21 November 2011 ~ 12 Comments

What’s in a name? If you do it right, mission and purpose.

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 steeringcommittee@uuyan.org with any questions. We’re looking forward to an amazing year.

12 Responses to “What’s in a name? If you do it right, mission and purpose.”

  1. mattkinsi 8 December 2011 at 2:00 pm Permalink

    Even though I don’t like con culture, I applaud y’all for this. In my mind, this is the gap that y’all should fill (because despite not liking it myself, I acknowledge there are those who do.) I think this is a good step towards sorting out all the different young adult UU things nationwide and who fills what role / who fills which niche.

    • uuyanadmin 16 January 2012 at 11:56 am Permalink

      Hey Mattinski – interesting that you don’t consider yourself part of con culture, since you’re a regular at GA. I consider GA to be a type of con culture. Sure, not the current focus for this group, but it’s a valid part not to be ignored. Anyway, I appreciate your acknowledgement from an “outside” perspective. It’s nice to know there are those who see value even in something they don’t particularly need for themselves.
      -Kelly Rauch

  2. Erin 13 December 2011 at 6:50 pm Permalink

    I am even less inclined to be involved in CAYAN than C*UUYAN. I do hope that you are able to attract the people you intend to serve well, though. What’s in a name, really?

    Honestly, it would be so much more interesting to me if something like CAYAN was really working on a way to make ‘traditional’ church experienced more accessible to young adults.

    • uuyanadmin 14 December 2011 at 10:14 am Permalink

      Thanks Erin. I see a need for this too. It’s a personal project right now – meaning it’s rolling around in my head as I learn more. I do know that Carey in the Youth and Young Adult office is working on this. i think this is also the primary discussion topic on the facebook group UU Young Adult Growth Lab.

  3. Facebook Comments 14 December 2011 at 9:32 am Permalink

    Tim Atkins Thanks for posting this. even though I’m not big on con culture personally, I’m stoked to see CAYAN have a pretty clear niche y’all are filling.
    December 8 at 3:26pm ·
    Jeremy Ritzmann IMHO, I think ANY focus on building a stronger YA network is essential on so many levels. I’ve never personally been to anything that I could call a UU con, but my wife was raised in the UU church and YRUU and has nothing bad to say, nor any ill gotten “cliquish” traits from it. Hopefully our YA can attend OPUS or something like it, sooner rather than later :-D
    December 9 at 3:25pm ·
    Laura Gilmore I think you all are doing amazing work and a lot of really thoughtful discernment right now. I’m going to include the comments I gave you all in person here to raise them to the wider group. Changing the name and focus of C*UUYAN -> CAYAN… makes a lot of sense and is a reflection of reality and I applaud the movement in that direction. It does raise some wider governance questions for young adults — what is/is there a governing body that represents YAs? Should there be (the UUA tends to like that nice and neat)? If CAYAN does not represent all types of young adults, does it make sense for this group to continue to select/appoint YA leaders for UUA committees and an observer to the Board?
    Brian Tideman It makes me happy when hearts think — and think well.

  4. Kelly 14 December 2011 at 9:46 am Permalink

    I’m certainly thinking about an organization that can serve the overarching needs of young adults everywhere. How is that possible? Is that even an effective way of working?

    Let’s not forget that we have the UUA Youth and Young Adult Office headed up by Carey McDonald and the CUC YA Coordinater, Ariel Hunt-Brondwin. What we’re forming right now, is healthy working relationships among leaders so that between us all, we can serve and represent the whole fairly effectively. Not perfectly, for sure, and we will keep working to improve.

  5. facebook comments 14 December 2011 at 10:01 am Permalink

    Donald Wilson Does this mean that the C*UUYAN name is now available for those young adults who believe in the importance of an intentional building of community of young adults for the purpose of transforming the culture of our congregations and Association to be one that YA’s can feel a part of?

    Kelly Rauch First – the name change is not finalized in terms of logistics like, paperwork and domain names. We’re not giving up the domain name right now. There’s too much tied to it. Second – I’m personally not in favor of using that name for anything. It’s a pretty ineffective name. Third – geeze Donald, could you throw a few more prepositional phrases in there?! : ) Fourth – I’m one of those young adults. I’m working on this idea as a personal project while working with and learning from Carey McDonald and Ariel Hunt-Brondwin Cuc (of the Canadian office). They are working on this like it’s their job. Because it is their job. I’m curious what your ideas are. And I would bet that they are too. That’s a different thread though.

