Saturday, November 5, 2011

Current and future generations

Seventh in a series of posts about the October UUA board meeting

The Steering Committe of the organization-formerly-known-as-Continental-Unitarian-Universalist-Young-Adult-Network met in Boston at the same time as the board. Several of us joined them at lunch to talk about the future of their organization and the UUA. The timing was interesting -- the board had just had its conversation about the scope of the organization.

I have heard both dismissive and earnest comments about Young Adults whose congregations are the conferences they attend -- dismissive by those who think you have to sign a book and show up religiously on Sundays, earnest by those who think we need a much broader definition of what it means to be in covenant. Not surprising, the Young Adults we met with were in the latter camp, talking eloquently of what it meant in their lives to be Unitarian Universalist. Many of them were also active in their home congregations, but not all. Rather than attempt to convince anyone that Young Adult "cons" did not compete with traditional congregations, this group embraced it, renaming themselves "Conference Attending Young Adult Network" (CAYAN, pronounced like the pepper).

A 1960 Harvard Business Review article by Ted Levitt about organizations defining themselves too narrowly (is our business about railroads or about transportation?) comes to mind when we talk about congregations. I personally do not think one can be a Unitarian Universalist in isolation -- for one thing, it is too easy, especially for someone who may define Unitarian Universalism as believing whatever you want. That said, is the only option signing the book in a congregation, whether bricks and mortar or a sanctioned virtual one like the Church of the Larger Fellowship?

Paraphrasing Ted Levitt, is our mission about congregations, or is it about covenant? I welcome our Youth and Young Adults to help the rest of us figure that out.

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