Monday, 7 May 2007
Rite of Passage
Each year, our UU congregation sets aside a day of worship for the 8th grade youth, in order to honour their spiritual quest and subsequent Coming of Age. While similar in concept to the spring rites of other faith traditions - ie. Confirmation, First Communion, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, etc., the UU COA ritual differs in huge dogmatic degree, insofar as the kids are not taught or told what to think, believe, memorize or accept as Truth. For many youth, being encouraged to critically reflect and think for themselves in order to craft and articulate their own credo statement at ceremonial end of this rite of passage can be a disconcerting experience.
Truth be told, sitting in on the Coming of Age ceremony last spring at church is what prompted me to become a UU. Watching these incredible, young teens take over and run the entire worship service, from music to liturgy to sermon, was such an amazingly powerful, not to mention emotional experience, that I felt the first official stirring of having arrived at a spiritual home.
I was in awe that these kids could be so grounded in their own process - from who they were, to who they are now, to who they are in advent of becoming - seemed incredible to me. Last year as this, I listened to these youth express their own theologies with a clarity of purpose rarely found in in tender-aged souls, and more to the point, with a freedom of expression seldom permitted in a house of worship.
Some confessed they still weren't sure about this thing called God and that the only reason they were there is because there parents (usually a pushy mother) made them be part of it, but they at least felt safe in being able to feel such uncertainty without fear of judgment or penance. Others insisted they knew God to be the universal ground of all beings. A bold few admitted they felt this exercise doomed to ritual failure, given that they belong to a willy-nilly congregation that often struggles to explain itself succinctly to the outside world. Still others could stand amongst the most erudite of theologians and speak about theodical and eschatological matters without a moment's hesitation.
Armed only with the guidance of just seven principles and six sources as props, these kids are encouraged to look inside to that scary dark place with the dimly lit candle for spiritual direction and meaning.
I, yet another pushy mother, look forward to the day my own children will come of age and begin their own earnest quest for the holy truth. As one girl admitted yesterday, "I've learned through this process that I don't have all the answers, even though I let on to my parents like I do. Instead, I just have alot of questions. Like if there's really a God, why would he or she create a world like this one? So I guess I'll be maybe continuing on this quest for a really, long time - probably the rest of my life, in fact."
Join the club, I wanted to say. But then, by virtue of the fact she has now official crossed the threshold and come of age into the larger congregation of holy questers, it would seem she already has.