Monday, February 11, 2008

YRUU Steering Committee Letter on End of YRUU Structure

February 11, 2008

To whom it may concern,

      As the continental YRUU Steering Committee, it is with great sorrow that we inform you that on June 30, 2008 the UUA will cease to fund YRUU youth activities at the continental level. Therefore, Youth Council will not be held this summer or in the years to follow and YRUU Steering Committee 2007-2008 will be the last. The UUA will continue to fund and support Youth Caucus at GA and the Chrysalis training program. The work of youth ministry within the UUA will shift to a congregationally based focus.

      This change has been in the works for several years. At the Long-Range Planning Meeting in 2003 between YRUU and the UUA, a "Common Ground III" was proposed. “Common Ground” is in reference to the two meetings in the early 1980's that dissolved Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) and created Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU). The Common Ground III resolution, drafted in consultation with Bill Sinkford and the Board of Trustees, stated that further goal setting and re-imagining of youth ministry and YRUU was needed. At Youth Council 2004 consensus on the resolution of Common Ground III was blocked preventing it from passing, and in the following months the UUA Board of Trustees convened the Consultation to and with Youth that conducted a survey and congregational, district, and stakeholder conversations related to UU youth ministry. The Consultation process culminated with the Summit on Youth Ministry in July 2007. The Summit resulted in a vision for the future of UU youth ministry that focused largely on congregationally based programs. To carry out this vision, the Youth Ministry Working Group was formed, charged with implementing the objectives outlined in the Summary Report on Ministry to and with Youth. The Youth Ministry Working Group has a heavy UUA staff presence but also includes volunteer members, four of whom are youth. The working group held its first meeting February 8-11, 2008.

      Although official YRUU structures will cease to exist at the end of June, youth programming on the district and congregational levels will continue relatively unaffected. Current youth resources available from the Office of Youth Ministries will continue to be available.

      YRUU Steering Committee will now be advocating for the creation of a strong continental youth leadership body that would have the explicit goal of serving congregations and that would be empowered to direct the resources of the Office of Youth Ministries. We will also be advocating for support of anti-racism/anti-oppression work within youth ministry. The YRUU Steering Committee calls on the UUA to support the Groundwork collective of trainers, the Youth Social Justice Training (YSJT), and identity-based ministry groups like DRUUMM YaYA.

      As representatives of the larger UU youth community, we value feedback on our blog at Thoughts, memories, rants, and love notes are appreciated and welcomed. There you will also be able to find current information about the youth ministry transition process.

In Love, Struggle, and Faith,

YRUU Steering Committee

Elisabeth Moore
Rose Roberts
Will Floyd
Kimberlee Tomczak
Kasey Neiss
Paul Rickter
Noah Hurowitz


Josh Minzner said...

I'm confused about the whole congregationaly based concept. Does this mean that we will no longer be coming together as a district? I'm very confused right now. What are the changes I am going to see?

Kasey Neiss said...

Hey Josh,

Don't worry, youth districts will keep functioning as they always have. The congregationaly based youth ministry means that the UUA will try to support youth programing and empowerment in congragations. May youth feel that they are not being served by their congragations, i know i feel more at home at cons than anywhere else. So basically what they want to happen is to bring the visions from the youth ministry summit to the congregational level, the how is not yet decided.

I don't think you will see any immediate changes, mostly anger from the UU youth community, as there should be.

the youth ministry working group will be working for a long time on building a new youth structure, so i doubt that there will be any big changes while we are still identify as youth.

personally i think we should concentrate less on the fact has YRUU ended, and more on HOW it ended (or rather was taken from us.)

Kelsey Atherton said...

Well, this is bleak. I mean, I aged out, but still. This just feel like it voided the whole "right of conscience and use of democratic process" thing. But, not ranting now, not ranting yet. Would it be reasonable to expect an account, official or unofficial, of why this was deemed necessary? The what and the how seem clear, but the fundamental reason behind the thing seems missing, and that's a rather handy thing to know.
With that said
*raises glass*
YRUU is dead
Long Live ...

Will Floyd said...

Hey Kelsey,

I think a lot of folks would tell you that YRUU was in need of change. There was a lot of issues with the continental structure. There were also a lot of great things that came out of YRUU over the years.

I would say that YRUU needed a good hard look. Whether you agree with the process that has happened, that's a different story.

Kelsey Atherton said...

Will -

Alright, I can see that, and I was aware of enough of the gathering clouds to have joined the "reform not replacement" camp. I'm guessing we'll now get that long hard look, and without the distraction of a living breathing system that so complicates social science. It's early in this stage, so I'll wait patiently for the light-shedding

Anonymous said...

I will repost here what I posted to facebook about this...
My first reaction was sadness and the urge to write a long letter about how important YRUU has been to my life and to the lives of many people I care about, and to send this letter to... everybody, to Bill Sinkford, Gini Courter, steering committee, the youth office, the board....
and I may still do that, however upon some reflection (and reading some other people's well thought out reactions) perhaps that is not the correct course of action. YRUU was, and still is in many ways, a huge part of my life, the experiences I had, the people I met, and the things I learned through YRUU have shaped who I am in a way that nothing else in my life has. I have seen it as a community that can save lives, a place where people who feel like outcasts everywhere else can find acceptance, and where important issues can be brought out in the open for discussion. For me it has been a place to meet people from accross the country, to examine my place in the world, to talk about big issues like racism in an open way, a place where I felt not only accepted, but in charge, like I could actually do something. I have forged many of my strongest ties through YRUU. The thought of YRUU not existing to provide the so dearly needed services to current and future youth saddens my like little else. But I do not think letter writing will help, except perhaps for personal catharsis. the decision has been made and it is up to us to make the best of it. One of my major problems is that when common ground 1 happened, there was a common ground 2, LRY was disbanded, but YRUU was created, what creation is coming out of this decision? will there be a common ground 4 creating a new youth organization? or will YRUU just be expected to exist without funding? now I know that the UUA is only cutting funding to contenental stuff (steering commitee, youth council etc.) but it is a symbolic disowning of all of YRUU.
not that YRUU is perfect, far from it, my time working on both district and continental YRUU stuff showed me that, but it has a valuble role that must be filled by something in its absence. YRUU may not be doing its job properly, but neither are our congregations, there is little support in our congregations for youth and even less for young adults, and while the consultation on ministry to and with youth, many actions on the part of Bill Sinkford, the UUA board, and steering commitee are trying to put the focus on congregations their efforts are not working. Removing funding from YRUU will not encourage churches to better support their youth, it will simply eliminate part of the one place youth are supported. as someone who went to church every sunday, and genuinly ejoyed it, it wasn't the same as YRUU, I liked church, I liked youth group, but I loved cons. church made me feel warm, it wrapped me up in singing and poetry, but it didn't make me do anything, it didn't make me reconsider my place in the world, it didn't make me step outside my comfort zone, it didn't put me in leadership positions, it didn't let me run worship, it didn't let me stay up untill 3am discussing religion and politics, it didn't provide me with oppurtunities to run workshops, or a network of people that span the country. YRUU did.
But the question we need to be asking ourselves is not what can we do to get the UUA to change its mind, but what can we do to make youth programming better? why was YRUU not benifiting the UUA? why arn't our churches supporting our youth? and, most importantly, what can we do to change it? I fully understand the outcry this will cause (reminds me of the outcry after con con was cancelled, except on a much larger scale) but I want to propose that instead of getting extreamly angry we try and create something new. if you're mad that youth arn't being supported, do something about it! if you're upset that this may cause the end of YRUU, that conferences will ceice, make sure they don't! talk to your district youth steering commitee, talk to your congregations, talk to your friends, clearly something is wrong in our faith and getting our money back is not the issue. the issue is that youth and young adults are not supported by our religion, that UU youth often don't think they have a religion or don't associate with unitarian universalism, that our faith grows not from educating and keeping youth involved, but through converting unhappy middle aged white middle class americans, that our churches are not a welcoming place for many who could get so much from our faith, that people burn out (the fact that most of the youth who were extreamly involved in UUism with me have since become frustrated and uninvolved or have left the faith all together). Our religion is supposed to be about acceptance, about support and community, but folks, we are failing. If we cannot even support our own youth, how can we expect to change the rest of the world? if our own youth do not identify with us, how can we expect to grow? if we cannot change, how can we expect to survive?

this is just my jumbled up thoughts as of right now. this is coming from a white, female, young adult, who is a life-long UU, a person who was involved in congregational affairs, choir, RE, youth group, district YRUU, DYSC, youth programming at Ferry Beach, youth trip to transylvania, continental YRUU, and GA; someone who has sat through countless hours of meetings about youth stuff on every level, who has left meetings in tears, who has spent more time working on UU things than anything else pritty much, who has been to trainings and workshops galore, who can spout acronyms like no other. I do not mention these things to sound cocky, but just to illustrate how much of an impact a decision like this would have had on my life if it had been made just 6 years earlier, I would be a completely different person, and I do not think in a good way. I, for a time, embodied what the UUA board is saying youth should be, I was involved on all levels, I had a supportive congregation with a strong youth group, but that wasn't what made the biggest impact on me, even that left me wanting something else, something else that was almost fulfilled by YRUU, but not intirely, we need something else, we need creation and not distruction. I have read some interesting opinions already, but I would be interested in hearing what everyone else has to say.

in faith and struggle,

Anonymous said...

