31 July 2005

"It's like deja-vu all over again." -- UU Youth Ministry History Resources

With the upcoming "Consultation on Ministry to and With Youth" happening within the UUA between Fall 2005 and Fall 2007, I thought it would be useful to review the history about where our youth ministry has been in the past and where we might find ourselves in the future.

The Yogi Berra quote seemed appropriate ... especially in light of the recurring issues that have come up in UU youth and young adult ministry since the early 20th century (e.g. how much autonomy is appropriate, non-congregational vs. congregational expressions of Unitarian Universalism, substance use and sexuality issues in conference settings, etc).

These issues predate Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) and even the earlier Liberal Religious Youth (LRY). It seems that UU adult and youth developmental needs keep bringing us back to a re-invention of youth ministry every 25 to 30 years.

Here are some suggested history resources for a starting point on a discussion of UU Youth Ministry:
From the UUA Youth Office: 7.20.2005 - All past issues of Synapse are now online!! Thanks to some new technology (and some help from our fabulous interns!) we have been able to scan and post on our website all of the back issues of the YRUU magazine / newspaper Synapse and it's predecessor, the Liberal Religious Youth publication People Soup. It's hours of history and browsing pleasure!

From Rick Roehlk's online collection of LRY and YRUU historical documents - UU Youth History

From Skinner House Books and the UUA Bookstore - We Would Be One: A History of Unitarian Universalist Youth Movements by Wayne Arnason and Rebecca Scott - Documents the challenges, triumphs and far-reaching effects of the UU youth movement. Compelling personal stories capture how important UU youth groups, conferences and organizations have been in peoples' lives from the late 19th-century to the present. Arnason was the UUA's director of youth programs from 1980 to 1984 during the creation of YRUU. Scott was a youth programs specialist in the UUA Youth Office from 1989 to 1990. Revised and updated from Follow the Gleam, published in 1980.

Unitarian Universalists Speak Out for Reality-Based Sexuality Education Legislation

From the UUA's web site ...
Unitarian Universalists Speak Out for Reality-Based Sexuality Education Legislation
(July 28, 2005) At a meeting held with Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) yesterday, the Rev. William G. Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and Rob Keithan, director of the UUA's Washington Office for Advocacy, presented Senator Lautenberg with more than 2,000 affirmations of support signed by Unitarian Universalists from around the country in support of S.368, and H.R. 768, the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act.

The REAL Act is endorsed by Advocates for Youth, with whom the UUA is a partner, and would provide funding to states for medically accurate, age appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education in the schools—education that includes information about both abstinence and contraception, from both a values and public health perspective. The effort is consistent with the approach taken by Our Whole Lives (OWL), the UUA's reality-based sexuality education lifespan curriculum developed with the United Church of Christ and now in use in congregational and secular settings. More than 125 national and state and organizations are supporting the REAL Act, including medical, civil rights, family planning, educational, public health, reproductive rights, and HIV/AIDS organizations.

The UUA launched an effort to build support for the REAL Act as part of an outreach effort from the Rev. Sinkford to Unitarian Universalists across the country. Sinkford wrote to UUA members in late April, "The voices of the religious right have been largely successful in drowning out other people of faith. This has allowed them to dominate the current debate on moral values and assert themselves as the religious voice on crucial matters including civil rights, health and the family, international peace and justice, and religious liberty. You and I cannot allow the religious right to speak for us."
The rest of this article can be read online here.

Other Resources About This Issue

22 July 2005

New Worship Planning Resource Online

The UUA Young Adult and Campus Ministry (YACM) Office has a new worship planning resource online. It's called "Unitarian Universalist Contemporary Worship" and can be found online here:


Here's a brief description about this resource copied from the YACM web site:
"This site is designed as a resource for congregations seeking to design more contemporary worship services to attract young adults and others who are largely absent from our communities of faith. It includes articles, resources and links for UU Contemporary Worship. Soon to come are pieces on the theology of contemporary worship (and why it fits better with Unitarian Universalism than more traditional worship styles) and more resources for designing and implementing contemporary worship."
This worship resource and other UUA worship resources can be found online in a previous post to my blog listing available UU worship resources (originally posted on 22 January 2005 - updated on 22 July 2005).

These worship planning resources are provided to our congregation through the generous financial contributions that our congregation and other UU congregations make to the UUA each year.

These worship resources reflect the cooperative and interdependent spirit of Unitarian Universalism. They are freely available to all who need them.

