Every few years, we gather a group of young people who are already beginning to grow out of their child selves to come of age together. We begin the year with celebration dinner and a ritual cutting of the chord. Parents give their youth permission to come of age and youth ask for the freedoms and responsibilities that go along with that process. The youth reflect on what they were leaving behind and what they were moving towards. Together, we embark on a journey.
We grapple with the big theological questions. Why do bad things happen? What is prayer? What is the point of social justice? What happens when we die? Is there a God? Or a Goddess? Or many deities? What does the holy look like? What do we have faith in? We discuss Unitarian Universalist theology and we look at many beliefs held by other world religions. We ask more questions than we answer.
The youth are accompanied on the journey by adult mentors, chosen by them to walk with them. The mentors join the youth in class regularly and help to create an inspiring learning environment. They provide encouragement and support. They engage in deep conversation. They learn and grow along with the youth.
From the Chalice Circle Lock-in to the Wilderness Journey Camping Trip, and at each class session in between, our youth engage deeply with a process of reflection and growth. Above all else, they learn about themselves. They are encouraged to come to new understanding of their own values and the stirrings of their own hearts. They come to see themselves as part of a larger whole, as part of our church community, as part of our UU faith, as part of our community of earthlings. They explore themselves.
Finally, they write a statement of their faith and share it in a special Sunday morning worship. They open their hearts and share something intimate with their church home. They share what they believe in right now, knowing that it will change as they continue to grow. They courageously share deeply and profoundly, knowing that this is a safe place for them to express themselves. In their faith statements we find incredible diversity and yet, there is a thread of connection that shows that they belong here.
Our young people take this journey seriously. They open themselves to this process and to one another. They create a strong and vibrant community among one another. They choose to be intentional about their growth process. And they give all the adults who go with them such gifts along the way. We celebrate them as valuable members of this church community.
Our next Coming of Age Program is scheduled to be offered in the 2017-2018 programmatic year.