Cojourners* on the Spiritual Way
The Unitarian Universalist Association Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries has two new discussion guides for youth based on Summer Seminary sermons: Grappling with the First Principle and What is God?. Today my body is a little sore from rock climbing and I think I might be getting a cold. I've been thinking a lot lately about how I can be most effective in these trouble times to create beloved community and my spirit is really trying hard to find meaning in the mundane. We all use check-in questions. Sometimes as a check in question I ask folks "how's your body, mind and spirit this week?" (Thanks Annie Gonzalez Milliken for teaching me that one!). It's so important for me to get to know a bit about what's going on in the lives, minds and hearts of the people I work with before we delve into business as usual. Not only can we share the practice of celebrating or grieving together, we can build empathy and vulnerability to be our authentic selves together, not just worker bots. At it's core, "how's your mind, body and spirit?" really means "What does it feel like to be you today? (body), What have you been thinking about or pondering over lately? (mind) And do you feel connected to that part of you that has always been there and that which is bigger than you? (spirit)" Do you feel connected to that part of you that has always been there and that which is bigger than you? Who else but a faith community is concerned with uncovering the personal, multitude of truths in that question? Who else but a faith community is dedicated to partnering with folks as they search for ways to identify that sense of connection with self and the divine? How do we as Unitarian Universalists serve as cojourners¹ with our youth in these discoveries? When I use the word "cojourners" I mean that youth ministry is not about adults simply creating the space for youth to explore their spirituality, youth ministry is about adults discovering our own sense of connection to self and the divine alongside youth. Just like youth, our answer to the question "how's your spirit?" changes daily if not hourly. For Unitarian Universalists (UU), there is no promise of a final arrival at an eternal sense of connection, but there is a profound recognition of the eternal sense of longing for connection and strategies (traditions and rituals) that help us meet that longing. One such strategy/tradition is deep conversation. Many UU communities offer small group ministry as a way to deepen connection and spirituality. Through careful listening and intentional sharing young people can explore meaningful questions and strengthen their own commitments to their faith journey. Sometimes we don't prioritize deep conversation because there are a million other things we think we have to do to have excellent youth programs like fundraise to get youth to events like service trips, national events or cons/rallies for example. And in the bustle of making sure we're meeting our deadlines, it can be easy to forget about connecting to that part of us that has always been there and that which is bigger than us through careful listening and intentional sharing. As Mark Yaconelli says in his 2007 book Growing Souls: Experiments in Contemplative Youth Ministry,
There's nothing wrong with all-night lock-ins and high-voltage activities if they serve ultimately to awaken young people to their deepest identity as beloved and lead them into relationships with others who support them in their growth in Christ. Programs, activities and events all have a place in this journey of ministry with youth. But what is most essential is the quality of presence we bring as ministers who know who we are and whose we are.
The Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries has a new resource that youth and adults can use to deeply discuss "who we are and whose we are" together—the Summer Seminary Discussion Guides.
Developed by the Summer Seminary program leader, Jennica Davis-Hockett and two Summer Seminary alumni, Kadyn Frawley and Ella Boyer, these deep discussions use sermons delivered by Summer Seminary students as a jumping off point to discuss the complexity of living by the First Principle (the inherent worth and dignity of every person) and both the vastness and preciousness of divine presence in our lives. Make the time to (re)connect to the unique role of our faith communities serve in the lives of our young people and have a conversation with them about the intimacy and ultimacy of our human experience.
*Cojourners is the art of accompanying someone on their spiritual journey.