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Spiritual Support

Posted by T. Resnikoff // January 10th 2013 // soundings, Stories and Voices, youth // one comment

This brief excerpt from Katherine Ozment’s article, “Losing Our Religion” in the January 2013 edition of Boston Magazine lifts up the value of the Unitarian Universalist youth ministry at First Parish in Arlington, MA. Read the full article here. – Ed.

The religious group that ranked number two on my Belief-O-Matic quiz, with a 93 percent match, was the Unitarian Universalists.

The UU church, as it’s called, professes a non-creedal religion that contains elements of secular humanism but gives anyone who wants it an extra dollop of God on the side. I have a friend with two teenage boys who raves about the instruction they’ve received at their UU church, First Parish in Arlington, and she told me it provides just the sort of community I seemed to be looking for. So I arranged to talk with members of the teen youth group at their Sunday-evening meeting, to see what they could tell me about the benefits of their church.

I met 13 youth-group leaders in a basement lined with old couches and strewn with empty pizza boxes. When I asked what they thought my still-young children would miss out on if we never joined any religious group, they told me that they couldn’t imagine their lives without this community, and that First Parish gives them a place to be themselves and believe what they want. One girl, wearing a blue sweatshirt and blond ponytail, said, “This church creates a structure for us to grow up in.” Then another girl, right across from me, spoke up. “Why,” she asked, “haven’t you given your kids religion?”

Nobody had ever posed that question to me so baldly before. I sputtered back an explanation: my mixed-up childhood, without one set group to call my church or my tribe; my inability to attach; never finding the right fit. But even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I was aware that I didn’t have a clear answer.

Later, I asked Marcie Griffith, the youth-program coordinator, what she sees as the main benefit of this church for teens. She shared the story of a girl who had found out right before coming to youth group one night that her parents were getting divorced. She’d sat through the whole meeting looking upset and hadn’t shared anything, but when she lit her candle, as they each do at the end of every meeting, she told everyone her parents were divorcing. At the end of the candle-lighting ceremony, Griffiths said, the whole group circled around her in a spontaneous, spiral-shaped hug and then, without anyone speaking, they unspiraled. “I remember standing there thinking, This is why I do this work,” she said.

I drove home on that dark autumn night imagining my own kids struggling through adolescence, and having a community of like-minded peers to share their troubles with. Church seemed to offer those kids something nothing else could.


Read the full text of Katherine Ozment’s article on Boston Magazine.


About the Author

Ted Resnikoff is the Digital Communications Editor at the Unitarian Universalist Association.
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