Good morning, Peoples Congregational! My name is Brandon Todd, and I represent Ward 4 on the Council of the District of Columbia.
Thank you for bestowing upon me the honor of speaking before the Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ, an esteemed house of worship here in Ward 4. I am privileged and humbled to be present with you all in a church whose foundation spans back to 1891.
I want to thank Reverends Dr. Ron Hopson and Venita George, and Robert Simpson, Scout Master of Troop 544, for inviting me here today. I also want to thank Joshua Simpson for the wonderful introduction. Lastly, I want to thank everyone here, this exquisite congregation, for making me feel so welcomed.
Standing here today, I am struck by the commonality that binds us all together – a love of service.
It is that spirit – the spirit of service – that I would like to speak about today. Please allow me to quote one of my favorite bible verses on this subject:
First Peter, Chapter 4, Verse 10 reads:
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
What does that mean to you? How does that sentiment apply to your life, in this place, at this time?
To me, it is perhaps one of the most important teachings the Bible gives us. We – each of us – are the stewards of our family, our friends, our neighbors, and yes, even our enemies. Service is a solemn responsibility that none of us should take lightly.
For we must all be faithful servants – to God, to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to our communities, our city, our country, and to each other, our fellow man. If each of us can do what we are able, when we are able, in our small corner of the world, applying whatever time, treasure, and talent we have available, we will be that much closer to bringing about a Kingdom of God where peace, justice, and love reign.
Service truly is the most noble calling one can pursue in their time on this earth.
As an elected official on the D.C. Council, I am blessed to have the opportunity to work on behalf of fellow Washingtonians. At the Council we work on connecting residents to services and programs that make their life better in a concrete, tangible way. We work on crafting just and fair laws to lift up our neighborhoods and direct resources where they are needed most. We work on bringing together our diverse communities and residents to form one cohesive body that, simply put, looks out for one another.
The Scouts, who we celebrate today, are also centrally organized around the idea of service. The Scout Oath reads in part: “On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law;” and, most importantly, “to help other people at all times…”
A surprisingly similar oath to the one that I took as Ward 4 Councilmember!
Some of the twelve character traits listed in the Scout Law include “trustworthy,” “loyal,” “helpful,” “friendly,” and “courteous.” These are all fundamental components of service. The Scouts embody the importance of service by instilling a sense of purpose in our youth and getting them involved in their community.
I have seen firsthand the incredible work that our Scout troops do by empowering our youth to get engaged and make a difference in their communities. Boy Scout Troop 544 is one of the finest troops in the District. In fact, throughout Troop 544’s history, 46 Scouts haveearned the rank of Eagle Scout, the pinnacle of scouting. Only about 5 percent of all Boy Scouts earn the rank of Eagle Scout, a testament to the commitment and leadership of Troop 544.
One of the last steps in earning the rank of Eagle Scout is organizing and implementing a service project. This is no simple task. It means interviewing members of the community to identify a need and then determining how to fill that need. It requires pulling together a group of people, and convincing them to give their time and labor. It requires collecting donations and fundraising.
The Eagle Service Project is a perfect example of the gift of service, both to the giver, and the recipient of that service. Clearly, the community benefits from whatever project the Scout takes on. However, less obvious from the surface, are the benefits to the Scout himself.
By undertaking the rigorous process of a service project, a Scout builds character and practical, problem-solving skills that will last him a lifetime and carry him through challenges and adversity.
And let us not forget the service of the mentors and role models who make this enriching experience possible for our youth. The countless sacrifices that the parents make, whether its financial or those precious hours of free time. The scientists, engineers, and other professionals who share their life passions with the scouts. All the Cubmasters, Scoutmasters, Den Leaders, Merit Badge Counselors, as well as the Ministers, officers, and members of the congregation. These people are servants of the highest degree.
It is in these quiet moments of service, led by strong community role models, where our children gain the confidence to believe that they too can be the Ward 4 Councilmember or the Mayor of Washington, DC, or even the President of the United States. With the selfless mindset and honorable values that Scouting instills in our children, the sky is truly the limit for what can be achieved when they continually ask themselves “how can I better serve?”
However, you do not need to be an elected official, a Scout Master, or a Reverend to serve. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr, whom from age 11 to age 13 was registered as a member of Troop 151 in Atlanta, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”
It is helpful to take a step back and realize that in the small, everyday acts of our daily lives, we can all engage in the act of service.
