May 13, 2019.
When I was 13, I was baptized in the Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterians usually baptize babies, but this one vestige of my mother’s Southern Baptist roots held on so that I could make the choice on my own at an appropriate time. So I spent a year with another church member who talked about my faith with me, helped me memorize the Apostles’ Creed and generally prepared me for life as a fully fledged Christian.
In Oklahoma, Presbyterians were considered generally more liberal than the Baptists down the street. And while I was able to think for myself and choose what to believe, there was definitely a level of indoctrination into a world where everyone believes in God, the Trinity and, in a less preachy way, being saved.
When looking back at the time, I think I chose to go through it, partly to make my parents proud and the rest for the attention I would get doing it. (All of my peers had already been baptized.) Eternal salvation and knowing that I would be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven? Meh.
The Coming of Age program here at UUCF is somewhat similar to what I did in PCUSA. But instead of a baptism at the end, the youth are asked to present their credos and share the beliefs they have formed throughout the 7th-grade year. They have worked hard to form their ideas, ideals and faith during one of the most trying times in a young person’s life. The results are always full of hope, joy and the promise of a denomination continuing on a path of true community.
As many UU congregations struggle to find a path in a changing and unpredictable world, seeing the potential of our faith in the faces of these youth is a remarkable exercise in hope. I urge you to attend the services this Sunday, not for eternal salvation, not because the youth are “so cute” to stand up in front of the congregation and speak, and not even because the words they speak are so profound that we might all be “saved.” Instead, come and welcome them into being fully fledged members of the community with the thoughts, ideals and hurts we all have. As UUs, we may not have a memorized creed to live by, but lifting up the humanity of all of our community seems to me to be creed enough.