How will the Youth Office be affected by this?

How will Youth Caucus happen without Youth Council?

Kenneth Sime

mattmoore said...

My name is Matt Moore, and I served as a Youth Council Representative for the Ballou Channing District and two terms on the YRUU Steering Committee from 1999-2002. I then served one year as Youth Observer to the UUA Board of Trustees, followed by two years as a member on the Journey Towards Wholeness Transformation Committee. My mom, my sister and I have collectively served five terms on the YRUU Steering Committee over the last eight years.

In my tenure and subsequent observations, I've learned that YRUU has never possessed an effective institutional memory. Year after year, YRUU was presented with a constant flood of novice enthusiasm and energy. The byproduct of this system what twofold: it could create quick and and dramatic changes in culture (e.g. the sudden shift of YRUU focus towards anti-racism/anti-oppression work, the rapid adoption of consensus, or proliferation of new ice-breakers). Also, this constant turnover of energy was an inherent weakness. Given the motivation, more powerful institutional bodies like the UUA Board of Trustees, the President's Office or the General Assembly could culturally and methodically dismantle the structures which had served youth for over two decades. So what happened? Why was YRUU such a threat?

The current Steering Committee (of which my sister is one of the active members) gave a good summary of the issues which have unfolded in the final hours of YRUU. However, I believe this dismantling started many years ago during my years of involvement. I want to explicitly underscore that this dismantling happened because the UUA felt threatened by the greater youth movement and exploited the inherent high turn-over of leadership and the poor institutional memory of YRUU.

Youth in church basements and at weekend cons don't represent a threat to congregations. That is, they rarely have an opportunity to upset the structures of power and authority which guide the congregation. In the eyes of churches, weekend cons and church basements are suitable places for youth because they don't interfere with the stewardship of the congregation or district. More often than not, participation of youth within congregations is by invitation only (e.g. an offer to light some candles, participating in a coming of age ceremony, serving food at church functions, reading during a service). But the continental youth moment represented something much greater than the invitation only status.

This started at Youth Council 1999. Four important events happened at this Youth Council: 1) the adoption of the resolution “It's Time We Do Something About Racism in YRUU!”, 2) the rejection the annual budget for the first time in anyone's institutional memory, 3) the first time there was an anti-oppression training at Youth Council, and 4) the approval of a resolution to support the adoption of a Youth Trustee to the UUA Board of Trustees. The next Youth Council was the first to do away with Roberts Rules of Parliamentary Procedure and, in it's place, introduce Formal Consensus. This was a tremendously exciting time for YRUU. The YRUU leadership of time, including that of the Youth Office, was one of radicalism and a strong thirst for destroying the status quo. The main voices in the movement were ones of passionate dissent.

It's also significant to point out that the youth population of the Youth Caucus at General Assembly 1999 (Rochester, NY) was huge. No longer were a hundred or less youth attending General Assembly. Three, four, and even five hundred youth were attending—each summer bigger than the last. I consistently attended GA from 1997-2004 and saw this steady upward growth. The youth community was spotty and disjointed but politically they were energized. Youth were workshop organizers, delegates, and rowdy participants. They rallied around statements of conscious, they sat in a block in plenary, they voted for their youth observer to the Board of Trustees. For such a small part of the entire Association, they constituted a significant voice at General Assembly and even more importantly, they were heard.

At the same period of time, small groups of youth were also meeting regularly with the UUA Board of Trustees as part of an internal restructuring effort. And here is the problem: the youth that were participating politically in all these decisions had no officially sanctioned accountability to the Association. The UUA is an Association of Congregations, as I was repeatedly told when I was a Youth Observer to the Board. Youth Council nor Youth Caucus nor Con Con nor district YACs nor Steering Committees nor district conferences were viable memberships to the Association. The only thing that mattered in the eyes of the Association were invitation-only congregational youth groups. When they are talking about accountability of youth, they are really talking about money, membership, and dues. While these youth organizations represented a significant part of a youth's experience in Unitarian Universalism, none of the youth institutions paid dues to the Association. Yet, they had the privilege of being given an annual budge—a privilege not given to Affiliate Organizations (for instance, CUUPS). (Technically, both YRUU and CUUYAN are considered “Sponsored Organizations”, although that's a meaningless definition—literally)

The Board of Trustees now had the motivation and the means to dismantle YRUU. The budget for Synapse (the annual YRUU newsletter) was removed, the funding for Con Con was removed, the Youth Office was restructured and given new leadership, and now Youth Council is being removed. These things were changed as a direct result of the leadership decisions of the Association. In addition, the Board of Trustees took it as their prerogative to appoint the youth working in the Youth Office and the adults At-Larges at Youth Council (both previously selected by the YRUU Steering Committee) as well as the selection of the Youth At-Large Trustee. The Board not only controlled the money but now they had a direct mechanism to hand-pick youth leadership.

If you look at many of the youth that were hand-picked by the Board and put onto Committees and in positions of power—and I unfortunately include myself in that group—they are what a former YRUUer would call “STARS”. Which stands for: Smart, Talkative, Articulate, Responsible and Solo. These were talented youth but who were able to adapt to the adult culture but who were not part of the larger youth movement anymore (the term “Uncle Tom” comes to mind). They were individual young people that were coaxed and nurtured into these token positions with no meaningful political ties to decision making bodies of YRUU—mainly Youth Council.

Simultaneously, many of the youth that had been instrumental in becoming a catalyst for change at the 1999 Youth Council were quickly aging out. The voices of radicalism and dissent had become phased out and the intense internal struggle with racism and oppression had momentarily crippled the spirit of YRUU. The youth movement was in desperate need of energy and new youth leadership. Instead, funds that were once used to create community were funneled into educational training conferences—where the primary goal is not to build culture and community but to teach leadership, anti-racism, spirituality, and youth advisor skills. I've lead these conferences and on day one described the conference to the participants as a “working conference.” Trainings don't constitute a threat to the Association and they are an adequate consolation prize for the YRUU death.

For those of you that have an institutional memory to share please help construct the rest of this picture so that future generations of youth in Unitarian Universalism can see what a fucked up deal they inherited.

Chuck S said...

The UUA has been consistently efficient at one thing: Fostering the fissures between youth and the rest of the association. I find it interesting that the demographic that could be most likely to carry on the UU tradition is the group that is most frequently neglected. Well done, UUA.

They wonder why there is a "gap" that needs to be minded? Maybe the UUA IS the gap. :\

Anonymous said...

I am a parent of kids who benefitted from and loved YRUU. I am also a former LRYer. I feared that something like this would happen, but I must admit that I don't understand *what* exactly happened. I hear the official sounding language but I am not sure what is really going on. Hoping for some enlightenment here. YRUU has been life saving for a number of kids. I hate to see it go.

Cora said...

How does this affect Canadian youth structure?

Anonymous said...

How will this affect UU Youth of Color?

oh wait i'll tell you...

there won't be anymore of us. we are a contential organization only. this desicion is basically teh end of DRUUMM YaYA.

nice job.

Heather said...

(re-posting this from my blog)

Of course, I can't help thinking about this article Tim and I wrote after the ConCon decision came down. We predicted this. I was a lot angrier then, but I don't necessarily think we were wrong about anything really. Not that it changed much.

I was just having a conversation this past weekend at WinterCon, a regional YA event in the Boston area, about the state of youth and young adult ministry. Concentric and Opus were cancelled recently, I discovered. District youth programming is in shambles. A few of us were having a pretty emotional/passionate conversation about the state of YRUU. Lamenting the fragmentation of continental structure. Lamenting the fragmentation of district structure.

