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.


Anonymous said...

I went to a UU church with some friends of mine when I was working as a dominatrix...they were fully into the kinky world and most of the church community either knew it or were in it too, and it was perfectly acceptable...
The Church was beautiful, the 'services' were inspirational and educational, I was also moved by how involved the young people were and how welcoming the entire community of people were to every one in the Church. It seems to be a Church that openly, TRULY accepts every one for who they are if they are there to seek. We're looking for one in the city we're moving to now...we've only been able to attend once here since we've moved to Helltown in the 3 years we've been's just too far away. But it's exactly what I want my girls to learn.

Holy said...

Yes, it is a very open, liberal church community - each city would attract its own eclectic bunch of people, I'm sure. Of course, here on the west coast, people tend to be a bit more tree hugging and earth centered, which is great. But tons of families with young kids - many who are ex-Catholic or ex-Baptist or whatever....which is not always good because it means there tends to be strong anti-views....which flies in the face of the equality and acceptance of all principles but there you have it.

Our church houses the homeless each November and so the kids end up making winter wear and preparing sandwiches and the like for them. I like that at the very least, they can hang their hat someone and learn values and virtues first and foremost and learn to accept diversity without judgment and religious fear. Enough time later for them to get messed up about what wretched creatures they are....I'd rather that not be permanently ingrained on their psyches early on.

But then I happen to embrace the notion of celebrating the the inherent good rather than inherent evil in one another.

Mike B. said...

Ritual rocks!

Anonymous said...

Good post. We've had friends who've attended the UU church back in MN, but it was hard to get ourselves to visit it. The concept sounds great, but as you say, there will always be agendas in the background of those who enter the doors. Just like throwing the world together into one small building. But I don't beleive in sheltering children from the world until they get thrown into it either.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what a UU church is but I sure likeed what the girl teen had to say. The quest goes on forever and if we found everything we wanted we would be doubt in my mind... In my Native American culture we also had very significant coming of age ceremonies.


Anonymous said...

I don't know what a UU church is either, but it sounded great. I'm getting used to your new format now, and I think I may agree to like it! ;)

Anonymous said...

Why did God create the world as it is? He created the world and gave us free will. We've mucked it up rather nicely.

Anonymous said...

Those young people are probably further along in the spiritual journey by virtue of their honesty alone. How many of us parroted back dogma by rote, more to please our beaming parents, rather than to attest to a particular commitment on our part? As a non-practitioner of any particular faith, I've settled into a belief which makes sense to me and keeps me going. It may change in time.
The Methodists who taught me as a child didn't quite understand this...

Anonymous said...

Hi Holy!

I hope you'll accept my apology for not visiting recently. The heat here is simply quicking my butt, and unfortunately at my new volunteer job at the golf course, I have to be out in it for 6 1/2 hours a day, during the heat of the day. ~sigh~

Anyroad, on to this post: You know, everything I have heard and read so far about UU really appeals to me. Turns out there is a congregation (correct term?) here in Las Vegas, and I'm seriously considering going over to have a look-see.

Thanks for the info, the link, and your own valued opinion.


Holy Thought of the Week

"To live fully is to let go and die with each passing moment, and to be reborn in each new one."

~ Jack Kornfield ~