  6. Devin Murphy 21 December 2011 at 3:21 pm Permalink

    My experiences with cons and the culture that surrounded them has been that they work better wen they are connected with local congregations. Connected to local congregations through local church groups. In the case of youth through youth groups and in this case through young adult groups. One reason I feel that cons work better this way is that by being connected to a local congregation group the congregations will be more willing to help the young folk like us to attend theses events. Another benefit that I feel can arise from this arrangement is the sharing of the ideas and cultural ways of doing UU fond within cons and their related communities with other members of local congregations. So I feel having a group that is focused on young adult cons that are removed from the activities and culture of local congregation will only lead to an increasing of the gulf between what I feel are the two major cultural styles of UU. In some ways this feels to my as a making official what had already become the de facto practise. I have appreciated all the hard work you folks have done and will know doubt continue to do but, it just seems you folks are planing on taking this group in a detection I would not if it was up to me.

    • uuyanadmin 16 January 2012 at 11:37 am Permalink

      Hi Devin,
      This is a subtle difference, but an important one. The way I see it, CAYAN is focused on facilitating conferences. Right now, what that means is facilitating Opus. As we become better at that piece, and get better connected with more young adults who want to have local, congregation connected cons, we can help the folks who need it facilitate (read: advertise, advise, seed money, train, etc. as requested) those cons. We are also developing a healthier relationship with the UUA and CUC offices so that we can all understand the needs and abilities of each better. Where we can, we’ll work together to help each other with things like advertising, getting important messages out, collecting input, etc. As a steering committee, we are acutely aware that there is a lot of overlap between congregations and conferences. And conferences can serve to help maintain connections to the faith and inspire reconnection to a local congregation. That’s certainly how it happened for me.
      – Kelly Rauch

  7. Chip Olson 23 December 2011 at 12:13 am Permalink

    It makes me deeply happy to read this. I was on the C*UUYAN Steering Committee from 1995 to 1997, and was on the Opus 1997 committee as well. I think it’s safe to say that at the time, the division among UU young adults between those who came out of YRUU, like me, and those who didn’t was our biggest unacknowledged problem, and was the root cause of a lot of our struggles to figure out how to best serve the UU young adult community and help them feel welcome in the larger UU community. In my view, creating an organization focused specifically on the con-culture community is an excellent idea; among other things, it sends a clear message to that community that they are welcome in “mainstream” UUism.

    • uuyanadmin 16 January 2012 at 11:44 am Permalink

      Thank you Chip! I agree that it is a good step towards helping people feel welcome in mainstream UUism. I think there are a few other necessary steps – some of which I know about and i’m working on. Some I haven’t thought of yet. I’d love to talk more with you about your experiences and ideas.

      The same goes for other past C*UUYAN leaders! email me at kelly@uuyan.org and we’ll set up a call, skype or email thread!

      -Kelly Rauch

  8. uuyanadmin 16 January 2012 at 11:59 am Permalink

    Ariel Hunt-Brondwin Cuc thanks Kelly and Donald – I would have to say that working with YAs and other allies to transform the culture of our congregations and our association (in my case that’s the Canadian Unitarian Council) to be ones that YAs can feel a part of is pretty much exactly my mandate! :) so while I understand why its helpful to have YAs who are organized doing that work too, there are also questions of redundancy I think when I and the UUA’s YaYA Office have that same mandate which we are paid to pursue – if that makes sense in this context. Supporting a really vibrant conference going community for YAs for example is not really as high priority for my work because it’s not tied to congregational life. So I am thrilled that this is being named more explicitly as part of CUUYAN/CAYANs mandate. Do I think we need to talk more about this kind of a shifting – absolutely!
    December 14, 2011 at 1:15pm · Like

    Donald Wilson You’re right Kelly, it IS an ineffective name, for the work you and the CAYAN SC have chosen to do.

    There long has been a not-insignificant part of C*UUYAN that has believed C*UUYANs focus on conference creation and support has been ineffective and inappropriate. From that position, it seems the elected and appointed leaders of C*UUYAN have abandoned their station and created a new organisation doing a subset of the work C*UUYAN once did. Which I think is fantastic! Now there is space for people to do the other important work that was getting overlooked.

