Introduction by Cathy Seggel, Director of Religious Education
I am honored to introduce our 2018 Coming of Age honorees. In a minute we will witness them share some of their beliefs as they transition to senior high and the next stage of Unitarian Universalist faith development. We call it “credo” or “to this I give my heart.”
Of course, this meaning-making is a lifelong process, transforming ourselves and the world. This year, the Coming of Agers with their dedicated teachers and mentors focused on relationships and sexuality, on UU theology, worship and history, on congregation and community, on leadership and justice.
Equally important, they forged strong connections with peers and with adults who care deeply.
Our Coming of Age year touches the spiral of all five faith skills we aspire to teach and learn: cultivating spiritual practices, navigating the UU sources, articulating our faith, worshiping with our lives, and serving the world. The experience is an opportunity and a clear call to claim and grow an active place in our living UU faith tradition as youth and then adult Unitarian Universalists.
It’s good to remember that parents are on journeys with your children, bravely balancing protection with encouragement. You, too, have our support and love.
Our comprehensive program, marks an important passage in UU faith development and is a valued tradition in numerous UU congregations, many celebrating on this same morning. We are very proud of the young people about to appear before you.
I know a few things about myself, but there are others that I’m unsure of. I’m sure that I don’t believe in a higher power, and I’m sure that I love people, not genders. But I’m unsure of where life will take me. As someone who is a planner, that can be hard. I like to plan. A lot. While I do not identify as religious and I don’t identify with a certain religion, sometimes planning feels a bit like a religion to me. I think about the future a lot, and I like to plan for it.
When I testified at the State House back in early March in support of gun control, I didn’t plan it out in the days before. Instead, I got the idea that same night I testified. I was driving with one of my moms, and we went inside the State House on our way home. The number of NRA supporters that were there shocked and scared me. I then went home, wrote a paragraph about my feelings on gun control legislation and my fears of a school shooting, and called my friend and invited her to testify with me. We were at the State House, waiting until 11:00 to speak in front of a Senate committee.
That was something I could never have planned for. And occasionally, not planning something can be scary. But there are sometimes great outcomes to the things you never expected to do. However, there are other things I’m already planning for — some that are out of my control and some that aren’t. For example, I have an idea of all the courses I want to take in my four years of high school. I know where I want to attend college (Brown University, Class of 2026) and what I want to major and minor in. Sometimes I think about running for the House of Representatives when I’m older. But all in due time.
I find planning to be such an important part of me because I like to have control of my life and my person, especially being a woman coming from an unconventional family background that many people aren’t familiar with. I think planning helps me to know what I want to do with my life, and when an opportunity arises for me to do something amazing, I can take it.
Sometimes not planning for a certain thing can be beneficial for you, like when I testified. Yes, spontaneity scares me, but it’s all part of this wonderful journey we call life. When I plan for the far future, it’s a way of showing myself what I can accomplish if I really want to.
Planning keeps me calm, and it keeps me grounded, reminding me that people don’t always achieve their goals. But if you work for something, if you work hard for something, you really can do an amazing job of it. Thinking about the future can often be a bit stressful for people, especially in our current political environment. But I’m hopeful because of all the inspiring organizing done by teenagers that has been going on in the wake of all the major events in our country. When we worry about what’s going to happen, I try to focus on all the good that is being done in the world, and it gives me a better sense of other things I want to accomplish.
I’m ready for the future, I know that in my heart. And I think we should all be a little more optimistic sometimes. I’m ready for the challenges that lie ahead, planned or not.
Hello, my name is Sean Dooley. You probably know my dad, John Dooley, because he talks to absolutely everyone he sees here. I am a Unitarian Universalist, and I pretty much believe in Unitarian Universalist values. I don’t believe in an all-powerful god that controls everything. I believe this because I haven’t really seen any proof of anything like a god. Also, I feel that many people believe in a god just because that’s what they were told growing up, and they just accepted it as fact without questioning it.
I believe in aliens, because if the universe is truly infinite, then there must be a planet other than earth with just the right conditions to be able to have life on it. I believe that the meaning of life is to just do what you love and help other people. I believe this because of my Dad, who taught me that helping people and being happy is more important than money or anything else.
In the future, as I grow older and I experience more things and learn more, my beliefs may change. For now, these are my basic values and I don’t think they will change anytime soon.
Ok, so show of hands: Who here knows someone who is in a marginalized group of one sort or another? Who has seen that person be discriminated against because of being in that group?
Now my question for you is, where did that discrimination come from? Is it due to them not having the same access to resources, or is it something as simple as the color of their skin, their gender, sexual orientation, or religion? I think by now my topic is at least a little obvious: racism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, and other forms of oppression. I think we can generally assume that oppression prevents equal access to resources, right? So what I want to consider today is why that unbalance exists and how we can try to counteract this disproportionality.
Most people are familiar with the civil rights movements. The 1950s were admittedly a rough period for black people in America. This was due to various Jim Crow laws set in place to disenfranchise African Americans. During the second half of the 20th century, we had tremendous movement toward equal rights for all people. African Americans and their allies stood up to for their rights. Slowly progress was made. This began to happen for other oppressed groups as well. Communities stood up for themselves and each other.
Now it feels to me like all the progress we made toward human rights, toward LGBTQ rights, toward women’s rights is being undone in the news every day. As a Unitarian Universalist who cares deeply about my community, family, and my country, as a person in a church who believes in the inherent worth and dignity of each person, I want a logical, respectful, caring government that is of, for, and by all people — all the people, not just the privileged.
What I have learned from coming to this church is this: I believe in equality. I do not believe in discrimination. I believe in justice and peace, not corruption and violence. This is what I take with me when I go out into the world and work for human rights. I believe that as a community we are stronger together than we are separately.