BCD district programming has been non-existent for years. Since about maybe 6 years ago. Seems CBD has been similarly dead for two or three years, according to some central mass folks. Recently, a random UU girl was hanging out at the co-op, and it turns out she was on the MBD steering committee. Seems even MBD (once so fucking strong! remember?) is struggling to get even 20 people to attend their conferences. NH/VT has been struggling for a long time too.

The people behind this most recent decision may think that they're just taking away support for continental programming, but that shit has regional repercussions. The more token gestures of non-support that come from the UUA, the fewer adults willing to advise at cons, the fewer DREs willing to stand up and support regional gatherings, the more unaccountable district programming gets.

And I understand their rationale now much better than I did once. District and continental YRUU structures are unaccountable to UU youth. That is not effective youth ministry. The survey on youth ministry, and the consultation on youth ministry only reinforced this point. These structures alienate a lot of people, they're racist, they're classist, they're not representative. I'd even go so far as to say it's dangerous in some ways.

But YRUU was also a home for me when I needed it most. Itoffered me something that is more than valuable. I honestly believe, with every inch of my heart, that YRUU saved my life. That's what my chalice tattoo is about. YRUU taught me to care, YRUU taught me to dedicate myself to anti-oppression, to identity development, to asking questions I never would have known to ask. YRUU politicized me, it strengthened me, it taught me to be confident, it showed me that I was okay. It educated me, it allowed me to experience real community. And it gave me a comforting hug that my adolescent self so badly needed.

Some of that, no doubt, was due to the stellar experience I had at my local congregation. Don't get me wrong here - North Parish of North Andover really understands youth ministry and youth empowerment. I've never seen a healthier youth program. Ever. But my YRUU experience was a composite of those regional and continental experiences.

And, yeah, there were times when I was alienated as hell from continental YRUU culture. To be honest, I never quite fit in. But continental YRUU is a lot more than Youth Council, and it's a lot more than ConCon. It's the opportunity to know that I have representatives - staff - working full-time at the UUA. It's the opportunity to know that there is a set of organized resources out there. It's an opportunity to know that the UUA is institutionally committed to youth empowerment.

All that being said - and this is the essential point - for the most part (and despite what the UUA might think), OUR LOCAL UU CONGREGATIONS DO NOT CURRENTLY SERVE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST YOUTH. There are many congregations which don't even have youth programs, small ones where people stop going when they turn 14, large congregations whose youth programs function as social events. Few Youth/Adult committees. Most congregations don't allow youth to vote. Most congregations don't solicit youth members on their committees. In short, local UU congregations are not dedicated to the practice of youth empowerment or anti-ageism. Say what you will about continental and district YRUU culture - and there are a lot of criticisms one can have - at least there youth empowerment was a goal. At least there it was an ideal which we ACTIVELY STRIVED FOR. And it was often a reality. It has been my experience that local UU congregations rarely even attempt to be accountable to youth. And the youth there don't even know that something can be different; they don't know to expect it.

We live in a world which is fundamentally disempowering to youth in a myriad of ways. YRUU was a haven from that world. YRUU taught me to organize; taught me to stand up; taught me that even as a youth, my voice fucking mattered. The absence of those opportunities is equivalent to the absence of youth empowerment.

I want to fucking see a dedication to addressing youth empowerment on a local level. I want to see mandatory youth advisor/empowerment trainings for Board of Trustees and staff of all local congregations. Funded by the UUA. I want to see a process - similar to the one churches go through to be welcoming congregations - that solidifies and institutionalizes a commitment to youth empowerment. I want to see it in writing, I want to feel it every Sunday. I want to see continental, UUA resources going toward this end. I want to see fucking cold hard cash. I want to see youth on committees. I want to see bylaw changes allowing youth to vote. Across the fucking board. I want to see youth empowerment actively incorporated into OWL curriculum and COA curriculum. Hell - I want it to have it's own fucking session in those programs. I want to see a dedication to anti-oppression/anti-racism work that matched the dedication found in YRUU on a continental scale. I want congregations to be as committed to radical inclusivity as continental structures attempted to be. I want local congregations to ACTUALLY SERVE youth of color, low-income youth, queer youth, transgender youth, disabled youth, etc. And I'm sick of fucking holding my breath about it.

This is, without a doubt, a repetition of the LRY disintegration we wanted so badly to avoid. My thoughts and prayers and hopes are with this new generation of UU youth. I sincerely hope we don't fail them as much as I suspect that we will in all of this.

I'm fucking angry about this, folks. And once I'm done being angry? I'm gonna have to deal with the heartbreak. But if nothing else, YRUU taught me to fucking stand up and fight. And that's exactly what I'm gonna do.

(thanks mattmoore - that comment was fantastic.)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say that what concerns me the most is the fact that maybe YRUU isn't assisting the demise of district events but that in fact is already taking place.

Most district youth steering committees in the mass area have already been dismantled by the districts or are in the process of doing so to head in the congregational level.

They might not be trying to effect it but already it is difficult for youth to organize themselves without a national backbone and the resources to say put on a con outside their district.

It's starting to get scarier..I in fact know a youth who is starting his own district out of his mom's house.

The UUA should in fact come up with some alternative youth program because I fear that instead of pushing youth together in a congregational level, they are instead pushing youth out of what they love and away from even attending churches. The majority of my friends have already stopped going to church as a reaction of this whole thing and the feeling of disempowerment it has brought.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean the name YRUU itself is being disbanded? Are events no longer to call themselves YRUU?

Anonymous said...

We can still use the name YRUU its just that Continental YRUU as we know it is over.

Anonymous said...

So let's create a new Youth & Young Adult joint organization, whose sovereignity lies not in an invitational agreement through the benevolence of the UUA, but in the Unitarian Universalist Youth of North America, as individuals.

We've proven over and over, for the last 60 years, that Youth Empowerment and Youth Organizations are at their best when left in the hands of those they serve; Youth themselves.

We've got the skills and the wherewithal to organize conferences and representative bodies, training programs and workshops, it seems the only thing that the UUA and often our District Boards hold over us is financial resources.

There is a systematic inequality between UU Youth organizations and Adult organizations, that will not simply go away with one more incarnation of a youth organization. We have to come up with a systematic solution which does away with this inequality, that attacks it at the root. If we continue to submit, continue to allow our love, our labor, our struggle, our power, to be held over us by the UUA, or anyone but ourselves, we will forever risk having it taken away without any accountability or redress.

Kenneth Sime
PCD YRUU will never die.

Betty Jeanne said...

Hey Steering Committee (and all the current/former YRUUers and allies out there),

I just want to express my sincere support and love for you all right now. The history of UU youth movements is a tumultuous one with a lot of feelings of grief, trauma, abandonment and betrayal that some of our most radical and transformative leaders carry with them for years. I appreciate you creating this space to harness all the emotions and energy out there, and addressing your constituency directly.

There is so much work to be done, and there are tons of allies out there who love you, believe in you, and want to support you in the time ahead.

Betty Jeanne

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly with what Matt Moore said (above) as a member of YRUU from 1994-2001, a Youth Council rep during the same time as Matt, and an active local, district, and continental representative to various committees, groups, and organizations within my own church and the UUA.

I am currently not an active participant in church, but my time as a youth in the church was my most active time and the time when I really embodied all seven of the UU Principles in just about everything I did.

I have grown into a woman who has benefited from every minute spent in YRUU and would hate to see our youth get pushed further away from congregations.

I thought, perhaps, the reason why I was not involved in church much anymore was because I hadn't found the right one in my area or because getting up on Sunday mornings was too hard, but this has shown me that what my motivation really lacks is the support of the institution itself.

I will always consider myself a Unitarian Universalist in faith, even if I am not active on Sunday mornings. However, I think that, by backing down from the challenges YRUU presents and dismantling it entirely, the UUA is making one of the biggest mistakes it has ever made.

We wonder why we lose people during the golden years of youth? It's because they feel they are being pushed out, rather than welcomed in. Taking away structure and funding from a representative system that uplifts their voices and helps them to be heard, to explore, to support the institution of the UUA at large, will only lead to more youth feeling alienated.

Sara Halperin

Jennah Williams said...

I do understand that the continental youth structure did need work. But now that its officially disbanded, how are congregational youth groups going to get support? What does the UUA plan on doing to help out youth on a congregational level? Youth groups cannot survive without support, and I have seen this happen over the years, having aged out of my youth group and watch the Ballou Channing District youth programming fall apart piece by piece.
What will be replaced? How will youth groups get leadership development skills? How will youth advisors be trained to be 100% empowering of the youth? Will district youth coordinators be given more guidance, or be held liable in some way?
Who is supposed to guide new, young youth groups in the right direction, to give them the resources to host conferences, community building events?
Since YRUU is gone, I hope the UUA realizes that this makes more work for them, in replacing resources that otherwise cannot.