    In regards to the work Ariel and you mention, there’s the issues that Ariel and Carey work for the congregations that are interested in maintaining the status quo, and that those offices aren’t designed nor intended to be effective network and connection building groups, which requires lots of regular converse with YAs and YA groups (read: weekly), which volunteer organisers can be well suited for.
    C*UUYAN also was once a moderately effective lobbying organisation, something young adults currently don’t have and certainly need, that they might lobby Ariel, Carey, and their respective offices to get the changes desired.

    And I didn’t mean domain name. I meant name.
    December 14, 2011 at 5:54pm · Like · 1
    Kelly Rauch Donald, I disagree. From a communication and marketing standpoint – the name is hard to say, and not at all catchy, and when searching for something, domain name and name are one and the same. If someone looks for uuyan once the name change is official, they would be redirected to the new site (in progress). Also, I would argue that there has always been space for someone, be that groups or individuals to fill the gaps that weren’t being filled by CUUYAN, whether it was their intent or not. That effort will have to be built from scratch no matter what. A following needs to be rebuilt in order to lobby effectively. The same goes for CAYAN. I agree with you that a different model would fill some important gaps. I disagree that a volunteer organization, particularly of people who haven’t made this work their job, can effectively and consistently build the necessary following. If there are people that are out there that can and want to do this, I encourage them to do so!
    December 16, 2011 at 1:33pm · Like

    Erin Riffle Amazingly enough, I actually sort of agree with Donald. My biggest issue with the YaYA office is that I feel like they’re not effectively out working directly with congregations to actively change the local congregational culture to be inclusive and welcoming to young adults-it seems like congregations want us to assimilate into what they do; not open themselves to creating the change that many of our local congregations really need.
    No, it isn’t the same everywhere but it literally comes down to individual congregational leadership. And honestly, CAYAN sounds even more like a tiny little group reaching very few people to create one specific event per year, so I can see why it isn’t necessarily the best use of resources. Y’all do what you feel called to do; because some folks really NEED that conference space. Rock on! I think your acronym is kinda silly and I’d much rather here some blogs of substance about what event-planning work you’re doing, but if getting that new name gets your committee more focused on the work you’re going to do, then GREAT! I can dig that too.
    Maybe at GA this lobbying is happening; I’m not sure since I can never afford to go and I am not well-connected to a congregation to go and lobby for YAs, since I work every Sunday during regular services at most churches. But what I have experienced leads me to believe that conference-based events are not the best use of visionary leaders. I’d love to see anyone really leading events that inspire YAs to continue doing visionary work INSIDE THE CONGREGATIONS. Sounds a little bit like the work we tried to do at Concentric and what we also thought about trying to do at the Radius conferences. Perhaps it is prudent for someone to revisit that idea that many folks had all those years ago.
    It sounds like people are re-inventing the wheel accidentally while trying NOT to reinvent the wheel….
    December 16, 2011 at 1:34pm · Like · 1
    Kelly Rauch Erin, you’ve got some great insights here. There’s a few I can address now. You’re right about what CAYAN does right now. Tiny group, one event. Our vision is to be much more far reaching once we have a well functioning organizational relationship. For example, when it takes months for a new leader to learn about what they’re supposed to be doing, something’s not functioning right. That’s what this year is about. Navigating transition and making things clear and easy for new folks to come in and hit the ground running. The event planning right now is being done by the folks in canada. I’ll ask them if they can contribute to the uuyan.org blog with what they’re doing. You’ve gotten some juices flowing about communicating the vision and how we reach more people. So thanks! I’ll be sure to include more responses in future blogs.
    December 16, 2011 at 1:56pm · Like

