Kathleen Montgomery, known universally as “Kay,” has almost three decades of experience at the Unitarian Universalist Association and is now the Executive Vice President. She has seen our movement grow and change over the years. Carey McDonald asked her thoughts on being a young adult UU and the future of young adult ministry.Carey McDonald: What were your experiences growing up as a young adult? Kay Montgomery: I bring a different perspective than a lot of young adults since, when I was 25, I was married and I didn’t identify as a “young adult” or feel separate from other adults. I grew up Roman Catholic in working class Detroit, went to parochial school and a Jesuit college. As a teenager, the parochial setting was my life and I went to mass just about every day. One day, around age 21, right after President Kennedy had been killed, I tried to go to church and realized there was nothing there for me. I have no ill will towards my Catholic upbringing - I just didn’t believe the creedal stuff. I moved to Atlanta and fell into the group of friends I always wanted. We shared books, politics, and other things, and many of us eventually found the Unitarian Universalist church. I joined the UU church in Atlanta and I had a “young adult group” that filled that need outside of the church. I think that’s different from many people today. CM: Many young adults today find Unitarian Universalism in an explicitly theological context, as they are searching for a faith community. KM: I certainly did. At some point as a young adult I picked up a book which had a chapter on UUism and I thought, “son of a gun, I can’t believe there’s a place like this.” CM: What was it like being a young adult in the Atlanta congregation? KM: I started attending church regularly when I had children, and one of the formative things I found at the Atlanta UU church was the “extended family” trend of gathering with groups of people of all ages. The Atlanta church was also a central player in the South in the civil rights movement, which was very important. When I joined the Atlanta church, I was immediately asked to do many, many things, forever being asked to do things for which I had no experience! It allowed me to make mistakes; it was a great place for maturation. CM: Yes, but doesn't it cut both ways – congregations can also burn out young adults pretty quickly. KM: Yes, you see both. CM: What are some of your hopes for the future of young adult ministry? KM: I think a diverse approach to young adult ministry is in the right direction. There are so many differences between an 18 or 19-year-old and someone who is 35, in a completely different time in their life, and we need to support both of those groups and everything in between.
Carey McDonald is the Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at the Unitarian Universalist Association.