Bonds Between People of Faith
Blue Boat brings you this article by Rev. Dr. Kate R. Walker, Minister, Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church Alexandria, VA in 2 parts. Part one focuses on Dr. Walker's reflection on faith formation in youth and young adults. Part two includes Dr. Walker's research findings and observations. - edBy Rev. Dr. Kate R. Walker
Things that I found in my research with our youth and young adults:
*Unitarian Universalist (UU) young adults have a more positive worldview than UU youth, and both groups are more positive than the norm found in U.S. young adults, who show prominent themes of chaos and corruption in their worldview.
*In their beliefs about nature of God, UU youth and young adults are likely less theologically deterministic (directive god or predetermined outcome) than the U.S. norm for those age categories. UU youth and young adults more likely name events happen randomly or believe in human intervention. Yet, neither youth nor young adults offered the word humanist to self-identify their beliefs.
*UU youth define life purpose through their career choices, while UU young adults define life purpose through relational roles (such as parenting). Within the U.S. population, there are no clear identifying markers for life purpose.
*The values for UU youth and young adults are predominantly expressed through eudaimonic happiness (as opposed to hedonistic pleasure seeking), both in the expression of their own values and in the expressions of what they valued in others. This suggests happiness is tied to self improvement rather than pleasure oriented. Other studies suggest youth and young adults in the larger US are more hedonistic and consumerist oriented.
The research for my Doctor of Ministry on the Faith Formation of Unitarian Universalist youth and young adults confirms that UU youth and young adults exist, like many UUs, outside of the predominant theological norm of the rest of the U.S. population as measured by their worldview, beliefs and values (not clear about life purpose).
I believe our youth and young adults need to be intentionally invited to develop cross-generational relationships, particularly in mentoring arrangements because of the many life transitions with which they are faced, and how much easier it would be to have someone who can be an experienced companion. I deeply appreciate the work of Sharon Daloz Parks, author of Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Emerging Adults in their Search for Meaning, Purpose and Faith, who strongly recommends the benefits of creating mentoring relationships during pivotal development stages.
While youth and young adults may at times appear shy and withdrawn, making it hard for older members to approach, older UUs have more in common with youth and young adults than many think. UU youth and young adults want to be of service to others, but they may not know how to put service into meaningful and productive action. Our youth and young adults want to know you and their minister. While it is important for them to have age restricted support groups for bonding and support, they also need to be integrated into their larger religious community.
Because of their particular developmental transitions, and because they fall outside of the U.S. norm, UU youth and young adults need a safe religious space to develop their religious identity. Therefore their church needs to intentionally provide a safe place: to explore deep and complex meaning and moral issues; to look at empowering and positive worldviews on serious human challenges; to strengthen values on how to improve themselves; to explore holistic, embodied and intellectual religious experiences.
I want them to know that their church is a safe haven and as well as a place to celebrate their individuality. I want them to feel the power of community relationships.
During my thesis defense I was asked toward the end, “If I died tomorrow, what do I want them to know?” I said, “That they are deeply loved for their beauty and potential, and for them to believe that the first principle, inherent worth and dignity, applies to them.” I paused, and then added, and that they want to be a Unitarian Universalist.