A month and a half ago I sent an email to the office of youth and young adult ministries that said, essentially, “this is who I am, this is what I have done, this is what I can do. Please, help me to be involved in some way. Please put me to work.”
I never heard back.
Not going to lie, that kind of hurt. I am sure the email just got lost in the shuffle or something, but my former congregation had just shown me that they were not interested in making a spot for young adult ministry at our church. The other two churches I went to in the area didn’t have any young adult presence either. There certainly wasn’t any kind of organized group. I set about searching online for stuff, but I keep coming up empty handed. It felt like the UUA was telling me that there wasn’t really a place, either. I could come back when I was 25 and do stuff then.
I know that churches tend to lose a lot of folks in their late teens/early twenties, and that they gain them back when they start having kids of their own, settling down, gaining a more stable life. But there’s got to be a place in this vibrant, affirming religion for people 19-24. There simply has to be. Just because MOST churches lose people in their early twenties doesn’t mean that we have to concede to that, and it doesn’t mean that you lose ALL your twenty somethings. Heck, you gain some twenty somethings (hi!) and those people need to be included.
So now? Now I’m reaching out via my blog.
Let me introduce myself.
My name is Andy and I’m 23 years old. I have, if I do say so myself, a pretty kickin’ resume. I’ve been doing activism in one form or another since I was 12, including working on the past three presidential campaigns, helping organize my county during Maine’s fight for same-sex marriage, lobbying on local, state, and nationwide levels for (among many other things) comprehensive sexuality education, against the Stupak amendment, the repeal of DOMA, passage of the transgender anti-discrimination and hate crimes bill in MA, multiple environmental bills in California and Maine, and headed up way more letter writing, visibility, and phone banking campaigns that I can even think of. I learned an awful lot about the democratic process, both nationally and in smaller groups.
I went to Phoenix last July to protest SB 1070, and I attended the Sexuality Education and Advocacy Training conference last fall in DC. I am currently a member of The Trevor Project’s Youth Advisory Council and do workshops and speaking engagements around the area about bullying and suicide prevention in among LGBTQ youth. I interned at BAGLY, the Boston Alliance of GLBT Youth, and MTPC, the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. In addition to office work and meetings I also helped form that summer’s Boston Radical Cheerleaders – which was a group of youth and young adults who got together once a week and yelled about sex positivity, progressive legislation, and tearing down political structures. That whole justice, equity, compassion stuff? Seemed to play a kinda big part in a lot of that – not the cheering thing, but all the rest of it.
Last spring I graduated from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME, with my Bachelor’s degree in Human Ecology; loosely defined, that is the study of how people interact with their environment, be it natural or human-made. While there I studied everything from documentary film to 19th century female writers, oceanography to evolutionary biology to feminism as it relates to fundamentalism to gender and sexuality in Southern Africa. At COA I learned that everything is tied together, kind of like a giant web or something.
I have been working with children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, developmental delays, physical disabilities, as well as hearing and visual impairments for over 10 years, in everything from running workshops on helping children deal with a sibling’s diagnosis to working at a residential treatment center for children with Autism. I have coached little league teams, worked at summer camps, and learned more about the inherent worth and dignity of every single person on this big, bad, beautiful planet than I ever thought possible.
I am passionate about a lot of things, and that now includes Unitarian Universalism. I gave a speech at National Coming Out Day about coming out as religious in LGBTQ spaces. I gave a sermon about learning to pray when I went to Phoenix. I try to work principles into my daily living. I even wrote my final paper for college, the big important one that you need to graduate, on Unitarian Universalism and finally feeling accepted, for once, in a religious community (incidentally, I am happy to share that paper with anybody who wants to slog through it).
And now? Now I live on the Downeast Coast of Maine where I’m looking for work, raising my younger sister (she’s 17), learning how to run my life outside of college, and wishing to be involved. I am aging out of the last bits of youth activism in the next six months but I am not quite able to move on to grad school just yet, even if I did definitively know what I want to study. I don’t have a home congregation right now, but I have a computer, and I have a telephone, and I have car that runs sometimes and I have a kinda local-ish airport and I have Boston about 5 hours away if you follow the speed limit (which I do thankyouverymuch).
Mostly I have a drive and a want and a need and a desire and a million ideas.
So I want to be involved. Is there a place for me? Is there a way for me to be involved? What can I do?
I am here and open.
P.S. I swear to whatever you do or don’t find holy that if you tell me I can “help with the Facebook page” I will have unkind things to say on Twitter.