27 May 2008

Update of Past Events (Part Two)

It's puzzling how rapidly time slips away after so many landmarks, milestones, conversations, and events to the point where Kimberlee and I realized that we have not adequately recorded the history of the past one and a half months. So here are the leftover pieces:

This resolution actually began as an idea that seemed most applicable to the Central Midwest District, both of our current bases. Although the prospect quickly mushroomed, we didn't lose our grip on getting this resolution to the Central Midwest District Assembly. Through the contacts of Rev. Daniel O'Connell, CMWD Board of Trustees President, and Dori Davenport, CMWD Faith Development and Growth Director, we went through a very similar process as on the national level to get our resolution on the agenda. The Board of Trustees voted to have it presented at our Annual Meeting on Saturday, April 26th.

Last year I briefly attended District Assembly for the CMWD Youth Consultation. This year though, the Assembly was in St. Louis and I attended the entire event. The theme of our District Assembly was the 21st Century; however, the unofficial sub-theme could easily be agreed upon as Youth and Young Adults.

The first event Saturday morning was a panel of ministers and religious professionals, each who spoke for a few minutes about accomplishments or reasons for their congregational growth or something distinct about their congregation. Two of the six spoke entirely about youth and intergenerational ministry and many others touched on the subject. Then, there was a question and answer session and I was overwhelmed (in a positive way) by how much people wanted to talk about it! Then, our keynote speaker Rev. Michael Tino gave a presentation on worship and, again, there was a lot of attention drawn to youth and young adults!

People I approached about the resolution were intrigued, asked questions, and responded to mine. I prepared a speech for the Annual Meeting which explained the concept of the resolution, why conscious youth and young adult ministry is vital and important, and included a personal anecdote about the effects. I also spoke about how much the Central Midwest District is doing right regarding youth and young adult ministry and activities and why we should and can strive to more. There seemed to be a general agreement and understanding that this is a priority in our district and the results definitely reflected that. The vote was called and the resolution passed unanimously!

Afterward, I attended a workshop on Youth Ministry which was led by Rev. O'Connell and Rev. Krista Taves of Emerson Unitarian Universalist Chapel here in St. Louis. I wanted to see what information they presented, who attended the workshop, and answer any questions anyone may have (that I could answer) about larger initiatives involving youth ministry. The folks there were awesome and after both reverends had presented, it became an informative question and answer session. Rev. Taves even created this incredible resource (including “What We Know” about youth ministry and details about the program and relationship she has created with youth at her congregation) that was impressively insightful.

Then, I went to a workshop led by Rev. Tino about creative worship and, again, youth and young adult (in this case worship styles) entered the conversation frequently. The Young Adult worship entitled 'Everything Flows, Nothing Stands Still' was on Saturday evening and illustrated all of the components of a contemporary, fulfilling worship that were presented during the keynote. Finally, the winner of our district sermon contest, Tracey Howe-Koch (a woman from my home congregation) read a sermon that included much conviction about the need for increased attention on RE, youth, and young adult ministry during Sunday's final worship service. Kimberlee and I walked out and literally gawked at each other in amazement.

In the Central Midwest District, youth and young adults were the underlying agenda item in nearly every event I attended and were affirmed by the Central Midwest District when it passed the Youth and Young Adult Empowerment Resolution.

Now, I am preparing for General Assembly mentally, spiritually, and literally (it especially helps now that I am finished with high school). I have never attended GA before so it will be a bombardment of new faces, information, and experiences. Excited is to put it simply…my emotions regarding this (the past, the resolution, the time and effort, Friday’s plenary session, being a delegate, Youth Caucus, GA in general) are difficult to convey. However, I can confidently say that I can’t wait until it and I arrive!

With Peace, Love, and Thanks,

Victoria Mitchell

YAYA Resolution Journey

Early on, one of the first things that Victoria and I had to decide as a team was how to deal with the myriad of criticism on and about our attempts to craft a resolution. I think it is always a bit shocking when you are trying to do something positive to discover a crowd of critics. Yet to do something this large and perhaps offbeat, a bit bold, that you believe in, maybe naively, invites in the full spectrum of dialogue and debate. I do believe this conflict can be good and healthy, yet difficult to plot a route through toward a goal and we quickly agreed that we did not have the time or energy to commit to responding to all.

I feel the need to say that both Victoria and I have worked in our congregations, communities, campuses, district and continent for many years in doing work as staff, committee members and volunteers to grow and support youth and young adult ministry; yet we are naïve to many of the larger politically processes we are attempting to navigate. Here is a scary fact, over eighty percent of Unitarian Universalist youth leave our faith and never return. We wrote this resolution as a response to a difficult transition period for youth and young adult ministry. We did this because we felt that there was a need to articulate some clear values in how and why this ministry can be supported, is vital and necessary in our Unitarian Universalist faith. In this time of transition, it is necessary to focus on what we know works and what we do agree on. If we are to make some positive steps and changes in our attitudes and practices in youth and young adult ministry it will require a culture shift if how we think and invest in this ministry. It is critical that we do this work now, every day we spend navel-gazing on what ideal youth and young adult ministry is we lose our people; it is the time to do. This resolution will not make this change, it is a institutional response to a larger issue, but is it a piece of the puzzle and perhaps if the plenary body can leave thinking and knowing more about youth and young adult ministry it can serve in making a positive change and action.

On a visit to New Orleans , I had the privilege of meeting Gini Courter at the 175 anniversary of UU’s in the city. She had received our first draft of the resolution via e-mail and we spoke about the concerns of it being a responsive resolution. Responsive resolutions are at the end of plenary and receive little to no attention or debate. Gini was interested in bringing this resolution to the board and we arranged through e-mail to hold a conference call with board members Paul Richter, Lyn Conley, Justine Urbikas, Gini Courter and Victoria and me. During our call, it became clear that there was an interest in presenting the resolution to the UUA board of Trustees approval as a full business resolution. Yikes and Hurray! We discussed some concerns and ideas about the resolution, and agreed to contact members of the youth transition working group and other stakeholders such as DRUUMM, Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministry to receive feedback on the resolution.

Also, as the adult advisor on the YRUU steering committee, I submitted and reviewed the resolution with the YRUU SC and was pleased to receive their full support of the resolution. We submitted a final draft to the UUA board and anxiously awaited the board meeting.

Well it passed! The board voted for it to be a full business resolution and unanimously supported the resolution. You can read the details in the UU World article, http://www.uuworld.org/news/articles/107505.shtml.

So we will see you at GA! Hoping for a good debate and now I am back to end of planning the school year lessons, a large Keith Haring inspired mural, CMWD Spring Young Adult Conference (Check out http://cmwd-uuyan.org ), CMWD Youth Council and YA Regional Radius Conference.