Tuesday, February 12, 2008

YRUU Institutional Memory Project

Calling all UUs involved in YRUU past and present:

The YRUU Institutional Memory Project will enable the UU community to gain a better understanding of the events of the past few years as they relate to YRUU. Anyone may post to this blog and, barring explicit content, all submitted posts will be posted. 

To post, email yruusc@gmail.com with subject line "YRUU Institutional Memory Project."


Elisabeth said...

I have taken some time to reflect on this past weekend (our Winter Steering Committee Meeting), which was an incredibly hard time for me. I found myself questioning all that I have worked for in the past 3 or more years that I have been involved in YRUU. I am Elisabeth Moore, serving my second year on Steering Committee. I have been to YSJT Chicago and New Orleans and I am trained as an SDC and LDC trainer. I also served one year as a youth at-large on the White Allies Steering Committee. To be honest, my brother’s reply inspired me to write this.

Now that I am sitting down to write down my feelings about this decision on part of the UUA, I can’t help but feel manipulated as a youth leader in this organization. (I’m not sure if this is even appropriate of me to share my feelings but at this point it does not really matter since Steering Committee is being dissolved next fiscal year, I have nothing to lose.) So many feelings come up: the feeling of being lied to this entire year (being told we are the “transitioning” Steering Committee, when in reality, because “they” probably wanted us to feel empowered, we are the last), the intense feeling of disempowerment (feeling like there is nothing I can do as a Steering Committee member to change this situation), and the feeling that my work these past few years have been entirely useless. I hate having to be a part of this ending and I am just now realizing how real it is.

We were told that the process that is being used is inherently white supremacist (the sense of urgency and the idea that if it doesn’t happen this year, it will never happen). If this is evident and obvious to the Association, why are we following through with it? Why is everything so secretive, or more specifically, why are we falsely using words like “transparency” to hide what is really being done?

If I had known that the intent of the Association of this year was to dissolve YRUU I would have opted out of running for Steering Committee again. Could someone please explain to me why are there only FOUR youth on a committee of 16 whom are revisioning YRUU? The rest are comprised of mostly UUA staff as well as volunteers who are all respected (by myself as well as the greater UU community) for the work that they are doing. Does this bother anyone else? Does it seem strange that youth aren’t accurately (in my opinion) being represented on a committee that is meant to revision youth structure?

These are just my thoughts as a youth who has been involved in, and is sadly part of the last wave of continental youth. It pains me to have to be a part of this “sun setting” and it also hurts to be treated as I have as youth. I have not felt included in any way in this process; as if my voice was not heard, as if the decision had already been made, as if I’m being told that this decision will be better for me, as well as the association telling me what will be better for me as a youth as a part of this denomination. I can’t help but have the feeling like I am trying to be convinced of something. Apparently, I am either “on board” or “stuck at the station”; Youth and Unitarian Universalism will move on without me. I have lost my voice as a youth in this association.

Is this really a message the UUA wants to convey to its youth (that you can either agree with them and play along with their decision or you can be stuck as a memory in its past)? This lack of respect for all the work that youth have been doing for years breaks my heart. This reminds me of a metaphor used in Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression trainings that I have attended: there is a moving walkway and you can either choose to stand on the walkway or you can decide to walk against it. In this case, if you choose to walk against it, your voice will be lost and not appreciated. (I am speaking from my own feelings and how I have felt in the recent happenings.)

Why are we leaving the only event to which continental youth leaders can get together to be GA, an inherently classist gathering? It seems as though GA is being used as a last beacon of hope for continental youth leadership. To me, this is a lie. GA is only available to people who have access and money to attend; so does this mean continental leadership will only be available to those with economic means to do so? We are getting rid of events such as the Youth Social Justice Training, Youth Council and, in my opinion, placing things like the growth of Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression trainings on the back burner.

On another note, why is this task of letting everyone know about the end of YRUU being placed on the shoulders of the 2007-2008 Steering Committee? In my opinion, this is very unfair. I want to let everyone know that it is hard thing to do and it was completely out of our hands. I personally think that the UUA should have done this themselves because of their involvement in the dissolution of YRUU.

As a youth without a congregation and a collapsed district, I am left to be a dormant Unitarian Universalist. There is no community for me to be committed to Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression work (in UUism) or to explore my religion. I can imagine that there are others who feel the same way as I. YRUU has changed my life and shaped me as a person. To think that it is gone does a number on my heart.

I personally want to thank everyone for your energy and the effect to you have made on my life. This journey has been a long one and I have never been sadder to see it end. As of the end of this year, I have no choice but to leave the denomination. I am committed to following up on my responsibilities but I am clearly not welcome as a youth and my leadership skills (that YRUU has given me) are not valued.

Goodbye YRUU, you were loved.

Anonymous said...

