Monday, February 22, 2010

Not cast away

Living in isolation is no fun.  Just ask Tom Hanks’ character in the film Castaway.  Sometimes, having affiliation with a movement so often regarded as a “heretic Protestant denomination” makes a Unitarian Universalist feel like s/he is a star of a Tom Hanks sequel.  UUs who are teachers, attorneys, researchers, middle management and executives are equal when presented that pesky question: “You’re a Uni-what?”  We scramble to give our best elevator speeches during the week, and we’re thankful to be back together on Sundays.

It’s not just adults who share this situation.  Children and youth get the same question, even though they’re quite familiar with early Unitarians and Pilgrims from Social Studies class.  At school, the social pressures of missing a common bond with other practicing UUs might cause added anguish.  We are fortunate to have a larger medium-size RE program in which the children and youth have many friends that share their values.  Part of the joy of being together involves not having to explain our living tradition and why we’re not remotely Jewish or even traditionally Christian.  (Though we cover the basics here, we quickly move into the social justice implications of our pluralistic faith, which non-UU education programs frequently avoid.)  For the child or youth who just wants to fit in at a school with few UUs, however, being a religious liberal can be a sacrifice.

I am very happy that member congregations of the Clara Barton District UUA have planned two distinct events to reach youth and middle schoolers, coming this month and next.  This first event is a mini-Con that will take place at USNH on Saturday, February 27, beginning at 9:00am.  Youth members of the planning team are Talia Erris and Joe Gayeski, while David Jones adds the parent perspective.  Joining USNH are the RE staff and youth of the UU congregation in Northampton and Florence, MA.  We expect that youth who feel isolated from their peers at school will find comradely with several dozen other high schoolers who are also pumped to be UU… or who might consider staying UU if they can make the right connections.  While youth Cons and mini-Cons still cannot reach every isolated teenage soul who needs to feel a sense of belonging, it’s a great “next step” towards meeting that need.

The second event is Clara Barton District’s annual Middle School Youth Rally, to be held in Hartford, CT on Saturday, March 6, beginning at 9:00am.  Workshops range from pizza making to a youth choir , which I will direct.   Transportation will be provided for those who sign-up.  Registration forms and information are available from the teachers of our two middle school RE classes.