Join us for Youth Ministry Revival!

This week’s blog is by Shannon Harper, CER Youth and Young Adult Ministries Specialist.

Answering the Call of Love Youth Ministry Revival 19, March 1-3, 2019Do you have youth in your congregation who are yearning for connection with other UU youth? Who are interested in exploring spiritual practices that help us survive and thrive in the world? Who would like to learn more about justice issues from activists and organizers in the field?

We’re excited to announce registration for Youth Ministry Revival 2019: Answering the Call of Love in Bethesda, MD March 1-3 is now open!

Youth Ministry Revivals, or YMRs, are national, weekend-long conferences open to Sr High youth in grades 9-12 as well as young adults and adults who support youth ministry in congregations. We had our first YMR in 2016 in Portland, OR and the second in 2017 in Chicago, IL. For more information about YMRs see the UUA webpage.

Who Should Attend YMR2019?

YMRs are open to any UU Youth in the US and Canada. We encourage congregations to send teams of youth and adults; people who will be interested and supported in bringing back their ideas and learnings to your congregation. Adult sponsors (25 and over) are expected to participate in the conference, so it’s important to choose adults who are truly interested in supporting youth and willing to join in. Registration is also open to YAs (graduated from High School and between the ages of 18 and 25), especially those with leadership experience and willing to help out as staff (see sleeping arrangements below). We are happy to accommodate different physical and social needs, just let us know what they are.

What Are the Sleeping Arrangements?

Regardless of whether your congregation sends a group or just one, all youth must have an adult (over 25) sponsor who sleeps in the same place as the youth. Our expectation is that most attendees will sleep at the church. However we understand that this is might not be ideal for certain people. We have blocked a number of discounted rooms at the Bethesda Marriott for $89 a night, available until Feb 2. To make a reservation visit their website. Remember that youth must sleep in the same place with their adult sponsor, so if your sponsor is staying at the hotel, the youth must stay there as well. YAs under the age of 25 must make their own arrangements to sleep offsite. For questions about accommodations please contact Amy Kent at [email protected] .

Is there an Approval Process to Attend?

In accordance with Central East’s safety policy everyone attending YMR2019 must be approved by a staff member or designated leader in their congregation (ideally their Religious Educator or Minister). For people who reside outside of CER the registration form will have a way to indicate who we should contact for a reference. That person will be sent an automated email with instructions for approving the registrant. If you have any questions about the registration or approval process please contact Evin Carvill-Ziemer at [email protected] .

Program Details to Come!

The Central East Region is excited to host YMR2019! We’re planning with Youth and YA leaders, community partners, local musicians, UUA and congregation staff to bring you a dynamic and inspiring event.  Some of the things attendees can expect to experience: dynamic, interactive worship; creative expression through visual arts, spoken word music and song; workshops with community organizers and activists; community circles for building deeper connections and relationships; identity circles for sharing and exploration; spiritual practices to take back with you. As we confirm our schedule and guests we’ll update our website so please keep checking back. For questions about the program or schedule please contact Shannon Harper at [email protected].

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CERSI Highlight – A Young Adult’s Reflection on the Youth Program

Today’s blog is written by guest writer, Becky Mitchell

Youth at Summer Institute

I remember being nervous in the days leading up to my first Summer Institute as a Youth. I had missed the previous SI, which would have been my last in the Children’s Program. It felt like a major leap going from a small class of pre-teens to being in a large group of teenagers, ranging in age from 12 or 13 all the way up to 18. My brother had already successfully bridged in and seemed to be having fun, but I remained anxious nonetheless.

I’ll never forget the moment that I walked into the Youth Dorm common area after unloading my belongings and seeing a group of Youths chatting and smiling. They were a year or two older than I was. I recognized them, but I did not know any of them. I was plotting a path back to the safety and security of my dorm room that did not involve walking past the group when one of them said, “Hey, are you Becky? You should come hang out with us.”

Little did I know that in that moment, I had just met my life long best friends. We had every meal together that week (mostly consisting of ice cream). We sat by each other during the youth theme speaker. We held hands during Youth Vespers every evening while singing and really starting to understand the Seven Principles for the first time. We spent the afternoon playing volleyball and cooling off in the pool. We stayed up a little too late every night munching on candy, teaching each other card games, and discussing what little we knew about politics and Social Justice at the time. After the week ended and we said our tearful goodbyes, the countdown to the next time we would see each other began immediately. 358 days to go.

That first year in the youth program will always go down in my book as the best SI I ever had. I walked into the week expecting to feel awkward and embarrassed the whole time, but I walked out of the week with an invaluable support system. Although we are all very different people, we are all bonded through our common Unitarian Universalist beliefs. In the years to come, having that group has kept me sane. It was and continues to be comforting knowing that I have an entire community to look to for advice and help when I need it.

Why do I keep coming back? My last year in the Youth Program was 2011, but I feel my supportive community grow every year. As a new Young Adult, my community expanded to include people that were 15 years my senior. Now as an “Old” Young Adult, my supportive community has grown to include people of all ages. I can’t wait to see who becomes part of my supportive community this year.