I think perhaps the most important thing for me to realize right now, is that simply, We Are Everywhere.

A David Rovics song of the same title comes to mind.

We, angry Unitarian Universalist Youth, Young Adults, and Adult Allies, are everwhere. I've personally heard from California, Mass, Oregon, Louisiana, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and more. Those are just close friends.

They are few. Bill Sinkford. His Vice President Gini Courter, few supporters of their authoritarian changes that many are unhappy with.

We do not have to go quietly into the night, and many of us will not. These little Fascists will not stand in our way.

Kenneth Sime

Nora Joan Lindsey said...

Elisabeth...post your letter as its own post on the blog...SC voices should be heard! And your letter is so beautiful and so powerful.
Love you.

Eric Swanson said...


Thanks a lot for making me cry -- I feel your loss deeply even though I don't think we've met (though your mother and brother are good friends). Stay strong.

Now I gotta compose myself and get on a conference call....


Anonymous said...

Elisabeth, You are now a part of the sad history of UU youth who have been duped. As an attendent of the first Common Ground many LRYes felt the same thing happened there. The UUA adults had an agenda to disolve LRY. Common Ground was set up so it appeared that we (the youth at the time) had some say in it. It may be time to ask, why is history repeating itself? I was recently at an LRY/YRUU reunion, this group now in their 40s and 50s. Many of us were still involved in UU churches and many in leadership positions, at least 4 UU ministers and a DRE or two as well as youth group advisors. Strong youth run - youth programming creates strong future leadership in our churches. When will the UUA learn? LRY was a private corporation before taken over by the UUA and made YRUU. Maybe this avenue needs to be re-examined. LRY had a booth at the Boston GA several years ago. LRY still lives and you can too.

Robin Edgar said...

"It may be time to ask, why is history repeating itself?"

Because those U*U who don't learn from U*U history are doomed to repeat it. . .

eastmeetswest said...

I'm absolutely disgusted with the UUA for doing this. I just heard through the grapevine this was happening. Can someone explain what happened? And is there anything we can do to convince the UUA to change their course? I was on youth council and then on Steering Committee back in high school (1991-1992) and it was one of the most formative experiences of my life. And not only because of the fun and friendships, but because of the leadership and governance skills that I developed and still draw upon today. I know that the other people with whom I served feel the same way. Please let me know if there is anything that we can do to help. I am outraged that this is happening, particularly in an organization that has historically failed to recognize the importance of growing its members by making efforts to keep youth involved after YRUU, through college, young families etc. The UUA as a whole will suffer in the long run for its decision. It's amazing how such smart progressive people can be so grossly short-cited.

Jeanna C. Steele
YRUU 1989-1992

Anonymous said...

Hi Elisabeth.

I'm also a former Steering Committee member representing the Prairie Star District (1991? -1993), Con-Con Chair, Moderator of the Youth Council in 1997, Youth Advisor for two years in the Joseph Priestly District, a former member of All Souls in Washington DC, and most recently converted to Judaism. YRUU was a huge part of my adolescence and young adult life, just as LRY was for my older siblings.

I think one thing you may find when you leave the congregation that raised you and start looking for one as a young adult, is that the UU denomination does a much poorer job at keeping young people connected to the faith than other denominations do, and part of this may be because of the strong emphasis on conferences and activities that take youth attention away from the local youth group. I was amazed to find that All Souls, one of the most diverse religious communities I have ever known, does not participate in YRUU, and for many services children remain in the pews, quietly playing or even making a bit of noise. Young people are an integral part of the shul where I now worship, and are often seen running around in the back of the room (the children, that is) or chatting with friends (the youth). Both of these congregations are growing tremendously - All Souls has recently moved to two services, and my new spiritual home is building a new synagogue.

I think it's great that the UUA has taken a step back to question the distribution of resources in the YRUU model. It's not the only model for youth ministry that exists, and it might not be the best one. Although I deeply cherish the friends that I made in my time in YRUU, once I went to college I noticed that my brother had an entirely different experience, because his YRUU years were focused much more on his immediate youth group, and less on long-distance relationships as mine were. Neither one was "better," but they were different, and his youth group served more young people. As a youth leader, I spent all my time away at meetings or conferences, and never took any time to work on the community that I had in my home town.

I remember the guidance we used in the two Steering Committees I was lucky to be a part of - are you basing your decision on preference or principle? I can honestly say now, as I couldn't then, that the strong emphasis on continental-level events left a lot of UU youth out of the loop, and might not have been the best way to foster a future movement that would grow and welcome newcomers. I preferred to be with the friends that I loved, even as I knew that it wasn't the best thing for the denomination as a whole.

So, things change, and ot always for worse, but they just change. Good luck on your spiritual path. If YRUU ceases to exist in name, it will always be a part of who you are because it's the people who make the organization, not the other way around.

Laura Peterson

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