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General Assembly 2000 Event 352

Speakers: Rev. Donna DiSciullo, Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry; Rev. Mary Ann Macklin, First Unitarian Society, Madison, WI

Panelists: Christopher Long, James Reeb UU Congregation, Madison, WI; Jon Fetter, James Reeb UU Congregation, Madison, WI; Reannon Peterson, First Unitarian Society, Madison, WI; Josh McFeeters, First Unitarian Society, Madison, WI; Erin Eloth, First Unitarian Society, Madison, WI

The Office of Young Adult/Campus Ministry, which is a part of the Department for Congregational, District, and Extension Services, is located in Princeton, NJ. The office exists to address the needs of Unitarian Universalists between the ages of 18 and 35. Its mission is to empower young adults throughout the continent by providing leadership training, to foster the development of young adult groups and campus ministry programs and to advocate for young adults within the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) administrative structure and Unitarian Universalist (UU) Congregations.

Rev. Donna DiSciullo, director of this office, is a full time employee of the UUA while Rev. Mary Ann Macklin is one of three ministers of the First Unitarian Church of Madison, WI. Macklin has a grant from the UUA to dedicate part of her time to Campus Ministry work in the nearby University of Wisconsin, which now has an active Campus Ministry group of about twenty-five young adults.

After introducing the panelists, workshop facilitators led participants to brainstorm what comes to mind when they hear the words "Young Adults." Responses included words like "searching, energetic, transition, confused, lonely, changing, struggling, questioning, identity, and broke."

Participants broke into small groups with one panelist in each group to help facilitate answers to two questions:

  1. What's the best thing about being in college?
  2. What's the worst thing about being in college?

Some of the best things are the exact flip side of the good things: independence versus homesickness; freedom versus loneliness; community in dormitory life versus a roommate from hell.

The panelists took turns sharing about their lives and what it's like to be a young adult. Two of them are still in college, two others are already out in the work force, while one person is in transition between finishing his thesis and looking for a job.

How do young adults find out about us if they are not raised in a UU church? One person stumbled across us when he arrived too early for a Catholic Church service and attended the UU service by mistake. He decided this was where he belonged. The UU church was renting out space to the Catholics at the time.

Another person found us when she went to a college fare and came across a booth with UU literature. She entered her name in the drawing and won one of our books. She has also subscribed to a college e-mail list that discusses philosophy and religion and came to know some of the UUs on the list whose posts she enjoyed.

Worship is central to Campus Ministry meetings. The element of worship distinguishes these meetings from self-help groups, or social clubs that UUs are so often criticized for. Attendance in the Campus Ministry groups can be sporadic; not the same people show up every time because many of them have to fit this into their busy college life. The worship format does not have to be complicated. Much of this is spontaneous and rather creative.

Many of our 130 Campus Ministry groups do not have professional minister as leaders. Although it does help to have professional leadership, DiSciullo says that all it takes is a small group of people who are interested in establishing campus groups to form a taskforce and mobilize. The taskforce will then recruit a contact person on campus, who can be a student or a staff member. When there is more than one person, get them in touch with one another and just do lunch. Macklin says that was how she started, by going to lunch with one other UU on campus and just talk.

UU congregations can help by letting the Office and Young Adult Ministry know when young people from their congregations go off to college so that they may be connected with other UU young adults there. District newsletters are another way to find out if some college student is coming to your area.

Some programs and resources exist on how to start, keep and nurture Campus Ministry groups on the web: start at the site of the Office of Young Adult/Campus Ministry.

Reported by Kok Heong McNaughton.

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