Feb. 19, 2018.
Since beginning my internship in September, I have been inspired by our Young Adult Fellowship group. With a little organizing on my part, this group for 18- to 35-year-olds gathers regularly and in healthy numbers. Despite busy schedules from school, parenting young children and new careers, the young adults take part in monthly social time, show up for social justice activities, organize community service projects and delve into spiritual renewal. On top of all that, they also lead and serve on committees and task forces throughout the congregation.
This group format is a new phenomenon at UUCF. In the early decades of the congregation, there was little mention of young adults specifically, let alone a young adult group (according to our archives at least). Around the late 1990s or early 2000s, a social gathering for young adults emerged. There was also some effort to develop a campus ministry at George Mason University that faded. Efforts to form a young adult group with a mission beyond social connection ebbed and flowed, but in 2015 renewed interest and a coordinator on staff (our ministerial intern!) inspired the formation of our current group.
Although our young adult group is new, Unitarian Universalism has a long history of dynamic young adult groups. Both the Unitarian and the Universalist denominations (our religious ancestors before the 1961 merger) had groups for youth and young adults since the mid- to late-1800s. These groups for teens to 25-year-olds merged in the mid-1950s to form Liberal Religious Youth (LRY). Since the 1961 merger, there have consistently been young adult groups organizing nationally. The groups, however, also struggled at times with funding support from the denomination and maintaining active participation. Today, young adults are supported through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries and can participate nationally in the Continental UU Young Adult Network (established in 1988) and the Young Adult Caucus at the annual UUA General Assembly.
What this history means is that young adult ministries are important, enlivening and vital to our denomination and our congregations. It also means they need our collective and ongoing support. Just as the young adult gatherings ebbed and flowed here, there have been similar fluctuations nationally. Due to life stage and economic realities, many young adults have inflexible schedules, competing demands on time and limited financial resources. This phenomenon is increasing and young adults today tend to be more economically precarious than previous generations.
What has kept this group going since 2015? The ministerial interns since that time have committed to supporting the organizing of the fellowship. Also, the congregation’s budget committed $500 to support young adult activities. These may seem like small efforts, but it is just enough to provide the connecting foundation the young adults need to coordinate enthusiastic fellowship amid busy lives.
A thriving young adult ministry is critical to creating multi-generational community. Connected and supported young adults weave their skills and perspectives into the congregation, which helps the congregation adapt and respond to changes holistically. This ability to adapt to challenges is increasingly needed in our world today. Beyond challenges, healthy multi-generational communities can grow and learn in ways that create new opportunities, from governance strategies, to hospitality to new and meaningful relationships.
Can we keep our inspiring Young Adult Fellowship thriving here at UUCF? I believe we can, by ensuring staff can continue to support the group and by supporting the congregational budget that has been funding it. Young adults have many demands on their time, and they need their congregation to be ready to hold onto their momentum in the natural ebbs and flows of life. I personally pledge to continue supporting the young adult group as long as I am here. I hope you will join me.