On a personal note... memories of YRUU are flashing before my eyes. It gave me a sense of strength, empowerment and acceptance that I did not get anywhere else. Especially when I was coming out, it SAVED ME LIFE. Gay/Lesbian/bisexual/transgendered youth are at more risk of mental illness, depression or physical harm due to the coming out process..
I just hope uu youth can still get the same support that we did.

Anonymous said...

still want a conference that brings together uu youth? for a whole week?

GO TO YRUUSTAR.ORG for more info.

we are unaffiliated with the UUA, and we will still have our conference. so dont miss out on community, friends, workshops, worships, and more.

STAR ISLAND can be your spirit's home.

retta said...

You all will be fine.... 35 years later I am still conferencing regularly with old unitarian youth!

retta hb
lry 1974

Lorne Tyndale said...

What can I say... I've had a bad feeling that something like this might happen. Its LRY all over again, only without any commitment for a new organization to be created from the remains of the old. This is depressing news. I have many fond memories of continental YRUU and now that I have a daughter of my own have looked forward to a day when she can have similar experiences. Sadly this won't be with continental YRUU.

Thanks Matt for the long post reviewing some of the items that led to this. I've got some of my own thoughts that I'll post once I have a chance to think about them for a bit.

Lorne Tyndale

Anonymous said...

so it finally happened.

nice to see you stuck with things til the end, will.

-avalon (easy was my name while i was in yruu)

Anonymous said...

Steering Committee, here's love and support to you all during this difficult and disempowering time.

Youth Council had problems, to be sure. Many of the goals expressed by the Summit are admirable. However, I feel like the more powerful structures (the UUA board) are not appreciating the importance of what we DO have in YRUU. I feel like they're throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

I want to hear something from the UUA board itself, because at this point that institution appears to me like a faceless and voiceless, ominous and disempowering prescence. There are problems with the structure of YRUU, and they need to be fixed, and there are other things that UU youth deserve which YRUU does not offer at this time, but if the changes are not made in an empowering way, they will not be good or permanent solutions to the problems. At this point, it feels like the UUA board is being the opposite of empowering. I believe they should empower youth to run this process.

Steering Committee, I appreciate all the hard work you're putting into this.

much love,

Kasey Neiss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kasey Neiss said...


I agree with you that YRUU youth should have a formal explination from thoes who disbanded it. But i'd like to clear up the fact that the UUA Board of Trustees are not the folks who took this action, rather the name to put with it is the UUA Administration. Other then that i thank you and whole heartedly agree!

YRUU SC member

Heather said...

Did I just read that right? This is from the "UUA Administration"?

Tell me they didn't just make this decision, and then delegate it to the YRUU Steering Committee to break the news.

Cause that's sure what it looks like.

And it goes without saying that shit sure ain't youth empowerment.

tank said...

I have a lot of thoughts on the issue, but I'd like to just keep it short and empowering and say that this doesn't have to be like the end of LRY, it can be like the beginning of LRY, in which the youth actually LED the direction the UUA took (at that time, it was the Unitarians and the Universalists as separate churches, and as many of you may know WE the youth joined them together). i organize spiritual community under the identity of unitarian universalist because it gathers the people i love and care about and who share my goals, and i'm going to keep doing that and i don't care whether that happens within the goals of the UUA. so my advice is don't wait for the UUA to empower you to do this. take hold of how you want to build spiritual community and do it. doesn't matter whether thats a summer camp like star island or a district conference community. do it and keep doing it well. do it inside or outside the UUA. and let coming generations tend the path WE set down.

Anonymous said...

To all my friends from YRUU, to all current and former YRUUers... I am incredibly upset, as I know you all are. I'm not just in mourning for an organization I loved and served for years. I am angry as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore.

I succeeded Matt Moore as the Youth Observer to the UUA Board of Trustees, and I did everything I could, but I could not stop the UUA Board of Trustees, and UUA President William Sinkford, from doing this to Unitarian Universalist youth, under cover of funding concerns, under cover of liability concerns, under cover of platitudes about good faith and institutional accountability.

More information will come out about how this happened. And more information will come out about the consequences of the Board's "great experiment" with returning youth programming to its "proper" location -- under the thumb of local congregations. These consequences, I am already aware, include the vast and rapid disintegration of YRUU communities across the United States. Spaces that were once safe became unsafe. Sexual assaults, rapes, drug abuse, and other violations of safe space became shockingly numerous as district institutions decayed and communities stopped looking out for each other. Each successive generation of youth expected less and got less. I know that for me, as well as many other former YRUUers, the fact that our safe, beautiful communities were allowed to evolve into dangerous places is truly heartbreaking.

This did not come out of the blue. This was done by the following individuals: the UUA Board of Trustees, particularly Moderator Gini Courter, and President William Sinkford. They forced through a complete restructuring of the UUA's youth programming under false pretenses, in a ridiculously small time frame, through skewed and unaccountable processes, and with absolutely no consideration for the far-reaching consequences of their reckless actions. They are up for re-election this June, as far as I know. Let's create some consequences for these individuals who have stolen the promise of YRUU, experimented with human beings in the face of no great need, undermined the greater and neccessary cause of youth empowerment in this suffocating world, and cast aside a legacy of strong and independent youth programming in trade for a new regime of localized neglect. Sinkford, in particular, promised youth support, and was elected with the help of youth delegates -- instead, he turned around and cut funding (after using youth to justify a capital campaign) and then in the end, delivered the death blow to YRUU. Let's make sure they don't get any more time behind the wheel.

I'm serious about this, and I hope that the maintainers of this blog continue to use it as a platform for rallying opposition to the current administrators of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Through it all, the successful ingredients for strong and effective youth programming have remained constant: community building, social action, the democratic process, spirituality, youth empowerment, and adult support that neither overwhelms nor abandons the critical leadership processes created by youth in an atmosphere of true empowerment. There's no reason why we cannot establish new leadership at the UUA who will ensure that a successor to YRUU is established that can fully live up to all of the invaluable, inviolable lessons YRUU taught us.

Anonymous said...

p.s., My name is Tim Fitzgerald, I was involved in YRUU leadership for 5 years, I was on the UUA Board of Trustees from 2003-2004.

Anonymous said...

I know some young adults who are in the works of organizing districts and creating their own nonprofits to keep YRUU events/conferences alive. If UUA won't empower us, let's empower ourselves!

Anonymous said...

I personally feel that we need to strongly support youth programming even as young adults. I'm in favor of our own organizing efforts, but we owe it to todays youth to stand up for the type of programming we enjoyed when we were ourselves youth. That means changing the UUA so that such programming exists and is funded. That's how I see it, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I wish all you kids luck. The Sinkford administration has brought about too many changes that I can no longer live with. This one is the last straw. I am an older adult, and a life long UU. And today I will officially resign my membership. What a long strange trip it has been to say the least.

May you kids find the incredible warmth and feeling of community and support elsewhere. Good luck to you all. I am very sad about the direction my "church" has decided to go. It's not my "church" anymore.

Anonymous said...

I am saddened to say that that is the way my church has gone too..over half the regular members have resigned over the last year. Goes to show you that change isn't always the best.

Anonymous said...

Just to highlight something that Tim has commented,

I have seen first hand the community turn unsafe. YRUU conferences were known for being a safe space with no illegal drugs or alcohol, no weapons, no sexual advances. But in 2005 at a congregational conference, I saw first hand a group of youth smoking marijuana, off the church grounds, and away from the conference community. I feel this happened because the lack of leadership in the planning of this conference. There was no process of handling conflicts. The advisors in the community were not empowering and did not address this situation. This was a huge violation of safe space, and I feel, ruined the overall community.

When church youth groups are forced to fend for themselves, and don't have the proper resources to host a conference, it will not be nourishing to the community! In this instance, it is a perfect example of how congregational youth and advisors can vary from place to place, and noone was held accountable. This event was a direct impact of the changes since 2004.
Maybe if the youth had attended leadership development conferences, the advisors were put through training, if there was a more clear-cut policy on illegal drugs, if there was a system of approaching rule breakers, things would be different.

We need our guidance. We need our working conferences. We need to stand up as empowered individuals and say, no this is not okay. And this is not how I want YRUU to be known. Let's put something in place to fix these problems.

Lyonsferocious said...

