Peter Morales has caused a mild stir in the YRUU room.
In an attempt to get UUs off our duffs and doing things, a cause I'm usually behind, he has made some rather grand statements about youth work in the latest issue of UU World.
"I am convinced that we too often fail to recognize how much our children, youth, and young adults need to give. Hanging out is not a spiritual practice. Joining hands to work for something we care about is. Service is an essential part of faith development. We need to do so much more to engage the idealism and energy of our young people."
Err...Does he actually KNOW any UU youth? Has he ever tried to fit in YRUU amongst football practice, homework, play rehearsals and family responsibilities? I was at an RE training this weekend and someone else asked TogetherBeth what work our YRUUs did out in the community. She said something like:
"Well, we do the food drive at All Souls, of course, we have 40 youth going to that tomorrow. And we put together safe sex packets for Metro Teen Aids, and we entertain kids at the children's Inn at NIH and the whole church does volunteer work in the community during service week...well, we need to do more out in the community"
Actually, I think most people would say that's pretty good. And "out in the community" doesn't count the work trips to El Salvador and New Orleans our church does that are attended by lots of youth and the tons of fundraisers for various charities that our YRUU group does.
That aside, though, I still think the Reverend Morales is incorrect when he writes that "Hanging out is not a spiritual practice."
Well, actually, earlier in the article, he writes warmly "I remember one woman who had a passion for connecting with the elders of the church. She wanted them to feel connected and respected. She loved to hear their stories. What a gift she was to our church!" So perhaps what Reverend Morales meant was that "Hanging out is not a spiritual practice when youth do it" because it sounds suspiciously like hanging out is spiritual as all get out when you do it with the elders of the church.
The most useful conversation I've ever had with a YRUU happened as we were baking brownies. The second most useful conversation I've had with a YRUU happened BECAUSE Jana-who-creates and I were too lazy to go upstairs and get a folder. (If you follow that link, it's item four.)
Hanging out, in the way YRUUs do it, where you talk about how to deal when a friend says something homophobic, or how upset you were when you had your first car accident or how you've decided what you want to do when you grow up or how the kids at your old school were mean to you but you love your new school and now you're OK, is a vital, connective tissue that makes all of YRUU's heavy lifting possible. Hanging out is where we learn both the big important moments and the little stupid stuff of each other's lives. It's when we slow down from all the stuff we're doing (both charitable work and everyday things) and say to each other, "tell me about your day, because I want to know who you are."
I tend to think that when we connect with one another, we are connecting with a piece of that which is divine.
If that's not a spiritual practice, what is?