photo of the day (nick’s coming of age)

I am a Unitarian. There. I said it. I’ve been attending the UU Church in Westport, CT since my son Nick was a little shaver of about 18 months old. Early on, when I was still just visiting and exploring my options, I found myself sitting in a Coming of Age service for a group of young men and women who were graduating from the Religious Education program and moving on into the High School Youth Group. They had been through a year long program which began with a course on Human Sexuality and Relationships and ended with the COA: an opportunity to learn about, discuss and articulate their own beliefs. I was so taken with the presence and poise of the young people who shared their understandings with the church community that I knew then and there this was a gift I wanted to be able to give to my own children. When the time came to make a commitment to be a part of this special program, Nick began his journey, along with about 29 other young people to participate in this year’s Coming of Age.

As with most of the others in his group, Nick was reluctant to make the year long commitment. A Sex Ed class every Sunday? Are you kidding me?  I guess I put it in terms he could understand. As homeschoolers, we have a lot of choices and very few obligations with our time. I told him that this was a commitment we were going to make and it was not optional. He grudgingly agreed. And so for the last 14 months (excluding the summer,) we barely missed a Sunday service. There were days that I’m sure Nick would have preferred to miss but like a trooper he went. There were assignments I’m sure Nick would have preferred to ignore but again, like a trooper, he forged on. The 30-some kids, who, I’m sure, like Nick, would have preferred to spend their Sundays otherwise engaged, came together and with the help and guidance of teachers and mentors who are worth their weight in gold, became this amazing group.

The festivities began on Saturday evening with a pot luck dinner. After sharing a lovely meal, we all gathered in the Sanctuary to light candles and read our Gratitude statements. I cannot tell you how moving and powerful it was to hear each of the youth addressing their families and loved ones, verbalizing their gratitude and appreciation and hear their families expressing gratitude and love for them in return. It’s one thing to think about all the things for which you are grateful. I’ve heard that there is power in writing those things down. But looking someone in the eye and saying words of thanks out loud makes them a part of your being and must indelibly mark them somewhere in the Universe. Having Nick read his gratitude statement and respond with my own was something I know I will never forget. I am truly sorry that his dad was unable to be there to hear it.

Each of the COAers read their belief statements. Here is Nick’s: (stay tuned for video)

“I believe in Knowledge. Knowledge is what helps us act. Without knowledge we would not be able to advance. But I think we start without knowledge and gain it through trying. As we gain knowledge, we get better and better at our topic of choice to the point that we can teach it. As one of my instructors said, “You don’t really know something until you can teach it.”

Listening to each of the Coming of Age participants read their statements was inspiring and filled me with hope for the future. This is truly a group worthy of taking on the world.

The celebration continued the next day at the Coming of Age service at church. Again, the group had the opportunity to read their belief statements, this time in front of the Church community that they will be a part of.  At the end of the service, the High School Youth Group participants joined to welcome them into the fold. Now they are Youth Group members and the journey continues with opportunities to grow and serve the community of their church and hopefully, the world.

Here’s Nick, reading his statement, as promised:

~ by photobella on 8 November, 2009.

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