Grew up in YRUU, aged out, had some trouble, stuck with the UUA as an "adult" as best I could, pretty much got shunned at adult GA, can't relate to the rest of the adults in my congregation cause all of them are "come outers", decided to go to theology school, lost pretty much every tie I had with UUism . . .

check ya later, UUA. Thanks for annihilating the one connection I still had. Jerkstores.

wolfgould said...

I loved the LRY in the 1970's, ( in Conn. and Mass.) and was dismayed to learn that it was dismantled. Now I am enjoying being a YRUU adviser in upstate NY and find that the congregation and district are supportive of youth activities. My son enjoys the YRUU immensely.
I can't figure out why these organizations keep getting dismantled. I'm hopeful that we can keep offering our children the rich experiences offered by LRY and YRUU in the past. I would suggest going back to LRY for the next 10-20 years, and then when it gets shut down again we can revive the YRUU. (I'm kidding about this)
Chris Wolf-Gould

Anonymous said...

Having calmed down a little bit -- perhaps it will take longer to figure out who is responsible. I'm hearing now that YRUU is not the only thing that was cut. But I do think that an entire philosophy of youth programming is at stake here. And I know that most of my faith in UUism was earned by its what-I-saw-as-earnest pursuits of justice -- it's what allowed me to step into my own. Society is becoming more authoritarian, and we need to offer UU youth an alternative space, same as we always have. If it comes to electoral activism to preserve that I don't think we should settle for anything less. And it seems like that's what we're getting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for replying.
Hm, now I'm confused. The UUA Administration are staff, right? Doesn't a decision as far-reaching as this have to be passed though something like the board? Is anyone in touch with the people who made the decision and will we be hearing from them?
Also, when was the decision made?

I guess the administration of the UUA is just different from the CUC, and it's confusing the heck out of me.


Eric Swanson said...


Yes, the UUA Administration are staff, but they have been working with the Board on this forever. I haven't been privy to those discussions, but I think the Board drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago on this.

My paranoid take is that "the decision" to disband YRUU was made in 2004, after Youth Council dared defy the Administration's vision of what Common Ground 3 should look like. Paranoia aside, they probably decided in the last few months to go ahead with the change.

In terms of structure, I think the UUA and CUC administration/board relationship is similar -- but the UUA's board and staff are both much larger, so the way it plays out is different.

Rev. Dr. Daniel O'Connell said...

I believe we will still have district cons, just not "con con" and UUYAN will have to go back to being self-funded after their $40k runs out.


Rev. Dr. Daniel O'Connell said...

The UUA Administration, at the end of a long, involved process has decided not to fund YRUU or C-UUYAN:

At first glance, there appear to be two contextual items: (1) youth autonomy; (2) budget cutting.

I was in LRY in the late 1970s, and in C-UUYAN in the 1980s. I served in a variety of leadership positions.

You can read in Wayne Arnason's histories of the U and U youth movement that our youth movements were the first to be autonomous-- the youth put up the structure and drove the programming.

This kind of thing wouldn't be allowed in more orthodox traditions. It was a great concept and still is. Have some adults provide appropriate boundary setting, and then let the youth run wild with creativity and experimentation in worship, social justice, etcetera.

In fact, this idea of a group of elders setting limits, but then allowing whatever creativity and activity that feeds into mission, vision, and values loose is precisely the idea behind policy governance that so many of our districts, congregations, and now even the UUA board, espouse. So, it is a little ironic to decimate decentralized national effort. It is also unclear what new efforts will be made for youth.

Things changed for the UU youth movement, because of the 1960s and 1970s, where many UU families went through upheaval: spouse swapping, divorce, drug use, you name it-- were in our congregations. And that was just the adults...

Some youth advisors basically abdicated their limit setting abilities, and some youth conferences degenerated to the point that even youth didn't want to attend anymore.

Then the collapse came, and eventually common ground and yruu, a more structured version of lry.

But it is easy for those in an administration-- whether the UUA administration or any other-- to centralize power and programming, rather than decentralize it-- there are more examples of this than I can name.

Once we heard that YRUU and UUYAN offices were going to merge, it became apparent what was going to happen. You don't merge when you expect growth. You merge as a pre-condition to decreasing program, etcetera.

Side note: Frankly, I'm surprised how much money UUYAN has gotten over the years. In our early years, UUYAN was entirely self-funded. Then we became trendy, and the UUA did a capital campaign, part of that money was to support YA programming.

Finally, I have to point out that it is somewhat ironic that the letter from the YRUU Steering Committee says that:

"youth programming on the district and congregational levels will continue relatively unaffected."

Why is that ironic? Because the UUA doesn't pay for any of that, and has no control over it. Districts and congregations-- ultimately adult UUs pay for it.

Rev. Dr. Daniel OConnell
President, Central Midwest District of the UUA
Lead Minister,
Eliot Unitarian Chapel
100 South Taylor Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63122
(314) 821-0911 (office)

Will Floyd said...


The UUA Administration are staff members and the UUA Board are volunteers elected from each US district. The Board operates under policy governance, which means that they only make decisions about policy and the Administration, headed by the President Bill Sinkford, makes the day to day decisions about programs and funding, etc.

In many ways Board members don't have as much power as some of the higher-ups in the Administration. The Board, with the leadership of Bill Sinkford, did decide to convene the Consultation to and with Youth.

You are asking about this decision. It isn't something that happened over night, and in fact, was years in the making. The questions about the specifics of the decision aren't truly known so one can only speculate, and that can be dangerous at times. When more light is shed on the situation, it will be posted to this blog.


Anonymous said...

i don't see much irony in trying to reassure the fears of youth who are confused and afraid of having their community stolen from them. not nothing really ironic at all.

Anonymous said...

has this blog been sent to bill sinkford? to gini courter? to the BOT? I think it is important that the UUA administration see the reactions to their decisions, reading people's reactions and memories has brought me almost to tears, and I think it is key that people see the effect of their decisions. also how shall we organize? now that funding has been cut to both YRUU and CUUYAN youth and young adults need to work together to start something new. something perhaps not accountable to the UUA, let's start something new because if we learned anything from YRUU it's the strength of youth empowerment, let's do something!

Robin Edgar said...

The following allegation made by Ben Alexander is found on the YRUU Institutional Memory Project blog -

"LRY did not trade it's financial independence for anything; the UUA seized control of LRY finances in a move that many LRYers felt was unethical at best, if not a downright violation of the terms of LRY's financial endowment."

Here is my response to that allegation -

This would by no means be the first time that the UUA seized control of finances in a move that many people felt was unethical at best, if not a downright violation of the terms of the *charitable trusts* they seized them from. Just Google - "Robin Edgar" and Unitarian charitable trusts - in Google Groups as well as the main Google site for more information about that. Or just read this sermon by CUC founder Rev. Charles Eddis.

This is worth a read too, for the UUA`s spin on things -

It looks like The Emerson Avenger just might have yet another Unitarian*Universalist finacial abuse to blog about soon. . .

Anonymous said...

Knowing UUs, reforming YRUU or another structure will most likely take a very long time. We need to make sure that the districts currently operating have the support they need to continue during this gap in continental leadership. We need to raise awareness of the danger youth programming is in on all levels and get the individual churches to participate in district levels more. The only way youth programming should die is if the religion itself is dieing, which I do not believe. Unitarian Universalism is about looking toward the future. Youth are the future. In numerous examples the youth have led our religion as a whole (the unification of UU, AR work, etc). The adults of the congregation should not be ok with this. The youths should not be ok with this. Young adults should not be ok with this. I sure as hell am not ok with this. So why is it happening? Do people just not know?

~Owen Vail

Anonymous said...

I'm confused about why this happened. I understand that there were "structural difficulties" or whatever you're calling them, but I do not clearly understand WHY this happened.

Joseph Santos-Lyons said...

First, a prayer and remembrance of UT Saunders, a consultant frequently called upon by the UUA, who passed away last week. I've known UT for over a decade, a wonderful man, and important facilitator in UUA affairs.

Second, this End of YRUU structure is saddening to me. As a UU, and a long-time radical reformist, I can see many benefits to the dissolution and reformation for our youth ministry networks. I pray there will be silver lining here, and through increased staffing, strong prophetic leadership and the principle of accountability, I believe it is possible.

The character of the current YRUU reform has been confusing and frustrating to me. The process was not owned well by the YRUU leadership, the July 07 Consultation was very poor in terms of receiving direct feedback, developing common analysis and visions, and establishing consensus with respect to major decisions. I was there, and it was my worst experience in a UUA process that I can recall.

