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We are here today to recognize the completion of your program of study for this Coming of Age ceremony and to celebrate with you the faith you have come to accept through this year of questioning and investigating.
Some of you were brought to a Unitarian Universalist church to be Dedicated and Named. At that ceremony we gave thanks for the miracle of your new life. Your parents affirmed their sacred responsibility to you. We rejoiced in the promise and hope of every child and the congregation pledged to promote your welfare and "the welfare of all our children to the end that they might grow in beauty, truth, and love."
To that ceremony, this morning, we add this Rite of Passage. We set apart these moments to recognize the important changes in you and to celebrate a new stage in your life, one with diverse meanings.
Responsive Reading by Parents and Youth
Once you were infants dependent upon our love and the wisdom of others.
Now we are young persons entering an adult world with increasing responsibilities for our own decision making.
Once you belonged to an environment of faith and values outside your ability to alter or reject.
Now our world has many systems and values for us to take into account.
Once you had few choices.
Now our choices are many, sometimes frightening and always with long range consequences.
Now, as much as ever, we give you our affection and concern.
Pledge by parents
We stood by you in the past and we stand with you now. We offer you our continuing love.
(Parents sit down and the mentors come up.)
Offers remarks signifying participants study and understanding of our faith, and readiness to be affirmed.
We celebrate with you your conscious choice to share fully in the ongoing life of our faith. Your study with your mentors has helped you grow as a person. By that study you have gained an informed understanding of our faith and have more clearly focused on your identity as a Unitarian Universalist. Now I ask you: Do you wish to be affirmed in the Unitarian Universalist faith?
Do you promise, as our faith instructs, to seek the truth in fi-eedorn, to show love and justice, to grow in your faith, and to witness to the needed work of the world.
Do you accept participation in the life of our congregation.
May you find strength for years to come in your resolve. Let us join together in an Affirmation of Faith: Love is the doctrine of this church, the quest of truth is its sacrament, and service is its prayer. To dwell together in peace, to seek knowledge in freedom, to serve humanity in fellowship, to the end that all souls shall grow into harmony with the Divine Thus do we convenant with each other and with God.
Youth share with their statements of faith (credo statements): what they believe and what that implies for the years ahead.
President of the Congregation
As a symbol of your commitment to our faith, we present you with the Flaming Chalice. The chalice is of ancient religious significance: in it a We believe in you. We promise you our continuing friendship and share with you the hopes and labors of making this a better world. May we continue to grow together and be witnesses to our confirmed faith.
God of our hearts, that which enlightens and ennobles us, we come together in a unity of spirit to celebrate a personal commitment of these young men and women.
We join in thanksgiving. Here we are grateful for all who have contributed to our Unitarian and Universalist faith and have brought us to today.
We join together in remembrance. Here we are reminded of all who came before us and left this church as their heritage.
We join together in promise. Here we commit ourselves to the new day dawning even as we would long for the security of the old.
In this quiet moment, blessed by remembrance and hope we pause in prayer: Help us, O God, that we may love and serve one another. Give us courage and strength. Grant that we may be searchers after justice and mercy. Remind us to laugh together to lighten our burdens and Encourage us to give back to our heritage that which will endure from generation to generation. Amen
Extension of Right Hand in Fellowship
Minister, President, and Mentors extend to the participants their right hand in fellowship.
Closing Words by the Youth
We are never complete. We are never finished. We are always yet to be. May we always allow others to be, and help and enable each other to grow toward all that we are capable of becoming. Amen.
Benediction by the Minister
Now, go forth into the world in peace. Be of good courage. Prove all things and hold fast that which is good. Amen.
Rationale for the Liturgy
Walking forward together signifies a connection. The parents are presenting their children. In presenting their children to the wider community, they are indicating that their family is open, the boundaries mix, are flexible and permeable, to let others in and let people out.
Opening words express a continuity. This church is the place where you were Dedicated and Named we tell the youth; or a Unitarian Universalist Church is where you were recognized as a 'new' being. These words also imply that the first purpose of a family is the continuence of the human species. Your parents, these words indicate, pledged to nourish you; the congregation promised it would support you. Then we add, but "a new thing" is about to happen. We are here to celebrate a new stage in your life, one with "diverse meanings." We are about another task today, the task of self-definition and of claiming one's unique personhood.
The Responsive Reading between the parents and youth makes clear that selfdefinition. The youth declare they are separate and distinct people with new responsibilities for being in the world. There is the recognition of change with the repeated phrases, "once you were"; "now you are." Implicit in these refrains is the grief over the "letting go", but also a recognition that we must let go for the new thing to happen.
I ask the parents to leave at this point, signifying their trust that their children can stand alone. I ask the mentors to come up to signify that as we grow there are other human beings that enter our lives and give us support in our pilgrimages.
The mentors' part here is informational. They will tell us in their own words (hopefully 2-3 minutes) of the rigorous study of the participants which has occurred over the year, and the readiness of the participants to be affirmed.
The minister's response is an affirmation of that readiness, then moves to ask the youth if they are ready to make an adult commitment to their faith and to assume a responsibility to that faith in which they have been nurtured. They say "I do." The next question is a reminder of what that faith requires of them. Their assent is asked for. The third question asks for a commitment to our faith community. The minister then states that she hopes this affirmation will strengthen them in the years to come. I put this whole part in, in a vow format, so that the participants am aware of their assent and what that assent means to their religious being. I think this part furthers the process of differentiation by asking for a conscious commitment by the youth of a faith that up until now they were part of because of familial affiliation.
I put in an Affirmation of Faith here, for both the congregation and the youth to reaffirm why we are all here in the first place: "to dwell together... to seek knowledge... to serve humanity... to the end that all souls shall grow in harmony with the Divine."'
Then the youth make their own faith statements. This is "what I believe." Here they state their own autonomy, here they are free to differ, here they claim the validity of their own thoughts and beliefs. They here take responsibility for their own religious being by stating the content of their faith.
The gift by the president of the congregation is an embodiment of that commitment. The gift is an historic symbol of our faith, the flaming chalice.
The congregational response in affirmation of the youth is crucial. The congregation promises to walk with the youth in their pilgrimage, sharing "hopes and labors." This is done in friendship and in witness to the world's calling. Here is played out the dynamic balance between leaving and joining, between separation and coming together. The youth after declaring their separateness are now brought into community. This congregational response captures the meaning of Tillich's statement: "Persons can grow only in the communion of personal encounter. Individualization and participation are interdependent on all levels of being."
The prayer is a prayer of promise and hope naming our reason for gathering, recalling all who have come before us, reminding us of our tasks to the generations that follow and petitioning whatever is the noblest within us to give us strength and resolve. It is in here as a summary statement in prayer form of what unites us.
The Right Hand in Fellowship continues the theme of connection of separate selves in community.
The Closing Words said by one of the youth stresses what developmental theories, both theological and psychological, point to: "the perfection is in the becoming."
The Benediction is the good word from which we go forward. It is yet another statement of things we hold true.
The party is a wonderful celebration for all!
This is an important ceremony for our youth and for our church. Exupery says, "Do not neglect the ceremonies of our passage." He is right, and this passage in our tradition has been neglected long enough.
This ceremony as planned, in addition to being supportive of youth in transition, has a threefold effect on the adults:
- to help parents recognize and grieve the ending and the beginning in this natural yet difficult developmental passage for both themselves and their children;
- to help us adults to see our youth in new and more responsible ways; and
- to help the congregation reaffirm its own faith commitment and understanding of why they are in the church rather than not.