    Erin Riffle Kelly these issues about learning what leaders need to do, navigating transitions, etc, are the same issues C*UUYAN dealt with before. so in that regard it doesn’t sound like a whole lot is changing. Maybe my perception is inaccurate and if so, I apologize for misunderstanding. It’s really hard when all this work is done by passionate volunteers who may or may not really have the time to commit. Having been involved with conference planning with C*UUYAN for 4 years, I can attest to the difficulty. I also know that there are people out there that CAYAN could reach out to (like me or any number of prior volunteers) who might actually be able to help the organization. Right now I don’t even know who is on the committee and as such, don’t really see the point in trying to help; especially if the assumption is that those of us who used to be leaders don’t have anything of value to contribute. I’m not saying that CAYAN thinks that; i’m sure the truth is far from it. Some people make positive assumptions when they don’t hear anything about the work going on; others, the worst. Regular communication (bi-weekly or at least monthly) via something other than a blog would probably help that.
    December 16, 2011 at 2:00pm · Like · 1
    Kelly Rauch by the way Erin – sorry i didn’t see and approve your original comments right away! They’re up now!
    December 16, 2011 at 2:05pm · Like
    Kelly Rauch All I can say, Erin, is I’m new and working to make this a sustainable organization now. So is Julie Brock. Alexis Ettner and Bethany Lowe are in their second year. I’m glad to hear you would still like to be involved via input at least! I would love to set up some skypes or something to talk. My next post was going to be largely about asking how folks want to get/give communication. Right now the most central place I can do that is the blog (and we’re working on making it much nicer.) So to get a jump on things – how would you want to get communication? I’m one of those people that likes to evaluate where we are and make progress toward a measurable goal. If I’m getting feedback from former leaders, I like to have useful questions to ask them. Probably it’s a great idea to instead just talk to you about what’s going on and what you think. *adds that to short list*
    December 16, 2011 at 2:25pm · Like

    Alyssa Rockstar The UUA (of which the YaYA office is a part) is an association of congregations– not the parent organization of congregations. So what goes on, flows from the congregations to the UUA, and not from the UUA to the congregations.
    December 16, 2011 at 3:25pm · Like
    Kelly Rauch Alyssa, is your point that people in the congregations that want to create change need to just create some change? Or something else?
    December 16, 2011 at 3:34pm · Like

    Alyssa Rockstar Yes, or that it won’t come from the UUA in any case.
    December 16, 2011 at 3:40pm · Like

    Erin Riffle ‎@Alyssa, yes, that’s true; but the UUA has certainly taken a stand on things like being a Welcoming Congregation and supporting inclusion of all sorts of other groups; why shouldn’t the YaYA Office have a role in helping to create that shift in congregations?
    December 16, 2011 at 4:02pm · Like

    Donald Wilson This is a fantastic conversation. Thanks, Erin and Alyssa for having it.
    Erin, you are right that the YaYA office could have a role in creating that shift in congregations, but the two cultural shifts you mention weren’t the result of one office of work, they were the result of multiple offices co-ordinating efforts along with Board and Association Committees, and only after congregational and extra-congregational groups lobbied the General Assembly, UUA offices, field/district staff, and influential congregational leaders for YEARS to get such things done.
    For the change ALL of us are talking about (Whether we realise we’re talking about it or not), we need the equivilent of our UU Gay Caucus (UUGC), our Black UU Caucus (BUUC), our Black and White Alternative (BAWA), maybe even our DRUUMM. All these groups were volunteers. Most of the remnants of these groups continue to be volunteers, some of the work these groups have done has now been subsumed by the UUA, and yet DRUUMM and Interweave continue to have largely volunteer work forces.
    Young Adults skipped a lot of the foundational work, to our current detriment, and we’ve come full circle. There was OPUS, C*UUYAN grew from it, but we thought that by earning partnership with the UUA in the form of the YACM office that the work was done and we could go play, when instead that’s when the lobbying and the hard work was to start, and now we’ve an organisation dedicated again to OPUS alone.

    Kelly, I think you’re wrong. There WASN’T space for both the people who have wanted to support conferences AND the people who have wanted to create systematic and cultural changes within our institutions, because the two sets of goals were being worked on and mingled by the same set of people, neither to its greatest end. That mixing of goals is what has lead to such terrible burn out amoungst our young adult leaders, as they’ve been pulled in many directions, to find none of it finished. It’s also lead to what you mention as a problem: It taking months for people to learn what their job is. In a well functioning organisation, a person taking on a new role should be able to cope well because it’s a similar or complementary job to the work they’ve been doing for quite a while already.

    By separating the work into conference support and system/cultural transformation, you’ve begun repairing and refining the work we’ve all be doing for so long… but only if you let go of the half CAYAN isn’t interested in doing without throwing it out.
    December 17, 2011 at 12:36am · Like

    Alexis Ettner I’m glad we are all having this conversation, these topics are EXACTLY what the steering committee have been wrestling with!

    As for C*UUYAN’s place in the YA movement, it was built around conference culture from the beginning, starting with the first pre-Opus events led by key ex-LRYers and the efforts of the College Age Centers Board. C*UUUYAN was started to create that much needed conference space then, and we are trying to honor and support that today in a more clear and direct manner.