- Giving a ride home to a neighbor’s child after sports practice
- Going out of your way to pick up a bowl of soup when a loved one is ill
- Shoveling the snow from an elderly neighbor’s sidewalk
- Or even the casual, passing smile you give to a stranger on the street
It is in these small, seemingly unimportant acts that the good nature of humanity is revealed.
Because God’s light shines in all of us, without even knowing it sometimes, we serve others. It is in our nature as Christians. Service is fundamental to our Christian life.
And it goes without saying that among us today are people whose service is abundantly clear to all. Those who have honorably served in the Metropolitan Police Department, the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services. Those who have served in our nation’s armed forces. Those who work in our hospitals, our schools, our community centers. They are woven into the fabric of this community, and we thank them all for their service. From all of us, thank you!
It is absolutely critical to emphasize this universal truth: by giving of yourself in the service of others, you do not detract from yourself. You build yourself up, along with those around you.
As I stand here today and reflect on my life, I can identify service experiences in my youth that helped me become the man I am today. If each of us reflects on our lives, and on how we have interacted with God and our fellow man, I am confident that this realization becomes unavoidable: it is only through service that we can become the fullest version of ourselves.
Sometimes it can be easy to become discouraged. We live in a world where the latest tragedy is instantly circulated on social media; where 24 hour news programs are dominated by negativity; where senseless acts of violence here and abroad seem to occur daily; and where hatred towards people of a different religion or skin color has become acceptable. During these times, I find deep comfort in this universal truth: that service makes us whole. And it is my hope that all of you take comfort in that as well.
Acts, Chapter 20, Verse 35 tells us that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
That verse captures the spirit of Peoples Congregational and the Boy Scouts of America; of Ward 4 and the District of Columbia. We are a giving people, and as long as God’s grace continues to shine upon us, we will continue to be faithful servants.
Before I conclude this morning, I want to invite Scout Master Simpson, Cub Scout Pack 544, and Troop 544 to join me up on the pulpit as I read a Ceremonial Resolution honoring the Boy Scouts of America.
I recently introduced this Ceremonial Resolution, and it was passed by the DC Council.
To recognize and honor the Boy Scouts of America for over 100 years of service and declare February 8, 2017 as “National Boy Scouts Day” in the District of Columbia.
WHEREAS, on February 8, 1910, Chicago publisher William Dickson Boyce filed incorporation papers in the District of Columbia to create the Boy Scouts of America (BSA);
WHEREAS, in 1916, the United States Congress granted the Boy Scouts of America a federal charter;
WHEREAS, the BSA is committed to helping millions of youth succeed by providing support, friendship and mentoring;
WHEREAS, since its creation in 1910, more than 110 million Americans have been participants in BSA programs;
WHEREAS, the Boy Scouts have helped develop leaders across the United States and former scouts have gone on to become leaders in all fields, including such notables as astronaut Neil Armstrong, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Presidents Gerald Ford, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama;
WHEREAS, the National Capital Area Council (NCAC), founded in 1911, serves ten counties in Northern Virginia, six counties in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands and is one of the largest councils in the country;
WHEREAS, Troop 100, “The Century Troop,” was chartered on February 1, 1918, and is the oldest Boy Scout Troop in Washington, DC;
And I would add that Troop 544 was first chartered in 1931 by the Reverend Arthur Fletcher Elms, who established one of the first African-American scout troops in the country during a time of strictly enforced segregation. After a brief period of inactivity, the Peoples Scouting program was reactivated in the late 1950’s, and today they celebrate 106 years of Scouting in America and 86 years of Scouting at Peoples Congregational united Church of Christ.
WHEREAS, the Washington, DC District has 54 scouting units serving over 1,290 youth across the District of Columbia; and
WHEREAS, the Boy Scouts of America has been an integral part of communities across the United States and the District, and continues to prepare youth to participate and provide leadership in American society through active civic engagement.
IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, that this resolution may be cited as the “National Boy Scouts Day Ceremonial Recognition Resolution of 2017”.
The Council of the District of Columbia recognizes and supports the Boy Scouts of America for being at the forefront of instilling timeless values in youth since its founding in 1910, for their over 100 years of service and their continued commitment and dedication to America’s youth.
Once again, Congratulations to the Boy Scouts of America, Pack 544, and Troop 544 on all your incredible accomplishments. Thank you, Peoples Congregational, for allowing me to share some thoughts with you all. It was truly a pleasure. God bless you!