While I participated in the "structures" working group, which was a place where the idea of dismantling YRUU was appropriately raised, however there was no dialogue, analysis for recommendations made. The process, even with a week, felt unorganized, decision-making was mysterious, and in the end, the result was I as a stakeholder was minimized. I'm not sure how the process was for the various other Youth Consultation committees, perhaps it was clear, engaging and constructive. I have respect for all the players involved.

YRUU was very important to me in my life. It is probably one of the biggest factors for my ministry today, and deeply influential on my ideals of faith community development. As a 10 year staffer at the UUA, I have had concerns about the YRUU structure - particularly behaviors of superiority, poor youth staff-youth volunteer-larger community communications and follow-through, and a lack of visionary leadership through the form of relationships and ideas.

The disclaimer to all my comments is that I am speaking for myself, I have been less in touch with UUA and office politics since my parenting leave of '06, sabbatical of '07, and subsequent layoff from the UUA. I think it is a benefit to our community to disclose as much about the decision making process, and to provide response to outstanding questions.

Lastly, I know a lot of youth and adults have given considerable love and found their passion within YRUU networks. Thank you to all of you, your work matters greatly. If you feel angry, say so, and if you can, be specific about why. It is good to express yourself, and it is also an inherent part of our UU culture. Careful about reacting out of assumptions. There is probably more to the outcome, and future possibilities, than we know.

Take care,

Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons

Mandy Kimpton said...

It's funny that Wayne Arnason wrote histories of the youth movements. He is the minister of my church and the reason I do not attend anymore. His practices are extremely dis-empowering to youth. To the point where the youth did not have a place to gather for almost a year. We are not invited to attend service or participate in service. On the one Sunday a year we are allowed to run service (as per tradition) he gave us guidelines and a dress code. We also had to heed to his previous plans of having a ceremony to honor the sunday school teachers that day. We had to cut our service short because of him. (Don't get me wrong, we love our teachers... but come on.)

One might think that a man interested so highly in the history of the youth movement might be accommodating to the youth at his church.

It is people like Wayne Arnason who will make it impossible for any kind of congregation based districts to form. If it were up to him there would be no youth voice. The dismantling of continental YRUU without a replacement structure is dangerous and irresponsible. I am outraged that Wayne Arnason is being brought into this. Outraged!

Bonnie said...

Wow! I first came into YRUU in 1985! I worked with Jen Devine at the Youth Office occasionally, ran workshops at NSJC, YSJC, cooked for Con-con and Youth Council and then served two years on Mass Bay Steering Committee and Two years in Milton as an advisor. it's been over 20 years of this for me. and this sucks! sum it up. I saw the top down heirarchical model rearing it's ugly head. so let's back up - as a former Quaker youth, before i found YRUU, the oppression of the voice of youth is looked down apon. As a progressive religion hoping to create REAL change in the world, the idea of suffocating and controlling the voice of youth, especially when they are showing leadership and stepping up to take on huge concepts and problems with society in a major way are encouraged.. even when they come in conflict with the adult community. and they do. that's part of the learning process for all of us. I'm sad that the UUA would see dismantling an established program that has succeeded in changing the lives of so many in positive ways, as a solution to structural and programmatic differences of opinion, no matter how huge they may be. The web that is created across the country from this program is critical for creating actual change. even if 2% or 20% of the youth actually engage in those programs, they create the voice and leadership that connects the rest. They always have. YRUU has ebbed and flowed in attendence and committment from youth for a long long time and is neccessary for their being a sustainable network between youth sharing ethics and deepening one another's ideals. This is not a solution, it's a disaster.

Embryo said...

Thank you, Mandy. Wayne is a current member of the Board of Trustees and got a lot of credit for his work in bridging the gap between LRY and the UUA in creating YRUU. For better or for worse, he has been deeply involved in this process and is a big, if subtle, player in the top-level politics of the UUA. He is so respected as a youth advocate and historian that when it comes to youth issues, other adult leaders take cues from him. His lack of concern about the disempowerment of youth in this process has at times (that I know of) been a big part of this process being seen as legitimate by members of the UUA Board of Trustees.

Richard said...

I spent 4 years in YRUU always trying to get into a continental event, and never managed to. Now I may never get a chance to as an advisor. I'm unbelievably sad this morning. Luckily I'm on my church's Denominational Affairs committee, and maybe I can get some action going there.

Anonymous said...

One post yesterday at LRY's yahoo group suggested that a general view of UUA staff members today is that the national YRUU structure had become a sort of elite club of 100 or so youth, who got to travel and be in a really cool group, but which did not really benefit the average YRUU'er or non-YRUU youth in our congregations.

This is much the same argument given for destroying the continental LRY thirty years ago. The problem with this position is that a youth organization--actually any organization without any centralized leadership--quickly becomes no organization at all. God knows the structure of YRUU was incredibally weak to begin with.

You also have to remember this so-called "elite" group of 100 or so LRYers and YRUUs throughout the years have disproportionally gone on to become many of the UUA's most outstanding adult leaders. President Sinkford himself was a onetime LRY president.

When I stood before the General Assembly 29 years ago in support of a business resolution condemning the destruction of LRY and directing the UUA Board of Trustees to reinstate funding--the adopted resolution that ultimately bought LRY a little more time and resulted in a more orderly transition into what became YRUU--my message to the delegates was essentially this:

Youth and adults need to work TOGETHER--all the way from the local level up to the CONTINENTAL level.

I believe that today as much as I did back then.

That President Sinkford seeks to disenfranchise today's youth of acheiving the type of continental level leadership that he, himself, used as a stepping stone to become the UUA's top leader strikes me as blatently hypocritical--and more than a little mean spirited.

To today's YRUU youth leaders--let me just say I feel your pain. I am sad. I am SO sorry you are having to go through this. I hope you will turn up in large numbers at your district meetings and especially at this year's General Assembly Youth Caucus and make your voice heard.

Ed Inman

Anonymous said...

I am deeply concerned that the issue of discontinuing the funding of YRUU at a continental level has not yet been broached in our midst (on the UU Ministers Chat). I think this will deeply impact many of our youth, and while their is a part of me that has long though the focus needed to be on district and congregational youth programs and resources the way this has occurred feels really slimy. As a person who not only lived through the transition from LRY to YRUU but as one of the first two staff for YRUU I know from the inside how betrayed some youth will feel, and that was a much more inclusive process than this. Systematically over the last 5 years the accessibility of youth caucus to the average UU teen has been diminished with tighter rules about sharing housing with sponsors, and no youth housing.

I do want a stronger local and district youth infrastructure, but I am not sure how you get there by abolishing a continental structure. I would also like to know what other religious movement or faith tradition has no national or continental youth structure? I am willing to work on this if there is anyone I should be talking to please give me their name or them mine. Julie-Ann Silberman-Bunn

Take a look for yourself at:

Rev. Julie-Ann Silberman-Bunn
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Bridgeport
96 Chapel Street
Stratford, CT 06614
church 203-378-1020
home study 203-881-0598

mattmoore said...

One thought that has been running through my head these last few days is thinking about the importance that the continental youth program had on me and the people around me. I think it's easy to demonize how exclusive, elite and seemingly unaccessible the continental YRUU community was (although I think it's a moot point because the UUA operates EXACTLY in that way). In YRUU, I remember jokingly calling people in this continental group "contrapomp".

Anyways, I've been thinking a lot about how bringing together a diverse group of people and giving them an open sandbox has produced some wonderfully creative rituals, radical ideas, songs, food, ice-breakers, language (many of which the adult community has had no problem appropriating for themselves). I think the amount of culture created by YRUU is drastically underestimated by the rest of the Association. If it weren't for continental YRUU, my local youth group (of five people!) would NOT have done worship together, or sung together or been exposed to so many great ideas. I feel like this important component that continental programs played in the UU community is very much eclipsed by all the excuses of why it's an ineffective program. Also, this diffusion and creation of culture is not easily manufactured or designed because much of it happened organically.

Perhaps it's too late for this type of discussion, but I'm interested in exploring this the concept a little further. Please share if you have any thoughts or insights.

sienna baskin said...

this is absolutely confounding. i know it is a result of a long process that i wasn't present for, but jesus. it looks to me only like the same down-to-nothing sizing of UU youth leadership that i saw my whole time as a yruuer. youth leadership isn't trusted, but its the only reason i was part of yruu and was transformed by it. as flawed as the structure may be - i just don't get the point of junking it all together. when i was in the youth office with jen, austin and alison, we took a retreat to re-imagine the structure of a continental organization. in what other context would a bunch of liberal kids have the power to do that? none that i can think of. and yruu wasn't just about continental events, it was about supporting local and district groups, showing them a bigger world and the connection between all of us. as the religious right maintains its vice-like grip on so many parts of america, why are we de-funding the hopeful alternative?

guys its really nice to be in touch with y'all. i'm a lawyer now, i work for a sex workers' rights organization in new york city. keeping the dream of radical change alive. a lot of who i am and what i am capable of is thanks to yruu.

sienna (yps 1998)

Donald O'Blogggin said...

