Between the evening of Friday October 10 and the morning of Monday October 13, sixty youth and twenty-two adults from across the Central East Regional Group gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County in State College PA. The second annual CERG youth con was a chance to connect with new and old friends, learn from other UU’s wisdom, and discover how we truly are better together. One thing that’s special about this con is that it draws the leaders from each district which creates a special atmosphere of cooperation, inclusion, and enthusiasm where those who normally run the cons get to experience the con.
Youth cons are also a special crucible of UU community—a chance to truly live covenant, to stretch to become more inclusive, and to build intentional intergenerational community. On Sunday morning, the youth and adults at the con joined the congregation for a shared worship service co-planned with youth leaders. The speakers had such insights into the magic of intergenerational community:
From Sarah Diaz, an adult member of the congregation: "The presence and personality of every person of every age here at the Fellowship enriches this community. We share energy, optimism, humor, talents, attention, experience. Open your mind to the possibility of rich intergenerational relationships. Open your home or your heart to make connections with people older and younger than you. Open your eyes to see them, not just as they are now, but ask them about who they were and imagine who they may become. Open your ears to their voices. Spread your arms wide to embrace them. “
From Lars, a youth from the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady: "I find that I truly enjoy the relationships with trusted adults that I do know. I can only imagine how nice it would be if every youth and adult was as close as the youth are to our advisors. One of the ways I feel that would help this is if adults understood took the time to sit down and have a conversation thats longer than “Hi how are you?”, “good”, “Hows school going?” “good” “And what colleges are you at?” As a whole I find that meeting with different people keeps me inspired. Whether they may be a youth from and different district or if they are a trusting adult. The important thing is to know that everyone in this community values and supports you.”
From Eva Beal, a young adult from the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh: “Something inside my 6 year old self knew that my 16 and 26 year old selves knew I was going to need a community like the one I’ve found in UUism. And the beauty of intergenerational community we get to connect to all age of ourselves: who we have been, who can and will be, and who we are now. And in this age stops becoming definitive and becomes liberatory.”
Following these reflections, youth and adults gathered in small groups to tell their stories of the challenges and blessings of intergenerational community and their longings. The conversations continued at social hour with the kind of connection and sharing we know both youth and adults long for with each other. So this year's CERG Con was not only a chance to learn again how much we can learn from each other across district lines, but also a chance to relearn the power in human connection across age.
Evin Carvill-Ziemer, Congregational Life Staff