I am not your average 14-year-old middle school boy. While most kids my age play video games and football, I like to cut down trees, mow lawns, bag leaves, and operate wood chippers, tractors, trucks, and all sorts of heavy equipment. I believe in hard work and staying active.
When asked about their future goals at my age, most kids stare blankly. But I have an answer: My dream job and passion is to get into the excavation business. This is all I know and what I was put on this earth to do, which is operate heavy equipment and run a business, and that is my intention.
I hate school. I know that I am supposed to go, but I don’t like it. I am not going to hide it, there is no way I can say it gently, but school is not for me. I have never been good at sitting in rows, learning what someone deemed important long ago. So there is no way I can handle an office job.
I have to be outside. I love snow plowing, clearing trees, and operating big and small machines. There is no greater feeling than at the end of the day when you come home and you are cut and scraped all over, and you clog up the shower drain with dirt. Now that is a good day! I also love the feeling when you are the one in control of a piece of heavy equipment. It comes with a peculiar combination of power and zen, where the only thing on your mind is how you are going to get the job done. That’s why it is so satisfying when you push down trees, level the ground for a new house, or to clear a right of way for a new pipeline.
This is the kind of work that makes my satisfaction levels go through the roof. Nothing beats hard physical work in the fresh air.
I believe it is important to learn from your mistakes so you can improve in the future; not just as an individual but also as an entire country. That is how we have grown and improved, and that is how we will do the same for the years to come. It is good to remind ourselves of the past so we don’t forget, but also to move on so we can make the future better.
I believe that it is not good to have a box of what is true and what is not. That is how humans first believed the earth was flat. It is good to think about all the possibilities and compare things to each other. For example, if a goldfish’s brain capacity is too small to read, when does our human brain capacity stop? When does our brain capacity ever become too small to do something? A goldfish has no idea of its limitations, do we? Can we answer questions like whether the universe is infinite, or does it just stop and there is blackness? Then what is beyond the blackness?
I believe as humans we will never be able to answer these questions. I believe that as humans we have something that no other species has on this planet. That is an imagination. We can use that to fill in the gaps of what we cannot answer. We can use our imagination, or we can compare two things together. Our brain cannot answer the question of what happens when we die, although we can make the comparison of what life was like before we were born and then after we die. If something has happened to us in the past we can probably make assumptions of what it will be like if that same thing happens to us again in the future. How do you think outside of what you understand and what is possible for you to understand? The answer is your imagination; with that, you can make it whatever you want to make it.
Hello, my name is Caleb. I am here today to share my beliefs with you all. I could stand here and tell you that I believe in some form of a god, and I could say that I don’t. Honestly, I don’t know what I believe. After all I am only 14. I have the rest of my life to figure these things out. So far, I don’t really have any solid beliefs when it comes to religion; however, I do believe in many other things.
There are three core beliefs that I try my best to include in my daily life. First, I think that fairness and equality are both very important aspects of life. During these times many forms of discrimination can make it hard to find these qualities. I try to practice equality and fairness everyday by being inclusive to everyone around me.
Secondly, I believe in relaxation of the mind and body. Everyone has different ways of relaxing. Personally, I like to participate in my favorite activities, such as playing baseball, running, and photography.
Lastly, I believe in music. Music has the ability to put someone in a certain mood. For this reason I enjoy listening to several different genres of music such as 80’s classics, modern rap, and old school rap. My favorite musical artist of all time is The Notorious B.I.G. I find his music and style to be very soothing to listen to.
These three beliefs guide me throughout my life and bring me joy. I believe that over time I will evolve, and I presume that my beliefs and views will evolve with me. Who knows what I will believe in 10 years, or who I will even be for that matter? I could transform into a completely different person with a completely different outlook on life. We don’t know though. That’s the mysterious, yet interesting part about life; you never know what you’re going to get. You just have to take what life gives you and make the best of it.
I started my UU journey in the toddler room when I was just two years old. I don’t remember much, but I’m sure I had a great time. After a couple of years there, I moved on to pre-k, which was lit! Pre-k was great because I loved playing with all the toys. Halfway through the year, we started going to Chapel. This confused me because I didn’t know why we were listening to one lady talk and another one sing, when we could have been playing with all the toys.
Next, I went to kindergarten, but not much stood out from that year. I loved first grade because they had these big cardboard bricks we could build with. I still go back and play with those today. Second grade was okay. Third grade is when things start to get a little clearer, but somehow all I remember from that year is my teacher Dominic. We had a great time together. Fourth grade was with Paul and Glenn teaching us about the Old Testament. I didn’t really pay attention that much that year because I was drawing, but I am sure we learned about all the important stuff. Fifth grade was the toolbox of faith with my mother. I didn’t quite get all the references from tools to life or who kept tinfoil in their toolbox, but the crafts were fun.
Sixth grade was about all the different religions. Let me just say, I never learned more in church in my life. Thanks Mr. Dooley. Seventh grade was my all-time favorite year, and it was only partially because of the snacks. Here I started to gain true friendships. Surprisingly one of them was with Norm. I have some words for you Norm: Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
Now here at the end of my Coming of Age journey, I am expected to share my beliefs with you. which I’ve got to say is a lot to ask from an eighth-grader. The word belief or believe is to say you accept that a statement is true. What some may not know is that a belief statement might be true at one point, but at another it might be completely untrue. Like just a few months ago I thought Netflix was far superior to YouTube, but now I am starting to think YouTube is better.
The reason I brought this up is my belief statements I make now might not be true years, months, or even days from now. This is why I decided to make value statements instead of belief statements: I value independence and not relying on others. I value deep thinking and deep thinkers. I value my acceptance that facts are facts. Most of all I value food. I love food. But who cares? We live in America, the birthplace of McDonald’s, Beyonce, and our “fearless leader.”