At the beginning of April, I spent a few days in New York City for a concert I was performing in. While there, I caught the Broadway show “Company” by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth. This particular show was one I performed in during college, so I was eager to see how the professionals did it. If you don’t know the show, it is about “Bobby” and his married friends living their varied lives in New York City. Bobby is trying to figure out if he should get married by watching his friends in their own marriages. I knew going in that “Bobbie” had been cast with a woman rather than a man as the role was written in 1970. I relished that role reversal and other updates to marriage equality since then. I also loved seeing one of Bobbie’s suitors portrayed as a ditzy blonde man, rather than how women were stereotypically depicted in the 1970s. But I digress.
While I was watching, I noticed that certain labels were put on the characters – not written but implied – so we understood the roles of each person on stage. For example, one of the couples was a stay-at-home dad and a working, breadwinner mom. The show used clothing, casual for the man and a suit for the woman, and props like a lovey, sippy cup and briefcase to let the audience know who played what role within the marriage. It occurred to me that we all wear these labels constantly to show who we are, what we do and how we want the world to see us. Our labels change throughout our lives and the way we portray our identities generally begins in adolescence, around the time of Coming of Age.
This Sunday, UUCF’s Coming of Age youth will share their “labels” with the congregation. Up to this age, children mostly follow what their parents and guardians do. While UUs spend time at all ages asking what children want the world to look like, we take the time in Coming of Age to ask them “How do you think we get there?” What will you do to shape the world you want to see? Some may label themselves justice-makers or believers in a higher power. They may be artists, creators and musicians. And I’m just as excited as you are to learn from them how they will continue to push Unitarian Universalism into the future with their own beliefs. But I also want the congregation to pay close attention to the unspoken labels they share when they think no one is watching: that of friend, caring sibling, peacemaker, collaborator and all-encompassing sharer of love. These quiet labels are what make up each of our essences, including youth. I urge you to see them all and love them all even while your own labels are evolving. For, in these youth, our future as a congregation, denomination and country are held and I can’t wait to see how they envision our forward movement, together.