20 July 2005

UUA Youth Office Response to the Concerns Raised About The Decision to Withdraw Support for Con Con

The following article was posted on fuuse.com:
March-July 2005
To: Young Religious Unitarian Universalists and their Allies and Supporters
From: The UUA Youth Office

Note: This response was originally drafted in March of 2005. Because of other issues taking up a considerable amount of staff time, we were not able to finalize and post this response until July. We are sorry for any inconvenience this delay may have caused.
Responses to the Con Con Decision

After the Youth Office's decision to withdraw support from Con Con, we invited feedback from the wider community about the decision. The response was noticeably positive; people echoed many of the same concerns about Con Con we had shared. To be specific, yruu@uua.org received 47 emails directly praising the decision, as well as 25 people who wrote simply "to support the Youth Office" without commenting either way on the decision. Positive comments primarily came from former Youth Office staff, youth advisors, and religious educators, though 7 youth also wrote to us agreeing with the decision. We sincerely appreciate that support. We also received email from 11 people criticizing the decision, 5 of whom were youth. We also learned of a number of conversations going on in online communities about the decision (though we could not possibly have followed all such conversations).
The rest of the response can be read here or here.

17 July 2005

GeoURLs on Church Web Sites

Here's a geeky but cool web site feature that I learned about on the "Websters" UUA-sponsored email list for congregational webmasters:
"GeoURL is a location-to-URL reverse directory. This will allow you to find URLs by their proximity to a given location."
Using hand-held GPS coordinates in WGS-84 format that were recorded with a Garmin eTrex, I updated our church home page with the appropriate meta-tags, indexed our site on the GeoURL web database, and added a link to our congregation's GeoURL data on our home page.

From page that shows the GeoURL data, go to the Google Map page and view our congregation location using the "satellite" map feature.

16 July 2005

The Consultation on Ministry To and With Youth

The following announcement comes from the UUA Youth Office Web Site:
7.13.2005 - The Consultation on Ministry to and With Youth -- The UUA Board of Trustees has approved the process recommendation of the Consultation on Ministry to and With Youth. This is an exciting process by which the UUA and its member districts and congregations will revision the way we do youth ministry over the next two years. Learn about the process here!
On the UUA Board of Trustees "Youth Consultation" web page, you will find a link to the following document:

UUA Consultation on Ministry to and with Youth: Process Recommendation (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader or other compatible software).

14 July 2005

Different Religions Week Announcement - 15-22 July 2005

I received this in my email today from Nathan Black and I thought this idea might be a useful project for Unitarian Universalists to support ... either in the form of Different Religions Week celebrations in their communities or in cooperation with other existing multi-faith celebrations like World Religion Day. Nathan's email is posted below ...
Dear Steve,

I am a student at Rice University in Houston and the founder of Different Religions Week, a week during which people are encouraged to attend services of faiths different from their own. I read your blog this January and determined that, based on the blog's subject matter, you might be interested in posting a comment regarding the week -- either agreeing or disagreeing with its concept or simply announcing that it is taking place.

Different Religions Week 2005 is July 15-22. I started the movement in 2003 to help curb people's widespread ignorance of other faiths, which often leads to intolerance and which sometimes ultimately results in -- or is used to justify -- violence (consider, for example, 9/11 or the Bosnian conflict). More information about the how and why of the movement is available at http://www.differentreligionsweek.org.

There is no one "event" around which Different Religions Week is based; rather, people are simply encouraged to find and attend an unfamiliar religious service at their convenience during the week. (Atheist and agnostic meetings count too.) The movement's Web site has links under "World Religions" to directories where people can get started finding a service.

Please consider posting a comment on or announcement of Different Religions Week 2005 on your blog, and e-mail me if you do so I can keep track of the Web presence of the movement. Thank you for your consideration and your time.

Nathan Black

School e-mail: nwblack@rice.edu
Movement e-mail: differentreligionsweek@yahoo.com

10 July 2005

Another Apology ...

In regards to the recent discussion on my blog and other online communities such as fuuse.com about recent events at GA, I want to apologize.

If I hurt you, I'm sorry. Hurting others was not my intent.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do to fix the mistakes I've made.

Rather than contacting me by blog for this, I would request email being sent to the following address:

stevecaldwell at bellsouth.net (replace the "at" with "@" or use the HTML link).

I've said too much already on my blog and fuuse.com on this subject and I will be taking a vacation from blogging.

If anyone is still interested in discussing this issue, there are two threads on fuuse.com ... one discussing the UUA Board letter and one proposing a possible action that may prevent or reduce future incidents at GA.

Thank you.

09 July 2005

An Open Apology ...

... to anyone who feels that I called them a racist.

I'm sorry that I wrote anything that might have implied you were a "racist" as the term is commonly used (e.g. a person like David Duke and other overt white supremacists).

