Growing Closerby Gail Forsyth-Vail Last Sunday I attended the Bridging worship service at the North Parish of North Andover, MA. It is an uplifting, glorious time when youth symbolically embrace their new status as young adults, and the congregation blesses them and wishes them well. What I like best about the service is that it holds hope, change, and possibility alongside gratitude, memory, and continuity. Each of the Bridgers spoke, recalling the events, people, and relationships that have thus far shaped their spiritual lives. They spoke of having fun together, of impactful conversations across generational lines, of working together and separately to make the world a better place, of being cared for in moments of deep sorrow. They shared poetry and talked about music, food, friendship, and how the congregation had given them a chance to find their own voices, to be known and included as members of the faith community. Each received a rose with thorns, a symbol of both the beauty of their unfolding lives and spirits and the congregation’s confidence that they are ready to face some of the thorny places in life. They were blessed by the words of youth who remain behind, of young adults who had gone before them, and of parents, teachers, and mentors who have guided and loved them. Bridgers- and all those in attendance- were gifted with the music of youth musicians as they departed the sanctuary carrying the quilt they had made together as a Coming of Age group four years earlier. And then there was cake, and hugs, and lots and lots of smiling! The Bridging ceremony is a marker of change, a rite of passage that recognizes that something is different when a youth moves into young adulthood. It celebrates the ways in which we in religious community support and contribute to the growth and deepening of one another’s spirits and sense of calling, exemplified in how we support and recognize our youth and young adults. It is a once a year recognition of the on-going multigenerational work of a healthy congregation. Bridging- as a process and not just a ceremony- is a perfect entry point for a congregation to strengthen and deepen its ministry to and with youth and young adults. You can find out more about how to do that in the newly published Bridging: A Handbook for Congregations available in the UUA bookstore.
Gail Forsyth-Vail is the Adult Programs Director at the UUA and is co-author with Jessica York of Bridging: A Handbook for Congregations.