Today my wife, Luanne, who this year began coordinating the Coming of Age program at First Parish in Bedford, read these words to introduce our youth who are entering adult life.
In religious traditions around the world, young people are invited into the adult life of their spiritual communities in many ways. Usually, they participate in lessons, reflections, and formal preparations before being welcomed ceremoniously into adulthood. Here, at First Parish, we offer a Coming of Age program to recognize and honor this rite of passage. We value personal growth and the religious freedom to develop for ourselves a credo that will help guide us through life. We covenant that we are a religious community of individuals committed to independent spiritual paths and a shared religious journey.
This morning we will honor seven youth who have worked all year in First Parish’s formal Coming of Age program. By participating in this program, they learned about Unitarian Universalism through monthly meetings, readings, social action projects, two retreats, and many lively discussions with some of our own Parishioners, as well as people from other churches.
We asked them to consider how our UU principles impact their own behaviors. We asked them to move these words off the printed pages of their RE lessons and into to the actions of their daily lives. We asked them to imagine living a life of meaning as a Unitarian Universalist.
This group has responded. They have reflected on their own evolving beliefs as Unitarian Universalists. They have written down ideas about their faith, hopes for their future, and their responsibilities as members of the community. They have prepared a Credo that they will read to you today.
Their journey through the Coming of Age program is symbolically captured on the necklaces that they are wearing today. Each bead represents the completion of a specific task within one of the program components, which are worship, community building, social action, learning, leadership, and walking their faith. These necklaces are a symbol of their accomplishments, as well as a symbol of our collective hope. We celebrate their achievements as these youth cross the bridge into adulthood. We feel enriched and rejuvenated by their spirit. We share joy and hope knowing that these youth will be citizens who are empowered to make the world a better place.
Today, at this recognition service, you will hear from this remarkable group of individuals, who are thoughtful, passionate, insightful, and creative. They will share their ideas with you through their artwork displayed in the sanctuary windows, their belief bags, their song choices, their selected opening/closing words, their personal chalice-lighting words, and their own Credo Statements. After the service today, you will have a chance to mingle with them, talk to them, and discover more about their beliefs and ideas. Most importantly, however, we ask that you welcome them into your hearts, and support them on their spiritual journey as peers. On this day, and joined by these young adults, our circle is larger, our hope is stronger, and our future is brighter.
As our world grows every more complex, kids like this, who have open hearts and open minds, give me hope for the future. Congratulations to Bharat, Zach, Eleanor, Briny, Noah, Gus and Kate. Thanks also to the co-leaders and mentors Bob, Peggy and Luanne.