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Thoughts on Singing, Anthems and Prayers

Singing at Rotary Club meetings goes back to the very beginning. According to Past RI President Cliff Dochterman, in his The ABCs of Rotary, Harry Ruggles, the fifth man to join Paul Harris in forming the first Rotary club in Chicago, enjoyed singing.

Dochterman writes, “At an early meeting of the fledgling group, Harry jumped on a chair and urged everyone to join him in a song. Group singing soon became a traditional part of each Rotary meeting. The custom spread to many of the clubs in the United States and is still a popular fellowship activity in the Rotary meetings of such diverse countries as Australia, Japan, Nigeria, New Zealand and Canada. Some clubs sing a national song as the formal opening of the meeting. Social singing, however, is seldom found in the Rotary clubs in Europe, South America and Asia.”

But, is singing required for a club by Rotary International? No. Is prayer required for a club by Rotary International? No. Is playing of a national anthem or singing of national anthems required by Rotary International for a club? No.

Some clubs enjoy singing and have made it part of their tradition.  At right, members of several Rotary clubs in Bath, England gathered to form a "flash mob" to raise public awareness about World Polio Day.

The individual club makes the choice of how their meetings are structured and if any ceremonial activities occur or do not occur. Some clubs choose to be very formal in how their meetings are structured and have dress requirements. Other clubs, especially those reaching out to expand membership, may choose less a formal meeting structure. Some clubs will sing. Some will not. Some clubs will levy fines and some will not. Some clubs will have a prayer and some will not. Some clubs will play the national anthem of the country in which they are based and some will not. Singing of national anthems may raise the question of which anthem for E-clubs who meet virtually globally and international clubs who draw their membership from many different countries.

Rotary International continues to emphasize the need for flexibility and adoption of change within Rotary districts and clubs in order to maintain the relevance of Rotary today and into our future.


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