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Bridging Handbook
Bridging Handbook Offers Guidance for Congregations

Each spring many congregations celebrate the graduation of high school seniors with a bridging ceremony that marks their transition from youth to adulthood. To help in that process, and to encourage more congregations to adopt a bridging practice, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has created a new handbook on that topic. Bridging: A Handbook for Congregations was written by Jessica York, the UUA’s youth programs director, and Gail Forsyth-Vail, adult programs director.

“This book gives congregations the opportunity to bring a real richness and true faith development to a major life transition,” said York. The handbook is in three parts: for bridgers, parents and caregivers, and for a “congregational support team” designed to support the bridging process.

The handbook supports congregations if they just want to do a ceremony at the end of senior year, but York hopes many will want to do bridging as a yearlong program. “We’re really encouraging congregations to do more than an end-of-the-year ceremony.”

The book suggests beginning bridging at the end of the junior year of high school and continuing for a year with workshops, retreats, and other activities.

Workshops for youth provide an opportunity for them to look back on their history with the congregation and with Unitarian Universalism, said York, and determine what kind of relationship they want to have with their faith going forward. She said youth would also have opportunities to develop spiritual practices to help deal with the stress of this major life transition. “Bridging really is about faith development,” she said.

York noted that workshops can be structured in several ways, including as weekend retreats and in formats suited for clusters of congregations.

The bridging handbook also presents opportunities for parents to gather with other parents “to share memories of the young person, talk about how the transition is affecting them and their youth, and talk about ways they can support the youth.”

York emphasized that the book is a resource rather than a curriculum. “A congregation can take it and shape it and fit activities into its particular culture.”

Forsyth-Vail added, “The Bridging ceremony is an important milestone, not only in the life of an individual, but also in the life of a family and a faith community. This program will enhance your youth and young adult ministry programs, and help make the process of becoming a young adult a spiritually fulfilling community event for your congregation.”

Bridging: A Handbook for Congregations is available for $15 from the UUA Bookstore.

About the Author

  • Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

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