Myself, I welcome this change, and think this is the greatest favour the UUA could have given YRUU.

Here in the Heartland, we have some healthy, long lasting, productive, sustainable youth groups at some of our churches. These groups have been cited by the Youth Office as such, and questioned by committee and commission about how they do what they do, so we might learn from them. These groups have had Youth Council and Steering Committee members, both youth and adult, in them.

Go ahead and ask them what the continental YRUU organisation has done that effects them or that helps said groups in their ministry and growth as UUs. I did last year when I was an advisor on the District Youth Steering Committee.

They try to come up with answers, but in the end, after a real good look, they can't. There has been a total lack of relationship and relevance between the local and district groups, and the continental organisation (and by this I mean the Youth Council and Steering Committee).

This disconnect is NOT new. When I was first working as a youth leader in the Michigan District in 1998, the YAC had a long disscussion about this disconnect, and how we might work with the YC/SC to help bring them relevence, and at THAT time, the older leaders considered the discussion an old one. As Archivist for the YAC, going thru our records, this disconnect had been a discussion at EVERY summer meeting our district had had since at least 1990.

18 years, the same discussion, over and over. Worse, most people having it at any given time don't acknowledge that it's a discussion that's gone on before.

Maybe we'll find, in this our time of reflection, that a continental organisation is doomed to never relate directly with the missions and work of our districts and congregations. If that's the case, let us admit that, and create a NEW continental organisation that acknowledges that and doesn't pretend otherwise. Create a NEW continental organisation that does.... whatever it feels like doing. That is an admirable goal. A goal of freedom. With that freedom comes the responsibility, that like any other kind of organisation of the sort, they must find their own sources of funding, without the congregations footing the bill.

This is not a new idea... this is an old one. An old one that we can move forward with.

Embryo said...

Here in the Heartland, we have some healthy, long lasting, productive, sustainable youth groups at some of our churches.

Donald, doesn't the word "some" bother you here? How big are these congregations?

Anonymous said...

WHAT.THE. FUCK. I thought the UUA actuallySUPPORTED out yourth, but I guess they needed the money gor something else, like coffee.

Anonymous said...

I was involved in YRUU from 1994-1998 and I think both decisions on youth and young adults are terrible decisions. Why did I not see this kind of dialogue among people about these things *before* the decision was made? That way they would at least have been consultative!

I think the UU religion is not doing well and I think the YRUU structure was great, and I would model other structures after it. It is a sort of spider with hubs moving out from the center and interrelating, which has strength. I believe disbanding instead of fixing whatever is wrong is ridiculous.

Way to pull support away from the part of the church that always grows: the youth. Most denominations would be jealous of the kind of vitality and dedication we have among youth. In fact, most churches are *pouring* $ into their youth/young adult outreach without even attempting to be money makers. Look at the model of the Willow Creek Community Church (a member of the American Baptists). In my small town they have tons of multimedia, a staff and a huge, young congregation. Much bigger than the UU church. They know how to build a religion (unfortunately). They are depending on these folks to be lifelong members and donate when they are older.

Now compare the UUA. They can't seem to express in a single sentence what the heck they think is wrong with the current structure and their conclusion is to pull continental support. The UUA has left the station. And they're going in the wrong direction.

The situation was bad to begin with: the congregations were unable to change with the times to incorporate what youth and young adults who grew up in the church need. Young adults don't stick around. I'm a young adult. I spent some time working for change before I burned out because my own spiritual needs were not being met and because I wasn't getting anywhere.

Maybe now the best hope for the UUA is that enough people will be *damaged* enough by other religions to convert by the time they're 60 and they can maintain the weak status quo.

Donald O'Blogggin said...


Yes, these are larger congregations, and yes "some" is not what I'd LIKE to say. But I also know that it's only these largest of congregations that knew ANYTHING about the continental organisation.

I'm not saying this is all the "fault" of the youth organisation. As a District staff person, I have come to a new understanding of just how hard it is to get UUs to TALK to one another. Here I am, in South East Michigan, home of the densest collection of congregations outside MASS and go into any of them and ask someone to name the closest congregation to them, and they will almost ALWAYS get it wrong.

I truly think that the future of youth ministry (and young adult ministry), and indeed the entire UU world, will depend on greater communication and joint ministry between congregations, and in sub-district regional organising. There are places for a continental organisation, but I don't think it's direct interface with the micro-groups locally.

Kenn wit 2 N's said...

As chairman of my YRUU youth group in the early eighties I was empowered with a sense of self worth and confidence that still remains a part of me today. We also met in an obscure room in the church,participated in one church service a year, served food at church fundraisers, attended many, and hosted, weekend conferences and camp outs with other local YRUU chapters. Meeting with other YRUU groups across the midwest and country helped create an awareness in us all that we were not alone In the conservative midwestern community of our youth. At Con Con I learned to except and embrace the diversity that makes our UU community so great and still sleep well knowing that there are others out there who share my values and belief systems, the foundations of which were laid down during the critical years of my turbulent youth/coming of age. Was it always butterflies and lollipops? no but the support was there. If it hadn't been? I don't know where I would be. I remember one night at a YRUU meeting when we were all leaving for the night. As I walked out the door I heard one of our YRUU members threatening to kill herself. I and several other members were there to help her get the help she needed that night. I remember walking with her to the house of one of our adult advisors whom she and all of us trusted. Ten years later I saw her at a different church gathering and enjoyed hearing about all of the places she had traveled. If I hadn't been involved in YRUU and attended church board meetings as a youth liason, helped at church functions etc . I may not have been comfortable speaking to an adult and may have tried to solve problems the way many of our youth seem to today by keeping quiet and trying to figure it out on my own, following Ill begotten advice from negative roll models. I thank all who came before me and all who will come after for keeping the flaming chalice of youth empowerment alive. Rock The Vote or just rock something goddamn it!!!

Joseph Santos-Lyons said...

What exactly are the problems with YRUU that demand its complete unfunding?

How do these contrast with the strengths?

I was a part of the Youth Summit in Jul '07, and the Structures Working Group where the "YRUU Question" was raised by Sinkford. Yet we never discussed it more than for a few minutes in passing, and never critically, carefully, and lastly, never established any position nor generated "buy-in" from those in the group.

It would seem that a good investigation of the situation, including an assessment of the options from multiple perspectives including ministerial, would be well in order. I thought this was happening in the postlude to the Youth Summit, but from all I can tell, it isn't.

It about 4 months until "the end of YRUU as we know it".

Duncan said...

@ Donald...

I hear what you are saying. I understand that point of view. I have my doubts at the UU to provide direct support for ANYONE at a congregation (they have historically always stuggled with how to reach the "person in the pew" as they used to say at the UUA).

That said, I think that if you think that the only effect this will have is to scrap the continental level, then I think you are in for a surprise.

Part of the conclusion that many people have reached (read: Ministers/staff) is that the entire MODEL of the youth group as it is largely practiced is not sufficient and should be scrapped. They believe that cons encourage youth to only attend cons and youth stop going to their churches. They think that too many youth leave after Coming Of Age, and they believe it is because YRUU groups don't meet a wide enough set of needs.

I think in my experience as an advisor a lot of youth leave because A)they had a deal with there folks that after CoA they are not forced to go B) other demands such as theatre or sports C) with other demands sometimes Sunday mornings are the only one in which people can sleep in. And not about the youth group.

So while you may applaud the end of YRUU as the "best gift the UUA could give" I hope you know you may be applauding the deathnote of your "Healthy Local Group" as well.

Rev. Dr. Daniel O'Connell said...

I'm not sure where this is posted-- I got it in an email a couple days ago, but here's an update on YRUU Funding from UUA President Bill Sinkford. It is cross posted on my blog at

BTW, I seriously doubt anybody on the UUA board or in the administration reads this UULogy, but I have passed it on to other folks.


To: YRUU Steering Committee
From: Bill Sinkford

CC: UUA Board of Trustees

The two year Consultation on Ministry to and With Youth

made it very clear that we need to imagine new and more effective ways to support youth ministry throughout the Association of Congregations.

