A Young Adult's Role in Paradise
From Clairece Cooke, Unity Church young adult
A note from Ray Hommeyer, editor of Unity’s Young Adult Column:
During a compelling conversation at Young Adult Group, Claire Cooke reframed a question that surprised and inspired me. I asked Claire to share her insights with the congregation by exploring this month’s theme of paradise. As a member of the church, Unity is where she experiences the promise of Beloved Community, the closest humanity can get to paradise.
If you are a young adult that attends a religious institution, you have likely been asked by your older peers, where are the young adults? A phrase not uncommon at Unity Church, projected onto younger ears. An earnest question portraying genuine interest. The answer that easily comes to mind is: honestly, I don’t know. If I had to guess, I would say most youth who grew up at Unity Church live elsewhere now for one reason or another. Some are involved in facets of the church including young adult group, welcome team, worship associates, youth leaders, and choir. There are those who consciously do not come and then there is a significant portion of the world's young adult population that does not know we, Unitarian Universalists, exist.
What I am more interested in is, what do you want with young adults? And a whole cascade of questions that come with that. I think the true question is: what is the role of young adults in paradise? First, let me tell you the definition I have imagined for paradise. A state in which a person with clear sight feels at peace, or where joy is experienced in the absence of destruction. Idyllic, requiring constant work and impossible to maintain in its perfect state but inseparably tied as the connection between the struggle and purpose of life. That is big. Here, church exists as a space that actively moves towards paradise, a space where it can exist, a space where it is taught and practiced through Beloved Community.
If our goal is to work towards and struggle for paradise, I doubt that increasing the number of young adults in pews, diligently listening to the service, is the only goal since numerical outcomes alone do not guarantee the presence of love or community. Furthermore, striving for higher numbers might substitute actual commitment and depth of faith formation by giving an illusion of increased involvement.
We feel compelled to ask where the young adults are because we know that without everyone, our community is not the paradise we strive towards. When we identify omission or exclusion that we do not know how to address, we often default to asking the group in question for something. What if instead, we practiced asking a question of ourselves: what can you give to young adults, and what might you gain in return? If you walk down the path of these questions with Beloved Community as a guiding light, there you might find the young adults.
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