This blog post was supposed to be about UU Youth and Young Adult opportunities for this summer. But as the UUA and the camps, conferences and campuses we work alongside begin to cancel all summer in-person events, we’re left in a weird time of knowing and not knowing. For many programs it’s obvious that they will offer some kind of virtual experience for young people this summer, but they are in the midst of getting it put together. For others it’s clear that the magic and energy of the in-person experiences they offered cannot be replicated virtually with integrity and they have opted to pause and dream of a future where we can gather in-person again. And still others find themselves in a limbo that feels all too familiar lately for event planners and facilitators. Should we do a thing? Will it be worthwhile? What is actually needed? Do our people have the bandwidth to attend? What are we competing with for their time? How long do we have to plan this way? Are we actually offering something people want or just checking off boxes based on a pre-pandemic plan? And most importantly, does not doing a thing mean we have failed? Failed the mission, failed our people, failed ourselves?
So it should come as no surprise that as of this writing I can’t do what I really want to and give you a list of all the fantastic and creative alternative opportunities for Youth and Young Adults this summer. Many of them are still being dreamed up over Zoom calls and late night text threads. What I do know is that every person and organization I have been in communication with who are planning something are using this time to think outside the box and offer imaginative programs that challenge the concept that the only way we can communicate, connect and be in community these days is over Zoom check-ins.
And there will of course be benefits to doing virtual experiences this summer. Distance is no longer an obstacle – youth in New York can attend a camp with attendees from Minnesota, Colorado or Washington. Lack of lodging and food costs will mean discounted registration fees. Many physical accessibility challenges can be mitigated by staying in our own homes. And creative scheduling means that the mental and physical health strain of attending a week-long intensive will be lessened.
When talking about on-line summer offerings I’m hearing a lot of comparisons to “what usually happens” and the unavoidable concern that it just won’t be the same or as good. And this is probably true for most people - there really is something magical that happens when two or more are gathered (in person). But, with some willingness and imagination, we might just experience something completely different. Something incomparable. And just distracting, weird, or engaging enough to help us get through a summer like no other.
Do you have an idea or a need for Youth and/or Young Adult Ministry for this summer? Are you planning something you want to share with other UUs? You can contact me at email@example.com or use the hashtag #UUUWATA (UU Until We Are Together Again) to let everyone know.