Got a phone call from M., a UU friend whom I’ve known for some years now. M. is a few years older than I, and we both grew up as Unitarian Universalists. M. and I haven’t talked in some time, so we talked about mutual friends. We were youth advisors together for awhile, and we both were a part of Liberal Religious Youth, or LRY, the old Unitarian Universalist youth movement — so needless to say, the conversation turned to the state of the Unitarian Universalist youth movement, past and present.
M. had a great experience in the old LRY. She was active in her local youth group, in district youth activities, and at the continental level. I was in LRY only a few years later, in the mid-to-late 1970’s. While I had a great experience in my local youth group, by the time I came along, LRY had pretty much imploded in my district. I remember two girls from our youth group went off to a district event, and came back swearing they’d never go again — some kid had brought a handgun to that district event, and that was just a little too scary. So we stuck with our local group, and ignored the rest of LRY.
We weren’t the only ones to have that kind of experience, and in the early 1980’s, LRY was gracefully laid to rest, and a new organization, Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU), was born. And YRUU did pretty well for some twenty years.
But recently concerns about YRUU have been arising. In particular, Bill Sinkford, current president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and Megan Dowdell, youth trustee on the UUA Board, held a meeting in February about the future of YRUU at the continental level. In particular, they have concerns that YRUU at the denominational level isn’t serving local youth groups as well as it could. You can read about this issue in the February, 2005, issue of the UU World magazine.
I asked M. if she knew anything more than was in that article. She didn’t know any more than I did. But as we talked, we realized we both had had some concerns about Unitarian Universalism’s ministry with youth. Nothing serious, like handguns, mind you — but somehow we both admitted that we’re not entirely satisfied with what we have seen going on in local youth groups.
Funny thing is, I’ve been hearing similar things from some youth, too. And I’ve been hearing a little more dissatisfaction from parents/guardians of youth. I’m not hearingcries of outrage — it’s not like it was when I was in LRY and the whole organization was falling apart. Just a sense that somehow things could be better. So I’m very curious to learn what conclusions Megan Dowdell and Bill Sinkford come to. Are they going to try something as big as the process that made the change from LRY to YRUU? Inquiring minds want to know.
And I realize, too, that it really matters to me. I had a great experience in my local LRY youth group. As a minister, I have come to believe that in many ways our ministry with youth should be at the center of all congregations. No pressure, Bill Sinkford and Megan Dowdell — no pressure at all, it’s just that what you’re doing is incredibly important.