The vision of multi-generational church life and support for congregational youth ministry which was created at the Summit on Youth Ministry last summer is powerful and positive. This year is intended as the time to create that new imagination. It is a time of transition and is, therefore, complicated.

The findings of the Consultation demonstrate that there is a broad consensus that the current structure for continental youth ministry is not serving our faith well. It is true that Continental YRUU, as we have known it, will be replaced at some point by a new structure that will serve us better. It is the task of Youth Ministry Working Group to recommend that new structure. The decision to hold the Working Group meetings at the same time as your meetings this year in February and April was intended to maximize the opportunity for Steering Committee input in the development of the new structure.

Unfortunately, as a result of failures in communication within the UUA staff, some incorrect information was shared with you at your recently completed meeting. You were told that the Continental YRUU structure would end in June of this year and that there was no funding in the UUA's budget for Youth Council next summer. The reality is that the UUA's budget for next year will not be presented to the UUA Board for approval until its April meeting. No firm decisions have been made about ending support for the Continental YRUU structure. And because of YRUU's status as a Sponsored Organization, the UUA Board will have to approve any decision to end support for the organization. I apologize for the distress that incorrect information has caused.

I've asked the Office of Youth Ministry staff to prepare a set of "Frequently Asked Questions" about this process so that there will be clarity for all of us.

I hope this letter helps clarify where we are in the process. I am very sorry that inaccurate information was reported to you as fact. It is my most sincere hope that we, together, can reclaim the positive energy of the past two years and move toward a youth ministry which will serve Unitarian Universalism well.

In faith,

Bill Sinkford

Matt Keller said...

I'm really quite disappointed by the fact that we were never told of this before hand. The whole "Congregationally Based" thing? It won't work! Because I know one thing about Congregations on Long Island: We don't communicate between each other all that much. From what I've seen, the communication is limited to what Paula Rosenberg sends out through Email. I'm sorry, but I'm really quite worried about how this will all be run in the near future.

The loss of YRUU on a continental scale has effectively removed the "wheels" from our "car".


Donald O'Blogggin said...

Duncan, you attribute the success of local and district groups to the continental organisation, and seem to think that local DREs/Ministers et al do as well. Ask DREs in the HUUD and you'll find ones that don't even know what YRUU IS, but they know what our district youth programming is, and will send their youth to it.

For the past decade I've been part of or watched after I left YRUU, as my district organisation has attempted time and again to get the Continental organisation to take a serious look at itself and cone up with some method of RELATING to us, only to see the Steering Committee avoid or forget about the issue every single time, just waiting for the people who brought up the concerns to go away.

YRUU continentally produces nothing, and leads nothing. Putting YRUUs name on Leadership Development Conferences, the YRUU/Youth Social Justice Training and the like has been dishonest for years, as the Youth Office, even while YOU were a YPS, completely ruled them.

The lack of institutional knowledge is a product of the continental leaderships own actions, as the youth in charge attempt to supress memory or knowledge of anything negative brought up within the organisation by the youth themselves. If it's a negative brought up by the UUA, or the Youth Office, it's rememberd because it's an attack from the outside. But if it's internal conflict, it must be supressed because we must always appear to be a single entity, to stand up to the attacks from the outside.

It's a common mistake made by many organisations, but it's not healthy. For 6 years, the Michigan/Heartland District brought resolutions to Youth Council chastising them for being a meaningless organisation to our district. We even threatened to pull our YCRs entirely until the SC agreed to embark on a process much like the Consultation. This was years before the Consultation eventually took place.

C*UUYAN is no better. The Youth and the Young Adults alike have had the mindshare and the organising power to lead the UUA in local and regional organising, showing what REAL congregational and inter-congregational ministry can look like, but they've completely squandered it, and this is where it's lead.

Duncan said...

Oh, Donald. You are still so bitter.

You never at all addressed what I said in response to your comment.

And my response actually said little to defend continental YRUU, but how this, in some places, is going to lead to the end of LOCAL YRUU groups and DISTRICT cons.

Donald O'Bloggin said...

Duncan, my apologies. I didn't expand on the first portion of my comment.

You claim this YRUU de-construction will result in the breakdown of local and district systems because people will see things being taken apart at the continental level.

I agree. There will be those, mostly those who think children should be seen and not heard, or who think that allowing youth any kind of say in their own faith will bring the wrath of hell and lawyers down upon us who will do just that. (and that's a serious comment, not a joke)

But my other comment stands: There has been so little relation between the local/district and the continental organisation (and that distance has only increased over time) that I seriously doubt MY DREs, Ministers, and faith leaders are going to see this as much more than power shuffling in Boston.

Actually, on another thread, I commented about this more directly. The Consultation process here in the HUUD was quite enlightening for many of us, and allowed the youth and their allies to be party to discussions they've attempted to be in for years, and it's proven to many doubters the struggle the district leaders have had reaching local youth, as a result of DRE mis-management, Ministerial prejudice, etc. I dare say without the Consultation, we'd not be in as good a place as we are now.

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

Members of the Working Group on Youth Ministry:

Nick Allen: Nick is a past YRUU Steering Committee member and attended the Summit on Youth Ministry in this capacity. He is serving on this Working Group as a representative for YRUU.
nallen_001 at

Laurel Amabile: Laurel is the Director of the Annual Program Fund in the UUA Office of Stewardship and Development. She has been both a UUA District Staff member and DRE and has extensive experience in youth work.
lamabile at
617-948-6513 (work)

Charlie Burke: Charlie is the Youth Trustee on the Board and attended the Summit on Youth Ministry in that capacity. He has been an active youth leader in his home congregation in Milton, MA and the Mass Bay District.
Burke.charlie at

Nancy DiGiovanni: Nancy is the Director of Programs for the UUA Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office and attended the Summit on Youth ministry in this capacity. Before coming to the UUA, she worked as a youth advisor at the UU Congregation of Princeton, NJ and a high school social studies teacher.
ndigiovanni at
617-948-4629 (work)

Caitlin DuBois: Caitlin is a youth from Hobart, IN and is involved in General Assembly Youth Caucus Staff as a co-leader of FUNTIMES, the business meeting. She attended the Summit on Youth Ministry and is a dynamic youth leader.
kei.ght at

Judith Frediani: Judith is the Director of Lifespan Faith Development at the UUA. In this role she has been involved in the Consultation process since the beginning.
jfrediani at
617-948-4373 (work)

Jesse Jaeger (Staff Support): Jesse is the Youth Ministries Director at the UUA. He has been one of the primary staff support people for the Consultation and Implementation process since the beginning.
jjaeger at
617-948-4359 (work)

Andrea Lerner: Andrea is the District Executive for Metro New York District. She has extensive experience in youth work as a DRE and parent.
alerner at

India McKnight: India is a Youth Ministry Associate in the UUA Office of Youth Ministry and attended the Summit on Youth Ministry in this capacity. She has also has also worked in Religious Education at the UU Church of Silver Spring, MD. She is a Groundwork trainer and has been on DRUUMM YaYA (Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries- Youth and Young Adult) Steering Committee.
imcknight at
617-948-4351 (work)

Rev. Alison Miller: Alison is the minister at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship. She has been very involved in UU youth and young adult communities since she was a youth. Alison was also the coordinator of the UUA’s Mind the Gap Campaign in 2002 – bringing attention to the “gap” that exists between youth and young adult involvement in Unitarian Universalism. She is the UUMA (Unitarian Universalist Minister’s Association) representative to this Working Group and attended the Summit on Youth Ministry in this capacity as well.
amiller at
973-540-1177 x204 (work)

Rev. Beth Miller: Beth is the Director of Ministry & Professional Leadership at the UUA and attended the Summit on Youth Ministry in this capacity. She has 15 years of experience as a congregational minister and was involved in youth ministry in the 1980s, serving on both the Joseph Priestley District and the continental YRUU Youth/Adult Committees.
bmiller at
617-948-6407 (work)

Laura Spencer: Laura is the Program Associate for Racial and Ethnic Concerns: Assessment of Youth and Young Adults of Color Ministry at the UUA, the Mosaic Project. She attended the Summit on Youth Ministry.
lspencer at
617-948-4278 (work)

Rev. Judy Tomlinson: Judy is the Minister of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, NJ. She is the LREDA (Liberal Religious Educators Association) representative to this Working Group.
rejatom at
973-744-6276 ext 16 (work)

Jackie Whitworth: Jackie is a representative of the DRUUMM YaYA Steering Committee. She was very involved in her home congregation in Rockford, IL and now goes to Reed College in Portland, OR.
jcw89 at

Sara Eskrich (Staff Support)
seskrich at
617-948-4352 (work)

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