Elangomats so that each candidate has a designated Elangomat
  • Communication to the candidates regarding the nature of the induction event and any materials needed. (e.g., Spirit of the Arrow booklets)
  • Communication to parents explaining the induction event and outlining their role in supporting their Scout’s completion of the induction such as:
    • Explanation and purpose of the four tests of the Ordeal
    • Sample menu of scant food
    • COVID-19 restrictions in your local area
    • Point of Contact for questions regarding the event

Pre-Ordeal Ceremony

The pre-Ordeal ceremony will be conducted via a video conferencing platform. Ceremonialists are to conduct the ceremony as if they were conducting an in-person ceremony. A fifth person, normally the Lodge Chief, would serve as moderator during the event to explain how the online ceremony differs from a traditional ceremony. The moderator should strive to describe what a traditional ceremony looks like  (e.g., showing and explaining ceremonial diagrams, relating the ceremony to the lodge’s local camp, and showing photographs of prior induction events).

Several general guidelines will apply to both the pre-Ordeal and Ordeal ceremonies and should be communicated to candidates and their parents in the advance preparation communications as appropriate:

  • All electronic communication devices should be powered down during the ceremony.
  • Video conferencing sessions should be conducted with the same attendance restrictions as traditional in-person ceremonies.
  • Recording of video conferencing sessions is not permitted.
  • Out of respect for our nation’s American Indians, online ceremonies shall not be conducted in American Indian clothing. Ceremonies should be conducted wearing the Scout Field Uniform or the alternative ceremonial clothing.
  • All candidates and non-ceremonialists participating in the ceremony should wear the Scout Field Uniform.

Introduction to the Order of the Arrow

Given the unique nature of a virtual induction process it is appropriate that as part of the pre-Ordeal event, a special effort is made to clarify the purpose of the procedural exceptions being used and to explain how they differ from a traditional induction process. Emphasizing that the success of this event is largely dependent on the Scout’s honest participation (Scout’s honor) in adhering to guidelines outlined and complying with the spirit and intent behind them is likewise important. There is no "script" for these explanations, and it is up to the lodge leadership to ensure they are communicated and understood.

Components of this introduction can precede or follow the pre-Ordeal ceremony at the lodge’s discretion and should include coverage of the following topics:

  • Explanation of the mission and purpose of the Order of the Arrow
  • The importance of entering the National Honor Society of the BSA
  • The basic history of the Order of the Arrow, its role in Scouting, and its major tenants including Brotherhood, Cheerfulness, and Service

Application of the Four Tests of the Ordeal

Application of the four tests of the Ordeal can be performed on either an individual or small group basis depending on restrictions in your local area. If being done in small groups, the lodge will need to actively administer this component. If being done individually, parents will need to be provided with guidelines to ensure successful completion to include:

  • Scant Food suggestions (e.g., a sample menu) along with an explanation of why this is being done.
  • Silence should be explained to both parents and candidates and should be in effect throughout the night alone and during the day of service (unless communication is necessary to successfully complete the service project or in an emergency).
  • Service projects will need to be arranged in advance by the candidate and approved by the candidate’s Elangomat. Service projects should be community-based projects wherever possible (e.g., cleanup of a public park, support to their local church, litter sweeps, etc.).
  • Night Alone should be completed outdoors if at all possible.

Time should be allocated for Elangomats to discuss the experiences of each Scout following the application of the four tests to reinforce their importance before the Ordeal ceremony is conducted. 

Ordeal Ceremony

As with the pre-Ordeal ceremony, the Ordeal ceremony will be conducted via a video conferencing platform while under COVID-19 restrictions. Ceremonialists will conduct the ceremony as if they were conducting a traditional, in-person ceremony. A fifth person, normally the Lodge Chief, should serve as moderator during the event to explain how the online ceremony differs from a traditional ceremony. The moderator should strive to describe what a traditional ceremony looks like. Following the Ordeal ceremony, lodges are encouraged to hold a virtual fellowship to discuss upcoming lodge/chapter event, encourage progress toward Brotherhood membership, and allow new members to learn more about the lodge, its leadership and history as well as have an opportunity to interact with other lodge members.

Special Considerations for Virtual Induction Events

Although preferable, the entire induction event need not be conducted over one weekend. If the lodge leadership decides that providing additional time would allow completion by a greater number of candidates, the time between the pre-Ordeal and Ordeal ceremonies can be extended. For example:

  • Lodges may plan for multiple smaller groups of candidates to complete the four tests of the Ordeal, and later conduct a larger Ordeal ceremony for all groups.
  • Additional time may be needed for Elangomats to contact each of their candidates to confirm completion of the four tests.
  • Individual Scouts may have conflicts that require them to complete the four tests at different times.

In all cases, the four tests of the Ordeal must be completed over one night and the following day with at least four hours devoted to the service project. For questions related to Induction Guidance, email ICE@oa-bsa.org.

In-Person OA Induction and Ceremonial Suggestions Under COVID-19 Restrictions

The BSA has issued the following guidance regarding camping under COVID-19 restrictions:

"Camping should only take place in accordance with guidelines outlined by your state and local health department and other local officials, as well as under the direction of your local BSA council and chartered organization. There is no formal national policy on social distancing in tents, just as there is no prohibition on tenting alone if logistics can accommodate that request. As always, all BSA youth protection policies must be followed."

The following additional suggestions are provided as councils, lodges and chapters plan outdoor OA events:

General Guidelines

  • Ensure participants report to camp with face masks, if required.
  • Check temperatures on arrival at camp.
  • Establish group sizes consistent with local requirements (camping, eating, work parties, ceremonies). Groups are not to be commingled.
  • Ensure disposable gloves, sanitizing agents, and spare face masks are on hand.
  • Sanitize the handles of tools prior to and after each individual’s use.

General Ceremonial Guidelines

  • Use disposable gloves in the handling of ceremonial tokens.
  • Maintain required social distancing among candidates and ceremonial principals.
  • "Symbolically" test ceremonial tokens.
  • Suspend physical greetings between ceremonial principals.
  • Verbally explain handclasp.
  • Present sashes:
    • Option 1: Use the current method, but have all presenters/principals wear disposable gloves and masks within 6 feet of a candidate.
    • Option 2 (if stricter social distancing guidelines are required): The presenter extends his arm/hand and hands each candidate a sash, still in plastic packaging. After all the candidates have sashes, Allowat Sakima instructs them (as a group) how to put the sashes on.
  • Maintain social distancing when circling for the OA song. DO NOT hold hands. One principal should repeat the words to the song. DO NOT have the group sing the song, but explain that is what would normally happen.
  • As part of the New Member Orientation, explain to candidates how the ceremony was altered to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

Ordeal Ceremony Guidelines

Please visit this page to view the Ordeal Ceremony guidelines. Note that this page is secured with an Ordeal Safeguard.

Brotherhood Ceremony Guidelines

Please visit this page to view the Brotherhood Ceremony guidelines. Note that this page is secured with a Brotherhood Safeguard.