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Crossing the Border

It’s amazing to watch the effects of the contagion of cooperation that seems to be springing up. When I first was employed by the Ohio Meadville District (as Young Adult Coordinator) from 2006-2009 I saw faint symptoms–a combined leadership school, a monthly phone call between young adult staff and cooperation on a few brochures. But so many of our events were still constrained by our boundaries, artificially imposed as they are.

YRUU LogoOnce the idea of cooperation and crossing boundaries takes hold, though, it seems to just keep spreading! I just finished leading a youth and advisor training in Canton New York–way, way far north. It would not have been possible, financially, without participation from two Canadian congregations. It’s not the only place where youth and adults are crossing that border. Last summer, Ariel Hunt-Brondwin, Youth and Young Adult Ministry Development for the Canadian Unitarian Council, was a key part of making the Goldmine Youth Leadership School happen for the western part of CERG. Canadian youth participated and even served as staff on both Goldmines. Since then youth from St. Lawrence crossed in to Canada for a youth con in Toronto, Canadians came to the Peer Chaplain training and will be at the Buffalo Con next weekend.

It’s both a renewing of the historic connections across the St. Lawrence Seaway and a new willingness to cross borders of all kinds. We have had St. Lawrence youth at Ohio Meadville cons and Ohio Meadville youth at St. Lawrence Youth Adult Committee meetings. Young Adults are making the same invitations. It just makes sense–Cleveland is closer to Buffalo than Albany, Ottawa is practically next door to Canton.

Regionalization in some ways makes everything seem further away as the “center” of our region is further away than the center of our districts. But I’m seeing, at the same time, a willingness to turn and look across the borders behind us. And so paradoxically, we’re actually able to make more happen. We’d never have been able to have that training in Canton without the Canadians. And more, their presence was deeply enriching in sharing new suggestions and insights and building more relationships. And many of those residents of NY and Canada realized they were going to see each other again–next weekend, driving the other way around the lake.

If you want to consider going north–there are two great events coming up. The first is a Senior High Our Whole Lives weekend in Ottawa February 21-23rd. Second, there’s a Spirituality Development Con outside of Toronto February 28-March 2nd. “This training is for youth, youth advisors, Religious Educators, seminarians and ordained clergy, and adult allies who are interested in learning more about how to better integrate worship and spirituality into their own lives and into the youth ministry in their community.”

If you’d like to cross borders to the south, think about attending the multigenerational Spring Seminar at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office April 4-6. (

Evin Ziemer
OMD Program Coordinator, SLD Youth Coordinator

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Regionalization and Youth

Regionalization is bringing new excitement to our youth programming and I’m really excited to be part of it. There’s just so much new possibility right now.

It began, for us, with the CERG Youth Summit in December of 2011 when a small group of youth and adults from all four districts met to imagine what might be possible. And now—many of those things are starting to happen, even those that seemed a bit impossible at the time. Part of the fun of all this is that we’ve realized we just have to experiment to see what works. And experimenting is kind of fun!

We’ve had two regional youth service trips going twice to West Virginia in 2012 and 2013 with lots of success. However, we’ve realized that this model doesn’t work as well as we’d like for a variety of reasons and we’re looking for a new model. But, that’s what experimenting is all about–sometimes what we learn is that we got it right the first time, and sometimes we learn enough to do better the second.

Last year’s joint District Assembly offered us the first chance to see how we might jointly plan a youth event with youth leaders in different districts. For the first time, the youth programming was organized by two youth co-deans, one from each district. That worked so well that we’re doing it again this year.

2013 CERG Goldmine West youth

We’ve experimented with how to offer the Goldmine Youth Leadership School, realizing in 2012 that one leadership school wasn’t enough for the whole region. So last summer we had two–one east and one west. We are planning to do the same next year even partnering with Canada on this so youth from southern Ontario can have a Goldmine experience too. This program means that both Ohio Meadville and St. Lawrence have multiple kinds of trainings available for youth leaders: Fundamentals of Healthy Youth Groups, Peer Chaplain Training, Spirituality Development Con, and, now longer youth leadership school for those youth who want to dig even deeper.

AND—this year an ambitious group of youth and adults are planning the first ever regional con for Presidents’ Day weekend in eastern Pennsylvania. This is going to be a three night con and the first chance for many youth from all four districts to meet each other and learn about each other.

For me, the best part is the collaboration. I love working with multiple groups of youth and adults and am finding that together one group’s ideas feed the creativity of another. Our youth are thinking deeply about what’s most important to them about youth ministry so that they can keep that and simultaneously dreaming big about what’s possible. And it’s always exciting to be part of a group dreaming big. Meanwhile the staff collaboration feeds me too—we also nurture each other’s creativity and see new possibility together. I can’t predict what we’ll all dream up next, but I can guarantee there will be even more exciting stuff ahead for youth ministry in our region.

2013 CERG Goldmine West youth

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