Friday, September 7, 2012

The recent UU World article examining "Obama's Childhood Unitarian Universalism", says:

Despite his childhood exposure to Unitarian Universalism, Barack Obama found his religious home elsewhere - just as too many of our young people do.

9 out of 10 Unitarian Universalist youth will leave UUism as adults.  I'm not sure how many of them eventually come back, but overwhelmingly we are a denomination made up of transplants from other faiths, as Seattleite from Syracuse recently described.  I, too, in many ways am a transplant, although I transplanted myself while still in my teens so sometimes I get counted in the demographic of "life-long UU" depending on where folks are drawing the line.

My family roots are in Presbyterianism, and I have attended my grandparents' church whenever we go back to visit.  But my parents both drifted from their family's religion and became part of the "Nones" - for "what is your religious affiliation?" "None."  I grew up with no church, plenty of skepticism and cynicism about organized religion, a very large dose of New Age dabbling, and an unhealthy vein of fear and paranoia about being persecuted for our religion or lack-there-of.

I found my own faith home when I first walked into a UU church, but I had a long road to travel before that home noticed me back.  A decade of attendance in UU churches, in fact, always feeling like an outsider, being asked if I was a Visitor even in a church I'd attended for more than 3 years, and existing on the periphery or church life.

In her article, Thandeka speaks of the age-fracture in our congregations.  We do a poor job of bringing people of different ages together, of creating multi-generational community.  And there is a chasm that our young adults fall into.  We have a warm and vibrant community going on for youth - CONS are a big part of that - and I think we've got a pretty good thing going for older adults.  But most mid or small sized congregations don't have much of anything for young adults.  A youth who has experienced a vibrant youth group community and then is just dumped into the big pool of adults is going to feel lost and alone.

Young Adult groups are part of the solution, I think.  More of an effort to invite young adults in and take them seriously - so they don't feel invisible for a decade like I did - would also help.  And changing the way our RE programs prepare children and youth for a future adult religious life would also help.

I, personally, think UUism is pretty darn awesome, and that it has a lot to offer as a life-long path.  It's worth the effort, I think.

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