by: Kelly Rauch
On behalf of the Steering Committee
The three days of our face to face meeting in Boston were an incredible journey of exploration. We began with many questions about who we are as a young adult network, who we serve, and what and how much we should be doing. What can we do with the resources we have now?
We had some incredible moments of clarity around these questions, and here is a piece of the result.
We determined that the people we serve, the ministry gap that we fill, are the young adults that find a spiritual community in the conference culture. We proudly affirm that those who attend conferences are a legitimate faith based community that deserves recognition.
For many people, conference culture is what keeps them connected to their Unitarian Universalist faith during their transient years. While General Assembly is typically seen as the event that draws UU leaders, 120 young adults attended Opus in 2000, and by 2007, 40 of them were ordained ministers. Opus indeed draws leadership, it’s the kind of leadership that sees the opportunity to minister to each other and build community.
This cohort of leadership also sees the importance of taking a break to recharge one’s batteries. I know every time I have attended Opus I have returned home renewed in my enthusiasm for Unitarian Universalism and ready to bring the better me that emerged to my day to day life. At local conferences I experienced how an intentional community coming together for even a short time, over a weekend, could have a transformative effect. Even the conference when I drove ten hours by myself for a weekend with maybe 10 people, turned out to be refreshing and worth the trip. These are the kind of experiences that enrich not only individual lives, but also the communities and congregations that are touched by those lives. This is a small taste of why the support of conference culture is important to Unitarian Universalism.
As the C*UUYAN steering committee discussed what we do as an organization, what we should do, and the role we play in the larger faith, we brought up the above points and many more, both positive and negative. Through challenging discussion about the community we hold so dear, we came to a very clear conclusion that while we have had lofty and worthy aspirations about who we could represent, what services we could provide, the reality is that a group of five volunteers working five or ten hours a week could not support such goals. Many of the problems of the past ten years have been simply because the leaders have been trying to do more than was really reasonable for a volunteer run organization. What we can do however is continue to support and finance those who put on the conferences we love. This is what we have been doing for years. This is what we are capable of doing really well. It is time we claim the importance of this work and advocate for its recognition.
The goal for this year is to do one thing, and do it really well. The goal is to serve Young Adults by making Unitarian Universalism accessible to them through conference culture.
The Youth and Young Adult Office at the UUA serves Young Adults in congregations. The Young Adults your steering committee is serving are Conference Attending Young Adults. While there is definitely overlap between Conference Attending Young Adults and Young Adults who are members of congregations (myself included), conference attendees are a specific identity group with specific needs. In recognition of this, as well as our renewed focus, we’ve decided that a more fitting name for our organization is Conference Attending Young Adult Network – or CAYAN. Yes, it is an acronym. I wish we could come up with something that wasn’t and still identified us accurately, but thankfully, it is a much catchier name! Easy to remember, easy to pronounce. So we proudly present, your CAYAN of Unitarian Universalists.
Tell us what you think right here on the blog! And continue to check uuyan.org for updates and email email@example.com with any questions. We’re looking forward to an amazing year.