I will be going to these meetings myself. I am a person who believes in polytheism and a universal concept of politeness and protocol in regard to that which is high. -T
Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Network
25 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
Phone: (617) 948-6463
Fax: (617) 367-4798
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I have been involved with the UUA for almost twenty years, from church school to LRY co-coordinator of the Starr King Fed to SRL/CSA (Communities for Study and Action) up to the present as newsletter editor of the PCD Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Network (UUYAN). I have also been involved with the summer conference committee of the PCD for the last year.
In 1980 I stopped being active in UU affairs because there were no programs that met my needs and I had many. I needed a “place” to worship life, a social community, someone to listen to me and reflect back. However, because the LRY network had all but disintegrated and the SRL/CSA was in the process of disintegrating, having too narrow of a focus for me to begin with, there was no place to go. I was a full time student, working to pay the way, and had little time or money to give to any structure or group to make something happen. I felt abandoned, forgotten and had come to the conclusion that there would be no religion, no community to belong to, and that I was essentially on my own with only a few limited contacts.
Luckily, in 1984 my brother, David Glickman, ex-treasurer of CSA, discovered three hundred dollars left in the account and proceeded to get permission to use the money for a reunion. With the help of a half a dozen old mailing lists, a micro-computer, a WATS line, an old friend and production wizard Adam Miller, and myself, the reunion happened. The reunion was a success as about sixty people came, but more important were contacts established, the information gained by a survey in one of the two newsletters we did, and the hope that we could fill the gaps in our lives and somehow re-establish a lost community.
The most important contact was with Bob King and Fran Moulton who had been running the College Age Centers Board (CACB) since 1981. David and I went to a CACB conference [ed.: Following Orpheus?], and became excited about what they were doing. We had our doubts about the ability of CACB to meet our needs, we were a bit older and from a different cohort, but we eventually handed our guarded mailing list that we had spent so much time and money on (several hundred dollars more than the CSA account held) and CACB ultimately widened their scope, changing their name to the Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Network (UUYAN).
Since the name change in 1985 [ed.: actually June 1984] I have been heavily involved in PCD UUYAN activities, editing a newsletter and working with the UUYAN board to expand in the PCD and re-establish contact with people in the rest of the country. UUYAN has provided a base and a model for other groups to connect with and learn from. Recently the PSWD YAC has begun to establish a UUYAN for Southern California with a little help from us, and a conference that was originally planned by the PCD UUYAN to happen at de Benneville Pines April 4-6 has given the people in PSWD some new energy.
By now you are probably wondering just who PCD UUYAN serves, and we were also somewhat mystified, but came to the conclusion that our primary purpose was to serve the folks in the PCD even though the people in San Diego had been with us from the start as well as a number of folks in the Northwest and Los Angeles. Our monetary resources are limited and come from the PCD, but I felt an obligation to the other people we had dealt with, so the solution was to offer any kind of non-monetary help I could, including allowing participation in our newsletter and keeping an up to date mailing list.
My brother and I had been looking at the summer of 1987 as the earliest that we could put together a continental event and help create a national organization, because we thought it would be necessary to spend a month this summer traveling and talking to people across the country to get some cohesion on the national level, but as it turns out [ed: read Arpie’s report] there is a young adult group in Boulder Colorado who are willing to do the legwork, along with some of our “trackers”, so it’s almost a certainty that a continental meeting will happen this year.
So much for what has happened and is happening, there are issues that need to be dealt with for the survival within the church of those who grew up through the youth movement of the Unitarian Universalists. I have a strong commitment to UU beliefs and ideals and yet there is certainly a distance between my vision and the church as an institution. I believe that this distance has more to do with the forms of worship and bureaucracy rather than with fundamental philosophy.
The difference stems from the way we grew up in the church. The church school that we grew up in taught us to look at many belief systems and to critically analyze them. We were taught to question, to make up our own minds, to seek our own truths. The institutional church taught us to create our own individual religion and philosophy.
In LRY we learned to create our own rituals (some invented, some borrowed), making our life experiential. We learned to create a community in a weekend or an evening. We learned to organize and communicate our ideas to the world. LRY had its problems, and I realize that some people would like to forget it ever existed, but it grew out of troubled times and was not immune, in fact LRYers were taught to be open to new ideas and were likely to try anything. We taught each other many lessons, learning that most of what we do involves religion, we celebrated life. Our community met at conferences, Sunday nights, Tuesday nights, and just about any other imaginable time, except perhaps Sunday morning, which is not part of many young adults’ religious heritage. LRY created bonds that for many of us will last a lifetime.
Our worship ranges from Pagan, to Humanism, to Daoism, to Judaism, to our own mythos. All of it needs to be addressed, all of it has value to many of the young adults that grew up in the church. The kind of ministry I need is eclectic, challenging, reflective, and involved two way communication. A minister could not simply come in from the outside and begin preaching, they would have to become part of the group. Then it would become possible to share what they have learned as we talk with each other.
The bureaucracy that I experienced was more like a network, rather than a chain of command and an endless series of committees. People took responsibilities to fill needs that they themselves felt. If people wanted something done they would go out and do it themselves. This is not entirely effective (understatement), there are gaps caused by people being unable or unwilling to take responsibility for maintaining an organization. The lesson and part of the solution is not to give up the idea of a young adult group, but to wait, to keep talking to people, to keep asking what people need, and to realize that fluctuations happen.
It only takes one committed person to start a group. That person must be available at some time and place on a consistent basis. The person must do some minimal outreach and people tracking, although simply talking to people is probably enough. The person must have some idea of where to go once they have gathered a few people. In the PCD we are fortunate to have some people like that.
The institutional church must realize that it does not practice what it has preached to its youth. Many of us don’t go to church because our style of worship is at odds with the “adult” institutional church. We grew up without the expectation of Sunday morning church. Most of us don’t consider ourselves Christian, because our heritage as people who grew up in the church is eclectic, as we were taught, while those in power have a narrower range of what religion is all about. We don’t need or want to be preached at, rather we want to be communicated with (we have been ministering to ourselves for the most part.) We experience religion as much as we intellectualize it. These ideas separate us from the mainline church.
It is crucial to young adults to have a church that can meet our needs now, but it is also important to realize that this “kind” of church must continue beyond our young adulthood as the church would just lose them a little later. Right now I don’t have much time or money but that will change in the next couple of years. However the institutional church as it stands now is not close enough to my vision for me to be comfortable with it. This is not exclusively a young adult perspective as I have talked to several “older” people with a similar dilemma.
The Unitarian Universalist church must change in order to accommodate what it has created. It must incorporate our “Network” as if it were several congregations, as indeed it is: A Sunday night meeting in Berkeley (12-20 people attend, 50 members), The people in Santa Cruz who have a party at least once a month (another 30-50), A household in Olympia, and one in Seattle, A group who only go to conferences, all connected by the bonds created in the youth movement, and by an eclectic heritage of religion taught us through the years by the Unitarian Universalist movement. Our congregations are not necessarily in churches, but they can be. Our congregations don’t always meet regularly, but some do, others meet only at conferences. UUYAN has not brought back all those who left, but the potential is there. Can the UUA serve us? Can they even see our struggle to stay in the church?
We need to change also: we need to take on the responsibility of making our congregation in terms of time and money, as we become more able to meet the needs of the church.