13 April 2005

Troubles in Unitarian Universalist Youth Ministry

There seems to be more trouble between Continental Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) and the rest of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Thanks to Chris Walton ("Philocrites") and Joseph Santos-Lyons ("Radical Hapa") for posting this on their respective blogs:

More Change in YRUU (Philocrites)

Youth Ministry Associate (Radical Hapa)

Here's the text of Rev. Bill Sinkford's letter documenting a disagreement between YRUU Steering Committee and the UUA Staff over the discussions surrounding the hiring of the next staff person in the UUA Youth Office:
April 11, 2005

Dear YRUU Steering Committee,

The events of the recent Steering Committee meeting may very well reflect anxiety about change and uncertainty about power as we engage in a process of examining our ministry to and with youth.

Whatever the reasons, the Steering Committee’s demand that UUA staff leave the meeting so that SC alone could decide on the September YPS recommendation was clearly outside the boundaries of established procedures. Excluding the people who would work with and be responsible for the YPS staff, and refusing to discuss the issues interfering with collaboration, moved SC outside of right relationship with UUA staff to an extent that needs to be acknowledged. At this point, proceeding with “business as usual” is not possible.

SC’s behavior was particularly disappointing and hurtful following the special consultation on relationship conducted at the January SC meeting. That work sought to keep communication open when conflict arises. It is likely that right relations, and the structures of authority that support it, cannot be fully established until the Youth Ministry Consultation process addresses this fundamental issue.

It would not be fair, however, for others to take the consequences for the Steering Committee’s actions. We would not penalize the committed youth applicants, the Youth Office staff, or our congregations by reducing or delaying staffing. Therefore, until a productive, respectful relationship is restored between SC and UUA staff, we will hire youth for the position of Youth Ministry Associate rather than YRUU Program Specialist. This means that the UUA will hire the Youth Ministry Associate without the current form of consulting with the SC. Youth Ministry Associates work for the UUA, serving youth in congregations throughout our Association.

Finally, Steering Committee will be asked to sign a covenant regarding appropriate behavior while staying at Eliot and Pickett Houses. Right relationship needs to be re-established with UUA staff there as well.

In Faith,
Rev. William G. Sinkford
For things to get to this stage, apparently something is broken with the youth-adult relationships in this part of our Association ... right now, there is nothing on the UUA-sponsored youth ministry email lists like YRUU-L or Advisor-L, the YRUU LiveJournal area, or the fuuse.com message boards discussing this recent decision.


Rice Rockette said...

just remember: never impose your morality on anyone else

Steve Caldwell said...

I don't think I was imposing my morality on anyone else. Please tell me what you're seeing here that I'm missing.

I don't know if two instances is enough to establish a repeating pattern, but I wonder if Unitarian Universalist adults and youth working on their respective developmental issues create situations where youth ministry crashes and burns. Look at the timeline for the birth and death of Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) and the birth of Young Religious Unitarian Universalist (YRUU):

LRY 1954 - 1982

YRUU 1983 - 2006 or 2007??

I'm wondering if what we're seeing here isn't simple a youth issue.

This problem may also be due to adult developmental issues that impact on youth ministry.

Maybe crashing and burning every 25-35 years is a normal expectation for Unitarian Universalist youth ministry given our polity, theology, and traditions (not to mention the adult and youth developmental issues referenced above).

Embryo said...

in my opinion, it has everything to do with, as you said, adult development issues that are impacting youth ministry -- issues that basically amount to failing to find a balance between appropriate and oppressive relationships in congregations and districts, as well as on a continental level. the truth is that YRUU and LRY both would have worked in a culture that didn't oppress youth. and now that the chickens have come home to roost, the UUA's adults have taken it as an excuse to completely, blatantly, unapologetically defenestrate youth empowerment.

the UUA once had a really special youth ministry program. it's dead, and if Mr. Sinkford gets to continue down this path, it will never be rebuilt.