    I think the efforts of the YaYA office and the CUC are moving in the right direction, and the YaYA office is reaching out to Young Adults in ways we haven’t seen in years. I have a lot of faith that working together we can help safeguard a vibrant conference culture and create the change we want to see in congregations. But one volunteer organization with the kind of burnout rate we all know has been true of C*UUYAN in the past will not be able to do it all.

    I invite everybody to check out C*UUYANs bylaws to see what the organization’s written mandate and goals are, since a huge part of what the steering committee is trying to do is make the actions of the org more closely reflect its purpose, and make those actions manageable so we can get that burnout rate down. ;)


    Having worked with and attended conferences with virtually all of you I know there is a wealth of institutional knowledge that should be passed down, from you and so many others! We are working on ways to reach out and get these conversations started, and this is a great start.
    December 17, 2011 at 1:11am · Like

    Donald Wilson So, Alexis, if one organisation can’t do it all… what about my original question?
    December 17, 2011 at 1:34am · Like
    Kelly Rauch Donald, I thought this, but didn’t know how to say clearly. Yes, it’s the trying to do it all by the same people that causes burnout. So I generally encourage the working on the cultural change parts by others.
    December 17, 2011 at 10:49am · Like
    Kelly Rauch ‎Alexis Ettner, I’m going to throw this conversation on our agenda for Monday.
    December 17, 2011 at 10:59am · Like

    Alexis Ettner Sounds good! Donald, we’ll make sure we consider all of this an let the community know. :)
    December 17, 2011 at 11:12am · Like

    Erin Riffle I think the fact that Alexis posted a link to some bylaws is part of the issue I have with this whole thing. Look, I get it-it’s hard to reach out to geographically displaced adults. But to encourage a dialogue by asking me to click on some websites….that’s not really going to reach me personally. If you want to talk on skype or gchat or something (which hey, great idea, why don’t all the CAYAN meetings have an open forum portion where people can all see each other on a video conference!); then at least it would appear like you want to reach individual YAs. I still believe what your group is doing is going to take years to be effective if your goal is to reach more than a few hundred people. And yes, that is okay. It is wise to know the scope and limitations of what you can create and maintain as volunteers. But I feel like the young adult movement is only slightly ahead of where it was several years ago and nothing I’ve seen from CAYAN or the YaYA office has given me a reason to think otherwise.
    December 17, 2011 at 11:19am · Like
    Kelly Rauch Erin, I love the open forum idea.
    December 17, 2011 at 11:21am · Like

    Alexis Ettner Open forum is a great idea! And Erin I’m so sorry if posting that link came off as asking for input or interaction by visiting the site – Definitely didn’t mean that! Really it’s just a bit of reference material. Having an open forum and conversations like these are great was for us to get to talk as a community.
    December 17, 2011 at 11:34am · Like

    Donald Wilson Alexis: Which community are you referring to?
    Erin: Thanks for bringing the Open Forum topic back to the table.
    December 17, 2011 at 5:29pm · Like

    Alexis Ettner Donald: the young adult community, of course. :)
    December 18, 2011 at 6:23pm · Like

    Donald Wilson I thought CAYAN wasn’t representing nor working with the entire YA community?
    December 18, 2011 at 7:17pm · Like

    Alexis Ettner Donald: we are all, as individuals, part of the large community of young adults, having conversation. And we all share in these discussions as both individuals and members of whatever organizations we currently serve.
    December 18, 2011 at 7:28pm · Unlike · 1

    Erin Riffle ‎@Donald, honestly, I don’t think any ONE organization can effectively represent or work with the ENTIRE YA community. To believe that one group would be able to do that-volunteer based or with paid staff, is fallacy, in my opinion. One thing I like about C*UUYAN in its prior form is that it did seem to strive to reach YAs in its congregations, in campus ministries, AND those who participated in conferences. if the organization itself had done more work to fund its operation and focus on lobbying-and then created CAYAN to focus on conferences, perhaps it would have been more successful. I think the scope of what CAYAN is trying to facilitate is realistic.
    However, I don’t think fractured groups trying to lobby for needs of one type of YA will be effective either. I have no idea what an effective ‘umbrella organization’ could be created-and be successful-at representing the broad strokes of needs that YAs have.
    December 19, 2011 at 10:48am · Like
    Kelly Rauch Remember that the reason the age range was chosen was because those are the people who’s needs weren’t being met. There is much room for many organizations to work individually, and together where they overlap, to meet the needs of a wide variety of Young Adult UUs. And clearly there is a need.

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