That was not my intent. I did not say anything remotely equivalent to stating "you are a racist."

But I did ask a question on my blog.

Is a tendency that I've observed in some online posts to minimize the role of race as a major factor in the GA incidents due to unconscious racism or ageism?

An unconscious response that comes in part from racist influences in North American culture could be happening here.

Suggesting this possibility arising out of involuntary and unconscious cultural influences isn't the same as calling a person a "racist." I just want to suggest that we need to be mindful of influences in our society that encourage us to discount racism.

Again ... my apologies for any misunderstanding my blog words have created here.

Dangers Inherent in Discounting Racism in Unitarian Universalist Communities

In case you're curious why I think any liberal religious and Unitarian Universalist tendency to discount racism as a current-day problem that exists in our UU communities, here's a brief snippet from the UUA's Lifespan Faith Development resource archives that addresses how discounting of racism can cause racism to thrive:
"Racism is a particularly sensitive topic for religious liberals because we pride ourselves on our perceived lack of racism. However, we often fail to differentiate between traditional or overt racism and neo-racism. Traditional racism is direct, institutionalized racial discrimination/oppression, using strategies of direct even legal exclusion and/or hierarchical domination. Slave laws and Jim Crow are examples.

Neo-racism is indirect, institutionalized racial discrimination such as calls to eliminate affirmative action, redlining of neighborhoods, denial of small business loans to persons of color, immigration policies that exclude Africans and other persons of color, and the social and economic abandonment of inner city schools. Because neo-racism thrives on the denial of the existence of racism, it is a particularly perplexing problem for religious liberals who deny their own role in a racist society and therefore so easily succumb to neo racism's insulating effects."
This may seem like a harsh message, but it's one that I think we need to seriously consider in how we react to incidents like the recent one at General Assembly.

Racism and Racial Profiling of UU Youth of Color at GA -- Summary of Events

Here's a summary of the recent racist events at the 2005 Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) General Assembly (GA) in Ft. Worth TX. I've collected this information from the following sources:

UUA Board of Trustees Open Letter (uua.org web site)
UUA Board of Trustees Open Letter and Reader Commentary (fuuse.com web site)
Reader Comments on the "Boy in the Bands" Blog

And here's what I found out:
  1. Some white Unitarian Universalists (UUs) assumed that UU youth of color were hotel service people and asked them to carry luggage or park cars.
  2. There was a "racial profiling" incident outside the hall where the GA Closing Ceremony was happening. A group of UU youth of color were stopped from entering because they were not wearing nametags. White adult UUs without their nametags were not stopped even though they were violating the same requirement on page 3 of the GA Program Book.
  3. The initial verbal dispute involved several UU youth of color and a UU adult who questioned their right to be there. This questioning provoked an angry response.
  4. This verbal dispute caused a UU minister to intervene in support of the UU adult.
  5. Another white UU youth intervened in support of the UU youth of color and verbally attacked the minister and she responded in kind -- escalating this conflict.
  6. During the GA Youth Caucus discussions after the Closing Ceremony incident, the Youth Caucus staff met and decided through consensus process to cancel the Monday night dance they had sponsored.
Canceling the dance was apparently a controversial decision for some GA attendees. Here's a bit of blog commentary from a young adult worked on the Youth Caucus staff:
" ... and i'm not sure what the sway the 'institutional youth of the UUA' means, but i'll guess is has to do with the canceling of the YOUTH sponsored dance. and the youth (and adults who were there in support, including myself) who cancelled it were white volunteer GA youth caucus staff, not youth office staff. it was a hard decision for the youth, but consensus was reached, we did not want to be a bunch of white people partying it up while all of their friends of color were spilling their guts about the crappy thing that had happened to them over the course of GA. that would be adding insult to injury."
And ... as you may have noticed in my earlier post, there's also a lot of denial that racism could be an issue for Unitarian Univeraslists. Denial won't make this problem any easier.

Racism and Racist Incidents at 2005 UUA General Assembly

In case you haven't heard about this yet, some disturbing things happened at the 2005 General Assembly in Ft. Worth TX.

The UUA Board of Trustees has published an open letter to UU youth of color and UU people of color who attended Fort Worth General Assembly and to the broader UU community.

Rev. Eric Posa was an on-scene Chaplain for the event and his very useful analysis can be found online here.

Commentary from fuuse.com can be found online here.

The surprising thing about this incident is the tendency of some to minimize the impact of what has happened. I don't know if this comes from unconscious racism, ageism, or a combination of the two. Examples of this tendency for some Unitarian Universalists to dismiss racism as a possible cause for some incidents at GA can be found online here, here, and here.